I don’t look for my ghosts.
But they find me anyway.
I’m never sure how to deal with men I’ve cared for once we find each other again; that’s because I never stop caring for them. Friends, romances, lovers- to have my love in any form is to become a part of me, bits of myself morphing to something new when they join to a person’s spirit, remaining in their new shape when the bonds are cut. Bleeding, scarring, healing. Staying.
I am me. Overwhelmingly, overpoweringly, sometimes-too-muchly me. But I carry also pieces of those I’ve loved, brands and scars and strange, wonderful patterns left by all of them.
And because I bear them with me, in some way I will watch those people inside myself, my eyes following them down every street they walk upon, always. I will never cease to wonder if they are safe and warm and happy, never stop wanting them to be laughing and content.
Of late there’s been a large influx of phantoms into my life- echoes and apparitions from lives I’ve left behind. I’m not sure why, or why now; it’s rather like a purge of some kind, a great outpouring and loosening of past ties that leaves me feeling at once bewildered at the odd coincidences of the universe and more peaceful about my multivariate takes on romance.
There are a few more restless spirits among them, some I may never hear from again, or know where and how they dwell. This exorcism, this freeing, is for them.
Michael, when you wrote that you shouldn’t have left, that I was one of the most beautiful and intelligent women you’d ever been with, I wonder if you knew how much that meant? Simple words for you, so easy to type. So revolutionary for me, such a relief after the incredible humiliation of being dumped in the middle of a passionate and public kiss. You were the first person who ever broke my ego- and some part of it was still smarting until your message. (Do you still listen to Frank Sinatra? Did you keep the green-mohawked stuffed dog? Do you still sleep with a laser-sighted gun under your bed?)
Joe, you’re one of the joys of my life. What I had with you, no matter how brief and sweet, forged a connection so strong that I couldn’t then imagine not knowing you. Your chasing me down after all this time- keeping after me till I called you back, till we talked and laughed and yelled in outrage until dawn- reaffirmed my faith in that bond, and in the correctness of my own judgments of intimacy. You were the first man to point out to me, with grace and humor, that I didn’t always see some of the things closest to me. You were the first man to always pull me ever closer to you without doubt or hesitation, even as you slept. I treasure your friendship and I have no questions for you; you answer them all.
Walter, what we had was so overpowering that sometimes it still frightens me to think of what we did for each other, what we gave up for each other. No matter how badly broken our compatibility, the commitment and dedication we pursued give me enormous faith in my ability to stay with anything, no matter how trying and painful. You also gave me an understanding of exactly what friendship with someone you’re in love with means, and all the edges where those pieces should fit. You, of all the men I’ve loved, taught me the most about myself and about the world. And if the lessons were painful- well, then, I thank you all the same; I needed to know. (Does she make you happy? Do you still jump trains when you’re drunk? Does she give you the sense of anchoring in your mortal body that I couldn’t?)
Don, you are one of the best human beings I’ve ever known. And that, among all the shining stars of my acquaintance, makes you nearly blinding. Of all the men I’ve known or loved, you were the one who combined everything I ever thought of as ideal in a man- tenderness, intelligence, curiosity, acceptance, warmth, humor, desire, even-temperedness, a passion for justice, unshakeable loyalty- to the greatest degree and extent. You showed me the best of what a relationship can be, and I’ll always be grateful to you for it. (Are you happy making wine on such a large scale? Is there any jazz that feeds your soul in
Vance, sometimes when I think about you I want to laugh- at you, at me, at the idea of us together. For such an ill-assorted pair we made things work for an astonishingly long time, and because of the sheer joy we found together you were the first man I ever trusted enough to let in completely. I don’t know how it was that we managed in such a complete disconnect, but our romance taught me something about the power of simple happiness to keep a couple together. (Are you still driving trucks? Does it make you as happy as making people beautiful did? Were you ever honest with yourself about what happened between you and your family?)
Paul, you were the first time I had a glimpse of what the word “charisma” means. You were intelligent, talented- not necessarily handsome, but so charming that you could have had the birds off the trees if you willed it so. I needed to be able to understand people like you- expansive, entrancing, effulgent- to be able to comprehend how a person could pull so strongly that one was more glad of small pieces of him than of the entirety of someone else. From you I learned the markers of the artistic temperament, and the skills with which to cope with it. And we found so much meaning and deep loveliness in our short time together that, despite its ending, I’ve never been able to bring myself to regret it. (Do you still act? Did you ever manage to catch a pwca? Did your eyes ever stop their endless whirl and settle on a single color?)
Craig, my dear boy. You taught me so much about loving another person, about nurturing that love, about maintaining the ties that bind so closely. You also taught me about the dangers of wanting to own because you love, of the sense that the people who mean the most to you are yours rather than their own. You were always something different than you wanted- something that didn’t fit your corporate industrial wealthy-father image, something that everyone who loved you valued, except you. (Do you accept your fascination with the Moody Blues and ELO now instead of keeping it a guilty secret? Do you still drive American heavy metal with alarming panache? Are you still hiding the wealth that is you under Armani and Serengetis?)
And, last but not by any means least, David. You were- still are, I hope- astonishing. From a family background and parents I wouldn’t have wished on a tree squirrel you made of yourself a profoundly whole, happy, decent human being, and even now I marvel at your ability to have done that. Your humor, your constant and genuine laughter, your gentleness and lack of egotism- so rare in a teenage boy- impressed me so much. I never really had a chance to tell you what it meant to me that the bond we had was intact so many years after we’d dated, that your rare qualities of spirit were still shining in you. (Do you still hustle people at putt-putt? What happened to that truck you swore you’d always drive? Do you sometimes drive over that dam and remember?)
There are many more- I’ve had, after all, a dating life that stretches over 18 years- but these are the most important.
And if you, stranger, recognize yourself in passing- know that in some way I loved you, and still wish you your heart's happiness.