A few months ago, I got caught off guard by a photo of me, my son and his dad together. We looked happy. Happier than I remembered. Once I had looked at the same photo and saw evidence of the emptiness in my heart during its taking. I couldn’t see that anymore. It looked, now, like a fond memory; the cracks deftly painted over by time’s haze.
I got caught off guard, too, by a conversation with my son’s dad around the same time, when he seemed to be treating me with genuine positive regard. It was hard for me accept, and I thus engaged clumsily, arms folded across my chest throughout. But I wasn’t punished for it. It was the longest interaction I’d permitted for a long time, and, like an abused rescue cat, I left it reeling, confused, and hopeful.
I am soft. I cannot hold a grudge and I ask very little in exchange for my love. My greatest strength or weakness, depending on the day. And it had been my weakness for many days around him, because I combined it with the wrong things. So I had been scared to let myself be in front of him. I had hidden behind a wall of cool indifference because it was the only way I knew to stay safe.
I held back all this time from posting about it, though a version of this sat in my drafts. I was reticent to admit that I’d moved on from the harder feelings, in case it was perceived that I might want to go back to trying to love him in the way I once did. It took a long time to convince a certain part of myself that that was not what I wanted, because it clung to the notion that that was what would be best, if only it could be achieved.
That part of me was resolved an equally long time ago, now. But it can be scary to test these things. There are ghosts in the system that can only be made visible when certain pathways are enacted. I had avoided those pathways to make sure those ghosts were dead, but I wasn’t sure there wouldn’t be some kind of haunting.
And there were some apparitions; glimmers of old terror and despair convincing me I must listen to them. But ghosts have no agency in this world, except that which we give to them. A hot shower and a reasoned assessment have been enough to dissipate mine.
For about a year now, I’ve held loosely the idea of creating a poetry collection exploring our fraught decoupling. An attempt to convey the tragedy, glory, ugliness and beauty of it all. I don’t let myself write more than a few honest sentences about it in prose, but in poetry, somehow I feel I have permission. It feels fairer, perhaps, to make the truth equivocal. Because, usually, that’s what truth truly is. In verse, perhaps I can tell our story without diminishing either of our parts.
That may continue to be a loosely held notion indefinitely. But perhaps it’s a clue for how to I want to manage our new age – to see it as poetry, rather than prose. Different from every angle. Different every time. Consciously artful. Open to many interpretations.