Recall that I had then been sleepless for months. I couldn't close my eyes without painful memories - thoughts that I was then yet unable to deal with - creeping into my head. To remember was either to feel disgust, self-loathing, and utter remorse, or deeply-seated, uncontrollable, anger, but in either scenario, it was all-consuming. The worst part was that I had to remember. I was required to remember... legally. To adequately defend myself - that is, to have any chance of saving my future - I needed to recount a million and one things that I didn't want to ever think about again. Yet, I didn't have the luxury of time to let the wounds heal first. So, I didn't. I 'faked it so I could make it'.
I carefully thought about everything I needed to think about, made notes on it, read every commentary on it from the lawyers, and studied it the way I would have a history text. To endure it was to separate myself from it. This wasn't a conscious move. It was the only move. I just recounted the events of my life as if it were a movie, and I a film student: with an analytic mind, and heightened attention, I studied the series of events that comprised my life as though they were scenes I had watched, and not ones in which I had participated. When my then-therapist pointed this out to me (that is, when she voiced her concern for how I spoke of my life without any emotion), I stared at her blankly, just unsure and unaware of what the problem was with doing so.
I went sleepless. I kept busy, or otherwise intoxicated - impaired enough so I couldn't feel. Eventually, though, the substances wear off, and we all sober up. Eventually, after we push ourselves to the point of severe exhaustion, our bodies give out and we have to sleep. Even more inevitably, after our slumber, we will awaken. We will awaken rested, and sober - clear-headed. When the time came that I did, I cried. I cried about my father. I cried about Daniel. I cried about my job. I cried about my mom. I cried about my sister. I cried about school. I cried. I cried about the world. I cried about life. I cried. ..until I could cry no more.
I laid alone in bed, sober, and well-rested, miles away from home - miles away from anyone who really loved me - and I cried.
I was tired today. I had been for weeks. Tiredness clouds judgement. I thought I knew the reasons why I was so tired (i.e. a miserably long string of social engagements that spanned weeks), but I don't know any such thing for certain. (I am wont to doubt myself in these matters.) I just know that by 8pm, I was in bed ready to pass out from exhaustion.
I was dreaming rather vividly that I had just moved into an apartment, and Daniel was with me. It was a very plausible scenario. We didn't say a word to each other. He looked as generally discontent as he always did.
We cleared some scrap cardboard from the place. He was tired, and lay down on the couch. He still failed to look at me. "Now that we're back together...," he started, sweetly. He had written these words to me, desperately seeking my attention, in one of our last email exchanges after we officially parted ways. I was in Baltimore, and he was in Kitchener, and he proceeded with a string of plans for the two of us. In my dream, however, I didn't recall the email. In my dream, he was saying this to me the way I had always imagined he would if I hadn't been hundreds of miles away when he wrote it: playfully, knowing just what to say to make me laugh and fall into his arms. In reality, I ignored his email, but in my dream, I did something I never would have done in the past: with a heavy heart, I walked over to him, knelt down beside the couch, ran my fingers through his soft brown hair, held his tired-looking face in my hands, gazed deeply into his sad but optimistic eyes, and I fell to tears as I interrupted him in a sorrowful tone, "Why, when you hate me so much?"
It was this that awakened me. Why, when you hate me so much? And he had for years. It wasn't just the final year or two of betrayal, and lies. It was every year. He never said it, but I could feel it in how he addressed me with a passive-aggressive tone, and looked at me disapprovingly, critically, as if I were supposed to feel shame for myself, my life, how I thought, what I did ... who I really was in all of my non-conformist, open-minded freedom. There was a time when I thought that our differences were what made us compatible, but I would eventually internalize the hatred, and take it out on everyone in my life, including myself.
For years, I had felt this impermeable remorse for not having read his mind when he needed me most, for having instead been selfish, only considering my own stressors, and feeling as though the failure of the relationship was in our lack of emotional support: that he and I had each been under too much pressure, and that neither of us had enough external support. I used to wish desperately that I had been a better support to him when he was crumbling, and that I had had the compassion to notice that he wasn't doing so well. However, tonight, in my well-restedness, I could see what I never seemed to see before: I'm not a mind-reader, I never was one in spite of how attentive to him I used to be, and he never shared his feelings. It was a communication failure, and it was not I who broke the lines that ran between us. It was I who persistently tried to mend them with unskilled hands, flimsy tools, and no reciprocity.
I'm an artist, and I express my thoughts and feelings through word, song, and the visual arts, and when my self-expression was persistently met with so much contempt, after several years, with Daniel, I stopped. I began to reciprocate his brick wall, a wall which only ever instilled in me an unrelenting feeling of guilt, as if I had been the one to stack the bricks, but I hadn't, and there existed no combination of well-articulated explanations that could ever appear to prove that to him. I looked elsewhere for emotional support; I looked to Daniel for intellectual stimulation and entertainment.
I miss Daniel the way I miss a pocket mirror: a shiny surface that reflected my image back onto me and accompanied me at all times. This becomes problematic when you begin to loathe yourself. In thinking about Daniel, I cannot remember his feelings. I thought I knew his thoughts, but only because I attribute to him my own. I don't really know who Daniel is. It is very possible that the only Daniel I ever knew was the Daniel I created in my mind.
Nonetheless, in my vivid dream, in that moment that I cried, I felt something I hadn't felt in so long: overwhelming, and unmitigated emotion.