Tuesday, December 4, 2018

My world is a lie that's come true

"The presence of [your] absence is everywhere." 

—Edna St Vincent Millay

Is it irony that the first big holiday without you is Thanksgiving? The season of gratitude feels hollow. After all, I can give thanks for things, but they will all disintegrate at some point. I can give thanks for other people...people that I know now because of you. But underneath the gratitude there is the painful knowledge that every person for whom I can and do give thanks will one day die. At some point, my heart will bleed like this again for someone else. And someone else. Your mom tried to tell me that it was like adding new rooms in my heart...and it is, but all I can see is that it will drain my heart dry of blood to lose these souls some day. Lord have mercy, may it not be soon!

This visit was far harder than I anticipated. I felt your absence so strongly, as if the emptiness were a sort of presence itself. Having never visited you in your home, on my first visit it didn't seem too odd not to have you in the house... Over Thanksgiving I kept feeling like you should walk around the corner, be sitting at the fourth side of the game table, playing the other colour in Settlers of Catan.

The worst moment came when I went ambling through the woods with your persevering parents. There was a stream with a rock and trees in a nook by the bank. I instinctively knew that it was a place that should have had memories made in it. Memories made by us in some other year. We would have packed biscuits and a thermos of tea, our favourite poetry books, and perhaps your walking stick. We would have tromped through the leaves to plant ourselves in golden autumn light, reading aloud to one another until we ran out of pages or daylight. We would have scampered home under the bare boughs sprinkled with stars. I felt the loss of this unmade memory so strongly that I was almost sick. It felt so like a place you would have visited that the unmade memory seemed more real than other memories I carry with me.

When I returned home a few days later, I discovered these lines that may as well have been written about that unmade—alas! never to 
be made—memory:

Where is the sun?
Feel like a ghost this time
Where have you gone?
I need your breath in my lungs tonight 

I'm holding on to You
My world is wrong
My world is a lie that's come true
And I fall in love with the ones that run me through
When all along, all I need is You

My world is wrong—because you aren't in it. My world is a lie that's come true. Lies whispered you away. The not-quite-six-feet of space you used to fill is achingly, noticeably empty. Those unmade memories will stay unmade. There is no hope that you will 'get better'—whatever I hoped that would mean. There's no going back to my twenty-three-ish-year-old self and urging her to go visit you. The ghosts of unmade memories haunted me along my every step at Fort Barton tower, among the trees by the river, and beside your woodstove. They taunted me as I looked through your bookshelves and saw your handwriting on the bathroom mirror. There was all the evidence of you, but no presence. Everything was all wrong and I could only think, Where have you gone? You should have been right there, right there with us—laughing, capering, drinking in the cold Beauty.

But somewhere in the intervening years—years that froze our friendship (in my memory) in its happier days—something changed. You changed. You became a living ghost; where had you gone, my friend? You became the living epitome of these lines:

All of my days are spent
Within this skin
Within this cage that I'm in 

Nowhere feels safe to me
Nowhere feels home
Even in crowds I'm alone

Tonight my eyes are red. Red from lack of sleep. Red from a profusion of salt-laced liquid streaming out.

What are you waiting for,
The day is gone?
I said I'm waiting for dawn

What are you aiming for
Out here alone?
I said I'm aiming for home

Home. In my vernacular that word applies to a little terracotta brick house in the Midwest and the people in it. It refers to the lodge in Pagosa, to the cloisters in Oxford, to the Mountain, to my cabin, to my friends. But now, more than ever, home means the Kingdom. The place I am longing for—and have been longing for all of my life; though I have never yet been there. You can long for home even if you've never been there. It is a remembering forward that I feel for the Kingdom. But did I say I had not been? No, but inhabiting the Kingdom is a well-loved part of home that I do remember—you. And so I long to go Home. I long for the perpetually bleeding wound to be healed. I long for the hopes that have died and died and died to resurrect into their true, redeemed, glorious selves.
“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing—to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from—my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.” 

― C. S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces


—Switchfoot, Sing it Out

—Switchfoot, Red Eyes

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