“The thing that has surprised me most as time is that we’re surprised that people die. Or we’re surprised that things end, because everything ends.”
“When there’s trauma all you can do is gently facilitate healing.” – Moby
Fiction. Based on a True Empty Mug.
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Shuffling from one perch to the next, I sip tea out of my favorite mug. Not the one you bought, the one I found for you. You know, the dumb one that says, “Love you to the Moon and Back.” It reminds me of a chalkboard. The day I bought it for you, you sort of smiled; sort of laughed at me. Never said, “thank you.” My tea’s gone cold, but I still drink it. Watching the door. Then the window. Each shadow that passes through the window pane I hope it’s you. But I know better.
It’s well past 3am. You never come home later than 1am. If you are still out, you stay out. Crossing the five feet of unclaimed space between kitchen and living room I sense resentment burrow within me. This apartment, I’ve done everything I can to make it a home, all 300 square feet of it. The mug is empty. The cats are restless. Black Cat doesn’t like my pacing. She and I go way back, years back. She’s watched me grow up. I give into her and slump into the love seat.
I remember when I first moved out with Black Cat. I was 18 yrs old. Such a baby. She was going on 5yrs already. You’d have never guess how old that damn cat was. Then again, I fed her organic pureed goodness, while I ate Top Ramen. The clerk at the Safeway always mentioned it when I would buy groceries.
“Well we know who really eats at your house.”
Those two years, alone with only Black Cat as my companion, were so good for me. I spent countless nights curled around that tiny black body. In the dark place where my heart lives, I survived for that cat. Lived on for no reason but to feed her, sometimes. Maybe I have always lived to care for others.
Back again…Black Cat sprawls across my chest, while your cat glowers over me atop the back of the couch. If she wasn’t so skittish, I’d say your cat was oppressive. Watching me from afar. Keeping track of me. As if the two of you make sure I stay good while you go out. But I’m the only one your cat rubs up against. So, that’s my win.
I log onto some social media outlet through my phone. The top show new photos of you. With your friends. The very same who hate me so much. Here your arms are wrapped around one of your friend’s waist. She’s smiling up at you, teeth baring. Your cheeks are red with embarrassment and alcohol. Both of you have full glasses in hand. More than likely you are now passed out. On her floor. Across this forsaken city. Regardless, I stay awake. Waiting for the latch on our front door to release.
Black Cat wakes me with the sound of her yowling. As she’s aged, she’s grown less patient. Your cat remains silent, hiding now under the table. Only her eyes and the bright orange spot on her forehead visible. My phone says it’s now 7am. You’re still out. I make coffee. Feed the cats. Wait.
When you finally come back, the pot of coffee is empty and cold. And I take my time with coffee. You open the door, looking down with a smile on your face. It’s the kind of smile that is remembering where you came from. It’s a smile taken from another place and dropped off here. You set your keys down in the little porcelain dish I found. Slip your shoes off and place them next to mine. That’s when you look up and see me. Smile fading fast and your eyes growing large with shock.
A nervous laugh fills our 300 square feet home. In fact it’s so loud I stand and open the kitchen window. Need fresh air. Your shame pushes air out of my lungs. Suddenly you are right next to me, apologizing a lot. “I’m sorry,” fumbles out of your mouth and shatters on the window pane. For a long time my brain forgets how to tell my mouth words for speaking. All my brain can do is scream words for thinking.
Why do you even come back?
Did you have fun?
Was it worth it?
Are you really sorry…then why do you keep doing it?
Your mouth trembles with excuses but all I hear is Black Cat. She purrs and wraps her body around my legs. Fascinating how cats turn into liquid when they want something. So much like how you become silver tongued and oh, so sweet. I pull away from the window pane and finally walk to the bedroom. For the first time since I’ve been home this weekend, I lay in bed. I close my eyes and fall asleep to your lulling lies.
When I wake up you’re in our living, and also dining…but wait, kitchen too. The space is so small between all the places. I tried so hard to distinguish them. Placing the table just so to divide the room. Making the place a home, but only for one. Both cats circle me. You haven’t fed them. You’re zoned out, playing some video game. You put your hours in, confined in this place with me. You go back to pretending I am not there. Being with you is so lonely.
We went on that way for seven more months.
LESS THAN REGRET, MORE THAN FORGOTTEN
Looking back I wish we’d stayed apart once that lease ended. We had no business picking each other. No two people could be more wrong for each other. For a long time I was sorry for you, and more sorry for me. What we had was not even trying to resemble love. It was shared sadness dependent on our fear of loneliness. Surely, we painted our relationship a nice shade of rose. Maybe for the first few months, the honeymoon, as they say. Glittering enough to trick us.
Looking back, I forgive myself for not leaving when I knew I should. I am stronger now. I know how to accept the end to things. No, it’s not because you hit me. Or cheated, and made jokes of my postpartum depression. It wasn’t the other girl, either. Mostly, it had everything to do with my daughter. How could I let her grow up thinking love is a black eye and a mouth full of lies?
So I didn’t. I screamed and threw you out right then and there. Over the course of a few days, I packed your things and put them outside. Just like the movies, and the cliches. Three months old, my daughter already knew not to touch the purpley green under my lashes. The goodness in that baby comes from something bigger than me.
I don’t often think about you. When I do, a nothingness washes over me. I see now why I was so attracted to you. For over twenty years I told myself I didn’t deserve to be happy. I wrote tiny reminders on my veins not to love myself. Retraced scars, stretch marks. Anything physical that could show my worth, or lack thereof.
Two decades of wiring myself to see nothing, and then you come along. Your presence instilled a nothingness I’d never known. Not even numbness. You had a magnificent way of breathing the same air I did, and somehow taking it all away. I latched onto you so hard because your self deprecating tendencies fed mine. I didn’t have to hate myself so much when your “love” made me feel worthless. Unlovable.
You know, I forgive you for telling me no one would love me like you did. So cruel. For years you let me pretend what you were doing was love. And you let me pretend that “love” was all I deserved. I know better now.
Seeing the goodness in my daughter taught me better. Her goodness had to come from something. It sure as hell didn’t come from the other genetic matter. So…maybe, just maybe, it came from me. Over two decades of self loathing will fight this notion. It will tell me the impossibility of this possibility. So, here’s the logic:
My daughter is made of two people.
Me and the fucker that forced me.
My daughter is good.
The fucker is not.
Out of that equation, I am all that’s left.
You were wrong about me, but more importantly, I was wrong about me.
Her beauty is a distillation of mine. Her goodness must come from mine. While this may be simple, it has to be. Otherwise I would never digest it properly. I am good. And beautiful, and smart, and cunning, and independent, and worth it. I see that. Only because I see my daughter.
I wouldn’t do any part of my life differently if it meant losing my daughter.
You and I should have ended when we were meant to. But, I regret nothing….I will never forget. Instead, I will teach my daughter what I continue to relearn.