‘Falling Down’ is the eighth installment in Daniel Boscaljon’s literary nonfiction series Becoming A Ghost. The previous installments can be found here.
The wind desires to continue dancing, attempts to slow my descent, but I plummet downward undeterred in deference to gravity’s unyielding grip. The descent stirs an uprushing gust that pushes my cheeks into a forced smile. My shirt presses against my chest, reminding me of her hands, but nothing so soft will greet my final plunge: even if death is gentle as it harvests my soul, her kiss stings. My downfall had been the pride I nursed in secret defiance, the pride that pushed me to remain anguished on my own terms rather than happy on someone else’s.
I remember pretending to stumble, tumbling onto her bed, pulling her toward me with a finger gently tickling the fabric of her shirt, delighting in the laughter that led to a kiss that led to another. I’d fallen for her as we walked up the steeply sloping hill toward her house, breathing in winter’s cold: my downfall had been my failure to understand the pride I wove within my shame. Truly falling requires strength instead of debasement. It requires constant effort to relinquish the need to be in control, to plunge heedlessly into spaces defined by an other. If I had realized this sooner, she wouldn’t have walked away. I never became humble: I preferred accepting the villain’s role, stealing blame from her shoulders as she accused me of wounds she inflicted herself. Pride allowed me to feel ashamed when she self-destructed, as I wanted my love to be enough to keep her from even those harms. It was a lie we agreed was true. It let her continue to avoid confronting the hurts that made her insecure, and knowing that her accusations were unfair allowed me to ignore my lack of integrity, my failure to yield myself. Our success at deceiving ourselves led to the failure of love. It takes courage to reveal one’s worst, but more to risk one’s best, truest self. By giving my worst for her to reject, I kept myself safe—but unknown and therefore unloved.
My hands push downward despite myself as something within me desires to break my fall, finding my life worthy of preservation. My arms want to embrace a chance at redemption. But the clarity of my retrospection revives the shame I had long ignored. It was so simple–the chance to expose myself to her beauty, to bathe in her joy, was why I had walked with her initially. I do not deserve another chance to live. Why had I chosen misery instead of company?
“It’s all in my head’ she screamed. “Nothing about you is true!” Her crooked teeth gleamed white, her blue eyes shone with pain. I thought my love could fill the absence of her fears. I wanted my love to cause truth in a moment of sacrifice: she needed me to participate in my love forever. I was false.
Lesser lovers left me safely alone: loving her installed a wildness that required l become better than either of us could predict. I had thought love should be a foundation, not a quest. Love is not reasonable; it remains out of reach and beyond comprehension. Perhaps others, reflecting on their lives, see love’s blooms where they had only sown seeds. Looking back, I see only the barren remains of my failings.
My thoughts clamor before I fall out of time: Regret for self-deception, for having overlooked the answer, for my suspicion it might not have mattered. I’d fallen from safety into love but when our falling outs illuminated the faults within myself, I chose blindness. Each fight exposed our overlapping dread of true intimacy, but we rushed unthinkingly toward the passionate brilliance of physical joy that outshone reminders that something unsettled haunted our lives–she accusing me of wandering eyes, me diagnosing her anxious heart, both of us clinging to doubt in the face of certainty. Every falling out had been a plea to change, to embrace humility instead of fear—but she had clung to vanity and I to self-mortification. Where love should have reigned, restoring us to a quality of life whose ferocity is rarely seen, we worshipped our deaths instead, sowing seeds of devastation. I chose humiliation instead of humility. The world we made was annihilated by refusing to stay open to its wonder, by a dread of what truth love might disclose.
Her words were angry, each one a sting. “I HATE YOU! I HATE YOU AND HOPE YOU SUFFER UNTIL YOU DIE!” The venom could not hide the fear in her clenched fist. Her long brown hair, veiling her eyes, did not disguise her sadness. Her downturned mouth was steeped with shame. I knew she despised the ugliness of her words even as she thought it necessary to exhaust them against me.
Sounds blur into tones. Glimpsing dead leaves and the dirty ground, focusing on imperfections on each twig, inhaling the undisguised aroma of decay beneath me, I know I lost my chance. Leaping implied the right question and wrong answer. A small hill assures that my corpse will look ridiculous when discovered, my shame unearthed. I preferred to be secure in my ugliness instead of allowing love to make me beautiful. Love called for my fall from certainty into trusting another’s grace, but I never relinquished the need to know and determine my life from my innermost heart. I still grip tightfisted to my life, depriving myself of unforseeable blessings grace might have poured forth. If I had known sooner would it have altered anything? Could I have explained that love requires more than what fears reveal? Would she have tasted life courageously with me? Is this appreciation of love correct, or one final laugh at my joke of a life? Would she have scorned me still, making my attempts at humility humiliating? Would I have found her love worthy of true risk rather than strolling away alone? Would she have reciprocated or left me spurned? The ground below me supplies me with a certain answer, unyielding in its facticity. It promises to ensure I will never fail again.
Her words spread calm over pain. “You betrayed me. You will never be forgiven. I would rather die than love you again.” Everything that had once warmed me had become ice.
I spin like a pixie, with my feet on the air and my head toward the ground. I gain a proper perspective. What I’d thought were virtues—interpretation, analysis, process, explanation—were forms of control. My strengths were weaknesses, preventing me from appropriating the power of humility, love and togetherness through a vulnerability that was stronger than my feeble attempts to know without doubts.
“YOU BETRAYED ME! SUFFER UNTIL YOU DIE!”
I dared to enter her internal struggles without giving her absolute control over my life. I remained a stranger, not her, in spite of our intimacy. I lacked courage to visit the truths she could recognize at a glance. I could not calculate with a jealous mind to know what actions would elicit anger. I never grasped that she may consider me a threat and exclude me from the warmth of her joy. I had forgotten how cold the world felt without her, in numbed exile.
My fingers touch cold mud. I am heavy. I hope she sees me, but not as a sacrifice. I want to be a god instead of a monster, something whole instead of shards. I want to prostrate myself, embracing humility, instead of being humiliated by my internal demons. I want her to see my eyes before the light fades so that she can appreciate how