“I am not asking for compliance, since such a thing would be offensive. I am only asking that you see in that great love that you say you have for me, enough substance; something that can fulfill both of us without having to turn to the ill imagination.”
Carlos Fuentes in Aura.
We walk around the park, while he nervously holds my hand. It all feels bizarre, almost unnatural. He takes me towards a bench, where we sit. We remain quiet until he shakes his head in disapproval, almost in disappointment. “It was not supposed to be this way”- he mumbles under his breath. I am confused and trying to make sense of it all. Why am I here? More importantly, why is he here?
He slowly lists all the things that “were not supposed to be that way.” There is the moving around, the “immodest” clothing, the breaking away from our Muslim community, the afternoons of black smoke that permeate my life, the walking away from an academic institution that makes me terribly unhappy, my lack of prayers, the violent emotionality in which I have lived for two years and, of course, the love part of things.
He disapproves. He judges. He lectures. He nags and eventually disappears as suddenly in matter of seconds. And I stay there, immobile, in bed, trying to understand… to piece everything together. It is all a dream. A bad one, I guess, but one that has left me cold in fear.
Since his passing, he has seldom appear in my dreams. What is more, he is now a distant memory. One that I cannot invoke at will, but that is always in the back of my mind. Sometimes I look at his pictures, but lately they seem unfamiliar, as if he had never been part of my life. His presence and my life as I knew it get hazier by the hour.
Why is it that years later, he comes back to me with moral lectures and judgements? Why is it that I feel a stranger in my own life more than ever?
Since I was a kid, I learned that love is wild and unmeasurable. That the only way to experience “real” love is to throw oneself into an abyss that is endless, dark and painful. But, that despite everything, said abyss has a light a the end of the tunnel. A union, of some sort, between two (or more) very dysfunctional existences. Perhaps not the “healthiest” in Western terms. Yet, Latin American love has always been about extreme suffering, darkness and feelings so entrenched in the psyche that modify one’s perception of everything around.
That is, thus, the way I loved and the way I lived my life. I gave everything I had, so wholly and unquestioning. I made a commitment to sacrifice in ways that resembled a religious call. And, in turn, I accepted a love so intense that it spilled into every aspect of who I was. At times such love was violent, explosive and toxic. But it wrapped around me in ways that resembled happiness, safety and normalcy. It was as wonderful as it was scary, but I rarely questioned it… and I do not think he ever did.
We would have died together. I am sure of it. Neither he nor I would have ever walked away. Not because the love felt so exceptional, but because we were so deeply ingrained in each other that to separate would have been to die slowly inside. Yet, since he died, I have always thought that it was that toxicity itself that triggered “Allah’s will.” It was our only way out.
I will never forget the thoughts I had during one of our last conversations. I stood in tears in my room, after an agitated fight, and as I hung up the phone, I said to myself, “We will never be able to leave each other unless one of us dies.” The thought stuck with me because a week later I was on the phone receiving the news of his passing. And my lack of surprise took me back to those many moments where Allah had given me little glimpses into what was coming.
A few weeks back we sat on my couch, doubtful and fearful. It was that time when conversations needed to happen, but life felt so uncertain that it seemed even silly to pretend that we knew what the future holds. Thus, the relationship remains, to this date, without terms, without goals and without a defined path. But that day he mentioned to me a picture. My late partner and I laid on the grass, as a friend of mine took our engagement pictures. The one image stands out from the series. He said I looked “peaceful,” and he expressed powerlessness at not being able to make me feel peaceful again.
However, I think my look in that image resembles naivety. The picture was taken at the height of the relationship, at a time where we were so in love, and so looking forward to a life together, that we refused to see everything playing against us. Such naivety and peace of mind can only exist in a time of blissfulness, where neither dead not pain are part of the picture.
That will never be me again.
In a lot of ways I feel myself withholding on my love for him. Very often I am impulsive, and I want to throw “I love you (s)” here and there, while proposing crazy ideas that do not reflect our realities… I guess these are the remnants of the person I used to be. But then, the “me” who has survived loss, grief and limbo, kicks in and settles on withholding. It feels safer. It feels smarter.
Sometimes I just want to have him besides me, and I feel entitled and want to demand his attention, as a child in a tantrum. And then I suddenly remember how losing someone who was there 24/7 feels like. I implicitly remind myself of the incredibly surreal experiences of hallucination and sickness that surrounded my late partner’s departure. Then, I stop demanding and grow aloof. As if that could shield me from the pain.
Every day, I want to feel him close and entrust myself to him. I like to imagine that he is able to carry such a responsibility without ever let it become toxicity. Yet, I very soon remember how disoriented I was after my late partner passed away. How unable, how powerless, how stupid I felt. So I withdraw. I lock myself in my apartment, pretending to keep myself safer, happier, wholier. And I just show glimpses of my insecurities in moments when vulnerability is the only option… when I have exhausted every other path.
So, one could say I am living a fearful love. In constant waiting. Always foreseeing its painful end… its sudden shattering. And when those fears are appeased, when I feel reassured and safe, the ghost from the past comes down to hunt me in an eternal reminder that everything is temporary and that loss is inevitable.