Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Okay, I know it's been a while. Let's see if I still know how to do this.

Love and Grossology

A few minutes ago, Zack is bringing the dog inside and I'm at the oven, trying to down my daily dose of water with psyllium husks mixed in, part of a high-fiber diet I'm trying out. Zack looks up at me as a dry patch of husks hits my throat and triggers gag reflex, and, standing straight up, I vomit up all the fibrous water I've just taken in into my hand and onto the floor. Embarrassed, I go to clean up the mess while he holds the dog back the dog from coming to eagerly assist.

"I'm sorry if that was abundantly disgusting." I tell him.

"That's okay," He says. "I've seen you puke up worse."

Zack and I have been together seven and a half years now, and I can honestly say the romance isn't gone. Sure, there are enormous stretches of time where our life together seems so desperately, depressingly formulaic that I want to drill a hole in my head just for the tingling sensation. But I'm nevertheless shocked by how often I look at his face and just know that it is right, that it is real, that if anyone is going to make me want to drill a hole in my head, it will be him, and no one else.

There is this wisdom about marriage that the key is to find the meaning in moments like these; the simple, every day sweetness of "I've seen you puke up worse." I could agree with arguments for and against this logic, but I'll settle to say that it's an important balance-- for every flower, some flatulence. Or, vice versa, I guess.

But it goes farther than marriage, I think. Yes, Zack may be the only person who knows all my really disgusting habits, and I'm not ready to change that. But there is love and vomit in the history of many of my important relationships.

There's a boy I love who, after a night, drinking in his brother's apartment, laid on a bed with me talking through the night, until the conversation was interrupted by his throwing up into a blanket beside him. When he was done, I rubbed his back, and took the blanket, bundling it around the vomit and deposited into a bucket that I had earlier used for transporting liquor bottles, and left the bucket in the bathroom. We went to sleep and left in the morning, but the next day, I thought better of it and went to retrieve the bucket. His brother strongly suggested I throw out the blanket, which was white and now thoroughly soaked through, but it seemed, to me, old enough to be sentimental, like it must have been kicking around since the boy's...uh, boyhood. So I took the bucket home in my trunk, shook the blanket out from my porch-- I'll spare you the details of the smell-- and put the blanket through several wash cycles.

I returned it to the boy-- he didn't say much, but I expect he was more grateful than he expressed, and more than little embarrassed. All in all, it wasn't his reaction that mattered. There was something that the experience had instilled in me-- something that started as I watched him get sick beside me, as I handed him a tissue and took the soiled blanket, as I fought off the urge to let the contents of my stomach join his on my lawn the next day. Something, something special, that was fully realized when I took the clean blanket from the dryer, good as new (or, as old): I didn't love him any less. I'd seen this truly unglamorous act and been the one to clean it up, somewhat thanklessly, and it hadn't changed anything I felt. It just felt good to take care of him. It just felt good to see him as a fuller human-- not just the blush of the blood in his cheeks, but the blackened bile of his gut-- and to love him with all the more depth.

That boy and I, we've been through...periods of thick and thin, now. Right now, it's thin. We don't seem to be talking.

Jeremey, who is someone that I've also seen good and bad sides of, to say the least, told me that I should be rid of this absent, thoughtless boy and the damage he's done to me of late. "Cut the cord on that guy. And the next guy who is exactly like him."

"I didn't cut it on you. You grew out of it, eventually." I tell him. He tells me that no one ever said that it was a good decision.

He's right about that-- everyone, everyone had told me it was a very bad one, in fact. Many of you who will read this will have some first-person memory of at least one of the times in my life when Jeremey was treating me very badly and I, in turn, treated myself very badly in my refusal to give up on him, on us. I told them all, Jeremey and I were special. We went back so far, and, yeah, he could be a jerk. But our relationship, it wasn't going anywhere.

I look back now, and I know that it's true because I made it true. Jeremey and I, and a lot of other close friendships that could have ended badly if I'd been an easier cowgirl to buck, they paid off in the end...or, they've paid off so far, and I guess we're not really anywhere near the end. I pointed out to him that it was because of that perseverance that I have more close friendships than anyone else I know. I made the point that it wasn't really a choice about giving up on him-- that loving him, now and then, was fundamental to who I am. I realized, as I talked the situation through with him, that I'd already made my decision not to give up on this boy, and, more to the point, not to give up on the way I give my love to people.

This boy, I'm seeing the unglamorous side now, and it's worse than puke on a blanket. But the exercise from years earlier, when he seemed callous to my effort in cleaning and returning it, comes in handy. Sometimes, I've learned, you have to let the love you have for someone else be it's own reward.

Jeremey isn't the only one who has voiced concern about my devotion to people who treat me badly; Scarlet, a girl I've just recently started talking to, has already told me several times that it worries her. Scarlet's younger than I am, and I find her input almost cute: everyone else in my life has seen me be self-destructive in so many ways that my minor aching over the boy's latest absence would hardly even register; Jeremey, by now, is likely to have forgotten about the situation entirely. Scarlet picks up on the repetitive theme in our conversations and says that she's worried that I'm "obsessing."

I tell her that it's not like it seems; in reality, my thoughts are largely elsewhere. "I've been eating a lot of fiber lately, as part of this new diet I'm on, so most of the time, I'm just thinking about my bowel movements. But I didn't think we were really at the 'bowel movement discussion' point in our friendship, so I worked with what I had."

The beautiful thing is, there are people in my life that I'm past the "bowel movement discussion" point with-- people that I've been past the "bowel movement discussion" point for years. There's only way to get there. It takes a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of forgiveness. It's not always smooth and it seldom smells of roses; sometimes, you just got to bear down grunt it out.

You know who you are, and you know I still love you, shithead.

On with it.

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