Right about now, if the airline is actually running on time, one of the most significant people of my adult life is rising into the atmosphere in a tube of metal and gasoline, en route to his next adventure.
He's moving to Trieste, up in Italy's crotch, to teach english.
I think everyone may have someone like this in their lives, or they will. He was the person who shared (and instigated) the most profound joys as well as the blackest pits of despair for the last 7 years of my life. Sometimes the love I felt for him knew no bounds and no sacrifice was too much, and sometimes - often within the same weekend - my hatred for him was equally vast. I've cried my eyes out over this man and come closer to self-harm than ever before or since, but have also felt in his presence, for the first time, that absolute safety that comes from sharing a soul. It was, shall we say, an intense relationship.
The relationship was conflict-ridden from the start, like nothing I've ever experienced. We fought before we even started dating. We fought the first time we went out. We fought the first time we had sex. We fought the first time we went on a trip together. We fought and fought, and made up, and fought some more, and cried, and laughed, and solved all the world's problems, and had really good sex, and pretended nothing was wrong, and knew everything was wrong, and drank too much, and ran out in the rain and tears, and wrote letters full of pity and wisdom, and came together, and separated, and came together again, and separated again.
We have the best conversations and worst fights of anyone I've ever known, and for seven years we've tried to figure out how to come to a balancing point. We never did, and now he's flown the coop, followed a dream he's had for a very long time, and gone to see if it's true that Italians make good wine and pizza.
I've known for several months that this was his plan. When he first told me, we had just started communicating again after being on radio silence with each other for months. Right before Christmas last year, a last horrible and embarrassing fight, phone calls and letters that spilled out all that nasty stuff that's better left unsaid, like the rotting entrails of a carcass all over my clean kitchen floor. Then, as always, the one phone call - a 3-hour call - and then another a few weeks later - another 3-hour conversation - and then more regular calls, and then the meeting at the public place, with friends, and then the nice dinner, just the two of us, and then.....well, this time it's goodbye.
Of course this time I'd decided not to let him back into my life. We'd done it too many times - said it was over and then woke up in each other's arms. I wasn't going to do it again. I was determined. A call a month seemed OK, but then when I knew he was leaving, I suggested a nice dinner together, and then our mutual friends wanted to see him before he left, so the nice goodbye dinner turned into several get-togethers with friends and two or three meetings between the two of us. If he hadn't been leaving, I doubt I would have said yes to any of it, but because he was, I let him slowly back in, until yesterday morning I woke up and actually felt the loss of it all. This was my friend and enemy, flying away. It changed everything.
I didn't expect the sadness, honestly. Up until yesterday, I was glad he was leaving. Not because I don't value him, but because with him on another continent, I would no longer have to keep myself on alert, wary of any feelings affection, on guard against any movement towards each other. With him in Italy, maybe we can really be friends. But yesterday morning, as I woke up after our very expensive, very nice, very cocktail-laden farewell dinner, I wondered why I felt so low, why depression was percolating in my brain. Then it hit me: I'm going to miss him.
In Eat, Pray,Love, the author writes of soul mates:
"people think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that's what everyone wants, but a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life. A true soul mate is probably the most important person you'll ever meet, because they tear down walls and smack you awake...soul mates, they come into your life just to reveal another layer of yourself to you, and then they leave. And thank God for it.'I read this yesterday, and it rang in my heart. Yes, that's what he was to me. A soul mate. The one who smacked me upside the head with the fact that I was loveable. Someone who saw the light shining from me that I never could see for myself. Someone who pushed me to my limits and beyond them, in good ways and bad, someone who taught me patience and compassion not because he necessarily embodied those traits, but because it was either go down into the pit of despair, or rise up above it. He gave me wings by pushing me out of the nest, and I...what did I do for him? Who knows, only he can answer that.
I remember the first time I realized I was in love with him. I was pacing in my old apartment, a funky, dark, subterranean place that nevertheless had its charms. I was thinking about this crazy relationship I had found myself in, and noticed this strange, expansive, hot feeling in my chest that felt like it wanted to burst out of there and fly up into the night. I stopped what I was doing, and all of a sudden it dawned on me: this is what love feels like. I once asked him, at the very beginning of our relationship, what it felt like to be in love, and he said "You'll know it when you feel it." He was right. I knew it. And though feeling love for someone isn't the same as being able to be with them, I now know what it feels like to not only be in love, but to love someone unconditionally, without any wish or hope that he be someone he's not. With only the wish and hope that he be happy, wherever he ends up. That's real love. In my sadness that he's gone away, there's also that feeling of hope for him ,that in this next adventure, he'll find that place where he finally feels at home.
This is for JP, wherever you are:
May you by happy
May you be healthy
May you be safe