Date written: 2010.05.11
By: The Rose Society
You came by again today, with uncertainty and hurt in your eyes belying your steady, warm, comforting smile. You chattered about various things, speaking of the little details of your days, sharing humorous anecdotes, making faces at the frustration of a co-worker. The smile never slipped, your hands never shook, and your voice never wavered.
You never paused for a response from me, some indication that I was listening or even interested. Your eyes, although they were fixed upon my face, didn't actually watch for some sign of emotion, some signal that I was interested in what you were telling me. You had stopped some three weeks back. I suppose the pain had become too much for you, the endless, excruciating cycle of hope and disappointment. Even though I knew some part of me detested the fact that I had caused you any pain, was relieved that you were no longer futilely hopeful, and also somewhat vaguely saddened that you have stopped hoping, the emotions could not filter through the cotton wool I had wrapped myself in.
After awhile, your stories exhausted, we sit together but apart. You look off in the distance, your eyes watching the various going-ons in the park: the children throwing red, blue, and yellow water balloons at each other and screeching as they get soaked, the elderly couple strolling through the vibrantly green spring grass by the glittering lake slowly in companionable silence, then the young father flying a rainbow kite with dancing tail to the endless amazement of his young son and daughter.
I too stare off into the distance but I see nothing before me. The world is an endless gray and holds no interest for me. Sometimes, some frantic motion catches my eye for a brief second, but all too soon, the interest bleeds away again.
You breathe in deeply and I know. I just…know. This is the final moment.
You turn to me, unwanted tears slowly filling your eyes. Your beloved face is pained but resigned. You tell me, softly, in soothing tones, that you can no longer come to visit me. You apologize, gripping my hand strongly, for being weak, for not being strong enough to continue to come. You heap the blame upon yourself. But I know. I know why you no longer will come.
It is because I have hurt you. My silence, my detachment, my complete lack of will/desire/response/soul, what have you, has hurt you, wounded you, and driven you away. You deserve to be wanted. You deserve to feel special. You deserve to have someone who wants to hear all those details about your day, to commiserate with you, to celebrate with you, to be there with you. I am not that person, at least I haven't been for a long time now. And for the longest time, you kept trying. You had seen who I truly am and you loved me for it. This shell that you are left with is not that person though. And week after week, day after day, moment after moment, your love remains as strong and as beautiful as ever, but the pain has grown to be too much.
You finish speaking and you look away, ashamed at your weakness. You should not feel that way. You are strong and beautiful and loving. I summon what will remains in my body, what soul I have left, and I speak for the first time in months, other than the sporadic monosyllabic responses of yes or no.
"You are not to blame. I understand. I love you. You love me. But love is not enough. You deserve more. You need more. And I cannot give you more. So you are right to leave. I do not blame you. You are faultless. So let us say goodbye."
You stare at me, surprised, in pain, saddened, in mourning. But I can also see some relief there. Because of that, I know that what I do is the right thing. I try to give you one last gift and crack my frozen face for a tiny smile. I can see that you hold onto it, hope once more filling your eyes. And I hold that smile for you as you stand to leave. Although tears may be in your eyes, I know they will soon dry. I let you take your relief in my (lying) smile; I owe you so much and can at least give you this.
Note: I wrote this piece and kept it deliberately scant on details. However, the setting in my mind was an inpatient unit, essentially, where a severely clinically depressed person with catatonic features has been hospitalized for some time. Their partner comes to visit to them often, but over time, with the lack of response, the partner slowly begins to give up. This is the partner's last visit, and they do feel guilt over abandoning the person. However, the person graces their partner with a final gift, a lie, and a final good bye.