When your memory is already failing you during your mid twenties, you tend to surround yourself with those who have known you. Who can share your own history with you. Or you feel like you might just float off into the ether. It’s a dangerous place to be, at the mercy of those whose memories you trust more than your own.
Without memories, and in pain is how I began with him. In a state of perpetual weakness, which I hated and desperately tried to deny, or pretend I wasn’t, pretend I was whole, and like everyone else. Or more than everyone else. I survived. I was always ok. I would always be ok. This is what I banked on. My own resiliency. That primal drive to just survive. If for no other reason than the next breath.
I didn’t feel weak or at his mercy with him. I felt taken care and protected, without demoralizing sympathy, but with a shared need for the other. I did feel he needed me. And he needed me to need him, too. Perhaps that’s not the healthiest way to begin. Perhaps that’s why we ended the way we did. But there was also a part of us that knew we would each survive without the other. We chose not to. And I guess that was the love we shared. Knowing we didn’t have to, but knowing we always wanted to. We wanted to be indebted to each other.
I was going through trials of medication to treat migraines, the same thing that stole my memories. And it seemed like nothing may work, and the pain might be forever. My one relief at first was knowing someone was there to go through it with me. Someone to be as invested in my life as I was. Someone who felt so closely and personally what I was going through. And someone to coax me into wanting to fight the pain. And someone to touch me.
The physical connection to another person for the time their hands are on you somehow interrupted the synapses that were telling me to be in pain. If I could feel someone against my skin. Someone stroking my back, or shoulders, neck, feet. Tracing paths of relief against my skin. It was a relief I would find nowhere else. And he seemed to never tire of touching me. To be loved that way. To be endlessly adored and sought. I luxuriated in my need for him.
And he made sure I ate something when I was finally on a medication that would stop the migraines from being a daily occurrence, but that made food unpalatable. Something I thought I wanted, but once in my mouth, I felt I couldn’t swallow. So he made every smoothie he could think of for my meals. Breakfast and lunch and dinner. With protein added in various forms. I wouldn’t have to chew or feel a texture, just sip until I hit glass.
I sipped, he touched me, and we talked about who we were and who we would become. He gave me back memories I lost and we talked about memories we would make. And our love was love of hope of everything that would happen, everything we would make. My routine grounded him. Caring for me opened his world. His caring for me allowed me to accept a change in wind, the possibility of healing, an end to some of the pain I held.
But maybe as I healed and I began to eat food again and I got stronger and I no longer wanted to need him as much as I had before, but rather just wanted him; I left him out, somehow. He didn’t seem to grow stronger with me. He was less grounded and found himself wandering, grasping at something to grasp. And I never saw, never wanted to see, a chink in the strength of the one who loved me well. I couldn’t admit I had grown well and he in turn lost his grounding. I never wanted to see he needed me while I chose to need him. I couldn’t admit my love did not in turn make him stronger, not while I changed the way I loved. I didn’t see how my rules had changed, yet his did not.
So when he left our city maybe he was testing leaving me, too. Maybe he tested if he could choose to need me, if he could survive without. If he would be better without. But we couldn’t let go that cleanly. We were entwined. My reliance had not yet weaned. And he was not whole. So we clung, while we floated apart. We white-knuckled a desperate grasp at what we grew between us. Cobwebs, once a structure beautifully, intricately entwined and stronger for it, now miserably drawn and dropping and dusty.