Love Medicine

I don’t know about you, but even being in love, sometimes I want to throw the whole man away and start over. Or be done altogether. If there’s a cure for love, I haven’t found it. Love has been called the “disease of the soul.” Disease ravages the body, deteriorates the mind, eats away at the flesh and cartilage, rots the brain, bones break, organs malfunction, and the heart fails. Sometimes disease is exactly the way I would explain how he makes me feel.

Nobody goes around talking about how afflicted by love they are, except for maybe me. He is an affliction. He causes me more distress than any other person I know. He’s lucky he’s worth all the pain and suffering I go through to love him.

And remember, I said afflicted, not inflicted. He doesn’t inflict pain on me; he’s not brutal. He is the pain. As an affliction, love becomes the dominating force on the body, mind (and soul) the way disease comes to dominate a person. I don’t think disease is supposed to be a metaphor for love, and if it is, it’s not a very good one. Humanity is the affliction, and disease is a metaphor for the way we treat one another. Five minutes on Twitter will convince you of this. Humanity is a cesspool and we’re all swimming in it. The fact that there are more and more books on how to treat people from other cultures and with different sexual orientations with respect is a case in point. We are failing the bare minimum.

TL;DR: The human race is diseased by hatred. 

What we really need is a little love medicine, a holistic approach to love, if you will, something that considers all the separate parts of having a loving interaction with another person. Love in this sense has a broad definition for how people are treated more generally. Disease, like people, need to be treated and handled with care, and preferably a lot of love. A big dose of it.  If humanity began in love, then it has regressed before fully relapsing, and the prognosis is utter ruin if something isn’t done about this soon.

I’m suggesting love medicine for everyone’s black soul. Medicine doesn’t always cure disease, but it does help to slow it down, alleviate pain, and send people into remission where the disease (hatred) is stalled, instead of progressing. Progress is always good, unless we’re talking about disease. Nobody wants to see a disease progress. 

Good health is taken for granted. Everyone, except for hypochondriacs and WebMD doctors, wait until they’re sick to get a check-up. Most people wait until a relationship is failing before trying to bother doing anything about it. Scheduled date nights don’t count as routine check-ups. Anyone who has spent some amount of time in the hospital for whatever reason knows about the discharge papers detailing a plan of care, or an ongoing treatment plan. These are for chronic conditions that continuously flare up and recur over and over again. 

Love and hatred are both chronic conditions, but very often are found to be comorbid. Either one or the other predominates. Not saying anything at all because you don’t have something nice to say is not showing love. It is demonstrating some superhuman level of self-control. Whatever is left unsaid sits in your heart and will tell you whether you’re afflicted by love or hatred. Hatred sits on you like a malignant tumor that needs to be excised immediately before causing any further brain damage.

Love isn’t a treatment plan. It needs one the way water needs to be treated and free from fluoride before we can drink it. There are certain ways to handle someone with love. Let me tell you that nothing drives my blood pressure up more than the love of my life. He doesn’t even have to say anything, just exist, and suddenly I need magnesium in an IV before I die. I find simply ignoring him works wonders for the both of us, otherwise I will get nothing productive done.

I’m a little wary of health nuts who eat a plant-based diet, drink organic juice, and pop vitamin supplements for dessert. I think they might be onto something, though. Ever since I started taking natural vitamins with Omega-3s (you can’t even taste the fish oil) and extra folate, I haven’t gotten sick again. It’s preventative care.

Preventative care is a little something like symptom-spotting in love. You’re not looking for the red flags dictating someone is just a shitty person in general. Don’t worry, it’s not always you. Anger issues usually carry over from one relationship to the next.

That’s not to say someone with anger issues can’t or shouldn’t be loved (maybe cautiously). Preventative care means spotting the symptoms that tell you there is something wrong with them, not you, and not the relationship overall. It means constantly taking a back seat to observe someone else in their own natural habitat as if you were a doctor.

I should probably put in a disclaimer for the fixer-uppers who chronically date people who are broken as some kind of self-interested project. These people are ticks. Avoid at all costs. Usually your issues obscure theirs, and fixing yours makes them feel better about themselves. It’s an illusion.

A relationship can last a long time on life support. Sometimes pulling the plug is best for everyone involved. I’m no guru or love doctor. If there was a prescription for love, I’m not sure what it would be. Xanax for the angry ones and Adderall for the lazy ones, maybe. Regardless, the question remains the same: do the benefits of the medicine outweigh the side effects? I personally find walking around all day angry and hateful brings me no joy at the end of the day. After a day spent in love, though, I sleep like a baby. Believe it or not, the former is actually easier. I can write three heartbreak poems with the same energy it takes me to write one love poem. When I look back at what I wrote, I am more pleased with the ones that are loving. 

A lot of companies have a “good faith clause” in contracts between two or more parties. It’s the legal equivalent of the Hippocratic Oath doctors take. A good faith clause means acting in the best interests of the other party, while the Hippocratic Oath is a doctor’s pledge to treat a patient to the best of their ability. Imagine if something like this existed between two regular people on the street. Sickness is not always visible. With the exception of physically violent relationships, verbal and emotional trauma, the stuff you can’t prove exists, does the most damage. There’s a lot of truth in the saying about what kindness can do to a stranger.

I’ve been in the serving industry for more than ten years, and most of the people who come in are strangers to me. One woman told me she was depressed and that being around me was giving her energy, “perking” her up. She undid months of mental anguish for me.

Over the years, I’ve hardened to the rude comments and customers I get. The fact that I’ve had to harden should tell you everything you need to know about people. The passive aggressive customers express their displeasure by tipping less. My favorites are the ones who complain about the food as if I’m the one behind the line cooking. The most egregious customers shout your name across the restaurant in faux familiarity or grab your arm when you’re walking past to get your attention.

These are wrong ways to treat people. You cannot touch someone any time you want, customer or not. 

Most doctors don’t hesitate to switch your medicine if the side effects are disrupting your daily life. If someone wants to leave a relationship because they’re unhappy, emotionally drained, or it’s otherwise past resuscitation, everyone waits for a better reason. Emotional wounds grow like cysts in a relationship that need to be surgically operated on. Even when they’re removed, the tissue stays scarred and damaged, not always in a place you can see.

If I had a dime for every time a boyfriend told me I was bringing up the past (red flag, FYI), I could retire right now. A holistic approach to love means taking these sorts of things into consideration when handling another person. A doctor reviews a patient’s medical history before offering a diagnosis and treatment. It doesn’t go ignored. No doctor has ever accused me of bringing up the past when I mention high blood pressure in my history. The fact of the matter is that people come with pre-existing conditions. Some people, like me, are more damaged than most.

Someone who never does the dishes or helps you clean is not a chronic condition. Your human is broken. You do not need a new one. If you ask your human to do the dishes and they refuse every time, you need a new one because now we’re talking about a power struggle. Someone who doesn’t take an interest in your well-being is a chronically deteriorating condition. Gaslighting is a chronic condition. Lying can be a chronic condition if he is opening credit lines without telling you. Laziness is not a chronic condition, unless your house is on the verge of being declared uninhabitable and condemned. Dressing like a hobo is not a chronic condition. Getting DUIs is a chronic condition. Getting drunk is not always a chronic condition. If he buys a dog and you didn’t want one, you’ll have to deal. Breaking down doors is a red flag. Going through your phone is a red flag. Throwing things is a red flag. Never listening is a red flag. Asking you what’s for dinner three times a day is obnoxious, not a red flag.  Boredom is not a chronic condition, no matter how much you hate sports. Compliments don’t cover bullet-holes. Cleaning the house is not a compromise for not coming home the night before. If he throws you outside naked and locks the doors, throw the whole human away, stat. Buying you flowers is always a waste of money, no matter how much you love it. They’re going to die. Both of you are wasting money together. Red flag. Gifts don’t prove the existence of love. Forever is a relative term. It is the long con. Diamonds have real market value. Throwing all his shit out when he messes up beyond the point of return will bring you all the satisfaction you imagine.

Again, I am no love guru. 

Love itself is not a cure. Love itself needs a cure, and in this sense, people become doctors (congratulations on the PhD in humanity) for someone else, monitoring their whole health on an ongoing basis. For people with chronic health conditions, especially major concerns like cancer, there is literature to educate the patient and the caregiver. Most of the pamphlets are dedicated to helping you learn how to support someone emotionally through their health, possibly an end-of-life, crisis. Nothing like this exists for love or even relationships in general. Broken bones might always heal, but they don’t always reset back to the same place twice. 

Love shouldn’t be in hospice before it gets attention.

The Lover

I cannot write when he is staring at me. He does this to me all the time. I have started and not finished two things now. That’s okay. I always figure something out.

I’ve got nothing.

I was writing about this lover business. You’d think being a lover would be the best place to be in the world, that sending nothing but love out into the universe is the easiest thing in the world to do. Who doesn’t want more love? Nothing could be further from the truth. Loving takes an ungodly amount of energy. Love is the only thing that is satisfying in and of itself; that’s why love, even when it’s not returned, is still fulfilling. Reciprocal love is best case scenario. 

If I could just forget him long enough, I could finish writing whatever this is going to turn out to be.

The lover, right. That’s me. I’ve been thinking about what kind of character this lover is supposed to be. Or who this lover has been. I suppose she’s gotten jealous. I’ve known about jealousy for a long time. Jealousy murders love. This is what I have known. I don’t get jealous often. It’s a hard emotion to describe, especially because jealousy can actually be a good thing, if it doesn’t take a hold of you and make you do stupid things that kill the love. Jealousy is when you really really don’t like something. Love is not possessive and jealousy makes possessiveness flare up. This is no good. Love cannot thrive under these conditions. I guess in some ways jealousy can make you feel like you’re inferior in some way, or it can feel like the other person, the beloved is superior in some way. This is how jealousy can be a good thing. 

I’m not really an expert on emotions. 

What I do know is that the beloved is not meant to become some sort of instrument for the lover to use as a means to an end. As a female, I know all about objectification. The lover is not acting towards an inert object. The beloved embodies a lived experience for the lover and the lover’s job is to find a way to fit inside of this lived experience, recognizing that their beloved is a fully formed and functioning human. The lover isn’t supposed to absorb their beloved’s experience like Kirby sucking everything in his path up. There are two worlds here, and the lover lives in their own world with experiences all their own.

The two of these worlds sort of melt together like crayons in a microwave. 

A lover, a person in love, can never be trusted to act sane. Nobody who has written about love has ignored the fact that love can and does sometimes border on madness. When the lover is completely consumed by the beloved, madness inevitably ensues. The lover is walking a finer line than the beloved. The beloved simply exists in the mind of the lover. The lover is the one who has to hold all these strings together without compromising the lived experience of another human or damaging the integrity of their own. It’s a very fine line. The other side of madness is when the beloved does not know they are a beloved, as is the case in the psycho-obsessed thriller You. That’s not how this works. The beloved should at least know they exist somewhere outside of their own plane of existence, that is, in my imagination. There might be a certain level of obsession, but I prefer single-minded focus.

That’s another emotion lovers can experience. She might be uncertain a lot because, well, this other person is living in my mind. That’s not saying anything about the voices which, I am told, are unique to my person. Not everyone hears the voices I do. It’s a feature, not a bug. These voices tell me to love him harder when I’m closest to letting go, and there’s this entire back and forth exchange I am fully aware I am having with myself. 

Until you get to the point where you are asking yourself why am I not letting go of you? Thus, a beloved is born, and you, the lover. External conditions matter very little, even though you’re very much aware of them. For example, I am poor. I have not a penny to my name. No dowry. No goats for sacrifice. Nothing to offer. This keeps the relationship symbiotic. The whole thing is a game of tug-o-war with yourself. Being a lover is a task, to say the least. Sometimes the beloved is not always cooperative. Sometimes they go off ruining the idealized version of them you’ve spent so much time and worked so hard to create.

Maybe the lover gets frustrated. The beloved will not just sit still and look pretty. They’re off living their own lived experience doing God knows what, and you’re holding all these strings together, while they’re busy cutting them away from you.

It’s not all kumbaya. There is never a point, though, where the lover feels like the beloved should be doing anything different. All is as it should be. Maybe it’s a little different when the beloved knows you’re the lover, and they know you’re off building worlds without them, but which they will inevitably become a part of because they have little to no choice.

Perhaps saying “no” would end things sooner. I haven’t heard that word yet, so the lover it is I remain. Nothing kills love faster than jealousy and hearing the word no. 

Mostly being the lover is exhausting because you are refashioning the image of your beloved in as many new ways as possible. It’s hard to say if it’s worth it because it just is. Love has no real clear objective. But a life without purpose has no meaning, and the beloved is there to supply that, the meaning. Everything I do is attached to my beloved in some way. I don’t walk around reminding myself I am the lover and this is what I must do. No. It is the beloved who takes up all of my mental space and energy. It’s second-nature at this point. I have learned how to live with this secondary presence anywhere I go, and the only time it’s really a problem is when I laugh too hard at only something the beloved would understand. People don’t like when you laugh hard without them. They don’t get it.

This happens at the grocery store a lot. A woman was picking out her Texas Toast garlic bread, and she dropped a whole bag of peas all over the floor. It’s not a “you had to be there” moment. It’s more like “you’d just have to be him to get it.” Frozen peas everywhere. Clean up in aisle three, please. 

The lover most certainly does all the work. The beloved just exists. Must be nice. Feelings like these crop up, but you beat them back. That is one place the energy goes. It goes to fighting against all of the bad, ugly things that creep up on you. Nobody has a day of thoughts filled with only rainbows and sunshines. You could though. If you had a beloved. He is blue skies and sunshine, all the time. Because that is how he exists. I made it that way. Love is creation. It is never destruction. 

That’s really not even the half of it. The other half would be where all of this mental work and strain turns into words on a page. It would be wrong to say my beloved is simply writing material, though, because he was good for something before there was ever any writing attached. Good for my mental health.

In conclusion, that is a lover. 

The Beloved

My love life has always been a little unconventional, never more so than it is now. Traditionally, and in all the books on love I’ve read so far, the lover is male and the beloved is female. There’s absolutely no reason to make things more complicated than necessary. In this case, complicated is just the tip, for I, the female, am the lover, and my beloved is a man. I have found the one my heart loves, and he is my beloved because I love, love, love him.

That is my role as the lover: to love.

Love is always a threat to the status quo because lovers always want to build their own secret world nobody else is a part of, speak a language only the two of them know, and do things like swap pronouns when everyone else is happy to keep everything exactly the way it has been forever.

The beloved exists in the lover’s amorous imagination. Love implies a way of valuing someone. Unlike love, which needs to be learned how to do, valuing (or devaluing) someone else is universal among humans. Even the word “beloved” denotes more than a simple term of endearment. There is a value judgment inherent in calling him my beloved. It means he has a special place in my esteem. I regard him more highly than any other individual on the planet.

He is my beloved. He is in the perpetual state of being loved. By me. There is nothing he can do to stop me. I would have to choose to stop loving him, devalue him in some way so that he’s no longer seen as the beloved, or cast someone else in his role as my beloved.

That’s how this works.

The lover puts the beloved on a pedestal, not for worship, but as a way of fully concentrating the imagination on his suggestive being. The beloved becomes valuable through the lover. The lover attaches value to the beloved simply by committing herself to him. The amorous imagination is used to continuously affirm the value of the beloved apart from what the lover already knows to be true. 

Love is an attitude. Love is not merely a means of giving and receiving. Love is never practical and doesn’t have a clear objective. This is how love can come to border on madness. Desire doesn’t play a role in the bare-bones structure between a lover and beloved. Desire is wanting something for personal gratification. The lover attends to the beloved for who he is without the desire to make him any better he is, unless that is what he desires.

When love is an attitude, the amorous imagination steps in to downplay any negative thoughts about the beloved. My beloved is perfect, but this might not always be the situation. The lover might be aware that their beloved is not desirable to anyone else. The beloved is loved unconditionally. My beloved is also an Adonis, but this is not why or how he became my beloved. Whenever someone loves another person because of some reason or another, these become conditions for love. By adopting love as an attitude, love and the beloved are created. Love exists within the lover; it doesn’t come from an external source. The lover responds positively to the beloved, and in valuing him, makes him worthy of her love. This way of using the amorous imagination has been compared to alchemy. 

Without the imagination, it would be impossible for a lover like me to value the beloved as he is, my beloved. While he is real, he exists for me in another dimension just a little outside of reality. Stimulating the imagination is not the same as yielding to self-delusion.

If I’m perfectly honest, he’s pretty much my beloved because I’m obsessed with him.

Awakening

When a woman is in love, she can’t pretend otherwise. Passion can’t be restrained. Her feelings swell until they consume her. He dominates her thoughts day and night, until she is carried away by the tide of passion. The feelings come before the words. I want to scribble everywhere. I can’t get my thoughts in order. He fills me up like a balloon threatening to float away at a moment’s notice.

Or pop. He could destroy me. I am a balloon and he is the needle. One prick, and I explode, shatter into a million pieces. You would think being destroyed is a bad thing, but it’s not. Not this way. It is strength. Not mine. It is all this man before you. He could destroy you, and I like that feeling. A woman wants nothing more than to think she is strong, until shown otherwise. It is humbling. Not every man can bring you to your knees. This cannot be done by even half of them. Only by a few. So far, he is the only one.

My cup runneth over.

This is ecstasy. Not the pill. There are no drugs here; he is the drug. Ecstasy can feel like a trance-like state, or it can wake you up. It makes your whole body come alive. There is nothing you want more. Actually you don’t need more. That’s the thing. Anyone can give you more. Not anyone can give you enough. I am insatiable. He satiates me. I still want more. It’s madness! There is nothing to end this cycle. The feelings build up inside of me. Energy needs an outlet. This kind is explosive.

I can’t control myself. I am hot and bothered. I pace back and forth. I am woken up in the middle of the night by the force of these feelings. They crush me. I am not weak, they are strong. The feelings pervade my dreams. He haunts my dreams. I see him everywhere. I am never alone. I look at him the way someone looks through a kaleidoscope. There are so many facets to admire. There is complexity and depth. This is not true of everyone. 

There are some people who suck the life right out of you. You can’t bear to be near them for longer than you have to. There are some people who are like magnets. You can’t help but be pulled towards them. You don’t realize the energy it takes to be around them until you’re exhausted. And you do get exhausted, in a good way. But you leave so you can restore your energy and come back for more, because even when it’s enough, you’re never done. Not really.

It’s the definition of an addiction. It’s not just the high. It’s the cycle. Live and repeat. You are flying, you don’t want to come down. It is pure pleasure, never diminished by time. You return again and again.

I return again and again. I could never repeat the cycle with someone else. It is always him. It has only always been him. My experience is not singular. Very few bother looking for it. I’ve discovered it for myself. I’ve found the rest of me in someone else. I am whole. Everyone is looking for something in life. Some of us don’t know what we are looking for. The rest don’t bother to look. They are complacent. He never gets old for me. He is always something new. The only new thing under the sun. 

Falling in love and being in love are two very distinct ideas. They commingle. Falling is the impression of something you can’t control, while being in love is something you have to choose to do or be, not on a daily basis, but minute-for-minute. There is an intensity, a certain degree of emotion that goes into this state of mind. Because that’s what it is. It’s not a choice; it’s the result of making a choice, and then you find yourself in this uncontrollable state.

Love is moderation, but passion has its place. Nobody talks about passion enough. Nobody writes about passion outside of a motivational speech designed to inspire someone, or a lot of someone, elses. I am not setting out to inspire you. I have been inspired.

Better yet, I’ve been awakened. Women do this, come into some sort of awakening. With the right sort of man, they do. A woman who hasn’t been awakened hasn’t read the right books or met the right man. Women awaken and it is men who awaken them.

I am not a man. I don’t know anything about what it is they do. What I do know is that I am coming into my own, and that is because there is a man. There is something in him that can never be in me on my own. I am a woman. We are separate, different, and distinct. There is something to be said for a man who can make a woman submit. A woman in the midst of today’s feminist rhetoric does not submit.

I do not submit. I hold my own. He makes me weak. No, he makes me vulnerable. Or maybe neither of those things. I still haven’t exactly worked all of this out. Women are supposed to be more given to emotion. Not me. This is not a brag. It’s an insecurity. To be a woman in the presence of a man, my God. Make no mistake, it is a man’s world. This man takes up mine. 

I don’t know what it is exactly that I’ve awakened to. I’ve not been sleeping these last however many years (a lady never gives her age). There is no reason to go into the sexual awakening that has accompanied this passion. It wouldn’t be proper. He takes up all of me. It is all one to me now. What exactly have I awakened to? 

Maybe that the minutes of my life have meant nothing until now. Maybe that the idea of an independent woman I’ve held so closely my whole life no longer means anything to me anymore. Maybe that two is better than one. Maybe that I am not an island.

Maybe. I don’t know. He does this to me. Makes me uncertain. Maybe it’s an awakening to the realization that there is never a more to life, that you can eventually reach a state of this is it. I don’t mean that as a fatalist. I mean that as someone who has become satisfied after running in the rat race of life too long.

As a woman, nonetheless. 

It doesn’t matter if I don’t have all the answers. He probably does. He won’t tell me. This is what keeps things interesting. You don’t want to make it too easy. The fact remains: I’ve been awakened, and I’ve not walked through life as some unintelligent fool thus far. Three years ago, you would never have caught me admitting that a woman is better off with a man. Never. Times have changed. I’ve not changed. But I’m different. I see things differently.

I’ve awakened to something. Let me tell you that I have acted the fool in front of this man for the sake of nothing. For the sake of him. For the sake of it all. I have not been awakened to some kind of realization that I’ve some untapped potential. I don’t know what potential I would speak of. I have failed at almost every endeavor I’ve embarked upon. Probably because I’m a woman.

That’s only half serious. But that’s the whole point. I have failed at every turn in life in spite of trying my damnedest to do the best I could. And none of that matters anymore, because here I am. Pouring my heart out as if I’m in some kind of therapy group, which I’ve been a part of in the past. I’ve met Jesus Christ himself in one of them.

None of that matters. What I’ve been awakened to is what really matters. For me, that’s him. That’s all that matters. I am well-educated, and I’ve been awakened backwards into a silly girl in love like I am still in high school (I never went.). I have worked all my life to be something and I failed.

Here I am. This doesn’t feel like failure to me. I feel blessed and blissed out of my mind. All the time. He does this to me. I thought it would go away. It hasn’t. Not for months. Years, actually, if I’m honest. I’ve tried to avoid it. I can’t. I’m in love. This is what happens. Nothing else matters. 

Only this.

I’ve awakened. Maybe to nothing except him, I don’t know. Do I need more than that? He has taken up my whole life, and I give him mine. 

Through a Glass, Darkly

There were a lot of things I never told you that summer. I couldn’t force your hand. No ultimatums. No expectations. No strategies. A story was handed to me, one different from the one I thought I had. It played out like a “choose your own adventure” book with every choice affecting the next chapter. We shared the beginning and filled in the middle together on our own. I never told you about the ending, about how many times I tried to write it by myself before realizing it was never mine to write.

It was always yours.

I had to wait until you were done to drop all my cards, to finally give away all the secrets I’ve been keeping from you when I’ve shared everything else so far. Only by the end could you have ever known how real and deep my feelings for you are, that nothing you did could have ever changed the way I felt about you. I had to keep these secrets so every other possibility would only ever be secondary to the weight my words carry. I’ve had to hide everything else I’ve seen and everything else I’ve known so we could both look back with a deeper appreciation for the story without becoming trapped by “what-ifs” and “I wishes.”

Consider these an afterword, a celebration of what was, instead of a eulogy for what might have been. You are the only person in the world who can fully appreciate the choices I have and the choices I make.

You are the only one.

If You Leave a Lover Alone

If you leave a lover alone with her thoughts for twenty-four hours, here is what will happen: 

She will start by pining, consumed by her own sighs, and lost in the memory of her beloved. He occupies her thoughts day and night. She is in love to the point of distraction. Nothing holds her attention. She won’t take food or water. She will starve before she ever sees her beloved again. Her thoughts take a turn.

Her beloved is dead. His horse and carriage have turned over. He was killed in a duel. The victim of a political assassination. He jumped off the side of a cliff. The thought destroys her. There is no life after him. She goes through a list of things she has to live for, and nothing comes to mind. She doesn’t have time to mourn him. Her imagination is running away. She is coming up with fifty ways to die. She can live no more. Her life is already over. She throws herself into the abyss of despair. 

All feeling is gone. She is cold and calculating. All she needs is a plan. She thinks about flinging herself off a cliff, too. Maybe she’ll drown or drink cyanide. The possibilities are endless. She’s enraptured by her own imagination. How else could she do away with herself? A knife to the femoral arteries. Her father’s revolver he keeps in a drawer in the study. There’s some rope laying around. She could make a noose and tie herself to the willow tree outside. 

The willow tree. This is where her beloved first touched her hand. She wasn’t wearing any gloves, and he touched her! A reason for living springs to mind. Maybe he’s not dead. She has no proof. She has been locked in this room for far too long. Despair metamorphoses back into hope. Her heart begins to thaw. She decides to eat the first morsel of food she’s had in days. Clarity returns. Love reigns in her heart once more. 

Now she is flying. She takes no notice of the time. The sun rises and the sun sets. This is all she notices. She is optimistic. She finishes the duties she’s left neglected for the last fortnight. There is a tray of letters in the hall she hasn’t read yet. There is one from her beloved, and she really knows now that he is not dead. The letter is short. Her optimism fades to mortification.

He hates her. She has never been so absolutely certain of anything in her entire life. She couldn’t be sure he was dead. She’d rather him dead than hate her. She won’t give him the satisfaction of killing herself. He will have to hold on to his own hatred for her. She turns red. Her anger flares up. She has done nothing to deserve this. The burning inferno inside her turns cold. Her stomach drops.

What if she has done something to deserve his ill favor? She reads the letter over and over again. He has not said what she has done wrong. She makes a new list. The new list makes her want to die, too. It is everything she has done wrong ever in his presence.

She was too cold. She was too capricious. She was too bold. She was too honest. She had the audacity to approach him. Her manners were too affected. He hated her gowns. Her coiffure was too gaudy. Her curls too tight. She had no accomplishments. She was undomesticated. She showed her concern too soon. She preferred the tender charms of Petrarch to Baffo’s sonnets. Everything is wrong.

The willow tree. She should hang herself there. She has the memory all wrong. She has blown things wildly out of proportion. He didn’t touch her. He merely stumbled and grazed her arm. Her imagination has magnified the smallest detail. She has lost all sense. She can’t think straight. 

The next morning she doesn’t get out of bed. The maid comes and wakes her up. There is a gentleman caller in the drawing room. It all comes back to her. It is the fifteenth of the month. Her beloved is downstairs waiting for her. She wants to fall to pieces when she sees him.

She swoons. 

The Madness of Love

I went mad for a summer as if the pandemic wasn’t enough to drive anyone mad. Love hit me with all the force of a train and struck me dumb. My brains fell out. I lost my keys in the woods. The power lines went down and I lived without electricity for a week. I wrote notes on the mirror reminding me to eat. 

There’s a certain mad quality about love once the mysticism fades away. Love is mysterious and makes us curious before pulling us into its mad grip. The madness of love descends like clouds in a storm, making us act crazy and do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. We are conditioned to accept acts of madness when love is involved. Crimes of passion carry a lighter sentence than crimes committed in cold blood. Madness can mean insanity, or it can mean getting carried away by enthusiasm. Love exists at both ends of the spectrum. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. There is a tendency to underestimate the power of love. 

I couldn’t stop writing. I couldn’t stop moving. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t hold a thought for more than a few seconds. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t breathe. There were a million needles stabbing my body all the time, like I was electrified. My heart was constantly racing. My hands were constantly shaking. The journal I kept is mostly just scribbles, fragments of a lost mind. There were a lot of fragments, pieces that have reappeared in later notebooks in a more legible hand. I jumped from one thought to the next without any clear connection. It is the diary of a mad woman with song lyrics copied down for good measure. None of this mattered to me in the moment. I was happy, I was writing, and I also thought I was dying.

There were a lot of times I thought I was dying and my doctor just didn’t tell me, and I thought I would go right on living up until that point. Nothing else mattered. It was madness. I walked around life like a visiting tourist. There was no sense of reality, none whatsoever. Looking back, it all looks a lot more simple to figure out than the experience had been. I had fallen in love and didn’t yet know it. Turns out you don’t have to allow yourself to fall in love, but you do have to accept it before reason returns.

It’s a really big pill to swallow. Or maybe it’s not, I don’t know. This has never happened to me before. I had to claw myself out of the madness. Madness is not necessarily a good thing, but some of the greatest blessings come from madness. It has taken me this long to make some kind of sense out of the experience. Love has no concept of time. It was like I had woken up for the first time in a long time only to go back to sleep and wake up again to realize I had woken up the first time. Every day I literally woke up, it was like the previous day had been entirely blacked out from my mind. My memories returned, but my memory at the time wasn’t working at all. I was Dory from Finding Nemo. 

I was Lucy Whitemore in 50 First Dates.

Madness is a constant state of uncertainty. The only source of uncertainty for me was in writing. This is where I’ve found most of my blessings. I’ve left traces everywhere. I couldn’t stop writing, even though I didn’t always know what or why I was writing. There was a part of me that could recognize what was happening without being fully able to acknowledge it. I had seen something I hadn’t yet experienced. I didn’t have the language I needed to properly describe what I was experiencing. It came to me in fragments and almost completely lost among so many other mundane topics. 

I dropped out of time and space altogether. The days blurred together, and there were two times in the day: awake when the sun was up, and asleep when the sun was down. There were so many other things going on in my life that needed my attention that fell neglected by the wayside. There was this constant pressure of something that needed to be done, but I had no deadlines. Ecstasy is a hard feeling to describe, but easily recognized. It’s a trance-like state. There was an intense longing for I didn’t know what. The only word on my mind was more. More of whatever it was I had been feeling. It felt like something irretrievable had been lost to me. I called it my “voice” in writing over and over again.

Voice is connected to identity; my identity collapsed in on itself. I had fallen fast, and I had fallen hard. I was madly in love. I had surrendered myself into the madness and gave no thought to anything in my life. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. You can never trust someone in love to act sane. There’s an ingrained idea that the heart, not the mind, should be followed in matters of love.

This should never be done. Madness will ensue. 

Love also has to have an object. When all of this madness started, I had no fixed object in mind. In retrospect, I can re-read my mad diary and see how the points connect, but I couldn’t in the moment. I had lost all sense. There was a continuous cycle of falling in love and not wanting to be in that state of mind. The sweet side of love is standing on top of a mountain. The dark side is standing at the edge of a precipice. You are living your best life and dying at the same time. I also have to point out that this is from the perspective of a woman and never I had experienced lust to such an astonishing degree. Once I had a fixed object in mind, there was nothing that was going to stop me from possessing him.

Nothing.

That’s right, I knew him by lust first. Moderation was not in my vocabulary. Like I said, love has no concept of time. I started at the wrong end and traveled backwards. And actually, I hated him more first, too. These things never make sense. Only time ever tells.

I harassed him endlessly. Picked fights for no reason.  Stalked him online shamelessly. Stole all of his stuff. Read all the books beside his bed. All of them.  There was no stopping me. Desire is an irresistible force.

Love is not madness, though. Love is temperate. Someone in love also has to be someone in control. It took a long time for me to cool down. I had completely lost it for him the way I lost control over this essay. Love has driven strong women mad.

I went mad for a summer.

Skeletons

I have no stakes. I don’t know what it is that you want most. I have no reason to lie and no way of ever knowing the weak spots in your armor. I wouldn’t know where to hit you, even if I wanted to try.

You have always known right where to hit me, and I’ve been rolling with the punches since the first time you sent one flying in my direction. Never once did I waver from the path I chose, even if I got lost a few times. My arrow has finally hit its mark after so many shots in the dark.

I have told you about most of the strange things I’ve seen, but not all of them. There is one that came to me out of the blue, mid-action. This was some time between August and the middle of October.

It was a book. It was titleless and there were still blank pages, the parts my mind could never fill in. What I saw most clearly was the design. The chapters were carefully juxtapositioned without explanation. The image of a skeleton next to an email. It went on like this and the blank pages were the story, the real one.

It’s not meant to be a real book. It was my mind opening up a new perspective, still my own, but the pieces were arranged differently. I already had several arrangements of my own making, one I took the time to think out.

This was different because it happened like a flash of insight. It wasn’t reflecting a desire; it was showing me the truth:

You know how to save a life.