The Language of Heartbreak

I have been taking refuge in reading and writing. Sometimes I come to type my thoughts here. I also keep a daily counter of the days spent without my love addiction. The need and the craving are all still there, but at least I am keeping to my intention, no seeing him, if I can help it.

The trouble comes when I remember him. An image passes before my mind’s eye, or I cave in and let my eyes roam over his public Facebook photos. I read or hear something and it reminds me of something he said. I see his name somewhere, a curse because his first name is quite a common one, and I feel the stab between my ribs or the fingers of pain and regret squeezing my throat. It happens daily and I just need to breathe and let it pass, just like withdrawal symptoms of drugs or alcohol. It is quite painful to let go, and it will take a long time. For a recovering alcoholic even a single drink risks a return to addiction, so I might also be in for a lifelong battle.

My reading journeys are taking me into other people’s stories and lives, some real and some imagined. I have discovered a new empathy for the dysfunctional and heartbroken. Now it seems that there is a new language I understand, that of heartbreak, and I find myself quite touched by the stories of love and loss, especially love of the variety I found with Aquarius II. I am painfully aware of what I have lost, and I can empathize and recognize when one of my fictional characters is about to experience the same loss, whether they themselves realize it or not.

I have spoken before about my reaction to The English Patient. Aquarius II told me he loved the book and read it more than once. I loved it too, and this is perhaps a testimony to our twin emotional disposition. But even before I experienced my wild attachment to Aquarius, part of me hungered for a deep love connection. I was still married to my emotionally distant husband when I saw the movie Bridges of Madison County for the first time. I watched it on late night television, while my husband slept in our room. I should add here that this did not happen often, because he rarely allowed any light, television or any other noise or activity after his chosen time for lights out. Fortunately,  the movie was gentle and quiet, so I was able to finish it without disturbing the sleeping husband. When it ended, I quietly wept, knowing that I also craved these feelings, a love that transcends its temporal limitations and lives in the heart long after the lovers part. I might have eventually got my wish. Pity though that my love affair was completely devoid of love scenes.

The latest book that hooked me with its raw emotion is a collection of short stories entitled A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin. I usually find story collections hard to get into but these stories read like scattered experiences from the author’s life. After reading some, one begins to recognize the author in her many guises, her dysfunctional family, her lovers, and her wild and free life. Her creativity is electric, fueled by a free spirit and substance abuse. I admired her courage in raising four sons, while working odd jobs (including as a cleaning woman, ER nurse, receptionist, and teacher) and battling alcoholism. I was also emotionally bowled over by her experience of love. The fleeting love affairs she had with a Mexican diving instructor, the love of an older student in her university days, or the affair she had with a much younger man. All this, in addition to the men she married. Those lovers were not perfect, there were one or two losers and at least one addict, and all were broken and imperfect. Nevertheless the love itself is perfect in its time and place, in the way two people connect and become more than the sum of their individual selves. I am slightly envious of her emotional experience, and her abiding faith in the power of love. She describes the singular power of love even in the face of death. Her sister is experiencing and enjoying love even while having chemotherapy sessions for her terminal cancer. In almost all her stories, however, the hopefulness of love is intertwined with desperation. Lovers sometimes abuse, betray or abandon. And love does not survive poverty and abuse. The stories are sometimes strange and funny but they mostly left their emotional imprint. They spoke to me in the language of heartbreak.

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