“Meanwhile, things go on.”

Charles Bukowski – poet, novelist, alcoholic, lover of all things women and sex – lived his life how he wanted, how he thought he deserved to live, and died in 1994 of Leukemia at age 73. Could he have quit smoking? Sure. Could he have quit booze? Of course. But he didn’t, because that wasn’t Bukowski. He lived his truth, however sad it may have seemed to his readers, critics, and lovers alike. Bukowski – to me at least – is someone who lived until he died, and died many times while still living.

To die over and over (and over) again is something that many of us experience but not many of us recognize. Most recently, for me, my relationship of over a year with a man I was very much in love with ended in a fireball of lies, manipulation, and the discovery (and introduction) of a woman who he had kept a secret relationship with for three months while I was walking through burning hot coals with the death of my dog, and the hospice care and death of my grandfather. Throughout all of this I maintained my life with him – made sure he was alright, listened, and still kept myself afloat the best I could under the circumstances. Unfortunately – and to my utter surprise – he took my independence (and lack of codependency) and ran away with that (and fell into other women).

When he revealed to me that he had constructed a secret relationship including but not limited to very strict date schedules and days of the week, two separate Instagram accounts, different names saved into phones, etc, I knew I would never take him back. I felt a crushing pain within me that was different from any death I ever felt – not my dog, my grandpa, or even when my mom died in 2011. It was a feeling of ultimate betrayal nestled into sheer confusion and embarrassment to know he was playing me like a faithful fiddle while his roommates (and his mother) knew what he was doing; he later tried to defend his roommates to me, saying they “encouraged” him to come clean, but honestly obligation towards one another as people comes from moral standings in my book, not longevity or proximity. AKA if you’re acting like a piece of shit I will not hesitate to call you out on it; no one deserves to live their life thinking they have nothing to worry about when the same hands that hold them at night held someone else just as passionately only hours before.

What’s crazy about all this is I did forgive him. I didn’t forgive him in the sense that, “It’s okay, we’ll work through this together.” Oh no. It was a more, “I never needed you. I cannot help you. This is unhealthy. You betrayed me beyond any repair. I can’t hate you because, honestly, no one hates you more than you probably hate yourself. Best of luck, mate.” He sobbed (I sobbed much, much later once I got over the shock and nausea that the man I saw as a potential soul mate was lying to my face).

It hasn’t been very long at all since I last saw him – since we lay together on my couch crying, watching the clock until he had to leave for work on the morning he brought me back my house key. It hasn’t been long at all since our last kiss, since he rested his head on my chest and his tears burned straight through to my fucking soul. “I love you,” he said as he turned around and grabbed me to hug and kiss me one last time in the doorway. I wanted to tell him he didn’t love me, that he didn’t know love, but I know better than to assume that someone doesn’t know what love is just because they aren’t capable of loving with the same capacity as I am. He loved me (maybe still does love me) with his perception of what it is to love another. The fatal flaw is he doesn’t love himself – that he may be a little bit of a sociopath – that he compartmentalizes things to such an extreme extent that when he walked out of my house I probably no longer existed, but when he looked at me after telling me he had been cheating he burst into tears.

I will never know if the sobs and wailing were from genuine guilt or genuine displeasure at being caught. I’ll never know how deep his love really ran (although I don’t think it was too deep regardless of his claims). I won’t be able to see inside of him to believe the things he told me in earnest. But what I do know, is that things go on. I died that day, but I died a lot of other days too. I died when my mom died in front of me. And I am grieving now, like I did with my mom, but the waves are different. There is no linear movement to grief, that I know. I just know it’s happening. And even with the sadness, I tell myself, “I survived worse.” I still wake up everyday in my own two-bedroom house. I have eight, very happy houseplants. I have a book collection that only continues to grow. I have groceries, a job, and I don’t stop writing. And again, after all this, I am living how I think I deserve and I am dying and will die again and again until I die and don’t wake up. Until then, though, I will reinvent myself, I will live, and things will go on.

I Hope you Find Peace

I spent over a year in a world of unimaginable love, where I looked into your eyes and saw beauty and a deeper, brooding darkness that lured me in like a well. We had an undeniable connection and our love grew gradually. Nothing we did was conventional, but none of it mattered, because you weren’t conventional and neither am I.

All of the family loss, grief, and heartache I encountered – as well as your own – was met with support and understanding. We were our own people, living independently beside each other. I thought you got me; I thought you understood who I was and accepted me as I am. When the time came to tell you I loved you, you said it back without skipping a beat and I waited until I got into my car to cry because I was so overcome with joy, because I felt the realness of your words and felt warmth in the way you looked at me. It was the day before my mother’s anniversary of her death, and the day before your cousin’s funeral in Boston. You played the guitar for me the week before and sang. You maneuvered the frets and let me strum and we made a song together that was beautiful and slow and I knew I loved you the week before I said it. You and I were so sad that month, but I couldn’t help but smile when I looked at you.

You can imagine, then, how surprised and shocked I was when you arrived at my house that warm February afternoon, looking sicker than anything I’d ever seen, to tell me that you’d been cheating on me for the last three months. You told me the whole week before that you felt ill and I urged you to go to the doctor, I brought you tea, I brought you breakfast at home – unaware that she and I were living in each other’s shadow for three months. Your housemates knew, your mother knew, and no one said anything, no one warned me of your manipulation – they all trusted in you to come clean. The Friday before, you introduced me as your girlfriend, only for me to discover you asked her that same evening to be yours. It was pure luck that she found out about me, because you calculated every movement, every interaction, to ensure we would never cross paths. I gave you the emotional intimacy, and she gave you sexual. You had to separate us like a true sociopath.

And when you told me you’d been cheating on me, when you sobbed and heaved and writhed in my arms, saying you loved me, saying you were sorry, I couldn’t help but feel bad for you. I knew I had done nothing wrong over this past year besides challenge you to communicate more, to open up, to express your feelings. You are the one who has to live knowing you lied about my grandfather’s death to her, and you are the one who has to live knowing he died believing you wouldn’t hurt me. I will have to live knowing I was wrong about you, but at least I will live with a clean conscience.

As I talked to your other girl, and as the conversation went on hour after hour, I became more and more dismayed learning of the lengths you went to in order to deny my existence. I am unable to comprehend on any level how you could tell me – to my face – over and over that you loved me. I can’t understand how you could lay with her and then only hours later crawl up beside me and kiss me, tell me how proud of me you were, tell me how pretty I looked, and fall asleep holding me tighter than I ever knew I wanted.

Yet through all of this, my love, I only want you to find peace. I cannot hate you, because I feel you have the deepest loathing of yourself. I believe you hurt everyone around you who challenges you to face a part of yourself that you have denied for years, because you fear the truth. And I agree, the truth is scary – dying is scary – the unknown is scary. You are facing your own unknown, and that could be the death of a part of you that you aren’t ready to release from. But honestly, you need to kill the demon by facing it, and by admitting you need to help yourself. I know that everything I felt for you was real, the love I still and will always have for you is real; I believe – or want to believe – that you do love me, that you did love me at some point, but I also know that we as people are incapable of loving another beyond the capacity which we are able to love ourselves. I can still love you because I grew to love myself – I killed my demons. I hope you find peace. I truly do.