Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Black Rubber Ball

When there is loss, grief inevitably follows. Grief is round: a black rubber ball. It's thick and opaque and has lots of give--it bends, it folds, it sighs. It never breaks.

Grief has no definable size. You can carry it in your hands, your pockets, your heart. Or it can carry you--you can live inside of it, burrow in it, die in it.

I'm still grieving. I wish I could say I was over it. I wish I could toss it in the bin with tonight's trash. I wish it had an expiration tag.

All I can say is that I'm better than I was yesterday, and it aches somewhat less than it ached a month ago, and the shock that kept me up nights last year has eroded into a mild jolt of insomnia.

It's not an obsession over the past. It's more of an attempt at reconciliation, between what's lost and what's found. I don't mean to think about it, really. It's just when you live with someone for nearly a decade and suddenly they're gone, you find yourself constantly reminded of things, stupid things really, from your time together and everything comes back in a wave of nostalgia, some good, some bad.

It's never big things, obvious things. I can go to a wedding and be absolutely fine with it all. Happy for the bride and groom, having fun at the reception.

But then later, I'll stop at the store to buy something completely ordinary, like a bottle of shampoo, and as I walk down the aisle I'll see men's razor blades on sale and think, "I should pick some up for Justin," and then I'll remember he's gone, and there's no need to buy him razor blades, as a matter of fact I will never buy him razor blades again, and when I go home he won't be there.

And that's when that rubber ball finds me, rolling through the store, bouncing right back into my hands.

Tag. You're it.

I don't know how to get rid of the damn thing. It helps to write about it. It helps to share it. But I'm tired of the anger. I'm afraid I'll become one of those embittered, lonely women, who clutch that ball and never let go.

It's easy to tell you about the bad things he's done, to remember how awful he was at the end, how terribly he treated me. What's harder is to share the beginning and middle parts, the kind person that he once was, the man I had married.

Those stories are nearly unbearable for me to share. Those moments, not the unhappy ones, are the ones where I clutch my ball the hardest to my heart.

At the end of our relationship, he was not fair to me. He was unkind, cruel really, and he hurt me beyond measure. He cheated and lied. I can't and won't make excuses for him, but I will say that he has his issues, serious ones, and I know he will struggle with them for the rest of his life.

But it's unfair of me to share him as such a one-dimensional character. He was not always cruel. I wouldn't have married the man that I divorced.

He was funny. He made me laugh harder than anyone I've ever met. He has the most amazing laugh I've ever heard in my life. It was completely un-self-conscious: loud, joyful, childlike. It was an infectious laugh--no matter how bad the joke, how awkward the situation, if he laughed, everyone in the room laughed.

He knew how to put people at ease. He got along with everyone. He knew how to draw out people who were quiet and shy, and he could keep up with the most outgoing in a group.

There was a time when we finished each other's sentences. When we went out he always had a way to make the moment special between us. At weddings when the bride and groom were saying their vows, he'd grab my hand, look at me and smile. He was a foodie and shopping was very serious for him. At the grocery store he would be thoughtful, intense, lost in his own world, but then suddenly he'd reach over and rub my shoulder. Over the years our body language became one. We could absently know when the other one needed a touch, a smile, a laugh.

When I finished school and started working a regular eight to five job, our schedules became opposite. But we always found a way to spend each day together.

Some nights I'd go down to the restaurant and have dinner with him. He'd prepare my food himself, making everything exactly to my preference. He'd set up a quiet table in the back, and we'd talk about our day. When we finished he'd move over to my side of the table and put his arm around me, and I'd rest my head on his shoulder. At work he smelled like cigarettes and bread and BBQ sauce, and it always made me feel warm and safe.

Other nights I'd stay home, and he'd call me from work. He'd take a break when Lost was on TV, and we'd both watch it together, over the phone.

My favorite nights, though, were the ones when he worked late. I'd go to bed early and around midnight, I'd hear him come in, quietly setting his keys down by the door. There would be clattering in the kitchen, and I'd drift back off to sleep, drowsy and happy that he was home. Everything felt complete. Around one in the morning he would nudge me awake, and with him he'd have two plates of chicken or salad or steak, with some sort of steamed vegetable.

We'd go out to the living room and cuddle under a blanket. We'd eat our late dinner and he'd tell me about his day, and then I'd rest my head on his shoulder and drift off. Then he'd nudge me awake and with his hands on my shoulders, he'd lead me back to the bedroom, and tuck me back into bed.

On his nights off we'd have my brother over and we'd watch DVD marathons--Arrested Development, Lost, Curb Your Enthusiasm. We played cards a lot--sometimes with a group of people, but lots of times just the two of us, playing for hours with music on in the background.

Sometimes I'd come home and he'd surprise me by cleaning the house. He'd have music on and he'd grab my hand and twirl me around the kitchen, dancing. Sometimes he wrote me poems or when he left notes, he'd make silly drawings on them that he knew would make me laugh.

He always said "I love you" and I believe he meant it. He used to say, "I don't deserve you," I think he meant that too. I always thought he didn't believe in himself enough and couldn't see his potential, and I still believe that.

When we said our wedding vows he cried. I still believe he really felt them, even though I know he was drunk at the time and was drunk from that moment on, for the rest of our marriage, probably for the rest of his life.

He also used to say, "I never want to hurt you," and I think in his way, he meant it. I didn't understand then why he used to say it but now, looking back, I understand completely.


Chez said...

This is really good, Jennypants, and I know it was probably hard to write. It's easy to look back at someone and see all the wrongs and the mistakes and....well, the bad. It's much harder to remember the good times, why you fell in love with that person in the first place. Hell, oftentimes you don't really WANT to remember.

I will admit that, the handful of times I was around him, I found Justin amusing and entertaining. That doesn't mean I want to kick him in the balls any less for hurting you :-), but I can admit that.

Also, I love you bunches and am, as always, proud of how far you've come!

uamada said...

i'm just putting this here to show i read it.... any comment would not do this any justice

Moko 2.0 said...

You're right, that's the hard part. My first big relationship went out in a bad way and it was easier to hate the person that hurt me than remember the person that loved me. It was like a death, but worse, they were still around and I saw her end up loving someone else. I had to leave that country. I never really got over it but I figured out how to deal with it and invest in me rather than their memory. Now it's all like some sorta familiar ghost that appears in my consciousness occasionally and then vanishes.

Great post.

Anonymous said...

I know this feeling too well
and who wants to join the walking wounded you see them clutching their champagne glasses a bitter slant to the mouth wondering why no one wants to talk to them


"At work he smelled like cigarettes and bread and BBQ sauce"

I wanna meet a woman like that!

& I hope that you can throw that ball away soon.

Anonymous said...

Awesome Jen!

Domestic Daze said...

I learnt a long time ago, to let something from my past still hurt me years later is to let that pain still own me.
I learnt to move on out of survival, if I hadn't I wouldn't be here today. Once I let go of the bad memories, the pain, they stopped owning me. Controlling me. I took control back and found happiness again. I also feel and respect the happiness I have now on a far more profound level.
I hope and pray you find the way to taking ownship back again Jen.

NowhereBob said...

Lovely description of grief Jen.

I've done my worst verbal hurtin' reacting to a percieved wrong. My awareness of my undeserved venom curdles quickly into a shame that is easily confused with sullen petulance.

yankeedog said...

Don't know what to say about this, other than well-written. It's a facet of relationships that gets lost at the end-the person we end with isn't the same one we started with.

Obviously, alcohol played its part in the downfall of your marriage. Now I (and most of the people here) am probably good for a beer or the rare blowout. But I've not seen anything good ever come out of heavy and constant drinking. Sounds like your fellow Justin was a decent guy when sober. Bloody shame.

Dr Yobbo said...

What U said. I find hitting small black rubber balls very hard very often with a squash racquet doesn't make them go away but it makes you feel better.

Anonymous said...


I'm with Uamada.

Anonymous said...

PS You write beautifully, Jen.

Lou said...

Poignant post Jenn. Looking back without anger is a significant step forward. Here's trusting the black ball will get smaller and lighter as time goes on.

Killjoyaphrodite said...

A tough read - not because of your beautiful writing, but because of the feelings it conveys. I feel for you Jen.

One thing to remember - just as he isn't the same, neither are you. You have grown tremendously and I'm proud of you. The Jenny and Justin that you were are no more and that's a shame - but you are someone who doesn't want to close her eyes to what you truly are and you take problems head on, instead of drowning in the brief numbness alcohol can bring. You were and are too strong for him.

Mourn the loss of the person Justin was just for a little while - then just feel sad for him, that he couldn't be strong enough for you and move on.

Knifeboy said...

It sounds like there is a lot to miss. I'm so sorry that things turned bad for you. From what I know of you, you deserve a hell of a lot better. hope you find better one day.

Flinthart said...

It goes away eventually, little one.

That you remember so much of the good speaks well of you. The people for whom I fear are those who remember only the evil. Those folk, when they come to a new relationship, are delighted by the good they see in the new person, and they forget that the one before this was good too, at times.

You haven't forgotten.

When you meet the next one, you'll watch him carefully. And you will remember that Justin had his good points too... and you'll be more thoughtful, and more careful as a result.

And the next one will be right, because of that.

YsambartCourtin said...

Top work, Tiger.

Also, I believe that your butterfly needs to lay off the glitter. When you are sneezing glitter & fireworks like that little guy, you need to lay off.

Birmo said...

Oh Jen, if we could all take this sadness from you we would. But we can't. We can only hope to make you smile every now and then, and hope that one day you smile enough that the sun is set before you even realise the small black ball is gone, dropped and lost forever somewhere far behind you.

When that happens, don't go looking for it. Just kick on.

Girl Clumsy said...

Wonderfully articulated, Jen.

jennicki said...

Chez: Thanks, love. Justin was very funny. I too want to kick him in the balls most of the time.

Love you too.

Uamada: Thank you.

Moko: It is like a death. I'm sorry you had to see her fall in love with someone else. That must've been hard. But look at you now--with a lovely missus who loves you very much!

Anonymous: Exactly. Let us not become part of the walking wounded. Hope you are able to lose that black rubber ball too.

Lerm: Thank you. And yes--it was oddly such a comforting and yummy smell.

drej0: Thank you!

DD: You are such a strong woman. It's very inspiring. I hope I can learn how to let go too.

NowhereBob: Thank you.

Yankeedog: Thank you. And yes, he was a decent guy sober. Maybe he can become that way again someday. I just couldn't wait around anymore to find out.

Dr Yobbo: You're right. I must take up tennis again! I don't think we have squash here in the States.

Abe: Thank you so much.

Lou: Thank you Lou!

Killjoyaphrodite: Thank you so much K. That really means a lot to me. *hug*

Knifeboy: Thank you, very much!

FH: *hugs* Thank you...

Ysambart: Thank you. I feel like I've been sneezing glitter lately with the ups and downs of the weather!

Birmo: Thank you so much...you all do make me smile, every day, and I so appreciate it.

And wouldn't you know, I've been smiling all weekend. Maybe that ball is starting to fade away.


GirlClumsy: Thank you, love!

The Kid In The Front Row said...

Makes me think of this short film: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zv-4FoKZrHE

Heidi Germanaus said...

Wow,just an incredible piece of writing. Painfully beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't have married the man that I am leaving. I dont miss him now, but I think that at some point I will.

I have read this post many times over the last few weeks, and felt that I finally needed to say thankyou for writing it. I am sure all will get easier.


jennicki said...

Thank you, Angela.

I hope it gets easier for you too, very soon.