Monday, May 14, 2007

Desire may guide our returns, but I still don’t understand distance.

The truth of the matter is this: good-byes have always been hard for me.

(And when I write here “good-byes,” I don’t mean endings, but partings.)

When I was a little girl, I’d cry for hours after leaving my grandparents’ house. I adored my grandparents, and of course, I knew I’d see them again, but the time between always seemed so long…and more than that, it was the space between: it seemed so strange that there should be—even that there could be—so much distance between us, so suddenly.

I’ve carried something of that childhood feeling of strangeness with me into my adult relationships. And the fact is, even now, when life puts distance between me and someone I love, I still don’t quite understand it; my heart won’t quite accept it. It’s not just that I resist it (although, sometimes, I do)—it’s simply that I don’t know how to make sense of it. Some part of me still can’t make that leap. Our bodies move in ways that our hearts do not.

And it’s not just that I miss you (although I do.) That is something different: the time after good-bye, the time of missing, the time of being either here or there, where you are not. What I'm writing of here is the time leading up to good-bye, and the moment of…the knowledge of a coming absence, our coming absence from one another, from the space that we share. The terrifying conundrum of fort and da…

Where are we? Where do we go? Why aren’t we where we were?

There’s an absurdity to these questions, to be sure—we are dynamic bodies, after all—but it seems to me, there’s an absurdity also to such radical shifts in relative proximity: one moment, you’re lying so close to me, your face is a blur, my eyes can’t focus, I feel your hand pressed flat against my back, and all I can smell is you; another moment, and there are a million miles and an ocean between us. How does that happen? I mean, really, it seems so strange. And what does it mean to say good-bye at the moment that shift occurs, between near and far, here and there? We use language to mark that moment, that moment we don’t understand. And although we might trust in our returns, our departures bewilder.

Good-byes are still hard…and the strangeness of space perplexes me still, always one of us moving away from another. I’ve reconciled myself to strangeness, though. I embrace my experience of it, in fact, and this is what I want, moving through space, accepting that life moves us, and we move with life. When it comes now, I rest, comfortably, into the strange, familiar discomfort of good-bye.

But I am still confounded by the space between.