Once a year, I set aside a couple of hours to read through all the emails from my ex-ex boyfriends. The ones from many years ago. I’m a horrible pack rat. I still wear Adam’s Suzuki violin camp tee-shirt (he never even played violin– hipster!), still move apartments carrying the fake ficus that Cameron gave me. I like time and what it can teach.
So Wednesday, I made some ginger tea, logged into my old Yahoo account, and reviewed the ghostly declarations and hesitations of Bo, Dave, another Dave, Adam… I guess it’s a form of spring cleaning, except I don’t ever discard. It’s the kind of spring cleaning where you pick everything up — including cat litter and greasy Burger King wrappers — dust it off, then set it back in place. It’s like spring cleaning a crime scene.
I usually know, too, each year, which day to pick. It announces itself to me. Last year it was right as I approached thirty, having found a silvery blond hair. This year, this Wednesday, I knew I needed these lovers-turned-text to tell me something. I’m in a very good relationship now with a very good man, but I hit my first bump. Our wires crossed. It hurt. A few weeks ago I wrote about Keats’ Negative Capability, the ability to be open-minded and to believe that not everything can be neatly resolved and explained. I went to my ex-boyfriend email repository to remind myself of all the myriad feelings I am capable of, how each person is a new world, how I’ve always struggled to keep a stronghold on fantasy and perfection. To remember to breathe and see beauty in the in-between, the grey and even ugly. David Barthelme says, in his story called — oddly enough –“Rebecca”:
Very often one “pushes away” the very thing that one most wants to grab, like a lover. This is a common, although distressing, psychological mechanism, having to do (in my opinion) with the fact that what is presented is not presented “purely,” that there is a tiny little canker or germ placed in it somewhere.
I have pushed to grab. And I have sat in stillness and held. And always, always, cankers abound. It’s the nature of life. Woody is right, too. This world is blood and guts and stretches of gray.
Last night I had a vivid dream. I was steering a Mac truck down an unknown highway. There was no rear window, and the front was completely covered in fog. Despite that, I was tail-gaiting and kept shouting, “I can’t see anything! I don’t know where I’m going!” Then an old woman appeared. She offered me a cooked baby carrot. I was repulsed. “I don’t want that,” I said. “I’m not going to eat that.” She placed the carrot to my ear and I heard my boyfriend speaking through it. He was calm and comforting. “We’re moving forward together,” he said. Then I woke up.
Dream time is different than real time. It was interminable. I felt like I was driving that truck for hours. And I don’t recall there even being a radio.
Immediately after waking up, I made the connection. On Wednesday, I had re-read an email exchange between me and Bo, eight years ago, in which he had said:
In other news, I find it interesting that you would not eat carrots to win my undying adoration.
I am reminded that the symbol of limitation, of breaking point, can reinvent itself. Can become a way to communicate and receive peace. I can’t see where I’m going, and I’m too eager to get there. Breathe. Focus on today. Go slow.
Before the dream, Woody and I went to “Sunday in the Park with George.” In a musical about pointillism, attention to detail, I found that beauty is when you step back and allow your eye to adjust to the big picture.
I sent this to Dan to remind him how I love him, that love is to keep moving: