The End of Things


From the outside, I did not notice my heart had reduced to the size of a black plum. When I walked along a path behind the house, I met the lake. The water was calm. The canopy shook the way my hand did when I raised it to shield my eyes from the sun. When I moved off the path, atoms in the air parted to make room, and when I sat myself down over the grass, the atoms closed back around me. I sat still for so long that I could not tell the difference between what I was and what was in the earth.

Nothing made me acutely aware of things the way heartbreak did.

For me, there was nothing as noble as loving someone. Nothing was worth so much as love—it provided, in short, meaning. The love of family, companion, vocation, and the self. At the center of any question in the human heart, (what we must do, who we can be, or where we ought to go), the answer was love.

When my intense two-year partnership ended, I could not believe the world was the same. That it looked like it did yesterday, and tomorrow, it would remain unchanged. I could walk barefoot over gray beach sand, and even in my depravity, look for signs of hope in the white sails gathering past the docks and the gulls and their bright orange feet dotting the shoreline.

Maybe love abandoned me as soon as I was willing to exchange something for it—time and freedom—as if it were valued by what I bartered, and then, defined who I was.

Living inside an emotional vacuum was like chewing on wood-chips for nutrition. Together, my partner and I willfully devoured boxfuls. Our mouths burned and splintered. More than physical agony, we were afraid of being wrong. We were not doing nothing, so how could we possibly fail? But when there was a lesson to be learned, there was no limit to suffering.

I learned that I did not need to be noble. I did not have to be worth anything to someone else. I did not care for meaning. I did not require answers. If these were the reasons to remain where I was, then I did not want to. I learned I could live without these things. But I could not live without peace.