A Cemetery in Portland

Each time I think I can’t watch the relationship die yet again, I find a new, metaphorically self-mutilating way to relive the demise all over. Some might call that insanity, I call it not being able to suppress my emotions or feelings of loss the way others who can cope with the injustices of life do in order to survive without killing themselves. In short, I call it a real love that can never be replicated. How can I be blamed for wanting to cling to it in any way I can, even in the face of consistent rejection? People shouldn’t so often underestimate the comedown from love being akin to going cold turkey from heroin. The chemical effect is essentially the same. 

I build up the anticipation of the reunion by exiting on the departures tier of the airport instead of the arrivals, which is at the lower level. It trips me up, and I’m already averse to being in Portland in the first place. I fucking hate this town, and I’ve never even been here. Maybe if I’d watched Girl starring Dominique Swain before Portlandia, my perception of this place wouldn’t be so staunch in its contempt. But I’m here, in spite of shouting from the proverbial mountaintop that I would never visit him in this godforsaken town built for white supremacists, a group he likely belongs to. Everything I once believed about him–everything I thought I knew–has been eradicated by the shattered lenses of my rose-colored glasses. Even so, I still made an effort to look my best, donning fishnets, a short dress and even going so far as to place a leopard headband atop my dark brown hair when accessories are notoriously not my brand. It was objectively pathetic.

The one thing that hasn’t changed with regard to my impression–cynicism or not–is that he will always feel everyone is less well-read than he is. It was often a point of contention in our relationship as he would accuse me of reading too many marginal works. He seems to want to play up this criticism as I enter the car to find him wearing driving gloves and reading Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed. I myself must have been possessed to have permitted the indignity of showing up here, inviting myself as it were–like he actually wanted to see me. He looks at me appraisingly, but also not too closely. His blonde hair and blue eyes appear more pronounced on this wannabe west coast (the Pacific Northwest is very much its own separate entity).

“I don’t want to be intimate with you on this trip,” he says right off the bat, before he’s even bothered to switch the gears of the stick shift, a red BMW that he will total by summer’s end because he cares not for things that aren’t his own. And since he will never care enough to have anything of his own, he will never care. It’s a vicious cycle of carelessness, as you can tell.

I want to punch him in the face. 1) for saying “intimate” and 2) for feeling the need to further tear down my self-esteem more than he already did during our tenure together. But I don’t. Because I don’t know anyone else in Portland and I have no one else to stay with. Not that I’m staying with him, so much as his father, a man with a mad scientist persona (though, beneath it all, he was only seeking acceptance) who owned one of the only advertising agencies in town. He had given Craig a job there as a copywriter, but, most days, Craig did what the average person would call “loafing around,” which just meant reading and occasionally working on his graduate school application. That was his plan: evade reality forever via the milky tit of academia. And now that I’m here as his visitor, he has even less reason to go to work, where he’s essentially given, for all intents and purposes, an allowance rather than a salary for doing nothing. He warned me that he wasn’t the person he used to be in New York, that going out and drinking were no longer of interest to him. What a crock of shit. They were simply no longer of interest to him if I was involved. It didn’t matter, it’s not as though I didn’t need to detox whenever I could. And I tried to tell myself that “nature-y” activities could be a nice change of pace from the oppressive wall-to-wall concrete I was used to seeing regularly. That’s why I eagerly agreed when he suggested a walk to the Skyline Memorial Gardens. Though to me, it was just a cemetery. 

And at a cemetery in Portland, he finds his friend’s grave, which he hasn’t come across in years. He thinks maybe the fact that we’ve come together after all this time has something to do with it. I tend to think he just never really looked, seizing this opportunity of poeticness to really make an effort to unearth it. He had talked of this friend, Aaron, a few times when we were together, as it was one of his earliest dealings with irrevocable loss. That Aaron had, in his own poetic fashion, deliberately chosen to kill himself on his eighteenth birthday only added to the intensity of the act, and it was clearly one of the only things that still haunted Craig. Everything else—all emotions, all potential displays of his true self—must have died fully when Aaron did. Because I know that, somewhere deep down, there had to be a real person in there, someone who wouldn’t cut out hearts from their chest cavity with a gleam in his eye–the innocent I had vaguely seen a flicker of when we first met. He stands by the grave for a moment. I am looking at him, and he is looking at it. This is the grand and overt analogy for our dynamic: me always looking at him just within my reach and his eye aimed at something or someone else, some other butterfly to chase. I don’t know why I’ve come here, I don’t know what good I thought it was going to do me. No one ever gets “closure,” especially if they can never fathom the reason for such a swift severing on the emotional guillotine. It was as though one day he woke up and the switch of his desire to be with me had turned off. At least, that’s how it came across from my perspective. He made his excuses and left, as the Pet Shop Boys would put it. In my rage, I refused to talk to him afterward, even though he claimed he would always be there for me. People love to offer that consolation when they literally aren’t there for you.

And now, after my three hundred and sixty-five days of suppression, I had gone against all my rationale’s instincts and booked a flight to visit him before he set off for some other remote destination that would put greater distance between us still. He grows bored with our stationary position and moves us along in that silent, wrangling way he does. On our walk back to his house, he tells me that he’s going to be very famous one day. I shudder a bit. This is the type of thing Madonna used to say to people and no one would believe her, and then look what happened. 

If the goal was to make me despise him during my mercifully brief stay, it worked. But sadly, that wasn’t his intention at all. At least if he had been genuinely trying to turn my love into vitriol, I could have seen it as some form of a kind act–a way of setting me free for himself being incapable of committing to anything other than his ego or a transient pussy. That was not his aim at all though. He authentically believed that if I really loved him, I could be friends with him. That people who love each other romantically can transcend that love into “amicability.” Yet it was precisely because I still felt the same way and he didn’t that friendship was out of the question, would always be. 

Even so, at a cemetery in Portland, I watched the corpse of my love rot just a little bit more. Just to fulfill the whims of my heart’s necrophilia when it came to this specific relationship.

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