From: Kris <email@example.com> Date: Tue, May 31, 2011 at 12:41 AM Subject: RE: tulip bulbs To: “Chelsea W.” <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thank you for finally replying. I understand you’ve been busy, but I know you’ve been avoiding me. And to answer your question: no. Why would you suggest that? I have some work to do, it’s true, with the way I handle my stress. Sure, I drink sometimes. I like it, and a couple beers after work isn’t alcoholism. You have to understand that I’m in the habit of dealing with stress privately. I feel my stress as a nuisance; I’m not accustomed to having a partner in it. I want to share, with you. But you might have to show me how. You might have to tell me it’s okay, rather than suggesting I go on some kind of naval-gazing “journey”, for the sake of self-knowledge, without you.
We can’t have this tension forever. I can’t have this agony of you retreating from me like this, it is too painful. This past two weeks have been confusing, and it’s been hurtful, that you would retreat without explanation. Please trust me, that I am prepared to deal with my stress with you beside me, and that I don’t need time to myself, though I do appreciate that you are trying to be sensitive, and not cruel. I understand you need more time to yourself, right now, and I don’t want to interfere with that. But I need to make sure that’s all it is, that it’s not you running, from me.
When you don’t write, or call, or pick up the phone, when you shut me out completely like this, it’s hard not to go insane. Are you trying to make me go insane? Maybe you are. Maybe you’re trying to teach me a lesson. If that’s true, then I’ve heard you, loud and clear. If you need time apart from me, I understand, but please don’t make unilateral decisions based on a false narrative that I am some kind of alcoholic, like one of your clients.
At the same time, I think a relationship, any relationship, is composed of distraction, and then re-realization of each other. My every thought returns to you, Chelsea. You have to believe that. I come home, to you. Run from this, if you feel you must. I suppose I will only run after you for so long, if you are just trying to let me down easy, if what you are really saying with your absence, is that you don’t want me.
I can’t believe that, because I still feel your urgency, even without seeing your face or hearing your voice. No, I don’t want to retreat, to mere friendship. And I fear that is what you have been trying to do by retreating from me. I want, and need your love. I desire, desperately, our intimacy.
And the essential agony of our relationship for me has been, how do we keep in sync? And I already worry, if I’m dancing to your beat, just right. Not because you’ve asked me to. Because I want to. So much. And I already fear that I’ll be loving you, adoring you, and you’ll never believe that I am. You are a difficult person to read, sometimes. I won’t pretend that doesn’t frustrate me.
Perhaps you wonder, too, if I love you as much as you do me. Perhaps the nature of enduring love is believing, really believing, that the other loves you as much as you love them. So, you haven’t asked for reassurance, but I’m giving it to you now, because the way you look at me sometimes makes me think you don’t trust me. And now this, this distance, which has come completely out of nowhere, for me. I wish you would pick up the phone when I call, at least.
I’m in love with you. Won’t you believe it?
We need to settle into believing that we love one another. I need to believe that you love me, too. So we can have peace, and be content in one another’s embrace. And know, beyond a doubt, that our embrace means forever. Please don’t do this to me, darling. Don’t pull away from me.
I guess the fact that I’m writing this way means we’re not done falling in love, yet. When we stop talking like this, writing like this, we’ll know that we have reached the finish line. We will get there, if you want to. Only if you want to. I do, Chelsea. Do you?
Grief and the special agony of unrequited love are not so different from each other. The main ingredients of both are honey and hellfire. These are the substances responsible for that heavy feeling in your chest when you’re in the thick of pointless yearning. Luckily, there is a simple three-step plan for completely extracting your person from such a sad state of affairs. Three things – three simple things! – that every soul must do when they find themselves questioning their worth and worthiness:
In a rather unexpected burst of energy one morning, I write these three things on my mirror with lipstick, only I spell the word ‘pussy’ with four or five extras of the Letter S, plus an A between the last S and the Y to make a strong point about grabbing life that way.
Writing all over my bathroom mirror means that my reflection is now fragmented and smeared in a pretty murdery-looking red, but who cares? I don’t want to look at myself anyway – I’m going to look at these three things every day instead and take back my power!
Do them, do these three things, I tell myself every morning for a week, Grab life by the pussssssay!
In truth, I have just enough insight to recognize myself teetering dangerously close to the edge of another awful pit full of dead stars and self-loathing. The anxiety in this hole turns me into one of those rats being electrocuted at random intervals.
The last time this happened, the last time I teetered, I fell before I had time to grab the edge. I spent the whole summer pulling myself up. A whole summer wasted, because now it’s happening again.
Fortunately, I have a feeling that if I can muster the strength to do the three simple lipstick things written on my mirror, I will become a healthy and balanced human woman, and what’s more, nobody will ever be able to hurt me ever again!
The Merry Widow (Part I)
On her husband’s deathbed, a wife sobs inconsolably. She wrings her hands, rocks violently back and forth. She has filled the room with so many tears that all the furniture is floating on a lake of sorrow. She declares she will never love again.
What a good wife, the husband thinks.
In his last hours on earth, the dying husband finds comfort in the idea of his wife embracing the misery, social isolation and celibacy of widowhood. He is soothed to think of her spending all the days of her life mourning his loss, while trapped in the distinctly female drudgery of childrearing, cooking, and laying awake worrying about finances and the menacing erections of possible burglars.
The dying husband also thinks of his sons in these final hours. He imagines them growing up strong and brave, like he did. He finds pleasure in imagining them as men who will one day find their own good wives. Wives who will make them hearty soups and give birth to more strapping boys (no girls God willing). He finds comfort in imagining how confidently they will explore the world, setting out on great journeys of discovery, because that is what all men ought to do – it’s what he did, isn’t it? How wonderful it feels in his last hours to reflect on the fact that daring travels and freedom are the domains of men and men alone! He thinks of his sons conquering the soil of savage nations, fucking beautiful, exotic women, and following the same siren songs of lusty adventure that he once did.
Suddenly annoyed by his wife’s wailing when he is trying to enjoy memories of his own wild youth (particularly one romp he had with a lithe and slim-hipped fisherman’s daughter whose mouth on his member felt like a warm velvet fish) the husband croaks with a look of vague frustration on his face.
My last really good day was about a month ago, and that was a day of great joy and excitement. Why? Because I found some love potions that day!
I don’t know who made them, but I’m pretty sure they were special for me because I came upon them in an Easter basket sitting at the foot of my bed, and there was a little envelope in there that read, “This is a Love Spell for Chelsea Jane”.
Isn’t it amazing when Love Spells appear as if by magic at the very time when you need them the most?
The Love Spell came with potions in two tiny bottles, one sealed with wax and the other with a cork. In the envelope was a note with instructions:
Bottle #1 (wax):
Simply select an object or a group of objects symbolizing the love you want. Place this bottle on or beside the object(s). Leave the bottle there for as long as it takes and then love will return to you*.
Bottle #2 (cork):
Simply choose a location that is meaningful to you*. Remove the cork from this bottle. Close your eyes and dump the contents of this bottle onto the earth (or into the water). Keep eyes closed for two minutes until absorption is complete, and use this time to think hard about love.
It’s pretty nice that someone out there cares enough to make me a spell for love. I did some research and it turns out love spells are a lot of work. The spell-maker has to do all kinds of crazy things. According to experts on the Dark Web, the creation of this potion would have involved the following:
– Collecting the fresh urine of a live raven
– Desecrating the grave of an adulterous housewife (D. 1954)
– Pulling the entire spool of tape from a VHS copy of All Dogs go to Heaven
– Clipping a lock of hair from a natural redhead on the city bus without him/her noticing
I can’t divulge more than I already have, because the person called PotionLornf1823, whom I found in a Dark Web chatroom about magic, said he would have someone run me over if I gave away the really main secrets of the love spell.
There is only one problem with the written affirmations on my mirror: I can’t bring myself to actually do any of them. I look at them, but I can’t do them. Instead, day after day, I lose more footing, until eventually I wake up in the pit again.
I am not well, not thinking clearly, not processing information. I go from one room to another forgetting how I ever came to live in this house and not understanding what I’m doing staring into this cupboard or down that heat grate.
Cooking a meal from start to finish feels akin to running a marathon. Getting up in the morning feels akin to pulling a five-hundred year old oak tree up from its roots.
I sit for weeks in the crazy dark. What else am I supposed to do. I shut all my doors and windows, cover them with foil like it’s summer in Yellowknife and the light is knives. I sleep all day, stay awake all night, chain-smoke and listen to the same three songs on repeat. This is love, I tell myself, and instead of throwing off its chains, I lock myself up with them where nobody can find me. I am Golum now. I count the links compulsively. Precious, precious.
The garbage spills over with rotting things and I dare the rats to come so I can spit fire at them. My heart is a black eye now and I don’t care. The dishes in the sink are three weeks old, six feet high -I dare the mold to grow as long and tall as his shadow grew when he ran off to greet the rising sun and cast it back like a storm over the whole of this stupid island.
Now I see the murdery lipstick on the mirror and it taunts me. Grab life… Throw off… Free.
I want to wipe it off, but I’m too tired to clean anything. Counting chain-links is tiring. Plus I have too many other things to do, like sleeping and staring out windows and smoking cigarettes.
One day while brushing my teeth, I make eye contact with an alarmingly unkempt middle-aged fellow who seems to be staring back at me through the murder mirror smears.
That’s not a middle-aged fellow, darling, that’s you, says Kris.
Yes, darling. You are falling apart completely. I don’t think you’ll be able to come back from it this time.
“Well you died, so you don’t get to talk to me about falling apart.”
Curiously, I’m not at all bothered by the fact that I now resemble a portly man in his 50s with the sagging jowls and large nostrils of a sad cartoon. In fact, this is fascinating – a real transformation! I rest my elbows on the counter and lean in for a closer look at the new me.
“I think I can see your brains through your nostrils,” I tell my nostrils.
My hair is a nest of grease.
“Ohhhhhhhh, haaaair,” I murmur with quiet delight, as if seeing hair for the first time after only hearing about it my whole life.
I stare deeply into my own eyes.
“Now you tell me something interesting, you handsome devil,” I say.
Break me, replies the mirror.
“I will,” I say.
Finally we agree on something, says the mirror.
“Yes, we agree.”
Good. Now get back to counting the links on your lovechains. And do that for the rest of time.
We will count them and count them, we agree, because we know if we just count hard and long enough, we will find the flaw in our metal that makes love run away.
The Merry Widow (Part II)
A few months after the husband dies, a handsome wayfaring stranger appears in the village. Seeing that he is wayfaring and taking note of his handsomeness, the widow invites him over for a bowl of soup. The wayfarer initially declines.
“I’m sorry,” he says, “but I believe it is improper for a handsome and wayfaring young fellow like me to eat soup with a widow like you who has clearly not yet reached menopause.”
“Please,” she says, “it’s true that I do menstruate and am still very fertile, but I just bought all this stuff to make soup.”
“Okay,” he says, “and if you don’t mind I’ll sleep on your couch too!”
The widow rushes home and prepares a soup of duck, apples and some kind of noodles. When the wayfarer shows up, the widow is struck again by his charming good looks and the hint of sadness in his eyes. In fact, she thinks, he is even more handsome than he was at the market earlier in the day – he’s taller and has grown an impressive beard from absolutely nothing since their afternoon meeting!
“This is good soup,” says the wayfarer, “I can really taste the duck in this soup.”
“Thank you,” says the widow, “I pride myself on making good soup. It’s what I was born to do, after all.”
“Well, I’m glad you were born!”
After eating soup, the wayfarer and the widow retreat to the living room. They share a jug of mead and talk until the sun melts away and moonlight fills the room. They talk and talk and talk all the way into the hush of morning. About the nature of identity, about their childhoods, their parents, about the dreams they had and the ones they lost and the ones that still drive them to walk ahead. And they find, in each other, the kind of bond unique to kindred spirits.
“It seems there’s more to you than a good soup,” says the wayfarer.
“Yes, and there is more to you than wayfaring,” says the widow.
And now look at them.
What grieving woman with any sense of decency would throw her head back and shiver the way she does when the wayfaring stranger draws near and brings his mouth to her neck? Surely no widow worthy of respect would take his face in her hands and find his lips and kiss with such fierce hunger . And now look at her, look how she’s pressing her hips against him, and listen to how her heart is beating like a big bass drum, and now look how she is leaning back and pulling him on top of her, finding the curve of his shoulders and digging in, seeking and seeking and seeking him…
When it comes to widows, there are two tropes that abound in myth and literature: the Merry Widow and the False Widow. Derived from the Madonna/whore dichotomy, they serve to warn both men and women about the hysterical and fickle nature of female beings, not to mention the dangers of feminine complexity and sexuality.
Widows can be virtuous, of course – fragile, modest, and servile to lifelong grief is how we like ’em in virtually every culture on earth. We want them to remain chaste and faithful to their husbands and their gods. What we don’t want is a bunch of slutty greivesses going around disrupting peace in the village by tempting men with their vulnerability and hungry snatches.
The “Merry Widow”, who was a loyal wife, seems to grieve the death of her mate profoundly. Her tears are genuine, to be sure, but it is soon clear she’s embraced a deeply inappropriate sensuality, exemplified by her falling in love with someone who isn’t her dead husband mere months after his death.
The Merry Widow is always punished in the end. Sometimes, the new lover turns out to be her dead husband in disguise – surprise! He’s just made a quick return to earth to test her loyalty, which he reveals only after he has taken her to bed in order to really slut-shame her. In other stories, she is punished differently: her children die, she miscarries the child of her new lover, she is scorned and banished from the village when her peers discover her wickedness, or she finds herself madly in love with a man who doesn’t want her and goes off seeking fresher meat.
My favourite punishment for the Merry Widow is when some God comes along and disfigures her horribly in order to ensure she is as ugly on the outside as she is in her heart.
No, don’t feel sorry for her – let’s not pretend she hasn’t brought it on herself, okay? Proper grief means boundless sorrow for years on end, and anything less simply lacks class. Besides, we can’t forget that no woman on earth is complex enough to fall in love and mourn at the same time – one must necessarily diminish the other, and the female constitution is such that allowing her to multi-task emotionally will only end in disaster.
If the Merry Widow is bad, the False Widow is downright evil. Conniving and ambitious, she dries her crocodile tears while her husband’s body is still warm, and sets out immediately to find a Willing Idiot who agrees marry and care for her (and support her children, often to the detriment of his own – see Cinderella).
The Willing Idiot is a sympathetic character, of course, and nearly always the recipient of some kind of prize in the end, a great fortune or a virgin maid. Meanwhile, the False Widow’s true nature is revealed in a spectacular denouement and she is thrown off a cliff or torn apart by dogs or something.
I’m glad I’ve done all this research into widowhood so I know what behavior is acceptable and what is very, very bad. There was never a chance of me being a False Widow, because I was truly in love with Kris and I don’t care about money.
Unfortunately, I suspect I just might be of weak enough character to be a Merry one under the right circumstances. If I was a Merry Widow, which I’m not, I would tell you that it wasn’t my intention to be Merry. I would tell you that love comes when it comes. I would say that I’m not the kind of person who falls in love easily. I would say, in fact, that I’ve only been in love twice in my life (three times if you count the boy whose hair I untangled as a teenager), and that I remain deeply in love with both of these men, one living and one dead, and both equally far from me.
Anyway, I’m glad I don’t need to say any of those things, and that I’m a woman of virtue who would never dream of letting someone else into her heart so quickly after Kris’s death. And I’m glad that, unlike the Merry Widow, I don’t have to contend with the sting of unrequited love or the deception of a testing dead husband in disguise or the punishment of being disfigured by the gods or the humiliation of being banished from my village on top of the loss of my life partner, because let’s be honest – nobody wants to lose dignity pining over someone who isn’t interested, and let’s be real – the Merry Widow deserves an extra helping of heartbreak for being such a slut.
I was pretty excited about the love potion.
I carried it around from room to room that day, looking for the perfect object/s to symbolize the love I want. Do you know what a really balanced person would do? They would find a picture of themselves as a child and place the potion on that. Self-compassion and all that, learning to love yourself so that you can be available for another person.
Did I do that? No, of course not!
I went climbing up the tall shelves in my bedroom closet and found the only thing I could think of that would make me feel just awful enough to yearn even more. I’m not going to tell you what the thing is, because if I do it might ruin the spell.
There was also Part Two of the spell that I had to complete, so I got a babysitter for the evening. It was a dark and stormy night – there was even a wind warning. I drove down to The Breakwater, walked all the way to the end with my face whipped by wild salt winds and giant waves, which I really liked because it made me feel like the earth was crying and raging like a crazy cheerleader in my corner. When I got to the lighthouse, the wind picked up even more; I had to brace myself against a bench to keep from toppling into the sea.
And then, just like that, it was calm. The clouds rolled away in an instant, as if by time-lapse, and the stars appeared. They were alive, the stars, so alive the sky looked like the lords of Christmas had sneezed at it with all the sparkles in the North Pole.
I dislodged the cork from the tiny potion bottle and flung it out to the sea with all my might! I closed my eyes and squeezed them shut as hard as I could…
And I thought about love. And I thought about desire, and heartache, and the heavy honeyed hellfire of yearning I’ve been carrying in my chest for so many months. And I thought about longing, and I thought about shame, and about how if – *if* – there was one man alive that I would give my heart to, he wouldn’t want it anyway. And I thought about Kris. Of course. His long black eyelashes, the depth of his longing to connect, the way his laugh was like a fucking forest fire. And of his decline, the months of sinking into the tar sands of addiction, the vicious words he said to me and how that was all part of it, too.
“What is left for me here?” I asked the air, and I opened my eyes hoping to see an answer written plainly across the sky.
To my surprise, there it was.
Three answers. Written in the stars, and clearly enumerated as follows:
1. Grab life by the pussy
2. Throw off the chains of love that bind you
3. Declare yourself free
From: Chelsea W.<email@example.com>
Date: Thurs, June 2nd, 2011 at 10:59 PM
Subject: Re: tulip bulbs
To: Kris <firstname.lastname@example.org>