It’s official: too many sleepless nights and missed meals and stressed-out working conditions have finally taken their toll.
I’m sick. Bleah.
My hands are icy cold, my body’s feverishly hot, my head is pounding, I’m coughing. I feel, quite frankly, pathetic.
It’s spring break in our public schools, so we’re working with a skeleton crew. My boss is off vacationing with his family; if I call in sick, we’d have no planning staff. And there’s a meeting tomorrow that I have to chair and a last-minute grant proposal that just landed on my desk.
So I really can’t stay home. I’m not sure it would make a difference anyway.
As much as I’d love to crawl under the covers and sleep silently and dreamlessly for hours, I suspect it’d be impossible. Rest is what my body needs. I’m worn out, run down, losing energy as days, then weeks, go by. Since the breakup, I’ve been unable to sleep through the night, jolting awake almost hourly. An extra-long stretch of wakefulness hits between 2 and 4 a.m. The alarm clock rings at 5:30.
I’ve given up trying to sleep during the long spell; all I do is flip and toss ever more restlessly in my bed. Instead, I’ve discovered my night-owl Facebook friends; sometimes we chat. I also write long, involved messages to my love, my emotional neediness running rampant, bleeding everywhere. Fortunately, I’ve been extraordinarily good about not sending these torturous messages. But the desolate early morning hours make me especially lonely for him. I hunger for him, pre-dawn.
I think about the complexities of relationships a lot in these early morning hours. Does anyone have a plain vanilla relationship anymore? Why are they so hard to maintain? After all, vanilla can be a mighty tasty flavor on its own, pure, warm and sweet.
The other day, as I was digging through my old tax returns, I came across a note penned by my favorite professor in his precise and beautiful calligraphy. He was a crazy, wild-haired, google-eyed genius steeped in Chicago’s prairie architecture and the Bauhaus tradition. I adored him as a friend and as a mentor. He pushed me hard to explore my edge, my creativity; once he made me draw with my left hand for an entire week because he thought I was too mired in perfection over expression. On Sundays, we’d often meet at his apartment to play chamber music with a former student: my professor on violin, she on piano, and me, honking on my trusty clarinet. He’d fill his refrigerator with lox, capers and bagels on those days, for he delighted in stoking my love of Jewish delicacies.
I loved our Sunday afternoons.
He died way too young and much too torturously of stomach cancer. After his death, I learned he and the former student, who was married, had been involved in a long-term love affair spanning over a decade.
It didn’t surprise me: their genuine love and affection was evident, so right, so true and so steadfast that I will never believe it could be wrong. But she could not or would not divorce for reasons known only to her. I wonder if she ever regrets the choices she made: had she known she was going to lose him so early and with such finality, would she had handled their relationship differently?
My post-divorce affair was enmeshed in his own complicated situation, one that began long before we started. His giant misstep was to pull me into his world knowing I was not the one for him; mine was to remain once I knew his entire story.
I think about him sometimes, wondering what motivated me then, why I allowed him to consume my thoughts and emotions so completely and for so long. Nothing remains of those feelings: not love, but not bitterness, either. Today I am Switzerland when it comes to him: neutral, neutral, neutral.
In my early morning thoughts, I worry that I will feel the same way about my love a year from now. I want to cling to my strong feelings for him even as I know it would be better to let them go. I don’t want my love for him to fade away, but with the passage of time, it will. It has to. And the knowledge saddens me.
Organic Farmer has been on my mind as well, for his life, too, was once filled with the kind of complexities that made me wary of involvement. The main difference between him and post-divorce affair was that there were no secrets.
I’m truly amazed at how far he’s come: from being pronounced brain dead and removed from life support to writing and comprehending, talking, playing the piano, walking. One might say it’s a miracle.
And it is.
But I remember the extraordinary person he had been; the loss of his former joie de vivre still stings. He was a doer, an achiever, a dreamer of big dreams, the kind of dreams I shared. When we began corresponding earnestly, of course I did the obsessive Google search; there, I learned he once revitalized a neighborhood by…get this…buying the entire neighborhood and restoring all of the homes there. Every single one. Although he had some help, most of the work was accomplished through his own sweat. His efforts attracted national media attention.
That’s pretty incredible. And it speaks to my own dream of finding a way to give back while making a living, too.
So in the early morning hours, I’ve wondered about the what-ifs: what might have happened if I hadn’t chickened out last summer? For Organic Farmer and I not only shared our love of music and our love of community, we also shared a secret. I wonder what might have transpired had I allowed my secret dark side to emerge into the light with him. I might have followed an entirely different path.
Would meeting him last summer have changed his fate…and mine? Would his accident not have occurred? Would I still have fallen in love with the man I love now, the one whom I adore with all my heart, even though I shouldn’t?
Which brings me full circle back to my love, my incredible love, with whom I begin my early morning contemplations and who fills my thoughts as I finally drift away. My love’s last (and only) letter to me spoke of living in the moment. I so want to live in the moment, I believe in living in the moment. But I can’t; reality always intrudes, rears its head, gives me pause. If I lived entirely in the moment, I’d be completely foolish: for instance, I’d press the send button or drop a letter in the mailbox at 3 a.m., when my heart is full of pain. Or perhaps I wouldn’t send a message at all, for I’d be wrapped in his arms, drowning in mutual passion and bliss, lost in the heat of the moment. I would not care about consequences in the moment, especially if that moment could be with him.
The Goo Goo Dolls’ first hit song, Name, begins with this line: And even though the moment passed me by, I still can’t turn away.
I love that my love is strong; I hate that he’s strong, too. But in my weakest moments, I’ve secretly drawn on his strength, maintained a semblance of balance…through him and for him and because of him….for on my own, I still can’t turn away, even though the moment has passed me by.
These are the thoughts that fill my mind at 2 a.m., when the night is fading, but morning has yet to come. These are the ramblings of a feverish lunatic. These are the reasons I can’t sleep.