Monday, August 25, 2014

Day 178: Constant Reminders

August 25, 2014

Dear Gareth,

I write this knowing you will never see it. You will never write back.

I write this knowing it will be read by friends we shared, friends of yours I have yet to meet, and friends of mine I wish I could have introduced you to. "I would have liked him," they tell me. "I know," I say.

I write this because countless times throughout the day I think, "Gareth would like that," or "That reminds me of when we..." and on and on these thoughts come. Sometimes they make me smile. The little green package of 2 chocolates with macadamia nuts on the counter of Yoger Presso did that last night. I remembered how you always, always showed up with one and a coffee for each of us when arriving at my door. I remembered how you'd buy one when we were in there together and how you'd smile at me and slide one across the table, hiding it under your hand. I remembered this last night and smiled when I saw them.

Other times a reminder comes with a kind of a slow motion kick in the gut. That's what's happened this morning. One right after another. Stepping out into a pouring rain reminds me of the time we tried to find a motel in Busan that night. And the time we ducked into a shoe shop in Daegu because my brown suede boots were getting ruined by the rain spitting sideways under our umbrellas. And the time we sat in the car in the parking lot, not prepared to run out into the weeping skies, and we kissed and kissed until the windows got steamy from the inside. I remember how the back of your neck felt warm under my cupped hand.

I can't pass a Nike store or Addidas store (and there are so many here in Korea) without thinking of how you had to go in and check shoes out each time we passed. "Do you think we have time to pop in here and have a look?" you'd say. Would I have ever said, "No"?

We had all the time in the world.

I passed both a Nike and an Addidas store (you said "Ah-dee-DAHS" and I said "Ah-DEE-diss") on my way to the bank today and the mannequins seemed to be mocking me. "Remember us? Don't you want to come in? have no interest in us anymore?" I don't really. I don't think I could step foot inside one of those stores. Not without you.

The sight of a rainbow umbrella kicked me in the gut today. You could spend a good 15 minutes talking about how much you liked rainbow umbrellas. It was a "design that could not be improved upon." A Kia Sportage did the same thing- the car you wanted to buy in the future. In the future. How can we not imagine having such a thing as a future?

Yoger Presso was closed this morning. I had to go to Caffe Bene, where I am now. "I don't like that place," I hear you say. "It's too expensive." I agree, but go in and order a latte anyway. You don't even know that I don't get vanilla anymore. Remember when you greeted me at the train station in Daegu, vanilla latte in hand, and I took a sip and found it to be sickly sweet? I wanted to drink it anyway. You had gone to such trouble to get it for me. But if it wasn't right for "my girl" as you called me, it simply wouldn't do. You tossed it in the trash and got me another.

You loved when I'd say "No boyfriend of MINE is gonna [fill in blank with anything happening to you that you found displeasing and I could help make it better.] You don't have an umbrella and say you can go without one? "No boyfriend of MINE is gonna go without an umbrella when he needs one if I can help it!" and I'd rummage through my closet. Out of Earl Grey tea? "No boyfriend of MINE is gonna have to drink a different tea when he wants Earl Grey if I can help it!" and off to the store I'd go. This always made you laugh. You liked when I called you "mine." You were my babe. "Call me your babe," you'd say. You're my babe.

Your theater friends are putting on a production of "Rocky Horror Picture Show." You had never seen it and I was pretty certain "No boyfriend of mine should go without seeing Rocky Horror!" We downloaded it and curled up on the couch with hot tea and blankets and watched it together one night in Hadong. You heard stories of when I'd go to the midnight show at the Tivoli Theater and dress up as Magenta. You smiled at my inability to stay put on the couch when certain songs would appear. Up! I'd go. And WHEEEEE! I'm singing. And whoa! I'm dancing now. And you smiled and you laughed and you looked at me like you were watching something you really, really loved.

In the bottom drawer of my dresser is a black and white corset that I'll break out and wear to the theater show in November. I'll dress up as I did in my teens, covering myself on the way there. Feeling comraderie in costume once through the doors of the theater. I brought it back with a few other things when I went home to St. Louis last year. I called them my "fancy lady clothes," and you were adorably like a kid at Christmas. "I knew there were clothes like this, and I got it was a 'THING," I just didn't get why...until now." I can't throw out my "fancy lady clothes." And I can't wear them for another. They sit in my bottom drawer.

About an hour ago I left the coffee shop, had a bite to eat with a friend, and settled back into my room to continue writing. I'm on the 18th floor and have a nice view of rainy Jeonju.

After raising the blinds and sitting on the bed with my laptop and phone, I checked to see how much time I have before my next lecture.

And there you are again. 1:11.

Monday. August 25th. It was two years ago on the 28th when we met. I packed my bags at this very place and headed to Hadong, first by bus, then by a car driven by my painfully shy new coteacher. A typhoon was coming, she said. Stay indoors, she instructed.

A typhoon was coming.

We met the first day I stepped foot onto the streets of my new town.

The typhoon had come.

We each turned a corner and met, by accident, on the tiny streets of my new town.

The typhoon's minimal damage could be seen on the streets and felt in the air.

I felt you in the air the day after the typhoon came.

The egg on toast this morning for breakfast. Good morning, sweetheart, you had written in a poem about making me eggs. Good morning, you had written.

Mornings are not the best anymore. They are not slow to wake up in your arms or quiet to slide out of the sheets not to disturb you. They are not tea steeping in favorite mugs or eggs frying, over easy, in the pan. They are not setting the little breakfast table or standing on the patio overlooking the sun making its golden way above the hill just beyond the Samjin River. Mornings are not sharing a sink while we each brush our teeth, making faces at one another and trying to keep the toothpaste in our mouths as we laugh. Mornings are not full of possibility in the same way they were with you.

But they still arrive, the mornings, usually with a bit of confusion about what has happened. Still, I wake up confused and a bit shocked that you are not here.

Mornings come with a pit in my stomach.

Last night I sat with a group of people at a wooden picnic table on the patio of a GS24, a green umbrella doing its best to shield us from the rain. Last night I was introduced to three new people (one of whom is a Korean police officer here in Jeonju who goes by the name of "Superman") and I did not mention you. Last night I did not mention you.

Last night I listened to drunken stories and waved the smoke from my face and slid my purse towards the center of the table when the rain came down harder and I did not mention you. Last night I missed you and I didn't speak your name.

This morning, as I was getting ready, I looked at the rooftops from my perch 18 floors above. I can't look out of a window without imagining what it feels like to fall from it to the ground below. And what point did you know you were falling?

You always talked about climbing into love, as opposed to falling. Love isn't something you fall into, you said. You climb into it, you said. We climbed into love. You fell from a window. My love fell from a window. We climbed into love a year and a half before.

Chuseok is coming. It was during this holiday break that we traveled to the pension up north and saw "hearts around the moon" from our rooftop bath. The year before we had hiked.

Choseok is coming and people around me are making travel plans and you are not here.

Hearing the word "Chuseok" makes my stomach sink.

Do you see, love? I am here without you. The grief is softening, as promised it would, but the missing of you is quite raw. One day I will have lived in Korea for longer without you than I did with you.

And I am linking those days together with as much purpose as I can muster. I make plans to hike. To get together. To meet up. To enjoy good food. I'm considering doing the next 24-hour theater night because I imagine we would have ended up doing that together if things had worked out differently. I imagine we would have co-written and both acted. I imagine we would have laughed so hard that our sides would have hurt. That's what we did.

I have moved on from the Gareth who struggled. I have laid him to rest and let him go. I have released my grip of wanting to keep him here so that he can be fully healed. I truly believe I have.  This is the Gareth who suffered from what you and I called "mental migraines."

But the true you, the unaffected you (is there such a thing?), the Gareth who was prone to joy and held me in that sacred space- you, babe. I have trouble letting go of you. And I'm not even sure that I have to, to be honest. (There's no way to do it wrong, says Megan Divine, in regards to grieving.) But the ache in having an attachment which only exists in memories is a great one.

I have calculated. A long, healthy life means a good 45 years to come.

45 years.

Once we waited 2 weeks to see each other and it felt like an eternity. We whimpered when reunited. We hugged and we kissed and we each made little whimpering noises like distressed animals. It was ridiculous.

Two weeks.

45 years.

A daunting thought if I really sit with it. You've got this, babe, you would say to me now. You're a spiritual warrior. 

Yeah. We'll see about that.  


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  2. Oh, Bridget, my heart aches with you and for you. This is so difficult. I met a woman, older than me last night who lost her sister to suicide. This sister had bipolar disorder in the days when mentally ill people were put in state institutions and given shock treatments. Her memory of the grief she and her siblings and parents underwent is vivid. Perhaps that sparked off the nightmare I had last night. I still can't believe we lost them -that Gareth and Jessica are gone. I've read and heard that Radical Acceptance relieves suffering. Is that suffering still there because I haven't accepted it? When will the suffering end?

  3. I'm not sure. And that's a good question. I read your comments and after once again feeling grateful for having you in my life, I thought, "Surely I can't be 'suffering' anymore. I mean, the pain has lessened, so the 'suffering' is gone, right?" I actually took to looking up the word "suffering" in the dictionary: "pain that is caused by injury, illness, loss, etc. : physical, mental, or emotional pain"

    In that case- pain caused by the loss of Jessica and of Gareth will be ceaseless. Relentless. Pain of that loss will never end, I think. What I do believe, though, is that we learn to live with the pain. To hold the pain in one hand while we hold the joy of the living we're doing in the other. To coexist with the pain. Integrate it. Feel happiness in the midst of it, even. I believe this will (and is) happening. I witnessed it in brief moments of joy walking with you in the garden or laughing over a late-night I-Hop dinner.

    The suffering is there not because we don't accept what's happened, but because we know it to be what really happened. The suffering is there because we loved greatly. A daughter. A lover. These are our loves. Our great loves.

    And we can love others still. Not in the same way. Nor could we love Jessica or Gareth in the way we love those still here. There is love reserved for each person we're connected to and learning to live with the suffering, for me, is about acknowledging the pain of Gareth not being here while opening myself up to the love of those who are still here with me. With you. With us.

    1. Thank you, Bridget. I take in your reply more easily than other comments of those who have not had a loss this way. You get it. I got sunk into more grief after hearing from our lawyers. I know I cannot control the outcome, just as I had no control over losing Jessica, despite my wish fill thinking. What I need to be reminded, from someone who is experiencing the same struggle is that though the pain will never end, I will learn to live with it in a way that doesn't continually devastate me--as you say "to hold the pain in one hand while we hold the joy of the living we're doing in the other. To coexist with the pain. Integrate it. Feel happiness in the midst of it, even." I smiled reading about your remembering the joy walking in the garden and laughing over the late-night I-Hop dinner. I wish I had wings and could fly over to see you. I

    2. I wish that, too, Aunt Mary. There are some beautiful parks to walk in here and we'd have lots of laughs (and cries) over plenty of meals, too.