Ana Iris once asked me if I loved him and I told her about the lights in my old home in the capital, how they flickered and you never knew if they would go out or not. You put down your things and you waited and couldn’t do anything really until the lights decided. This, I told her, is how I feel. — Junot Diaz, This is How You Lose Her
Sometimes when I look at the kitten who followed me home, I wonder what brought us together. She was starved, half-alive, having survived a harsh subzero winter yet she still battled each day and one day followed me across 20 minutes of frozen terrain.She was — is — a wild one. A ferocious, independent, and keenly intelligent creature. Maybe, in this way, she is only myself in animal form.
At times, though, I cannot help but look at her and wonder if it is possible for a human to come back as an animal. Often, when she plays soccer with her bell-ball for hours on end, I am reminded of the brother I lost so many years ago. He, too, was a dark and quiet creature, and spent hours playing solitaire foot hockey with a tennis ball.
Or, at those times when I feel her jagged tongue scratching away at my cheek, licking away my tears, I wonder if she is my mother; watching over me while I sleep.
In this way, I often find telling traits for many of those I have lost, and perhaps this is all transference of various internal feelings and thoughts that I do not dare allow myself to dwell on.
It is around this time that I observe the loss of the most important person in my life. The pain of that loss is as ever crippling, even 25 years later. This is a pain I once felt was, if not healed completely, absolved through the nurturing care of another person I believed was my soul mate. But that person too, for reasons of his own, decided that I had weathered so many losses that one more didn’t make a difference; I was already stained and blemished from the wounds of the past and having risen each time I fell, of course I would rise again. Once, a few months ago, when I tried to communicate the destruction wreaked, I was told, by this person, disinterestedly, that it gets better with time.
I have wondered each day how it gets better with time. Does the ability to rise and go forth as opposed to wither away in a dark room mean that it is better? Does the impact of internalizing this pain and not expressing it mean that it is better? Does laughing and making other people happy, therefore the self happy, mean that it is better? Because happiness itself is so transient, and does not exactly correlate to that other pain so well hidden.
I feel sometimes that we are only given a certain amount of time with other people as they become a mirror or window, depending on the lessons learnt. As I observe one person grow into the cold, hurtful and distanced parent they never wanted to be, I realize that I should take heed and learn not to do the same. I am learning to detach myself from the emotions that have haunted me in the past, those of others and the emotions that have caused me to act out irrationally. I have ceased to abhor loss and struggle against aligning myself with pain. Instead I have acceded in the realization that this too is part of my identity. This is not necessarily better, but this is how I survive:
I rise each day ready to go forth and conquer, not because the pains of yesteryear have healed, but because I have come to accept them as part of who I am. I continue to fight with broken ribs and open wounds because these wounds are the very things which have caused the biological heart to ragingly pump blood to these wounds in the hope that the delivery of oxygen and nutrients will one day heal them. Once healed, the heart would cease to beat so ferociously.