OnBecoming is a memoir on rising through grief to be the self
I always thought I would never be
foreshadowing preface as creative nonfiction
It was one year after my father died. I was walking my aged miniature beagle on the most perfect of summer days: bright sun, cool breeze, with one small cloud looking over things. Then – Bam! – there he was. The younger man with full beard. The torch bearer with charming eyes and half-cocked smile walked past, our eyes locked for a whiff of a second. A moment later, a return glance – Bam! Lighting up the life in me that had been laid to rest with Dad. I found myself wondering who he was, where he was, if I would see him again. It was exactly what this grieving daughter, this wife of an exhausted marriage, this nearly empty-nester wanted. It was the last thing she needed. Her wounds so deep, she was unsteady, unrooted, unlookingforwardtoeverything.
The second point of contact came. One afternoon at the public library I turned a corner and fate landed him right in front of me – Bam! We said hello, exchanged some playful words. This scene would repeat often. Within weeks he would be at my doorstep asking to borrow a needle and thread to patch a hole in his jeans. It was an hour of conversation, an hour of assessment. Looking back, I could say – I do say – I knew all along what he was up to. I say this so I can live with myself, but I don’t know if it is true.
The self-help books and websites call him “gaslighter.” Today is Tuesday, so I call him “asshole” for wearing my microexpressions to embody me, to learn my wounds and weaknesses, then slice right through me. Today is Wednesday, so I call him “fucker” for shining his dusk through the cracks of my very own #MeToo. Today is Thursday, so I now call him “my suicide note,” which is shorthand for Friday’s “I willingly welcomed his dirty, burning, diesel-fueled torch into my home,” or Saturday’s “I have lost all hope in life and death as it was and forever will be.” This is how I fill my week now.
Sundays are different, as they are meant to be. Typically, I recall his carefully curated notes shared through Spotify, his symphonic forms of orchestrated courtship swoon. I dive back into my “Tunnel I am Going Through” playlist. This summer’s blue sky is cloudless, and I walk my German Shepherd as Leonard Cohn, The Villagers, and Keaton Henson play. Their lyrics of mixed meanings remind me of this mind of mine, this orphaned self’s half-baked cult-mind that begs all the hims to make it up for me.
Now it is Sunday night. I am here, I am alive, living back where I should be. I say grace: “You did not set your version of me free!”
“This is great progress,” my therapist reminds me. Want to know the best part? Tomorrow is Monday. I have nothing on my schedule. Nothing but poetry, my new everything.
first published with The Poetry Question, February 19, 2020