‘Falling Out’ is the seventh installment in Daniel Boscaljon’s literary nonfiction series Becoming A Ghost. The previous installments can be found here.
All movement makes us aware that we hasten toward our death in a dynamic vector, and I see mine immanently before me. Time compacts. Seeing your “life” flash before your eyes before death is not a tiresome replay listing mundane causes and effects of a mundane life. Only a handful of potent encounters and choices define you. I am smelling my grandfather’s coffee in the mornings. I am breaking up with my first girlfriend. I am driving my first car. I am accepting my new job. Each step leads me to meeting her, to falling in love — and then to falling out. Only with the illumination of an oncoming death do these dots align to form a narrative, one at odds with the story we tell ourselves. Mine focus on her. My life is her. I cling to the fairy tale of being perfect for each other, but too many facts are at odds. Nothing is perfect: life contains flaw. My flaws abound in a blizzard of images that obscure the sight of the uprushing ground:
Strengthened by cool detachment, I tell her I will never talk to her again. We both know that it is a lie, although it still hurts her and still confuses me. Why do I hate happiness so much?
Her anxiety screams at me, the shrieks daggering through the cell phone. I cannot hang up: caught in webs of my own guilt and shame, I take each blade delivered and thrust it into the deepest places of my own heart, for her. I hear my soul throb each time. Why does my loyalty not appease her, when I answer aggression with my own debasement? Why must I feel guilty when I am wronged? Is this the price for feeling passion?
My anger rages at her, banging my fist into her fireplace until the neighbor texts with worried urgency. Wet flesh pulps against unyielding brick and I want to break my body so that it will never cause her stress. I do not know why she cannot trust me. I’ve never loved so potently, so completely: how could it emerge so transformed? What within me strangles the pure beauty I feel and mangles it until it becomes something dubious and weak?
I am not there enough. I am too busy. I say the wrong things. I should have known better.
There is a faultline, a fracture, a flaw somewhere undiscovered: it magnifies when we part ways. Without it we would never separate: why would I want space for me, when I feel complete only when I am with her? I take responsibility for the problems, keeping her my dreamgirl. I would rather be unworthy of my idol than tarnish her image. I blame myself, hoard guilt. I injure her vanity, offering my debasement as restitution. Taking responsibility she wants to avoid gives me control. If everything is my fault, she cannot hurt me. She suffocates under the cloud of protection I pretend to offer, and strikes me to assert her own agency. This churns passion. We dislike distance.
I beat my face with my fists, hoping that my brains will fall out and end my confusion. She threatens to kill herself, claiming that living is pointless. We escalate and kiss and cum and sleep and in the morning wake up in a fog. Nothing is real, including our problems.
Clarity races gravity as I descend. Our shared love was sacred. We treated each other as divine, but we hearkened to darker voices instead of the soft whispers of love encouraging us to our better selves. These cruel masters decreed that she embody fickleness, that I become foolishness, proving ourselves unworthy of the other’s interest. Each falling out dared the other to render a final sentence concerning innate quality. Choosing neither love of self-hatred nor love of worshipping another, we consummated kindled passions on an altar to our inner demons, sating their thirst with our best. Recognizing the power of the other’s self-hatred, we suspected each other’s secret sacrifice of love in spite of the certainty of the other’s devotions.
Tame love threatens no horror, offers no joy. True love is a wilderness that entices awe. It mingles joy with terror. To dare to create closeness with another requires courage and curiosity. Each falling out disclosed our shame and guilt, but we were too terrified to offer up what we prized most to the other. That kind of devotion required a conviction that I am worthy of love, an acceptance of grace that, undeserved, meant forsaking control. The weight of ground awaits me. It is a heavy ceiling. Truly loving her meant respecting her, respecting myself, falling out of control and becoming open to unsuspected possibilities. It required trusting her grace and acceptance, and offering up my restored and humbled self instead of this humiliated, broken body. It’s too late.