Growing up, I always felt like my head was in a cloud. Things were muffled. I had hearing problems, people struggled to understand my English, and emotions were muted. This was the strangest aspect for me. I could see others affected by things in ways that I just couldn’t muster the energy to feel. When Princess Di died, I was nonplussed as my stepmother cried for hours while the newsfeed cycled the story. When my grandfather found out he had cancer, my mother and uncle traded hushed, heavy whispers, urgently relaying recovery rates, anxieties, and hope, but all I felt was distance.
For a long time, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me. Was I a monster born without compassion? Was I destined to be a serial killer or worse? I had never hurt an animal, though, and that was something I had always heard serial killers did as children. I was so scared of the potential of what I might be, so scared of myself, that rather than actually enjoying our pets, I avoided them, fearing that my hands would take over and some prophesied destiny would come to fruition. As time went on and I grew older, I felt a pressure leaving my chest. I had convinced myself that if I survived my childhood without harming an animal, I would have escaped a destiny I was certain was for me.
This kind of thinking, of course, is ridiculous. But as the fleeting phobia of an imagined future dissipated, a new unsettling idea settled in my head. What if on some level I was autistic or had some other disorder that could explain the hollowness in my emotions?
When I was in high school, the valedictorian hung herself. She was a very pretty, very sweet girl, and as such, the hallways and classrooms glistened from the mournful tears after her suicide. When I first heard the news, I felt an absence of feeling. A void had somehow opened up inside of me and removed even the half-emotions I normally felt. But after several minutes, I had the emotional equivalent of a camera zooming in really quickly; the emotions, which before had been so distant and muddled, diluted by the surroundings, filled my vision, blocking everything else out, and all I felt was an intense desperation and denial of the truth. I looked at her empty seat in my Calculus class. I sat in her seat in my Talented and Gifted class. I wrote her name on the wall next to her desk in Spanish.
But all of this felt false. I felt what I felt, but I hadn’t been ravaged, I wasn’t raw, I was still functioning, and when I walked slowly between classes, it was too deliberate. I wasn’t ripped open like my classmates. It first occurred to me that I was merely mirroring others’ feelings when I saw a girl come out of the bathroom, her face and eyes red and puffy, cheeks damp, and nose dripping; she had been crying in the bathroom. It clicked to me then that I wasn’t crying when I was alone. I wasn’t hurting at night in my room, thinking about this girl and her potential and her wasted life. It was only painful when I was surrounded by my peers and observing their suffering. That was the only time it was real for me.
As callous or cruel as all of this sounds, it’s my experience with emotion up until I met Voldemort (if you are unsure who this is, please see the post titled “The Breakup that Broke Me”). I had dated other guys previously, but it was with Voldemort that I had my realest experience with emotions. Through our relationship, we had fidelity issues (He cheated. A lot.), but I didn’t leave. It was with him and through him, and even because of him, that I felt ways I hadn’t really felt before. I felt love and anger, need and betrayal, pain and lust, fear and desire, and the way I knew these were real was because I still felt them when he wasn’t present, when I was alone, and when I was occupied with some other tasks but still felt his presence in the undertow of the universe.
So when it comes to now and he has been gone for about a month (26 days, not that I’m counting), I can’t let go. I know he has pretty much moved on from the lack of any response to my emails (To be fair, my emails were pretty crazy and desperate though), his activity on Grindr, his photos on social media, etc., and many of my friends have long since grown sick of hearing Voldemort’s name. Objectively, I know it’s for the better that he has gone, but subjectively speaking, I crave him in a way that starts in my loins and burns through my skin, burrowing into my heart and clawing at my brain. I cling to the idea of him and us because it is one of the realest things I’ve ever had, and more than the fear of being alone is the fear of going back into the dark of not feeling as fully as he allowed me to.
I spent years playing with my emotions, trying to get a reaction that was genuine, and in Voldemort, I found more than I had bargained for. When I fully relax my vocal cords and brain, his name springs forth from my chest, bounding out of my mouth in a guttural bark. I still cry to myself when I’m alone, which is almost reassuring in a way because it means I haven’t fossilized and turned back into the unfeeling automaton I was before. But that leaves me at this crossroads where I need to let go of him, but I want to retain the openness he inflicted upon me. That’s the thing I’m more scared of losing than him: myself.
But a life spent clinging to an ideal will never be worth living. So today, I took the first real steps in extricating him from my life. Of course, I have thrown much of his stuff away already. I avoid the places I think he will be. But today I am making progress. I deleted my fake Grindr I was using to check his profile after he blocked my real profile. I blocked his Wechat account so he can’t message me or check my Moments. I told my friends not to mention his name, what he is doing, or show me any photos. Now I still feel chipped away from the inside, but even though he took away so much, even though Voldemort has scarred me in ways I didn’t think possible, he gave me the gift of being able to breathe with emotion, something I never had before, and even if he never loved me over the entire 15 months, the fact that I care whether he did or didn’t is an idea I never had with anyone else, and it’s indicative of the existence of a me that could really be happy, really, genuinely happy some day. And that’s something I’ll take.