Shards of Who You Were Before Love

The following was submitted by Ian, from I. M. Macfarland.  In his own words, this is “a story about love, loss, recovery, forgiveness, and my personal experience all wrapped up with great symbolism and a powerful voice.”  We certainly agree, and think you will as well.  As always, show your support and RawrLove in the comments:

Shattered – Remember when you felt this way? When the man or woman of your dreams took everything you built, felt and loved together, and smashed it into your chest so hard it felt like a sledgehammer smashing through thin glass. Your heart broke into a million shards. Remember when they turned around and left you – never looking back? Remember how your body began to give way to gravity, and crumble until you were nothing but a pile of pointless, jaded pieces? Do you remember every shard of you that they broke, and every moment they destroyed? Every feeling they had trampled? You will.

One day your love will do this to you – or maybe they already have. Whether in the past, present or future, one day you will find yourself losing something so great you don’t remember who you were before it. Or maybe this was always you… Or maybe it changed you? You’ll never know. But despite your confusion, your overwhelming pain, and your hemorrhaging, open wounds – you will begin picking up the shards of who you were before love. And where this process takes you may be some of the most beautiful, darkest, amazing, disgusting moments of your life.

Somewhere on your journey – no matter who you are, and how alone you feel – you will hear something along the lines of “It takes time.” Some miserable, broken, empty husk of a subhuman will tell you this. You’ll look at them, and you’ll scoff, and you’ll pout – convinced they are full of 100% grade ‘A’ bull shit. One day – and I can’t believe I’m admitting it – you’ll discover they were right.

It might take a month, it might take a year, it might take a lifetime… It might take your life. I have to admit, I got uncomfortably close more than once to becoming my own demise. And, yet, here I am. Nearly a year later, a love later, and a scar later – healed. I have healed the wounds she once had caused, and, once again, I have forgiven her. I have forgotten her. I have surpassed her.

It was a strange year, – to say the least – but I enjoyed much of it. I was lucky enough – upon her betrayal departure – to have one of my few friends return from Seattle. Why anyone chooses to leave behind a big, beautiful, wet city for the dirty, shit sack of a meth hole known as Tucson – I don’t know. Regardless, I was happy to have a companion along the path of self-pity.

And what a companion he was! In fact, one could probably say he was my guide along our path of self loathing and alcoholism. If you ever want to stop your life progress – seek out those who are 10 years older than you, but still making the same mistakes. It was clear that this friend would be a great deal of help to me, but it was also much more clear that we would part ways in the near future. He would hold me back, and I wouldn’t have it. I couldn’t.

Despite his flaws, he did help me rebuilt myself over about half of my shattered days. At least, he helped me rebuilt my legs – enough to run away from my problems, and eventually him. Isn’t it so much easier to claim you don’t love someone when you’ve sucked down half a bottle of vodka, and are seven inches deep inside a woman you’ll never love? Nor she you. I’ll admit – my love for vodka ceased with my love for shallow romance. Not even romance – just indulgences.

It all served as a great distraction, however. In fact, it was so completely numbing and consuming that I hadn’t even noticed that the shards kept falling apart. Some of them fell so hard that they shattered beyond any hope of repair. Parts of who I was had vanished, but an engine doesn’t roar while missing even the smallest cog. And so they would have to be replaced, but not with the same crystalline, flawless shards I was once formed out of. No – I would seek out shards for support – for power. My once pure form would be tainted by blackened, evil shards that I convinced myself made me strong.

Here’s a plot twist for you – they didn’t. Numbing agents work great for short term pain, and they are easy to kick if you know what you’re doing. However for long periods of time they do nothing more than mask pain as you wriggle around and damage yourself even further. Alcohol, drugs, sex – great numbing agents, but not a cure.

Despite my growing darkness, and my self-inflicted shadow, I was fortunate enough to be graced by a few lost rays of light. People who beamed (me up Scotty!) into my life, and did nothing but try to save me – to cure me. Yet – and I know this analogy is probably getting very old very fast – without the proper medical knowledge, even the most effective medicine can be quite useless. That’s what I convinced myself they were – Useless.

They were simple minded fools with simple minded purposes. As far as I could see – past my blackened, tired eyes – that purpose was to corrupt me. It’s laughable, really, how wrong I was. I have to give credit to that one stubborn ray of light that stuck with me. I saw her as that first light at dawn. You know? The one that would beam straight through your window and into your eyes as you slept. And, just like how I’d react to waking up due to the sunlight, I’d curse, whine, beg, and tell her to fuck off. I realize now that she was trying to wake me from a growing nightmare.

I was a heavy sleeper, but I did – eventually – awaken because of her. Have you ever woken up in the middle of an ocean, or in the midst of a raging fire? Of course you haven’t, – and neither have I – but that’s how it felt upon opening my eyes. Fires were burning, but I made time to take a shower. This was the same shower I had the revelation that I wanted to be a writer. The same shower I decided to move to New York in, (in times gone by and now irrelevant) and, now, the same shower I decided I didn’t like myself anymore in.

It’s a strange feeling, realizing you don’t like what you’ve become, and the decisions you’ve made. You fall to your knees, you sob, maybe you even mutter, “I don’t want to be this anymore.” Somehow saying it out loud makes it mean a lot more – makes it carry more weight. I wished I had opted for a bath, instead of a shower, so I’d have enough water to drown myself. However, I’ve never been a fortunate man. I would have to make opportunities for myself – not stumble upon them.

So I’d say goodbyes, I’d offer reconciliation, I’d admit my guilt, and face my sins. With a lifestyle that revolved around drinking, fucking, and smoking I had a lot of apologies to make. I did what I could to do right by everyone, but my goal was entirely selfish, and I set my happiness as a priority. After all, that was the end goal. Eventually, I had said enough goodbyes, and even began sharing greetings with wholesome, happy people. However the majority of my time spent from that point on would be found in solitude. Time I spent meditating on what I’d done wrong, drafting plans, crying, and forgiving myself. The blackened shards had all fallen to the ground, yet the hole she made still remained.

Ten months had gone by since it all began, and I was becoming whole again. Through time away from alcohol, with myself, with friends and family – I healed. I forgave her, I fixed myself, and I started looking toward a brighter future. However, not everything was perfect – as things never are. I lost my job, but gained a path. I lost sex, but rediscovered love. I lost myself, and I found myself. The last of the shards had come together, and I was who I truly believed I am, I was, and who I want to be. Unfortunately, it wasn’t who I was meant to be.

“Coward.” The word rang in my ears, but it rang true in my life. I remembered why I decided to change myself. It wasn’t for her, but before her. Anxiety, isolation, depression… Suffering. I changed to get away from all of this! I changed to be better than this! After everything I’d been through, and after all of the positive change – I found myself back in the shower repeating those words.

“I don’t want to be this anymore!”

The truth is – I don’t know if I’ll ever truly love myself, or even like myself. In ways, the next two months since it all ended were self discovery. In other ways, they were relapse. I found the person I was before love, and now I’m building the person I want to be after it. If loss of love is the death of one identity, then recovery from love is the birth of a new one. I have shed the vile skin I once wore, and I intend to take good care of my new flesh.

However even the greatest men make mistakes. Some would say great men make the greatest mistakes. I’m sure we will all be blackened many times in our lives, but we must focus our attention on that one beam of light rather than all of the blazing fires that surround us.

In dedication to my one ray of light.

Focusing,
I. M. Macfarland

 

Let It Be

This is post 6 of 6, and concludes the series of poems and prose that Rara sent to be shared with the Stories community. 

In a bit of good news, she was released early on July 18th.  

Still, if you can, and you haven’t already, please donate to the Rara Relief fund.  Every little bit will help her get back on her feet.

He wouldn’t be caught dead
In brick-ugly maroon, he declared

And I asked – –
Why?
Would it make the stars fade?

YES.  He said,
With a certainty most reserve for big truths.

(But then – he never believed in measuring truths.  Or dreams.  Or possibilities.  Or the cosmos.)

He wouldn’t have been caught dead
in a brick-ugly maroon box – –

but then he was,
and in appreciation of the way he let them be

– – limitless – –

the stars let him be right –
and lowered their illumination
for a blink of dark,
celestial

mourning.

#RawrLove

Yay, spread the love and the word

And if anybody could get this analogy, baby, I know you would…

This is post 5 of 6 of a series of poems and prose that Rara sent to be shared with the Stories community.  Each posting brings us a bit closer to her release from jail…  If you can, and you haven’t already, please donate what you can to the Rara Relief fund.  Every little bit will help her get back on her feet.

Oh – You should dance! – they’d say.

Never seeming to realize

we never stopped,

so he’d hold me closer

and we would twirl away

– – in our own perfect step – –

never minding the choreography,

or the shoulds,

or the theys.

To End Without My And

After pausing last week, we continue now with post 4 of 6 in the series of poems and prose that Rara sent to be shared with the Stories community.  Each posting brings us a bit closer to her release from jail…  If you can, and you haven’t already, please donate what you can to the Rara Relief fund.  Every little bit will help her get back on her feet.

We bought an ampersand stamp
At a fruitstand & fair in Nevada.

It was Wednesday, and her name was Wednesday
and I couldn’t resist the charm of the coincidence.

She made custom rubber stamps,
pressed into perfect wooden cubes.  Anything
you could ever want to imperfectly – repeatedly
impress onto paper,
formed in a few hot, citrus-scented minutes.

I blinked at him, wearing his favorite smile
and he heard by mind, and responded.

“There’s a Wednesday every week, and –
it’s probably not even her real name, and –
our names barely ever stay the same,
let alone our address.  So what would we even stamp?”

My smile quivered into a pout
and I walked away from Wednesday
and his unveiling of our
unintentionally – ephemeral existence.

Lost in thought, I weighed the bright lemons
in the next stand, as I measured my
permanence.  Testing all things,
tangy and intangible.

A small wooden cube interrupted my thoughts –
pressed into my hand.  &, it said –

And? I asked.

“I wanted you to know:
even if we only have one thing that is
forever,
it is the most important forever-thing.

Wherever we live,

whatever they call us,

it is me & you.

And our and is ‘til the end.”

I squeezed the ‘and’ – discovering it to be solid –
like freshly-picked lemons,
I should have weighed the ‘end’,
knowing I’d one day taste it.

‘And’, it said,
and ‘and’ we were –
‘til the end, but not

forever.

We Can Protect You

The following, submitted by Rae of I Will Not Live in Vain,  is the follow-up to the post from Tuesday of this week.  As always, please show her the wonderful encouragement and support that the Stories That Must Not Die community is famous for.

He stood in the middle of the front yard yelling at God. That in itself is not so crazy, but then he started to have a conversation with God. He was fighting back at God, answering back as if he heard what God was saying. As I sat on the front step, I started to seriously wonder if there really was something wrong with him. That night it was my job to talk him down. That night he directed his anger at me.

When I had arrived, he was already angry with me. Before I had a chance to get in the door, he grabbed his keys and threw them at me. The keys hit me in the chest and he told me to get in his truck. Instinctively, I bent down to pick the keys up from the front step as he informed me that I would be driving him to get more beer; he had been drinking and didn’t want to drive himself.

Silently obeying him, I followed him to the truck and got in. Before I even had the chance to start the vehicle he grabbed my hand to stop me turning the key. Clutching my hand tightly, he screamed at me about a perceived offense. I apologized for my minor role in what had upset him – even though I had done nothing wrong. He put his face as close as he could to mine as he snarled at me, the sarcasm dripping, “Oh, you’re sorry? You think that makes it alright?!”

I apologized repeatedly; I begged him to calm down and told him I knew I was wrong. After what felt like several minutes of berating me, he calmed enough to allow me to drive us to the store. Once there, he commanded me to stay in the vehicle to wait for him.

We arrived back at the house, but David did not want to get out of the truck yet. He was no longer screaming, but he was still upset. We sat in the driveway for several minutes talking; he was not ready to be inside around other people. That’s when the police showed up.

The officer gestured for me to roll down the window. He asked us where we had been and what route we had taken. Then he asked us to get out of the car. Supposedly there had been a hit and run involving a vehicle just like the one we were in. David asked the officer if he knew how many black pickup trucks were in this neighborhood, let alone Clarksville, TN.

The officer saw the beer on the floorboards and asked if we’d been drinking. David was upfront and said “Yes sir, I have been drinking – but she has not, and she was driving the vehicle.” David knew how to switch on his behavior, even when he was drunk. He knew how to be respectful and hide his inebriation, and he displayed this talent for the police officer. I don’t think he was ever too drunk to control his behavior if he wanted to.

The officer alluded to the possibility that we had just switched seats, to keep David from getting in trouble. Personally, I found this ridiculous. If we had been trying to hide a crime, we would have put the truck in the garage and ran into the house instead of hanging out in the driveway.

I think that possibly he could tell I was on edge and perhaps under duress, so he took me aside while another officer spoke to David and the others that had come out of the house by this point. He said “Look, I can see the officer decal on the truck. I know it’s not yours. I know it’s his truck. You could get in a lot of trouble for lying for your boyfriend…”

“He’s not my boyfriend. He’s just a friend,” I said as I stared at the ground.

He didn’t look as though he believed me, but said “Okay.” Then he continued on saying, as he glanced in David’s direction, “If you need to come down to the station to speak freely, we can arrange that. You don’t have to talk about it with him around. We can protect you.”

I scoffed at that. Yeah, right.

The officer told me that the witnesses heard a man and woman arguing in the vehicle in question. David’s window had been down when the officer arrived and apparently he had heard the tone of how David was talking to me. He asked me one more time if I had anything I needed to report to him. I ignored what I knew he was insinuating.

“Seriously, Officer, I was driving. We didn’t see anyone walking on the road, let alone hit them. I am sure I would have realized if I had hit someone.”

The police started to inspect the vehicle; they were looking for any sign that it may have been involved in the incident. They pointed to some areas where the finish was smudged – hand-prints mostly. It seemed to me they were clutching at straws, and I made a mildly sarcastic comment about if David had only kept his car clean we wouldn’t be in this situation. He glared at me and then responded through his clenched teeth fake smile. He was obviously pissed at me and trying not to react in front of the police.

By this point David had called his NCO to come help him out. Even though David himself was an officer, he apparently called the NCO because he didn’t want his chain of command to know what was going on. I wonder if this was the same NCO that had tried to call my husband to smooth things over as well.

Eventually, they brought the girl that had been hit – lucky for her she only had minor injuries – and her friend that had been with her. They looked us over from the police cruiser and then told the police officers that it wasn’t us that had hit her. That was a relief, but I had been more relieved that David had been yanked out of his aggressive behavior for the time being.

The Fight

The Stories That Must Not Die crew is once again honored to present a story from Rae of I Will Not Live in Vain.  A follow-up piece involving the same people will be posted on Thursday.  Please take a few minutes and read through her harrowing experiences, and then lend her some encouragement and support in the comments.

**Warning: This post uses explicit language**

Dane knew that something had happened between David and I, but he didn’t know the particulars. I also hadn’t told him that since that night I had received four or five calls from him, randomly in the past few weeks. Random in time and day, but consistent in the fact that he was drunk each time.

On those occasions David would lament about what happened and tell me “You’re married, Rae – we can’t be together… you’re married!”

The first time I agreed and told him I never expected or wanted any relationship with him. The second, third, and fourth time I reminded him that we had already had this conversation. “Oh, ok… good. Glad we are on the same page,” or something to that effect is what he’d say. Finally the last time I was getting frustrated telling him the same thing over and over – so that time I told him I didn’t want to be with him because he was a “Man-whore.”

During this process he finally decided to pursue another mutual friend of ours. Her name was also Rae, and she was an Army Officer that worked in the same unit as David. I told him that I thought they’d make a cute couple – but he might want to check on her relationship status before he got his heart set on her. I told him I thought she was with someone already. He dismissed me when I said that.

Fact was: she was engaged and was keeping it on the down low at work. He was pursuing her and she wasn’t quite sure how to handle it – wanting to preserve his feelings – so she asked my advice. I told her I wanted to stay out of it, but either she wanted to be with him or she didn’t and that she needed to handle it either way. She was out of town at that point and said she would have a sit down with him when she got back.

Well, David was persistent in calling her while she was away so she went ahead and did it earlier – over the phone. Once she had, she called me to chat and she let me know she had done it.

“Oh, really? How’d he take it?”

“He was surprisingly understanding… We had a really nice chat. I told him a bit about Lewis and he said that he sounded like a nice guy.”

“Oh good!” I smiled, I had been concerned for how David would handle the rejection. He wasn’t good with rejection.

I hung up with Rae and was going about making dinner when my phone rang again. I picked it up without looking at the caller ID.

“Hey, Rae!” A jovial David said through my ear piece.

“Oh, hey David…” I was surprised to be getting a call from him. I had been trying to avoid much contact with him.

“How ARE you?” He asked, in a mock cheery voice. It was over the top and I suddenly got nervous.

“Fine… I’m, uh, fine… How are you, David?” I asked cautiously.

“Guess who called me a little while ago.” He stated; the mock cheeriness was gone.

“Um… I dunno. Who?”

“Oh, just Rae… Do you know what she called to tell me?”

Shitshitshitshitshit I thought to myself.

“No, what?”

He broke his composure and started yelling, graduating into screaming rather quickly.

“She told me she is with some other fucking guy! She told me that she’s engaged so she doesn’t want to be with me! For fuck’s sake… you told her to say that, didn’t you? DIDN’T YOU, BITCH?!”

I winced, “No… David…Re-remember… I told you I thought you two would make a cute couple…”

He cut me off, still screaming “You fucking told her about us too I bet! That’s why she doesn’t want to be with me, huh?! This is YOUR fault! You are standing in the way of my happiness! Is that what you want? You want me to be unhappy?!”

“No, David… of course not… I didn’t…”

“Do you know what happens to people that stand in my way, Rae? DO YOU?!” His voice suddenly became menacing, “You know I always get what I want, if you stand in my way I will fucking crush you. I will stomp you out, mark my words.”

“David, please – I swear I didn’t tell her to say anything. She really is with some-”

“You had better fix this. You had better hope you can change her mind.”

Then he hung up on me.

I stood there for a moment staring at my phone. My God, what just happened? I was shaking as I went downstairs to tell my husband what had just happened. Jason told me to call Rae back and tell her what happened as well as get specifics about David’s unit. I went off to call her privately.

“Rae, what the hell did you tell him?” That was the first thing I said when she picked up.

“Who… David?”

“Yes, David… Yes. Did you mention my name at all?”

“No, of course not – why would I?”

“Because he just called me and started threatening me. Rae, he’s seriously unhinged about it and he’s blaming it all on me.”

“But… that doesn’t even make sense. I swear I didn’t say anything about you… he seemed fine about it when I talked to him!”

She proceeded to answer the particulars my husband wanted to know. Once I got off the phone with her, I called Dane.

The first thing I said to him was “Dane, you had better deal with your boy!” My teeth were clenched in an effort not to sound too tearful.

“What? What the hell is going on Rae?”

“David just called me and was threatening me. He is unhinged, Dane!”

“Calm down, I’m on my way to see him now anyway. I’ll talk to him. What’s going on?”

“He is upset because Rae P. doesn’t want to date him, he is upset and he’s threatening me about it.”

“Oh God, not again. Ok. I’ll talk him down. Just calm down, Rae. Calm down.”

I went back downstairs to give the info to Husband that he requested. He then took my phone and dialed Dane back. Dane picked up and said “Hey, what’s up?” Assuming it was me, of course. As soon as he heard my husband answer he became all “Yes-sirs and No-sirs.” Jason asked him the same questions he had told me to ask Rae. When he hung up I asked him why he would do that.

“I want to make sure no one is lying to me.”

Then he tried to dial David’s number, but David didn’t pick up. So he dialed the number into his phone and tried again. This time David picked up. Jason told him to stay the hell away from his wife. David laughed and asked what he would do about it if he didn’t. Jason asked him what unit he was with. David lied. Jason told him he knew it was a lie and repeated the correct information back at him. Then he told him to stay away from me or he would call his superiors. David laughed at him. Jason said “Consider your commander contacted.”

Jason immediately called the chain of command for the unit that both Rae and Dane had confirmed. A few minutes later, an NCO called Jason. Apparently David had sobered up enough to realize he was about to actually get in trouble. He was trying to smooth things over, convince Jason not to call the chain of command. Jason told him it was inappropriate and that it had already been done.

This whole time I could do nothing but sit on the couch and watch it unfold. I had no right to have a say in any of this anymore.

Jason said he didn’t want me hanging out with this group of people anymore, because he heard others laughing in the background when he was talking to David. He said he was fine with me still hanging out with Dane – because Dane had acted according to his rank. He was respectful and acted as “an Officer and a Gentleman,” unlike how David was acting.

Dane had other ideas apparently. Well, David had his ear that night. Dane texted me something accusatory about that night that David and I made our mistake. He alluded to his belief that I took advantage of David while he was drunk. Was he even serious right now?? That was not what happened. I answered back to that effect.

After the NCO reported back to them that Jason had made the call, Dane called me. He was livid and told me to fix it.

“What do you expect me to do, Dane? David laughed at him and he just called… Do you seriously think I have any leg to stand on with my husband right now?”

“I swear to God, Rae…”

“Dane, please let me explain what’s been going on…”

“If David gets in trouble, I will never speak to you again.”

That shut me down. What the hell. My best friend. My best friend just took the side of a man that was quite literally threatening me. I knew David was an awesome liar. He did it so well and can’t really blame Dane for being convinced of whatever was being said where I couldn’t defend myself… but …my best friend. I thought, as his best friend, I deserved at least the chance to defend myself. I deserved the chance to at least try to explain my side. I knew he was likely just saying that and assuming that the fear of losing him would force me to do what they wanted me to do. That pissed me off on a whole other level.  It took 2 seconds for all of this to hit me. He might as well have slapped me in the face. That would have been easier to take at least.

Then I said “Fine then. Bye.” and hung up.

A few days later I went to church and there was Dane, looking as cocky as hell. He made a show of not talking to me… He was being such an ass. On my way out I told him to just wait and see. He’d eventually find out what really happened and he’d be sorry. He’d realize that David was nuts and a liar and then realize he threw away our friendship over him. He chuckled like a cocky bastard.

Orange Buffalo Blood

This is post 3 of 6 of a series of poems and prose that Rara sent to be shared with the Stories community.  Next week we take a break from this series and will feature two posts that were submitted to be shared, and then we will resume this series the following week. 

This post from Rara hit me harder than most.  She has taken something her husband wrote in his novel, Orange Buffalo, and adapted it to her current situation.  If you haven’t read his book, you should.  You can also find some artwork and other items he put together based on the book on RedBubble.  And, please donate what you can to the Rara Relief fund.  Every little bit will help her get back on her feet.

What a good girl – – a strong girl – –
She’s gonna grow up to be a felon, a widow,
a shell.

What a good girl – – a loving girl – –
She’s gonna learn how to be mean –
alone – empty.

What a good girl – – a brave girl – –
She’s gonna fill herself up with hot air
and gently

float

away.

Cross My Heart

This is post 2 of 6 of a series of poems and prose that Rara sent to be shared with the Stories community.  Each posting brings us a bit closer to her release from jail…  If you can, and you haven’t already, please donate what you can to the Rara Relief fund.  Every little bit will help her get back on her feet.

My wild secret:
Tamed by death, but you remain,
Only mine to keep.

The Black

This is post 1 of 6 of a series of poems and prose that Rara sent to be shared with the Stories community.  Each posting brings us a bit closer to her release from jail…  If you can, and you haven’t already, please donate what you can to the Rara Relief fund.  Every little bit will help her get back on her feet.

I ran out of words when the love of my life ran out of life.

When he died,

Without me.

When his bright,

Delightful,

Frightful brain,

Exploded into itself.

(finally doing

What he always said it would.)

He kept his promises

like he kept his thoughts – –

in a perpetual rolling boil.

He was molten lava

and he erupted.

He p o p p e d,

and he sparked,

and he burn-burn-burned,

and all anyone can talk about is the ash.

But it was his sound

and fury

that lit my sky,

and it was the heat of his last gasp

that burned my earth

into paralyzed,

petrified

silence.