Bitters and Lemonade
I’ve watched Beyonce’s Lemonade, a video album, on HBO, a couple of times. It is beautiful and even though I twice cried, I am sure that as a white woman, I could watch this love letter to Black women and never understand or appreciate or even see every cultural reference. It is not intended for me, and I understand, appreciate, and respect that.
And yet I did connect to that journey of pain: as a woman — a strong, successful, complicated, woman — who was betrayed by the one person she thought would never betray her. And yes, it brought up all the feelings. All the gotdamned feelings, many of which are universal. Matters of the heart, and all.
If you have never been betrayed by the person you love? Congratulations. If you have? Please know that this is just a little list of stuff that I’ve ‘heard’ people feel when they learn the truth about that ‘old friend/biz acquaintance/classmate/friendofafriend/blahblahliar.’
- Shock. Wait. What? WHat? WHAt? WHAT? W H A T THE FUCK.
- Denial: NONONONONONONOOOO. You would never do this. Please tell me you did not do this. PLEASE TELL ME THIS IS NOT HAPPENING AND I AM DREAMING. THIS DID NOT HAPPEN.
- Anger. WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU ARE? WHO THE FUCK DOES S/HE THINK S/HE IS?
- Rage. Different than anger: A heated boil of blood surging through every capillary. Every organ. Oozing out your skin and flesh, you claw yourself: pinching and scratching and pulling and digging. Anything to make you feel alive because this surely can NOT be happening to you. This self-inflicted pain of clawing at your body is a way to divert the pain you feel inside that you cannot coat with salve or stitch up or drink away. Because blood and cuts and digs and scratches give you a REASON to cry. They say I AM IN PAIN: LOOK AT MY BLOOD. MY BLOOD, because of you.
- Embarrassment. What a fool I am. What a moron. A trusting, faithful, believing, naïve, ignorant, idiotic, stupid, childish, fool. So swayed by lies. So easily misled. So willing to overlook and overcompensate. So wrong on everything I believed to be true, about him and us and this family we made.
- Shame: Knowing that s/he and his/her lover TALKED about you. Maybe even LAUGHED about you: your innocence and naïve trust given blindly and willingly. That they made plans to be together and not only did you not know it wasn’t just old friends getting together, but you were an accomplice in their affair. You helped. You encouraged them to get together. You OBLIGED. You BELIEVED the lies. Stupid you. You didn’t know. You idiot: You believed. Even when you had moments of doubt — when something felt off and you asked directly — you allowed yourself to be lied to. Look me in the eyes and lie: is that what my face said?
- Fury. Beyond anger and rage is fury: a blinding, self-destructive anger heretofore unknown. Unfamiliar. It burns white hot, courses through your very being, your brain, your romantic heart, your gentle soul. Fury changes you. Forever. (A bit of advice: Let fury have its moment and then move on, for your own good. Fury feeds on itself and will cause self-destruction. Don’t let it win.)
- Breathless. Gasping for air at times: sure that you’re in a terrible dream. Certain that you will awake and noneofthisistrue and thiscouldneverhappen because wearesoulmatesRight?thatswhatyousaid and PleasetellmeyoudidnotdothistometoourchildTOOURLITLEFAMILY. Oh. But you did. And the breath is swept from you and the lies, once uncovered, are like pine needles scattered by the wind to the sky and tossed about your home and settling in every. single. space. Everywhere you look: Scattered pine needles. Memories of that moment that time those phone calls those people. Sharp ends waiting to be stepped on to puncture, fresh, this healing wound.
- Pain. You thought you knew pain. Everyone who dares love — be it their parents, friends, lovers, or children — has been hurt before. Such is the very nature of love: the risk is there, but in the end, the reward is too great to refuse to yield to its pleasures simply because you will be hurt. But this pain, Ahhh. This pain is so very different. It threatens to topple you; to engulf you forever; to wrap its chain around you and, with the weight of the anchor that is the life you have built together, pull you to the bottom of the ocean of love you have for this person. An ocean floor that you did not really know existed, because it all felt so bottomless: a well to the center of the earth clean through and out the other side, spinning into infinity. Death by love. It is not romantic to die this way. It is not peaceful, as drowning is said to be, once you give in to its inevitability. Death by love is more along the lines of a soul-crushing grief that can’t get enough of you, that wants to devour you and any hope you might have.
- Like a spy. Because once that cat is out of the bag? The cheated-on will most likely want to know everything. Every instance. Every sordid detail. Every text, snap chat, email, IG… Every. Ugly. Painful. Humiliating. Soul-crushing detail. In theory this is to avoid pitfalls and mine-fields: to be able to fully cleanse themselves of guessing by wanting truth to plug the holes. But in reality? It is necessary, to protect oneself from ever falling for bullshit again. Because it is the rare person who can EVER get past this, without a lingering sense of doubt of faith and trust. Honor. Has. Been. Lost.
- Over it. Yes. This day will most likely come when you will decide that you are over it. You will either move on with him/her, or without him/her. This doesn’t happen for everyone and for those folks who can never let go of the pain, of the betrayal, of the anger and rage? That is a damned tough road to hoe, especially if you still love your partner. No advice here, just a thought: If you cannot move past it — and NO ONE says you have to! — then don’t cling to something as though it is a life raft in stormy sea. Eventually, the stormy sea will calm, but it may well pull you under before and drown you in your own rage and sorrow. And isn’t it better to move on, to let go, to find your own way, than to wonder, to always wonder?