Friday, November 09, 2007

rarely make history

I'm not seeing anything in the news that is stoking my ire so here's something I wrote a while back.

Here is something sad and crazy all at the same time: I still sleep on only one side of the bed. What is this all about? It's
my bed. I've had it for years. Christ. I've had it for ten years and now it's only half mine. I opened it up and I can't get the other half back. How damn stupid is that? What may be even crazier is that I didn't even realize I was only sleeping on half of the bed until just the other day, long after she left, wearing a snappy blue and white striped sweater and the cat under her arm. She walked right out that door. And I'm still on half of the bed.It's habitual and pathetic and all at the same time. Now I always slide into the left side of the bed. A wounded soul feeling his phantom limb. I never go to the right. Ever. Sometimes I stand there and look and let it dare me. For extra measure it's the side closest to the closet. But I change my clothes and walk around the bed to the left side and get in. Can you believe that? The right side of the bed is lost to me, and, rather than take it over, I cover it with books and magazines and go to sleep.

On my side, on my nightstand, is an alarm clock, a reading lamp, and issues of The New Yorker I have set aside. And on her side, on her nightstand, is...nothing. It's blank. The drawers are empty too. They used to hold her things. Now that nightstand is lost. It's useless. A placeholder. I may have to throw it away. All of it, everything, is just haunted. It's a vacant lot. Like the half-empty dresser, and the half empty closet. The bathroom drawers where her junk used to live are all empty. And the craziest thing is they still are. It's not that I don't have things to put in them, I just never thought to do it.

I've heard of similar behavior from formerly sane people. After I went away to college my father would sit on his riding lawnmower, tracing circles around the yard, thinking back on the last eighteen years of his life and mine together. This was a guy who had only one piece of advice for me in high school: if you get her pregnant, don't come home. That was it. And then, months after I went away, he wrote me that letter telling me how he taught me to throw left-handed because Mickey Mantle threw left handed, and that he paces the backyard on his lawnmower, lost in memories. My room remained the same as it had ever been until my sister squatted on it and painted it over a neon green. She had no emotional connection to the space, and I'm sure my parents were grateful.

Now I understand why parents leave rooms in the same condition they once stood, long after their children have gone away. Dolls remain on beds. Books remain on shelves. Everything stays the way it was so than when the loved-one returns they can fill it again, the way things always were. To re-arrange it, to move it, to paint over it, to fill it, is to violate it. And what is harder to kill than a dream or a memory? I could take over her side of the bed, sure. I could re-claim it with force and sprawl myself over it, but, then again, I can't. I'm here to admit I'm not that strong.

The other day I read an article on phantom limbs and the current theory on phantom limbs is that the brain attempts to re-map those nerve endings which no longer receive input. The result is that the re-mapped endings are put to use on other types of sensory input, but the individual sometimes still perceives the input as coming from the part which has been lost. The brain enjoys what the brain is used to. Old sensory habits die hard. I can't prove it but maybe something similar occurs in relationships. When two people try hard to blend their lives together, and then they suddenly fall away, all of those connections have to be re-mapped and, sometimes, it is just more comforting to save their space, and keep them mapped the way they were, because in your heart you know they were mapped that way for a good reason.

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