Sometimes, having to let go of someone is like having to cut off a gangrenous arm. I can see the decay creeping over and within me. I know that cutting it off will stop the pain, that it will prevent the rest of me from falling into ruin.
That it will save me.
But losing something that has been a part of me for so long scares me. It gave my forehead a place to rest on when I was weary. It brushed my hair out of my eyes when the winds grew too strong, the tears off my cheekbones when my defenses crumbled, the dust off my shoulders when I fell.
Some days, I didn’t need it to do much for me and I just kind of forgot it was there. But it stayed by my side and watched over me, quietly lending a hand whenever it could. We shared our experiences, our pain, and a comfortable and utter understanding of each other.
But now it’s turning on me. A relentless ache underlines every second of my day. It has turned on me but doesn’t let me forget it, doesn’t want me to forget it. Sometimes the pain swells to such an overwhelming intensity that I’m left blinded and breathless and disoriented. Then once in a while, without warning the haze lifts, and for a few minutes or hours everything is back to normal – back to the way it used to be.
I convince myself that I shouldn’t cut it off.
Surely, these moments of normality, no matter how brief they are or how rarely they come around, mean that it’s worth saving?
I can’t get used to it.
I tell myself to forget. I stare into a mirror and repeat it a hundred times. I order myself to forget. I write down a hundred reasons why I should forget. I argue out loud with myself over why I need to forget.
I eat five slices of pizza to make myself feel better. It doesn’t work. So I eat another five to make myself feel sick. Sick enough to forget the hole that’s yawning inside of me.
I still look for it instinctively when I’m weary, when my hair’s in my eyes, when I fall. I’m surprised when it doesn’t respond. I spend days on end locked up in my room, alternately turning my drawers inside out in a fit of rage and despair, and simply staring vacantly ahead of me, willing it to reappear.
It really isn’t coming back again.
They tell me I can have a new arm.
It’s not like your old arm, they say, it’s going to be different, they caution me.
The first time I try it on, I’m overwhelmed yet curiously detached. It’s both comforting and exciting to have an arm again, but I’m filled with doubt and apprehension.
I try my hand at the things I used to do. I run my fingers along my jawline. I fold it across my chest. It feels solid and it makes me feel safe. I make dinner with it, and play the guitar with it, and when night came I drifted off to sleep with it resting on my hip.
I slip back into the daily routine I had with my old arm. Let’s call it Arm. My new arm is, well, brand new so I’m surprised when I don’t have to teach it anything. At the start, I’m attacked frequently by guerrillas of deja vu. They throw a black bag over my head and insist I revisit those moments I spent with Arm. Pain surges through me. I no longer carry my old wounds but the pain is frighteningly real.
Then those visits begin to occur less and less frequently, until one day they stop happening completely.
I still think about Arm sometimes, but it’s more like thumbing through an album of us. There’s a photo of Arm and I, all crinkly eyes and wind in our hair. There’s another of Arm playing with fire while I’m drawing away in fear. I can close the album at will and it sits on the shelf forgotten for weeks and sometimes even months.
It’s easy to mistake the only way we know how to live for the only way we can be happy, but it’s a mistake that can cost us that very happiness.