I often tell people that my story is long and complicated. And it’s true, it is. It is also true that I hope that, when asked about how I got to where I am today, or what my current project is about, telling people that it’s “long and complicated” will give me an out, a way to avoid telling a story that’s often very painful to tell.
But what I’ve come to realize—the the thing that is truer than true—is that this is my story and it’s an important one, especially in regards to Acceptance (this project’s working title). And, hard as it is for me to tell, it’s important that you know.
Sometimes I think I can mask the truth behind abstractions and that is, in a way, what I am doing by writing in haibun. But, as I said in an earlier post, this story does not unfold linearly, nor does it make sense.
Here is my story:
I have tried to write the first few sentences of this piece. I have tried to find a way to tell you how it all came to be that I should love and then lose Scott, but I am realizing as I type this, the entry point to the story does not exist. What matters most is this: I was in love. We were in love. We had plans for our future and dreams to create a life together, to live together and write and create together and love together. It was better than beautiful.
Then, one night in late 2003, in the neuro ICU in Harborview Medical Center, Scott died. I held his hand and whispered to him as he took his last breaths.
Scott died of an AVM (arteriovenous malformation), or, what I often refer to as The Thing in His Brain. No one, including Scott, knew the thing was there. The symptoms came on suddenly, as he was running on a treadmill in a gym in Seattle. I was in grad school in Corvallis and had to make a six hour drive north to be with him. By the time I arrived, he was unresponsive. He remained in that state for three days until he was finally taken off life support.
That is when my life ended, and the world in which I lived went away. Completely away.
I remember that on that last day in Harborview, just hours before he was to be taken off life support, I walked down the long corridor back to the waiting room, where dozens of Scott’s friends and family members were waiting, preparing to say their last goodbyes. And I remember, at the end of that hallway, a woman named Lucille, a friend of one of Scott’s co-workers. I remember her placing her hands on my shoulders. I remember her looking into my eyes. I remember what she said. She, too, had lost her partner when she was young. She told me that twenty years had passed since her world went away.
Then she told me something many others would later tell me: I will survive this. I will cry and I will ache and I will miss Scott every day of my life. She was right about all of those things. Everyone who said those things was right.
It is also true that Lucille was the first person to tell me that I would, one day, write about all of this. As Scott was in his hospital room, surviving on IV fluids and air that was pumped into his chest, I was being told that I would survive, and not only would I manage to live both physically and emotionally, I would write my story. I would write about everything that was happening in that moment, everything that had happened before and would happen after. I would write the story—our story. I did not believe her. How could I? I was in a state of complete numbness. I no longer knew what was real. My one reality was that the man I loved dearly was going to die soon and that I would never see him again. I could not comprehend that. Even now, I still cannot understand how or why it happened.
What I did not know, and what no one told me, is that Scott would remain very much in my life, so much that I would see him every day and I would talk with him and hear him and feel his presence and that I would continue to learn from him and laugh with him. Those close to me—and even those I did not know all that well—told me that he would be in my heart, and while that’s true, it is not completely accurate. It is not just his love I carry with me.
It is also true that, just a couple months before he died, Scott told me I should write a story called “My Dead Boyfriend.” In the story, he said, a woman’s lover would die and, after his death, he would continue to be in her life. He would not go away.
When a person is alive and they tell you such a thing, you do not think much of it. But when that person dies and you realize he suggested you write a story that would soon become true, well—what do you do?
You write it.
This is the part that is very difficult to articulate. This is where the story morphs into a series of abstractions, explorations of the ways in which the disembodied continue their relationships with the living.
I can only try to explain the metaphysical. I can only try to explain how Scott has manifested himself. What I know is that this is my job; I must approach the page with these things in mind.
And that is this project.