Loneliness Descending

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Horse farm in NC
A gray day at a horse farm in North Carolina.



“At other times, she could feel her loneliness descend like a nuclear fallout, a whiteness that obscured her completely.”





A Trick of the Light

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I tell no one, but it’s been two, no — three months now — that I haven’t been sleeping straight through the night. My sleep is haunted by random thoughts and images, flashing memories that I can’t seem to control.

It’s better when I am at work, because work, mundane though it be, requires a focus that serves to rein in the random thoughts. But at night, the controls fall away and my consciousness becomes a dark, swirling current that sweeps me, helpless and drowning in the flood of memories. Sometimes I’m not even sure if the memories are real, or if they are only imagined, a trick of the light, the cunning creations of a mind that wants a different ending to the story that was.

Trick of the light or true, I just wish I could stop the thoughts, it would be such a welcome rest.


The Hurting

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Sometimes, when I least expect it, when my mind is not willfully armed against the treacherous onslaught of memories, I suddenly see my boys. Out of nowhere, a series of pictures flashes in my mind’s eye:  my boys’ bright-eyed, smiling faces are always upturned, open and guileless, as only children’s faces can be.

It wrenches my heart and leaves me weak, gasping for breath. They all say it will get better. The pain and the longing? It will fade. The aching desire to reach out and hug them as tight as I can? It will pass, they say. The yearning to smell their warm necks, to hear their laughter? That too will subside.

Well, they all lie. It’s getting close to a year now, and it still hurts the same, every time.

The Season’s Soft Fade

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It all fits together somehow, the series of little events that have begun to draw this year to a close. Each one signifies an ending, a tying up of loose ends, telling me to gracefully accept the passing of things I used to (or have tried to) hold dear. I had always imagined a different way of growing old, but this, I guess is how it will unfold for me.

It’s my season for forgetting, and it starts slowly.

I kissed an old woman who no longer remembers me. Someone introduces me to his wife, his unblinking stare pleading with me, “Please, for the love of God, don’t be surprised. ” A grown man buys me a beer, assuming that I still drink it. I am asked for the nth time “When did you stop smoking?” in this, my ninth year free of nicotine. In the darkness, inside a speeding car, I am introduced as Somebody’s Ex. A curious crowd intermittently talks to me across the table, but not one is brave enough to ask the question that’s in everyone’s eyes. I’m told that I look like the ghost of the girl in that movie, and I just smile. No, I do not. Or at least, I do not see the resemblance.

I turn to someone for a little solace, and he turns, unknowingly, away.

At the end of each night out, I go home to a full house, but as always, I go home alone. And I’m sad that all this doesn’t make me feel anything but a vague ache, as though everything that’s recently happened is already nostalgia. It’s a faint kind of sadness, not particularly keen or piercing, just dust falling to dust, just the blue tones of one more evening descending, just the sinking of a dull sun and the soft, silent fade to gray.

Just me in the great big world, growing old.

Seeing Things

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the eye

Precognition? Premonition? ESP? A mirror that opens a view into the future? Or just logical deduction? I don’t know. What I know is that I wrote about this ages ago—about the strange quality I seem to have— the ability to somehow see things with such clarity.  Half blessing and half curse, this spider sense allows me to intuit things beforehand, and oftentimes I use it to prepare for the eventuality of them happening.

Part logic, part intuition, and maybe a large part common sense, this inner antenna gives me a crucial head start in averting or coping with dire events in my life. I learned quickly enough (deduction?) that when I ignore my instincts, I get into trouble. Or at the very least, become inconvenienced. Knowing about things before or as they are about to happen is often painful, and prolongs the agony all the more because you know about it in advance. This post, for instance was written Monday, 15th of June 2009, but I set the published date to Saturday, June 20 since what I will refer to here needs to be kept secret until after the publish date.

I will be starting over again, after close (so close!) to two years of being gainfully employed. That monster which goes by the name “global economic crisis” has devoured me. Or more accurately, devoured an entire team, no survivors left. And so I find myself, at 38, out of a job, resume in hand, peddling my skills to a market that’s not just hesitant, but oftentimes unable to make any purchases. I saw the end coming, saw it months ago even before earlier cuts were made in the company. I knew in my gut that time will be the only variable, the inevitability of it seemed long ago decided.

That’s why most of the major decisions I did the last few months have all been influenced by the monster coming to get me. I made plans to get the major financial needs taken cared of, migrated most of my files online, updated my resume, even brought home most of my office stuff. I began considering different fields to explore. I opened a new savings account and tried to set aside  a small chunk of my income each month. I made only one major purchase, an item that was absolutely necessary. I stopped window-shopping, I gave up expensive treats. At work, I finished a project even though I knew my efforts on it would be all for naught. I made sure my team not only met, but exceeded, our goals. I made a presentation that pushed for my team’s retention and asked for it to be taken as high up in the chain as it could go, feeling as though I was battling giants armed only with a slingshot.

But clarity being all that it is, I also knew that all these preparations will not spare me from the pain of having to face 9 people and telling them one by one that they are no longer needed.  I am not especially sentimental, but I feel as though these people have been family to me. I know them.  I know the names of their husbands, kids, boy/girlfriends, their affairs at home, their plans, preoccupations. I built this team, I wish I could save every single one of their jobs, even at the expense of my own.

Sadly, that is not to be.  No amount of productivity will save you, I know that now. In these uncertain times, decisions are about the bottom line, and when the margins are shrinking, you do what you can to cope. I will not speculate about the wisdom of the decision, since nowadays conventional wisdom no longer applies.What I can do is get the team out as quickly as I can, to spare them the pain as much as I possibly can. I asked for the meetings to be done Friday, end of the week so that those who went on leave (how unfortunate) can come back and so that I can tell everyone myself. I expect most of them to be crushed, but I know each one will leave with dignity and perhaps some optimism. Small mercies, yes.

I will get talking points and some help in getting the bad news out, but really, nothing prepares you for this. This is not “business as usual” anymore, and don’t I know it.

Gone, Another One

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tina's blog

Even in death, you are most like yourself—swift to flee the ordinary.  I heard the news that you were gone while in the middle of chaos, trapped among the hoi polloi clamoring to fulfill their consumer desires. It was news delivered through the wires, quick as can be, just a few lines of text in a forwarded message. An electronic rumor, as though speed mattered more than fact. My first feeling was numbness, a cold hand clasping my heart. And then, I thought it very apt that news of your leaving us should come through like this, quick and mysterious, like a close-held secret released only to a few, or how very much like you doing  a French leave from a party you’ve deemed ripe for abandonment.

Tina, my friend whose dark, mischievous glance always amused me, I regret not seeing you one last time. It is, perhaps, your design that we do not see you anymore, so that we may remember you as you were, in college: young and beautiful, the smoky voice, those dimples, the long dramatic swish of black hair, legs for miles.

I will miss you, Tina. Our bond was words, the stimulating verbal repartee, witty volleys back and forth that leave us laughing, always laughing.  How we love to poke fun at ourselves—how smart we were, how articulate, how powerful in our ability to cut to the core. And now, even with all the words at my command, I do not feel up to the task of writing about you, so I will stop.

Instead, I will put up this Sylvia Plath poem (she who knows best about cutting to the core), to let that which is out there, the vast but now incomplete universe know how I wish you could have stayed here a little bit longer.



Sylvia Plath

The telegram says you have gone away
And left our bankrupt circus on its own;
There is nothing more for me to say.

The maestro gives the singing birds their pay
And they buy tickets for the tropic zone;
The telegram says you have gone away.

The clever woolly dogs have had their day
They shoot the dice for one remaining bone;
There is nothing more for me to say.

The lion and the tigers turn to clay
And Jumbo sadly trumpets into stone;
The telegram says you have gone away.

The morbid cobra’s wits have run astray;
He rents his poisons out by telephone;
There is nothing more for me to say.

The colored tents all topple in the bay;
The magic sawdust writes: address unknown.
The telegram says you have gone away;
There is nothing more for me to say.

This is the fourth friend I’ve lost to a kidney related illness.  Universe, I get it I get it. Stop hitting already.

Down, Real Low Down

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What comes to mind today is how deeply sad it is to realize that I have first-hand knowledge of the phrase, “a life of quiet desperation.”