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Guest Blog: Aftershocks

We toasted to things like ‘doing regrettable things because you might later regret that you didn’t.’… And at the climax of all this mirth, suddenly my pocket vibrates. It’s her.”

I’m really excited to share our latest guest blog with you. I like that adulthood is about processing — thinking about people and events and what they mean for our continued evolution of self.  This guest blogger shares some perspective on life after a break-up in a really thoughtful and nuanced way, filled with imagery of dark bars and lascivious innuendos woven into an expert narrative on self-exploration and evaluation.  When I first read his piece, I kept thinking about it many times during the day because I found it so interesting and compelling. Our guest blogger is actually a professional writer in Arizona, and thus has given me a pseudonym of “The Vernacular Assassin” to preserve his professional ethos.  This is his first foray into blogging, and I hope he will continue sending us guest posts because, my goodness, this boy can write! 

Aftershocks

By The Vernacular Assassin

It was about two weeks before the end when my breakup sensors started going off. She was picking fights about little things.  My foot was spending more time in my mouth than in my shoes.  Bedroom moments had become tainted with exasperation from interminable arguments. Spooning had virtually ceased.  After protracted exit negotiations on a recent Sunday morning, we indulged a final time in that one thing we had no disagreements about, and I gathered the last of my belongings. “There are two books of yours in my nightstand,” she said.

“No, I already took them,” I replied.

 “When?”

“Yesterday morning.”

 “Yesterday morning? Why did you think you had to take them without mentioning it? I wasn’t going to hold them hostage!” she said.

“I know, but I could smell the smoke in the breeze,” I told her.

Driving away, that familiar feeling of “what now?” struck me. I thought about how I dealt with the last breakup, which was a soul-shaking 9.5. My id, suddenly unrestrained, was unleashed like a tsunami: two full months of happy hours that ran until 2 AM, long nights with dreary postmodern novels (“a screaming came across the sky”), hundreds of chicken wings, dubious hookups with tattoo-covered women, making a drunken ass of myself in public on the regular.  But this breakup was a 4.5, tops—and hadn’t I grown up a bit? Yes, it’s a new day—this time would be different.

When I got home, I cleaned the house and did laundry. I reached out to friends I had been blowing off. I frenetically texted old flames and hookups. I went to the gym.  And in my perspiration it hit me: I might be a grown-up now, but forget this, I need to get drunk.

I can’t explain why breaking up sends me into a self-destructive rampage, but I’m not the only man who does it. However, this time I knew it was a choice, and that made it fun. On Monday morning I didn’t feel guilty about the hijinks of the night before—and after work it was “three hours of sleep be damned, let’s go to Mill and shoot some Jameson!” We toasted to things like “doing regrettable things because you might later regret that you didn’t,” and of course, that already tired-out meme of “winning.” I acted a fool in front of random women and laughed at myself heartily. And at the climax of all this mirth, suddenly my pocket vibrates. It’s her.

“I hope I’m not bothering or interrupting you.  I’m just used to talking with you around this time, so I just wanted to see how you’re doing.” Over the sounds of laughing women, breaking glasses, and Irish folk songs, I sheepishly tell her that everything’s fine—but that I don’t have time to talk. “Well I’m really happy we’re still friends,” she replies. After we say goodnight, I feel wistful and order another double. Hearing her voice was the best moment of the night.

Later, I let my friend drag me to a strip club, and as we walked in I was reminded of why I’d never gone back to one after my first time seven years ago.  I felt miles away, slouching numb and intoxicated in a chair, meta-analyzing the sociological undercurrents of the room, when a woman suddenly sits down on me and says, “This is courtesy of your friend.” She planted my hands on her waist—I gave a squeeze but something felt off. I noticed that her breasts were too large and her hair was blonde, not jet black. Her perfume wasn’t Mont Blanc. She didn’t have that tattoo I liked. Her movements were adept, but so unnatural and calculating, as if she were trying to arouse me at gunpoint.

I couldn’t ignore it—I missed her.    

What I realized under the black lights was still true in the light of day, but there’s nothing I can do but let go and let my feelings for her subside. My queasy stomach and piercing headache tell me that this really is a new day, and perhaps there are better ways to deal with this bit of heartache. So I go into work, clean-shaven and pressed. A younger me would have called in sick on a day like today—but that lingering taste of liquor, cigars and shame somehow invigorates me to keep on marching.

Photo via Jetalone on Flickr.

The Secret is in the Telling

The Secret is in the Telling

“Do you promise not to tell?” she asked me.
“Yes. I promise,” I said.

As a child, a secret was something innocent. A crush on a boy, a hidden treasure spot, or stealing a candy bar. But as I grew older, secrets became more serious. My friends stopped whispering in my ear about how they’d talked to their crush that day, or how they had broken their mom’s favorite lamp and blamed it on the dog. Instead, they whispered about other things: sexual encounters, pregnancy scares, depression, drinking, and drugs.

And then there were the secrets that they didn’t tell. The ones I always knew but was too afraid to talk to them about. The secrets that left rippled seams, tiny as a stitch — but not invisible.

These were the kind of secrets that involved excusing oneself right after eating an extra large container of ice cream, and then returning with pink vomit on your collar. Like a magnet, my eyes would fasten to the vomit: that imperfect stitch that unravels it all. But I dare not look at it for too long, so she doesn’t think I know. It’s a secret I have known for many years, but one that she glosses over with jokes about indigestion. A secret known but never told.

These were the kind of secrets involving a sadness so deep that you can’t speak it because you think no one could understand. “Please just come out and meet me for coffee?” I would ask. “I’m so sorry,” she would say into the receiver through muffled tears. “Not tonight. I’m not feeling well.” And the next night would be the same. And the night after that too. Until every day and night she was trapped in sadness, and the sadness gripped her so tightly that no one could get their arms in anywhere, even to hug her.

They were the kind of secrets that are held for so many years, buried and confused with guilt and childhood. The ones she can barely tell you because what he did to her over and over again was so horrible. The secret she held on to, through childhood, and into adulthood, until she was out of the house. Away from him.

They were also the kind of secrets about a relationship filled with mean words, name calling, belittling, constant hurt, and the sad realization that she doesn’t want to leave. “I know I deserve better,” she told me, carefully balancing the secrets above her head like the heaviest ceiling tiles. “But I love him.”

The kind of secrets that were strategically hidden above her skirt on her upper leg and were only revealed on accident when the blood soaked through her gray leggings. “I don’t do it all the time,” she said casually. “Just sometimes, when life gets to be too much and I need to feel something real. They really aren’t even that deep.”

Some of these secrets resolve themselves. A step-father was imprisoned thanks to brave girls. A girl realized she needed support to overcome her anxiety and agoraphobia. And, after a cut a little too deep, a smart doctor intervened.

But some secrets remained.

As a friend, how do you respond to secrets when you do find them out (however they are revealed to you )? How do you help a friend who is too deeply entrenched in their secret to realize that they are loved, they are strong, they are brave, and they deserve happiness? How do you help them realize that unless they are willing to become accountable for their own life, and unless they are willing to face their darkest secret and leave that secret behind, the secret will win?

And letting the secret win means trading your life for a life of pain.

“Promise you won’t tell?” she asked again.

“This isn’t an innocent secret anymore. You are an adult now, you choose your path. If you won’t change your situation, no one will do it for you. But if you choose to let the secret win, the secret will escalate and the ceiling will fall in. It always does. You will have chosen pain as you wait for that inevitable moment when the ceiling falls in, and even worse pain when the moment arrives. All I can do for you is be here to hold your hand.”

The secret is in the telling, but this life is yours to choose.

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