Nearly every night for a year, in the dark seclusion of my cramped closet-of-a-bedroom in Brooklyn, I would lie in bed and tug at the threads of pain barely holding me together like a worn-out drawstring purse. I knew it was a bad idea, unspooling myself yet again to make space for the terrible privacy of his silence. But there was something irresistible in prodding at the raw pink of my open wound. It was an addictive agony that arose from the conviction that there was no future, no possible way forward. Nothing left to do but perform my nightly resurrection of past pain, a desperate quest for the aftertaste of a long-fled ghost.
Nearly every Friday for a year, you would chase away that ghost. Your name would light up on the screen of my phone, setting off vibrations like seismic waves that crashed through the barricaded perimeter of my despair. You’d ask how I was doing, I’d say I hurt. I’d ask how you were, and sometimes you’d be hurting, too. In fumbling to apply words to our wounds, we unwittingly stitched a visceral vocabulary woven from fragments of wisdom and pieces of others’ worldviews (often from our favorite literary kin).1 It was through this shared lexicon that we found a saving symmetry and located the supple, spacious side of loneliness.
The word decay became especially important to you. And aptly so. You reminded me of how abundance sprouts from the space opened up by absence, by death. How what decays into the earth nurtures new life. How what is kept from decaying petrifies into peat for the fueling of our most toxic, extractive desires. I like to think that was the collaborative work we did in our weekly calls—encouraging one another to devour the poison that was our pain, so that we might rebuild ourselves metabolically through its death. It wasn’t quite the same as the weekly dinners we’d share in New Haven—of crisp cucumber salads and olive-roasted chicken—but it was a feast for a different kind of nourishment, a more urgent satiation. An invitation to relationality through the communal composting of shit into fecund soil into which we sowed seeds of tenderness and fed on their succulent fruit.
I still sometimes revisit old wounds and tug at their threads, allow the ache to break me into little pieces. But you have given me the web of words with which to suture them back together, back into a body that is a flesh ode to progress as the seasonal project of undoing and becoming. If ever I need a reminder, you remain a phone call away.
- bell hooks, Rebecca Solnit, Joan Didion, Adrienne Maree Brown, Christina Sharpe, Adrienne Rich, Ada Limón, Cathy Park Hong, Roxane Gay. ↩︎