And another year gone. I made my annual pilgrimage to Sarasota around the middle of December, driving down to Durham for a night with my bestie and her family in North Carolina before continuing on the next day. I got to Tampa and my sister’s house in time for dinner as Cam worked on his homework and the girls got ready for bed.
In the morning, I drove the last stretch to SRQ. The weather in New York was strangely warm when I left; the transition from north to south hardly deserving of the name.
That afternoon, I was back again in my old familiar haunt at Elysian Fields. It was same, same, but different, as the founding owners had left and so had some of my old friends there, but others had stayed. It seemed almost the same. I got to work, re-familiarizing myself with the spiritual bookshop and the crystals in the bins, their description cards. The checklist for closing and the new products in the personal care section.
I’ve been going back to Elysian for a few years now. Perhaps it will be the last time I return to the store where I learned so much about metaphysics and crystals, about how to speak softly and calmly, about a meticulous attention to detail as a sort of spiritual practice.
On my days off, I luxuriate on the roof, getting a little tan back before I return to the sunless north.
I’ve even made pickle from starfruit and key limes.
For whatever cosmic reason, Christmas seems to signify a time of challenges for me: last year, as I drove down from New York, I had the last ever conversation with the man I had, until then, thought I might be spending the rest of my life with. In 2013, an old friend resurfaced like a bad penny, bringing up memories of our friendship and how it had dissolved in Spanish Harlem in 2009. In 2012, just a few days before Christmas, I heard from the man I’d fallen for that summer: he told me he’d loved me, and I thought for a few brief, giddy seconds that my dreams were coming true, until it became clear that he was speaking in the past tense. He had already found someone new.
Somehow, just when everyone is celebrating togetherness, I tend to end up isolated and alone.
This year, however, was a year of keeping others at a safe distance. Turns out I was still smarting from last year’s slings and arrows. I try to be the sort of person who lets things roll off my back, but some injuries don’t heal cleanly: they leave scar tissue, and it’s hard to open up again – hard to let others in.
But the blessing is that I’m not the walking wound I was a year ago. My heart may still be raw, but things are smoother between my mother and me. I’m sad that the love I felt last year has come to so little – the relationship I thought I had, dissolved like so much sugar in the rain. It is as if he simply ceased to be, though he’s made overtures of friendship since then.
But I do not know how friendship can exist without love – trust – honesty. What is there to discuss when nothing is what you thought it was? I try not to be the type who burns bridges, but this time of year seems always to whisper (or shout) to me “let go, let go, let go.”
And so, here goes! I release the sides of the slide and let myself zoom into the future. I resolve that this is the year I get to the bottom of my fears and flush out that barrel till it’s ready to hold something new, without the bad apples of the past to pollute tomorrow’s harvests.
But what about that past? Most of my former loves have moved firmly into the friend zone – the odd ones are the exiles – but even rarer is someone I used to love, whom I’d still consider a potential partner. I honestly didn’t think there were any. But then an old friend rolls back in, and you realize, things never really ended between you two.
I’ll confess: I can get good and stuck on a man. It is easy for me to fall in love, at least initially, since I can be a bit picky. I’m holding out for that teenage feeling, to quote Neko Case – in its absence, my interest flags.
I still love my high school sweetheart, but I think we both feel it is too late to rekindle those flames. I’ve moved thoroughly through most of my relationships, attaining closure – moving on. I’d forgotten someone I used to love. He was my first boyfriend in college, and we went through that intense time of changes together, frequently drunk. When he broke up with me for a girl from back home, I was devastated: up till then, he had been my best friend at Trinity. We managed to stay friends, and eventually became lovers again, but we were never really “together” again. When I was single the summer after college, we’d hook up occasionally. Then he got a girlfriend and I moved away.
Now that it’s been nearly a decade since I last saw him in the flesh, I’d nearly forgotten our friendship entirely. There were some messy parts – bits I guess I’d rather not remember. But up they come, as we start to be friends again. It feels so familiar. Like finding something you used to treasure hidden in a forgotten box under the bed. But is it a lucky charm or a monkey’s paw?
I’m a sucker for a good love story, and how ideal to be with one one already knows of old? Love works in mysterious ways, but I’ve never really circled back around successfully to an ancient paramour. If they didn’t love me the first time, what can have changed now? Better to find someone new. I have certainly been treated better since then. But then, I was in a traumatized state when I got to college. Not to psychoanalyze myself too much, but I had been through a gauntlet of death, sex, and love in high school. I didn’t know how to be casual. I was intense.
Anyway, I begin a new year reconsidering old choices; old friends are the ones I seem to hold the dearest these days.
Perhaps I’m just clinging again to the familiar. This time, I can let it go for real.
New Year’s Eve, I built a fire in the pit out back and we gathered around the flickering flames. We lit a Chinese sky lantern from the dock out by the lake – the dock another old boyfriend of mine rebuilt several years ago, before we broke up not long after my 27th birthday.
My nephew held the bottom of the lantern and my mother held the top until it filled with enough hot air to hover on its own, and then it was lifted above the lake, the trees, among the stars, to disappear, a smoke signal to our loved ones in the sky: we have not forgotten you.
Love and miss,