A Farewell to Harms
That night, on a shockingly-lethargic mix of psilocybin and boxed wine, I forced myself to imagine her next lover. He was every middle-aged Caucasian’s nightmare: half-black, soft-spoken, and possessing sexual abilities that had her making sounds I’d never heard before. It was horrifying to watch, but I made myself do it. I didn’t want to watch, but I needed to. Same bed. Same room. Same everything. Again — horrifying, but I survived it. Maybe this terrible emptiness was only temporary. Maybe I wasn’t so fucked-up after all. But I was about to be so fucked-up after all. I watched them some more, almost congratulating myself on being able to do so. They finally finished and were now lying in bed. I was going to be just fine, I thought, watching them from above. My fears had been faced and I was somehow going to get over her. But then he cuddled her and said something that made her laugh and that’s the moment when I realized that I wasn’t going to be okay for a very long time. It was a drop-kick right to the stomach and I literally felt like I was going to be sick. The next-level lover stuff I could handle, the fact that he brought her more satisfaction I could deal with… but that was my laugh.
Was my laugh.
It now belonged to someone else.
And that’s when I went off the fucking rails.
New Orleans is a wonderful place to fall in love in, but when your heart is breaking, it’s the most brutal place you could ever be. No closing times, no measured pours, no bartenders cutting you off, all the while being serenaded by Louis Armstrong from those Spanish streets— streets I couldn’t share with her anymore. I felt like I was walking underwater. Everything slowed down. Everything hurt. And for the first time in my life, I began drinking someone away. Literally. Every waking hour was spent with a cocktail. Or a pill. Or — if I was lucky — both. Finally, after a week of hell and self-medicating, I realized that I needed to go — for both of our sakes — and packed up a rental car with all of my things and drove back to Tulsa.
And that’s when it went from really bad to even worse.
See, the problem with falling that hard for someone is that you shout it from the highest mountain you can find — and I did. Within 10 days of our meeting, profile pictures had both been changed to show the happy couple, spare keys had been handed over, and parents in both Texas and Oklahoma had been met. But what I failed to consider is that the higher the mountain to announce it from, the more dangerous the descent. And I fell down that mountain. I fell hard. And just when I thought the falling was done, I ended up back home in Tulsa amongst people who had only seen this thing happen online and who had 1001 questions about the girl. How could they not? For the first time in my already over-exposed life, I had boasted about a girlfriend. The most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. The most talented artist you could ever imagine. And that laugh — that laugh that had me gladly giving up the boat and looking at actual desk jobs in New Orleans — one with good health insurance ’cause I wanted kids. 20+ years of traveling and the first time I said something that she found funny, I was more than ready to be an adult. So I couldn’t not talk about her. I couldn’t not constantly be taking photos of her when she wasn’t looking. But now that it was over, I refused to talk about it. I couldn’t talk about it — even to my own family. And every question from someone else sent me further into a state of depression. I’ve never been depressed in my life. But this was real.
So I spent that first week lying to everyone who — if they looked at me when I talked — surely were clued in.
Meaning, I spent a week staying — no exaggeration, staying — drunk.
And then I made the mistake of mixing mushrooms with some cheap Pinot Grigio and decided to visualize her with her next boyfriend.
To call the final few weeks a “tear” feels almost cowardly. If there’s such a think as an emotional k-hole, it was that.
If it make me feel better, I drank it.
If it made me feel funny, I’d eat it.
If it could make me feel numb, I’d put it up my nose.
And everything in between.
No medicine cabinet was safe. Adderall for the daylight hours, Percocet for when it got dark. And little tiki torches of Camel Blues to lead the way when there was nothing left. I didn’t think it was possible to feel this lonely. And I didn’t think it was possible to be this sad over someone — especially at this age. My first crush in middle school died when she was 11. At 15, my high school girlfriend broke my heart so badly, I stole my parents car and drove it 100 miles in a blizzard to a friend’s house. Christ, in my 30s, I’d even written a book about the one(s) I thought had gotten away. I knew how these things could go and subsequently had built up some pretty impressive armor. But I had never reached a place in my life where I was truly and honestly depressed over a girl. Depressed to the point where I was spending ungodly amounts of money to drown her out. Depressed in that I honestly didn’t care what happened next.
But something about this one was different. Something got beneath those levels of armor and I couldn’t figure out what. Those eyes? That laugh? Her ass? Or was it something even worse? The thing that no one should ever even consider. The thing that if you suggested, I’d hit you in the mouth. Was I actually mourning the idea of a relationship and she just happened to be the face of me wanting to stop the non-stop traveling? My exact type with her own place and no kids in my favorite city during Mardi Gras and I just convinced myself that because of those things, that this was love? I don’t think so. I hope not. God, I hope not. And for more reasons than just hurting her feelings.
So what happened? I’m sure you’re wondering. That’s none of your goddamn business. But I’ll tell you this much: No one cheated. No one was abusive. No one screamed. We both hugged and cried at the end. I tell you that so that you’re not thinking that one of us did anything terrible to one another. We didn’t. We just both got hurt.
And fuck, it hurt. All over. My head hurt. My liver hurt. My heart hurt.
I needed to get on with my life, but she was my life. There was a life right ahead of us and I had finally — at 40 — met the one I’d been waiting for. You go this long thinking that she doesn’t exist and then she does exist and then you both exist and then suddenly she stops existing and that was something I couldn’t grasp. Probably because my hands were full of bottles of booze and pills. Would you like to know how to block yourself from being able to see someone online? I can tell you. There’s this forum on Quora that deals with such. It was super helpful. I also think it was written by a 14 year-old girl.
I was slowly spiraling out. Or down. Or somewhere.
But I hadn’t yet hit the bottom.
Because there I was, in a liquor store parking lot in the middle of the afternoon — not feeling suicidal per se, but feeling pretty fucking ambivalent about living — and I get a phone call to tell me that the start up I had been working for had folded and I was out of a job — with less than $3000 to my name. And then, when I hung up the phone and stepped out of my parent’s extra car, that famed Oklahoma wind blew my favorite hat right off of my head and into the street so some big F-150 could run right over it.
Which left me there in the parking lot broken-hearted, broken-bank accounted and broken-hatted. And you know what? It just all came crashing down then and there. I sat on the curb, lit a cigarette and just silently thought “Fuck alllll of this”. I was done and I was exhausted — exhausted of trying to keep it together while everything fell apart. I was tired from my back aching from either a different couch every night, or my kidneys shutting down. I was tired of waking up every morning pulling bloody chunks out of my nose, only to call my dealer that afternoon to do it all over again. I was tired of everything. But mostly, I was tired of trying to escape the hurt. It wasn’t just going to go away. I was gonna be really, really sad for a while and there was no getting around that. So I grabbed my crushed hat, a handle of gin, went home and — in a move that was as pedantic as it was pathetic — sold the ring I had bought for her and used the money to buy a bicycle and a tent and a plane ticket to a place where my phone doesn’t work. You might call it running away and maybe it is, but it was either that or rehab. And while rehab could help me with the bottle and the blow, they couldn’t do much with my heart.
So if that’s running away, then I’ll take it. Find what you love and let it kill you, says Bukowski. Well, okay Chuck. If I’m going to be this hard-up and this fucked-up, I might as well cycle around and go see some things. Get some fresh air. Hang out with happy people. Not be able to afford to get drunk. Somewhere flat and bike-friendly. Somewhere far, far away from New Orleans, but where they speak English so I can tell them my sad, sad story. Somewhere with lots of gorgeous women that I can unsuccessfully convince myself are totally more beautiful than she is. Somewhere I can get a really cool new Facebook profile picture to let everyone know I’m doing fucking great.
Somewhere like Copenhagen.
Hello from Copenhagen.