I felt anger rise when you’d regale me with endless stories of your family—the spats, foibles, boasts masked as kvelling. I would have loved to have loved to listen but you never even learned my parents’ names. It took a decade for you to learn my full name.
I felt anger rise when you said I was deluging you with my life. You never asked questions but rattled on about yours, deleting only the parts that would cast you in an unseemly light.
Such as: the other ladies.
Such as: who really paid your bills.
Ten years before, the last time I saw my parents, I told them I had recently ended it with someone. It was the first of our many breakups, and the wound was fresh.
They had not asked if I had a partner, nor had they asked how my work was going. They only had asked questions that would expose my deficits: Did I have health insurance? A 401K?
They knew I always had someone or other in my thrall. They knew my byline was everywhere during that time. They knew money was my Achilles heel.
My Achilles black hole.
But I volunteered details about you, anyway. The same as I volunteer details to you.
See me, mommy. See me, daddy.
This time, I volunteered details because I longed for you. Revisiting my pain brought you back in the room.
So I said you were beautiful and smart and hilarious and renowned, all of which was true. Then I said: I ended it because he was a pimp.
My mother said: He had prostitutes?
I could never tell if she was actually stupid. By then, I’m not sure she could either. That’s what stupid like a fox will get you. Only the plain women of her generation really had a shot.
My father said: No, she means he was a user.
I nodded, unsurprised. My computer scientist father could just as easily have been a trance medium, except there’d have been no health insurance.
“He uses women,” I amended, looking over at my mother. Her features were arranged in a parody of who-me.
Ten years later, my heart still breaks over you. Not because we’re out of touch.
When we’re in touch, my heart breaks far worse, this last year taught me that.
My heart breaks because you are always the person who feels like my heart, and you never trust your best-self magic.
Which means that, when I do, I am alone.
Jane Kenyon said: I believe in the miracles of art, but what prodigy will keep you beside me?
You’re still the one I want. But desire, when it is pure, must be met halfway.
The divine mystery works no other way.