Several weeks ago, I broke my neck in a bicycle accident. I didn’t realize how bad it was until the hospital staff told me I’d fractured my spine. I spent the next several hours trying very hard to stay perfectly still, and fearing that within a day I might be paralyzed or neurologically destroyed or dead. Fearing that some of those consequences might already have happened, in some way I couldn’t detect.
I try to live ethically. I also try to stay on top of my emotions, and to be there for the people I care about. Throughout my life, I have been incredibly lucky, privileged, and have seen more love and beauty than any person can possibly deserve. I feel as though I should give thanks, but I’m also trying not to enumerate all the gifts life have given me, because I’m afraid I might cry. Or sound like I’m boasting in some obscure way. Or never stop.
I reckon that at heart, I’ve got three goals. One is to have an interesting life and do some good in the world. One is to publish an emotional, interesting novel. And the third is to have moral, interesting children. So far, I have overwhelmingly succeeded at the first goal — well, I’ve succeeded at the interesting part; no one can ever really know how much good they’ve done, I think. If I died tomorrow, then I suppose I would regret never achieving the other two.
Regret is a strange word, though. It seems to me that the word “regret” implies that I’ve done something wrong, or done something avoidable. I’m not sure I have.
In that same I’m-not-sure-what-regret-means way, I think I’ve managed most of my potential regrets fairly well. Yet I do regret something else. Someone I’ve written about, very occasionally: I referred to him as Mr. Inferno. He meant a lot to me, and still does.
We haven’t spoken in a while. I don’t know where he is or what he’s up to.
I certainly don’t spend my time sitting in a rocking chair and saying, “I will never love again.” And I acknowledge that it’s impossible to know what happened, emotionally, after the fact. I acknowledge that my memories could be distorted. That I could have created narratives, after the fact, that would have made no sense to me at the time, or to him, or to any observer, even an omniscient observer. Maybe when I remember Mr. Inferno, I really am just being dramatic, but what’s the point of questioning myself further?
I’m pretty sure that I hold no illusions that, even if he wanted to talk to me again, it would be easy to relate to Mr. Inferno. I don’t imagine that we could necessarily retrieve any facet of our previous relationship: the conversations, the chemistry — even if we tried, it might be irreparably lost. We’ve both changed, I’m sure.
Still, still, I never imagined that we’d ever get to the point of not speaking, probably permanently. Not until we got here. And I think it’ll always hurt to be here.
In the emergency room, I texted one of my closest friends with silly, melodramatic, in-the-possibly-unlikely-I-have-no-idea-event-that-I-actually-die messages. I told her to pass them on if something happened. The first was to my parents; the second was to Mr. Inferno; and there were a bunch of others.
I told her, “Tell Mr. Inferno that I never forgot him.” Then I felt self-conscious and stupid and ironic, so I added in parentheses: “(I know.)”
I played an off-the-cuff acrostic game with Mr. Inferno early in our friendship. A few of the acrostics I wrote stuck with me. When I think of our initial interactions, I think of this one:
I want to be sure, when I see you, that I
Nod and smile softly –
Frame my reactions, my heart with
Adroit disengagement and distance.
Tell me — I want you to tell me you’re seeking to
Understand everything I’ve kept
Apart. Say you can’t tell what I’m
I am unknown and
Obscure, exotic and
One might see my obsession with pickup artists reflected in that. I’m not sure.
I didn’t initially write these acrostics for Mr. Inferno, not exactly, though he got me to create them. I’ve woven them through several of my unpublished fictional stories, but sometimes I think they say everything on their own. When I think of falling in love with him, I think of this one:
Need you like
Fear, I need you like
Thirst as if lost in the desert; I dream that I’m
Thirst drowns me, and you are the rain;
Only want you, I
Need you like sunlight and poison and pain.
What does it mean to need S&M, and to fall in love? I knew how it felt; I wanted to see if I could write it.
Sometimes I think all romance is inevitably S&M, and vanilla people are in denial. Not that I have anything against vanilla people. Like I always say, I love vanilla people just the way they are. Assuming they even exist. Assuming S&M even exists.
I didn’t write the above for Mr. Inferno. But after we started dating, I went on vacation and sent him a postcard that said only: “sunlight and poison and pain”.
A couple months after we broke up, I sent Mr. Inferno one more:
I wanted to believe it was
Nothing, though my dreams
Framed me cutting out my heart. There weren’t
Any tears, only blood. I
Tell myself I’m stupid to starve, to drown.
Undone, I must hide: you bore and
Annoy me. But. Call me
Too fragile, weak. Stereotypical. Lost. I meant what
I told you — can tell no one else. You
Own me. I have
Nothing left to say.
I started the email by writing, “I shouldn’t send this. Don’t answer.” I shouldn’t have sent it, and I was mostly glad he didn’t answer. I get self-centered when I’m heartbroken. I also get boring. Even with a fractured spine, I’m not as boring as I am with a freshly broken heart.
It took months for my interactions with Mr. Inferno to deteriorate, toxify, fall apart. Until I finally concluded that we might never be on speaking terms again.
By now, I’ve said all the words I said to him to others. I love you. You own me.
I saved a few words for a while … but what do words mean? For a writer: Only everything.
To everyone who’s passed on good wishes: Thank you so much, again.
I’ll be wearing this giant head-brace for quite a while — at least another two months. The accident has obviously disrupted my autumn plans, but I am lucky enough to have a stable living situation, as well as amazing friends and family who have been incredibly willing to help out. And, yes, excellent health insurance. Aside from the broken neck, I am unharmed.
I’m working on polishing the first draft of my upcoming eBook, Confessions Of A Pickup Artist Chaser: Long Interviews With Hideous Men. Then I’ll go into the consent and edits phase of Confessions, and that’s when I’ll start posting here again on my “usual schedule” (ha!). That should be soon.