29 February 2008

I remember

I was five and in kindergarten. It was a private school called Princess Ann and I remember learning songs in English, calling my teacher Miss, the smell of the dining room and the wonderful garden in the back where we played during recess. Others have madeleines, I have all sorts of smells. Over a decade later I smelled a perfume on a colleague (Avon's Sweet Honesty) and my Miss must have worn it bcs I was instantly transported back to those days when I wore a checkered blue and white bibe [beeb] just like this,
They are an old Portie institution, bibes are, and apart from Southern Europe they don't seem to be in use at all. This imprinting means I can never resist children wearing the checkered sort, and I often remember that garden. There were trees that bloomed into an explosion of big, pink flowers, and if you broke off the stigma carefully, where the pollen collects, you could stick it to the end of your nose. There were also Porcellionides pruinosus, they're called, slaters in English I believe rolly-polly bugs [Thanks, Dexter Colt!]. They live in our gardens but are actually crustaceans and daintily curl up into a ball when you touch them:
I thought them things of beauty and used to happily sit on my heels in the garden during recess, bestigmaed nose more often than not, and gently poke them to see them curl and uncurl. When you are five the world is very easily entertaining, when you are five it very easily stands still, just for you.

I drive past my kindergarten often but this is not an area that ever finds me on foot. Yesterday we went to visit the zoo facilities, however, and I walked past it on the way back to the car. Possessing that characteristic Portie cheekiness I rang the bell and explained who I was, and they allowed me in for a look. It is still a very lovely building and the children still wear those checkered bibes but the garden is no more. It is still there, mind, but there is no more soil, no more lusciousness, it has been paved in typical Portuguese cobbles and made bigger, it is no longer inviting, too tidy, too bare. I was lucky, then, as I so often have been growing up.

As I left one exhibit in the zoo there was a long line of blue-and-white checkered 4 year-olds approaching in pairs, holding hands, herded by their teachers. They were so tiny and still a bit wobbly, all big eyes and rounded countours and helplessness, they are so consistently adorable at times I feel my ovaries squeal with glee. I know effective evolution when I experience it and in my case it has certainly ensured I will respond to all cubs as etoepimeletically as possible and do my very best to protect them from all beasts, real or imaginary. When I realised I was still a tad pregnant and the baby might, just might be viable something forever shifted within me. I have always considered a pregnancy a truly wondrous thing, no matter how natural I actually think it is. You are growing the potential for a brand new being inside of you, how utterly amazing! That notion has always filled me with awe, made me grateful I am female, and knowing that babies are being born has always been a source of delight. Regardless of what happens life does go on as it should, babies conceived, babies born, babies growing, ebb and flow. And I had briefly experienced a glimpse of it.

E. stood by my side all the way through it all, in the weeks preceding the actual miscarriage and for most of those 18 dreadful hours. When I was in hospital I was in too much pain to do anything but writhe and vomit but that too I remember. I remember how he rushed back from every interview to be by my side, how white he looked (abt to faint really), how he didn't dare to touch me bcs he was afraid he might hurt me, how Shrimpy almost cancelled all her appointments and nearly came to Lisbon to be with him bcs the panic in his voice was worrying her, I remember how he cooked whatever I felt like eating in those horribe weeks after the miscarriage when I was hormonal and batty, weak from anaemia and infection and lack of sleep, how he'd bring me whatever it was I fancied nibbling on, how he comforted me when I cried bcs I was tired and raw and they didn't have the right ice-cream in Portugal or it still hurt to stand, I remember how, not quite a year into our relationship, we came to the conclusion that yes, we might just want to have children together. At any rate, I realised I do want to have children regardless of the worrying over them that I fear will often paralise me, but I also realised that I could trust him. Being pregnant was a profoundly changing experience, I no longer had control over a lot of things and the hormonal roadside attraction truly was overwhelming. I turned into a person I often didn't recognise and couldn't help any of it, I vividly remember sobbing over that ice-cream, not having it crushed me, it crushed me, even while part of me felt like she was looking at it from above and wondered Really? All this over ice-cream?, but I couldn't not sob and I couldn't not burst into tears for no good reason even if I tried but trying actually made me sob harder bcs I felt so inadequate and silly and alien to me already.

If E. had behaved any differently it would have been unbearable, when your partner fails to stand by your side at a time when you really need them to, regardless of the reason, your world ends. It means they are not who you thougth they were, they may be wearing the clothes but if they are not fully emotionally and physically available they are not worthy of your affection and what do you do with that atop everything else? Regardless of the doubts I would soon harbour regarding our capability of being a happy couple together I was lucky to be able to know, really know, that he truly was a good man. The weeks before and after my D&C were perfectly horrible but they had shown me he could be trusted to do the right thing, he had had patience, I had felt loved throughout it and had no doubt he would be a good father bcs of the very basic decency he had shown. It takes a lot to handle all that without faltering, he was forced to cope with me as he too grieved, I was able to lean on him and he carried both of us, alone.

When I found out that a mere week after our break up he had already booked a trip to Israel [Israel] via Central European City with someone else, the woman who had activelly tried to seduce him from the moment she set eyes on him even after he had shaken her off, something kept bothering me. You see, I do know him, I know how he is wired, I know what his prerequisites are for being able to take action, but I was in shock for a long time, I couldn't think straight, I couldn't quite pinpoint it. It seems impossible to me now that I didn't see it right away, the way he kept ringing me in absolute panic once he found out I knew abt the trip to reassure me that nothing had ever happened and it was all very friendly and he had no intention of touching her whatsoever nonono should have been enough. He owed me nothing anymore, right? Deficient soul perfusion doesn't do much for intelligence, it would seem, it took me a while. The truth, the very simple truth is, E. would never have had the courage to break up without a backup plan. The whole breaking up bcs we are no longer happy and I need to grow, and I need to grow alone made perfect sense to me, but he is not that sort. I mean, you need to mourn, you need to grow up, you need to do it alone and the way you choose to do it is flying to Central European City to stay with a woman who has abundantly shown she will claw her way up your urethra if given the slightest chance? I am now completely certain that he tested the waters however indirectly around the time we broke up, completely certain that he found her still willing and that is how he found the strength to stay away. In fact, the trip booking must have happened right after we broke up bcs he moved out and then rang me frantically for 2 days and I kept not answering until I was forced to, only to have him cry on the phone and say he missed me and was torn and didn't know how to handle the sadness and what should he do and I said we had just broken up, all that was normal but I wasn't the right person to comfort him, he should turn to his friend for that. When I broke up with him in March the same thing had happened, only that time I answered earlier and he was back the very next day. Had I said different things this time he would have come back again, I think. Of course, no matter how often we might have repeated this ad nauseam one day it would be over for good, our relationship had ceased to be anything whatsoever a long time ago, but this shows me that when I didn't respond the way he expected me to he immediately turned to plan B. And that was bad enough in terms of the man he was after all, good God, premeditation?? Hadn't he once carried both of us alone?

Not really.

Abt 2 months ago he emailed me to ask when were we going to grow up, when was I going to start answering when he greeted me, when was I going to stop ignoring him. This is what I wrote back: It is very simple really, after a separation many couples will still greet each other, they may even really talk, no worries, but a man who actively flirts via email with another woman, oh there are some lovely places to be at dusk in Lisbon when you come visit yes, I will find one just like what you described; have I told you today that you're gorgeous [she wrote this to him in broken Portuguese, it is a sentence he coined for me the day we became a couple and used daily for weeks after that, it was one of our defining things]; I may even have to travel to Central European City for work [never a possibility]; why my cats and my dog are fine and healthy thanks for asking, at the very moment his girlfriend is miscarrying their child is, quite frankly, a swine and someone I don't care to remain in contact with in whichever form. It doesn't seem particularly hard to understand, babe [subject line of one of his emails to her].

He did not know I knew, see, but I'd found the emails, I'd read them myself, I noticed the dates, there was no escaping it at all, it absolutely was the end of the world as I knew it. When he finally replied, surely after dying a little bcs after all that time he was convinced I'd never find out, he said he had never not been by my side despite the emails, and I had not miscarried bcs of them or her really, and we had both been perfect swines to each other. I didn't reply to this at all, who could, God I was done and actually exceedingly grateful to life for having given me the chance to say it. He didn't take it well, bit of a shocker there. There were some issues a while ago in our community that were addressed by email and when he read what I had to say he replied to all and among other things told me to eat up and shove it. Like that, eat up and shove it.

My friends have since often pointed out that this seems like a different man, that they never saw any of this in him, that he didn't act like this when he was with me. Well he certainly didn't, he wouldn't even have dreamt of speaking to me like that, but that was then. Shrimpy explained it best, I think, when she said that he was under all different sorts of pressure when he was with me and one of those was the need to indeed be decent and courteous at all times and that might be a bit of a bother when that is not your real inclination. No one changes that much, no one gains the ability to do what he did or be this vulgar to someone overnight, he simply hid it well even from himself I think, until he no longer needed or wanted to. To be fair I think he tried at first, in his own way, but this is the man he now chooses to be. And, do you know, I no longer care. The magnitude of the betrayal was such that it destroyed everything that was once even remotely us, no more memories, there is nothing left but intellectual disgust for I sit here typing this and am not bothered at all, I don't even feel that disgust anymore, nothing, not even needing to understand why, what could possibly explain it?

Today is the last day of February and a 29th at that, Spring is coming, my birthday [her birthday] is coming, sometimes the universe speaks so forcefully in our ear that we can't fail to recognise its message. Spring is coming, see, Spring always comes, and I wanted to have all my inner cupboards aired.

And now they are.

Had to add this, post-mortem:
The warriors tame
The beasts in their past

The intelligent and the brave
Open every closet (...) and evict
All the mind's ghosts that have the bad habit
Of barfing everywhere.

The Gift, Hafiz

18 furballs:

Kath said...

What a beautiful post, dear Lioness. You have come such an amazingly long way. Thanks for airing!

And so long, you old February. You had to go all Extended Version on us this year, didn't you?

Udge said...

Well done, Johnny. I'm pleased that you have finally posted this.

Shabbat shalom and happy leap day.

Swollen said...

This beautifully written post resonates deeply with me, helping cleanse the doors of perception as it were. Thank you.

Nancy said...

I think, in the long run, you will have a better and happier life than he will. Because you are a better person, and capable of love. He showed himself to be neither a good person (though, perhaps a good actor in the short term), nor is he capable of loving anything or anyone but himself.

be well Lioness

Dexter Colt said...

Interestingly, the Proust "madeleine" analogy has simply PLAGUED me this week. Your blog marks the 4th time THIS WEEK that I have made that connection. Are the fates trying to tell me something?

And, I have never heard of slaters, but I know them as "pill bugs" or, sometimes, "sow bugs." Yes, they are crustaceans (I learned many years ago from reading some scientific article). And, in some places they actually exist in a "giant size."

Interesting? No?

Diana said...

You know? I think that it is not just you that needed to have this written, but also that those of us who've travelled the pain with you in one way or another, needed it. My cupboards feel the air, too, and are lighter for it.

I'm glad that you are now ready for the spring.

Who else? said...

You see? The oracle knows.

Ana said...

Good for you, I'm glad you got that out. Now you can truly move on.

kirkjerk said...

Oy. When I read just the first part, and didn't realize what a heartfelt and wrenching story would follow, my main thought was...
ooh, I love hermit crabs too.
(I think those are the little crustaceans you talk about)

kirkjerk said...

(err that wasn't meant to be as weird and dumbassedly pseudo-flirty or whatever as it may have sounded; I just remember having a few as a pet as a kid, and I dug 'em. Such a nifty alienish little critter, and their natural timidity, and ability to overcome that if you show enough patience and gentleness...)

Lioness said...

Kath, I have, haven't I? How amazing.

Udge, do you know, so am I, I don't even fel relief really but the circle is closed and that's how it should be.

Swollen, well, I'm glad your doors of perception are better for it!

Nancy, I think so too, I think you are absolutely right.

Dexter Colt, I don't know what the fates are trying to tell you but didn't Jung and his sinchronicity theory explained this? happens a lot dosn't it. Thanks for the pill bugs, that's exactly what they are! Though i prefer Rolly-Polly Bugs, that is one brilliant name. It was very hard to even find the name in English bcs I had to start off in Portuguese with the common name so I could find the scientific on but the scientific one only brought up that one site where they were called slaters. Excellent! Not sure I want to imagine the giant size though...

Diana, this comment floored me, it absolutely did. To write something for me that ends up actually helping you close the bloody circle already as well was so unexpected, I still can't quite believe it. But now that I think about it it does make perfect sense, those were hard months on me and therefore on you, who had my back at all times even with your own life in shambles.

V., I knew you'd like it, thanks for reminding me of the book!

Ana, I had already but now I'm not dragging anything with me.

Kirk, they're not hermit crabs, they're rolly-polly bugs, how very cool! And your comment didn't sound weird or dumbassed or pseudo-flirty (pseudo-flirty? Where do you see that? Dude...) at all. Your comments never are, but I lovethat sometimes you worry abt them and still don't delete them, that takes gonads. Kudos and Portie kisses.

Manuela said...

Ah... this must be the post that caused the ruckus, yes???

The truth hurts, don't it! I have yet to hear the saga of the aftermath but I can only well IMAGINE the Defunct's reaction. The fact that he still comes here??? Oik. Pathetic. But I've already thought that for a looooong time as you know. I've been much more affected by more recent goings-on in your life than I ever was by your relationship with that guy.

As for YOU... I mirror Diana's thoughts. Somehow it felt like closure for me as well, in spite of any subsequent childish antics on his part.

Can hardly wait to actually hug you in person.

Dexter Colt said...

It has been many a years since I devoted any time to reading Jung, but I did spend some time in the late 90s devoted to his writings. I always felt there was something meaningful within the notion of archetypes.

Kristin said...

You truly are an amazing woman Johnny. It was a real pleasure to talk to you the other day.

Lilian said...

Wow... awful stuff. Good thing you're airing it out. You, truly "intelligent and brave."

Lilian said...

Oh, yeah, and I loved the kindergarten story... wow. And how do you call a "rolly-polly" in Portugal? We call them tatuzinhos. Eu adorava brincar com tatuzinhos quando criança também. Raramente eu vejo destes por aqui...

José said...

Continua a ser uma boa escola, a Princesa Ana.
Sobre o resto: tinha razão e eu não.
Yet, são pessoas dessas e estórias assim que acabam por nos definir.
E força de carácter não lhe parece faltar, J.

Lioness said...

Manuela, yeah well, everything has been said, wouldn't you say? RIP.

DC, I agree! I think archetypes make perfect sense as well.

Kristin, thanks dahling, likewise!

Lilian, right? It would be almost unbelievable had it not happened to me. Nós chamamos-lhes bichos-de-conta e aind hoje vi uns quantos no jardim de uma amiga. São umas coisinhas fascinantes!

José, yup. Começa é a cansar um pouco ter TANTO para me ajudar a definir-me, espero melhores tempos agora. E conhece a Princesa Ana?? Fico feliz por ainda ser uma boa escola, merece.