It’s Hard to Kill Ghosts

Have you ever had a regret or memory that followed you around like a ghost?  If you’re over the age of ten, the answer is probably yes.  Everyone has those “what ifs” and “if onlys.”  When I was eleven, it was the fact that I left my favorite teddy bear on an airplane.  Man, I MISSED that teddy bear.  I tried calling the airport’s lost and found a couple of times, but who cares about putting a teddy bear in lost and found?  No one, that’s who.  It probably ended up in a trash bin somewhere.

Aw man, now I miss that bear again.

Anyway, as I’ve gotten older, my “if onlys” have gotten a lot more serious than a missing teddy bear.  This past year, I’ve been haunted by the events of last summer (you can read a more detailed version of these events here).  Specifically, the guy from Tokyo seems to keep popping up in my life.  There are already enough regrets from that situation weighing on me.  If emotions could be quantified in weight, I promise you that guilt and regret would both be heavy.  Very heavy.  It’s kind of like someone dropped a boulder on your chest and you were like, “Holy Crap!  This thing is going to kill me!  No, wait, it’s not going to kill me, but OWWWWWWWWWW SOMEONE GET IT OFF!!  OW OW OW OW OW!”  Yep, that’s basically what it’s like.

Here’s my issue – I’m trying hard enough to get over that situation without him continually appearing in my life.  It was eleven months ago when I told him to stop contacting me and said (politely as possible?) that I never wanted to speak to him again.  It was ten months ago when my husband (almost as politely as possible?) said some permutation of “Dude, for real, leave my wife alone.”  Yet, even now, I’m still hearing from the guy.  He’s texted me a couple of times even though his number is blocked in my phone (AT&T – WHAT DID I EVER DO TO YOU??)  Just last week I got a Facebook message from him, and we’re not friends on Facebook.  I didn’t even know you could do that!  I don’t respond to any of these points of contact, so I don’t know why he’s still contacting me.

Issues of guilt and regret are compounded whenever I hear from this guy, which really is a bit ridiculous because I’m not contacting him.  When I saw his name pop up in my Facebook messages, I actually thought I was going to throw up.  I wanted to scream, “WHY ARE YOU HERE IN MY PHONE, AND WHY WON’T YOU JUST GO AWAY?!”  But of course I can’t say that to him, because I’m not speaking to him.  Shouldn’t my perpetual silence be sort of loud?  What else am I supposed to do here?

Basically, the specters of last summer still haunt me.  When I finally think I’ve moved on, that I’m ready to let go and get that boulder off my chest, it seems that somehow this guy knows that is the perfect time to try to show up in my life again.  Then I’m suddenly angry and sad and nostalgic all at the same time, and emotions and memories whiz around my head like lottery balls in that crazy mixer.  No wonder it makes me dizzy and nauseous.  It brings all of the ghosts back into my mind when I finally thought I was rid of them.  Sometimes I wonder if I’ll be haunted forever.  Forever is a long time, y’all.  I don’t know if I can handle that.

I need some comfort.  Excuse me while I go get my favorite teddy bear.

OH WAIT, I LEFT HIM ON A PLANE SIXTEEN YEARS AGO.

Bummer.

The Final Moment, Tokyo Drifting, and Marlboros

Have you ever seen a little girl playing on a beach near the water, back turned toward the ocean, happily playing in the sand?  Suddenly, out of nowhere, a huge wave hits the girl and sends her rolling across the beach.  This causes her to look surprised, dazed, and varying degrees of upset.  That’s what it feels like to have painful memories triggered.  You think you’re finally putting your life back together, you think you’re doing better, but you see or hear something and suddenly everything you’re trying to forget comes back in screaming color.

It’s a lot like the game Chutes and Ladders – remember that one?  You’re plunking along one square at a time, trying to get to the top of the board, when – BAM! – you suddenly hit a chute and slide all the way back to square two.  Then you’re like, “WTF?!  I’ve been climbing this whole-frickin-board just to undo all that work by slipping on one stupid chute?!”

Chutes&Ladders1

Life has a lot of chutes.  I wish there were ladders in real life, where something happens and suddenly you make ALL THE PROGRESS.

Real life doesn’t have ladders.  You have to take that motherfucker one square at a time.

There are a lot of things that momentarily (or not-so-momentarily) knock me down.  Three specific memories are the trinity of go-away-I-don’t-want-to-think-about-that.  I went three for three today.  I’m haunted by three-for-three on most days, to be honest. I’m hoping that maybe by writing them out I can try to overcome them.  It’s like when you get a song stuck in your head, and you finally think, “Okay, I’ll listen to the ENTIRE STUPID SONG, and then it won’t be in my head anymore.”  It always works for me, anyway.

The first and most difficult memory for me is the day I tried to kill myself.  It’s closely linked with my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, another memory I would love to erase.  This memory is triggered by a lot of things (if this is going to be a memory trigger for you, feel free to skip it.  I won’t be offended.  Promise.)  Today it was triggered by a story about a person whose friend asked if he could get together and talk.  The guy didn’t make time to talk to that person, and two days later the person killed himself.

When I hear of people killing themselves, I suddenly remember how it feels to be there.  I remember the desperation, the certainty that there is no way out, the days and weeks of spiraling into an existence that I didn’t even recognize, and then finally that moment – that final moment – when I felt an intense rush of calm, a relief in knowing that it was finally going to be over and I wouldn’t have to fight anymore.  In a very twisted way, everything was finally okay.  A tragic ending is still an ending.  The book would finally be closed.

Of course, that did not end up being my final moment, but it so easily could have been.  I’m not always thankful that it wasn’t.  Either way, I remember how it felt.  I feel like I have an idea what suicidal people went through right at the end.  I want to hug them and I want to be them and I want to make sure that no one on earth ever has to feel that way.

The second memory that’s rough for me is my time in Tokyo.  Today I went to a restaurant that had a Tokyo Drift arcade game.  The front of the game showed, in vivid colors, the lights and buildings and rush of Tokyo.  It had Japanese characters behind the English words, and it momentarily transported me back to that time last summer.  It was the time when that other American guy fell head-over-heels for me even though I’m very decidedly taken.  It was when I fell a little bit for him too.  It was when we got lost in Tokyo and he was the only one who understood me (not metaphorically here – literally.  I couldn’t speak to any other people or understand any of the foreign chatter around me.)  It was when, among the lights and unreadable neon signs and a movie-perfect sudden rain shower, he tried to kiss me.  It was when I said no.  It was when we got back to our hotel, and he threw me up against the side of the wall in the elevator to try again.  I still said no, I pushed him away, and I got scared.  He didn’t stop trying to get me to say yes until I left, and every time he told me how perfect I was and how beautiful I was and how not-like-other-girls I was, my resolve weakened by one percent.  I knew he was a player, I wanted to get away from him, but I literally could not.  There were only a few people in our grant team, and neither of us would be released from our grant obligations until July 10.  Even though I knew this guy was trying to achieve a goal he wouldn’t reach, it was still nice to hear his torrents of praise (mostly because I’m an awful person, that’s why).  He kept telling me sweet, delicious lies, and I started trying to figure out how many percents of resolve I had left and how many days and how many hours I had until I could get on that plane and go home where no one would make me eat sushi and I would once again be in the arms of my husband.  I wanted to be back in a place that was familiar, where nice guys don’t try to sleep with you and boys aren’t walking around masquerading as men.

Speaking of boys masquerading as men, my third memory is about my husband’s cousin.  I used to be good friends with this guy.  I trusted him.  He was a groomsman in our wedding, for goodness sake.  I’ve been friends with him since he was fourteen, which is when my husband and I started dating.  He’s like my little brother.

Imagine my surprise on the night he tried to kiss me.

It was also last summer.  Unlike the aforementioned Tokyo situation, in this case there were no mutual feelings whatsoever.  He’s family, so it’s tough to avoid running into him or remembering him.  His sister posted something on facebook today about how he’s such a great uncle to her kids and how they want him to come visit soon.  It was just a facebook post.  Innocent enough.  Suddenly, however, my mind was flooded with the image of the harsh convenience storefront lights battling the darkness of the night sky.  I was on the back of his motorcycle.  He’d stopped for cigarettes.  Marlboros.  In my world, betrayal smells like Marlboros.

It was that night that this guy, one of my best guy friends, a “safe” person trusted by my husband and by me because – hello – he is family, shattered that trust as easily and as irreparably as throwing a vase to the ground.  He was stone-cold sober, and yet he still tried to kiss me.  I don’t know why his being drunk would make things easier in this case, but sometimes you want something on which you can blame a bad situation.  You want to say, “Oh, that happened because…”

There’s no “because” in this case other than “because we never should have trusted him in the first place.”

I was so shocked.  “YOU ARE MY COUSIN!” I nearly shouted.  “WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?!”  He looked around nervously.  “Be quiet,” he hissed.  “Someone might actually think we’re cousins!”

“YOU ARE MY COUSIN!”  I said again, hoping the man taking out the convenience store trash would notice us and make Max as uncomfortable as I felt.  I thought cousins-in-law counted as family.  Apparently they do not.  He turned back to me, and his nervous gaze softened.  “Hazel, I have never considered you to be a cousin.  Ever.  I’ve thought you were sexy since the first time Andy brought you over.”

He wasn’t making anything better by talking.  I guess since his cover was already blown, he decided to go on confessing:  “When you visited me in Korea, I tried to hook up my Go-Pro in my shower so I could see you naked.  I didn’t end up being able how to figure it out.  And that dress you wore that one night?  Oh my gosh.  Hazel.  I absolutely could not take my eyes off of your legs.  I can’t believe you didn’t notice.  And I never noticed this until tonight, but your hair smells so good.  I even like your hair.”

Are all men that pervy and disgusting!?  Maybe yes.  I’m going to start assuming yes.  That probably makes me some sort of jaded manhater, but I had a very disturbing summer.

I made Max take me home.  I was on the back of his motorcycle, so I had to wrap my arms around him.  It….wasn’t great.  Obviously, things have never been the same between us after that night.  He had been a confidant, someone I could trust with any secrets, and now I can’t even talk to him.  Did he really think I was going to kiss him that night?  He knows me well and he certainly knows his cousin even better.  In what universe did he think that would be a good idea?  He apologized profusely the next day, said he didn’t know what he was thinking, but no apology could take that night back.  Trust me, I wish it could.  I know I’ll get to a point where it doesn’t bother me, but right now whenever I see him or hear about him I’m still sad for losing that friendship and angry that he took it away.  I know we won’t ever be close again.

Well, there you have it: the trilogy of memories that I will delete as soon as someone invents a way to do that.  I don’t know if I feel better or worse for having typed that all out.  I guess it’s just a step on my road to recovering from these things.  On to the next square.