Time Passing

In a few days she’ll turn sixty-five. Before I used to joke she was a junior senior. Now she’s graduated. She can get a senior MUNI pass.

When she turned sixty I created a special birthday party for her, prepared elaborate food from scratch, invited all her friends, made it a birthday to remember. I wonder if she does. It was a lovely occasion, undertaken with love.

I wonder who will give her a sixty-fifth celebration, a moot question given the coronavirus and social distancing. What a convenient excuse.

She used to say she was a serially monogamous athlete, committed to one sport at a time: tai quan dao, technical climbing, cycling, swimming, running, rowing. Always looking for the next fix, not the pleasure of the activity. When I once asked whether she ever rowed out on the Bay for fun, she replied, “Why would I do that?”

These commitments last only for a while, then on to the next. Her approach to men is the same: serially monogamous. The relationships could never last; the end is ordained from the beginning. For a brief time the flame burns brightly, then she extinguishes it with ice water. It’s her history– as many pointed out after she ended our marriage. For her, commitments are not forever, whether sport or marriage(s).

On my own now, away from the toxicity of her false superiority, her I know more about the brain than you do judgments, her censure and quiet disapproval, I can relax my guard, be the man I am without trying to please someone for whom the mere act was displeasing. Let no man love a woman incapable of accepting it. Doomed failure, learned the hard way.

I hear from others how dramatically this lockdown is affecting them, how they hate it, feeling constrained, constricted, limited, panicked. I don’t feel this way. The entire circumstance of the virus is horrendous: people dying, ill, out of work, out of money. Then there is moronic Trump, as though the virus wasn’t bad enough. But sheltering in place, staying at home, is a kind of comfort. I like where I am, what I’m doing.

And I realize I would not be feeling this way if I were still with her, in her house.

I hope she, too, is happy on her own. I hope she has a happy sixty-fifth birthday.

I’m sorry she had to lie to me. I’m sorry she could not accept what I had given her, that her need to lie rather than to accept was all she could muster. That silence and distance became her defense. That fear undermined compassion. That she resorted to lawyers rather than conversation. That her name cannot be written. That she remains the woman she wound up being, stuck in those serially monogamous fixes. That like drugs pulsing through her veins, fix only momentarily before the next fix comes due.

After all that’s happened I do wish her a happy birthday. Aging is not comfortable for her, bringing with the passing of years new realities of her mortality. She used to tell me how should couldn’t imagine not being here, no longer being among the living, experiencing the world and its marvels. Can anyone imagine that? I think that’s the futile point of religion, to seed our imaginations with a possibility of something after. I was surprised when she wrote about a friend who died recently that she would be swimming with another now gone South End swimmer: where? In a heaven she doesn’t believe in? Has faith appeared at this late stage?

Reading a fictionalized diary of a real woman (The Lost Diary of M), I came across this passage, a rumination about a divorced husband:

Do I miss him? I don’t miss him. But I miss what he meant. Maybe that is what we miss when we miss people—we don’t miss their bodies so much as their meanings, the promise of a future now lying dead in the past. It is the meanings that linger and cause pain deep in my heart, deep at night.

I don’t miss the reality of her, her off-limits body, her everyday censuring self. I miss the meaning of what was lost, abandoned in self-interest. Undoubtedly new meanings will evolve out of old loss, and the future of possibility will be brighter, even in these dark times. Let it be so.

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