All I Have to Offer

Whether it’s right or wrong, I think about Dana and Argo every day, multiple times a day. Again, right or wrong. It’s a little of both, because I think it is a way to giggle through grief and an outstanding defense mechanism. People don’t have to know me that well to know that I am not ready to move into the future fast, because I am still processing everything that happened, and I don’t do that quickly or easily. I loved the line The Professor wrote to me, that maybe it’s time that Atlas shrugged.

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t.

T-money was on my case about it last night, and it took me back to a sermon Dana and I heard preached by Ed Young on divorce. He took both a pink and a blue piece of paper, then used a glue stick to mash them together. Then, he tried to take them back apart, illustrating divorce that when you tried to separate the two, there were still scraps of pink on the blue paper and scraps of blue on the pink paper (Extrapolate! Extrapolaaaaate!). It doesn’t matter that our papers are both pink. There are still memories of Dana stuck to me, and I’m sure memories of me stuck to her.

I don’t write about Dana as often as I do about Argo because my relationship with Dana just ended. There was a fistfight, there was a set of emotional swings afterward that ate my bacon, and then I left. I thought with some passage of time, we’d be able to talk again. Then she came to DC both for her birthday and Christmas, and didn’t want to get together either time, even though I asked her to meet me at BofA so that we could separate our accounts. I didn’t think I was asking for too much, but apparently, I was.

Then, at Christmas, I sent Dana an e-mail that said I wanted to see her if she wanted to see me, that I was bummed she hadn’t reached out until I realized e-mail goes both ways, and it would have been a dick move on my part not to acknowledge her arrival.

Her sister wrote back to me, and the general consensus by then was “fuck them. Time to let her go.” So I did. Dana stories and movies come up for me all the time, most of them hilarious, because I don’t want to think about all the shitty things she said to me, especially after I got out of the hospital, which ranged from “you’ll never amount to anything” to “it must be nice to have health insurance so you can just check out like that.” The reality was so much more complicated. I’d spent the past two years dealing with the enormity of my emotional abuse, and then Dana pushed me, and I tried to fight back, but it didn’t work. I ended up on the floor, crying, when she hit me so hard that my glasses smashed into my face and at first, I thought my eye socket was broken, but after a few minutes, the pain went down into a manageable level and I realized it was just broken blood vessels. It compounded my PTSD exponentially, and sent my fight-or-freeze reflex into overdrive. Over time, I’ve just put my feelings for Dana into a box, not letting them affect me as much as my feelings for Argo, because since the divorce, there’s been on-again, off-again friendship that alternately had me wearing my heart on my sleeve and getting outrageously angry. Now I’m just back to wearing my heart on my sleeve, because I am tired of anger, tired of enmity, tired of all of it. I would rather remember her in all her hilarity than her anger…. mostly because I’d like to remember me that way, too, even though I still hurt for all the moments I hurt her. It’s so much easier to focus on the funny.

I love and miss her as much as it’s possible to love and miss someone you’ve never actually hugged… and again, if I have any regrets at all, it’s not making that happen early on, when we were still both in the dopamine rush of having met someone who just “got” us.

I wouldn’t have let my words swell into operatic proportions on the page, because I would have known all of her instead of just the face she presented to me… or not. I don’t know what would have happened, but I am willing to bet my life’s savings on the fact that it would have been damn near impossible to create such a world of secrecy had Dana, Argo, and I all sat down to a meal together.

The two biggest problems in my life at that time were Dana’s jealousy and her right to be jealous at the same time. It was not lost on me that it was threatening to hear that I was in love with Argo’s brain. My feeling is that it was what it was. Even if there was attraction on both of our parts once we’d met (and that is an ELASTIGIRL stretch I’m making), there would have been no reason to act, because my fidelity meant everything to me. I couldn’t be blind to other women, but I could be faithful.

It was reading over our e-mails to each other after Dana and I broke up and taking her words in a different context than she meant to send that got me in trouble, because both Dana and I thought there might be something there. I was dreadfully, awfully mistaken, but there was a part of me that knew I’d regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t ask the question.

After it was answered clearly, I got it. I wasn’t angry, I wasn’t sad, I was accepting of it. Curiosity killed the cat, and that’s all I have to say about that. People have tried to prod me over and over into saying that I did move to DC just to see what would happen, and I can’t go there. I can’t make that leap. Argo was so angry with me that she couldn’t breathe, and I knew that the city was big enough for both of us whether there was reconciliation down the line or not. But I didn’t hope for reconciliation on the ground. I hoped for the type relationship we’d always had, the friends that e-mail every once in a while to check in and say, “I’m good, you?” To me, meeting Argo was as implausible as running into the President on the way to the Smithsonian… maybe less so, given the lengths to which I would go to meet the President and to avoid causing Argo any more pain than I already had… not to mention avoiding more pain caused to myself.

I gave as good as I got in all of our fights, because I am viciously flexible with words and so is she. I couldn’t imagine a scenario in which that would calm down enough for either one of us to say, “let’s go for dinner.” But what I know for sure is that the person who is verbally flexible on a keyboard is shy and just sticks to the funny in person, not wanting to go too deep unless the other person asks me a question, because I’ll always answer them. But I’d rather stay inside my own head and just talk about you. Because of this, lots of people get up from conversations with me saying, “wow… I can’t believe I told you all that… I never open up to anyone like I did with you.” Argo and I, in our quiet moments, told each other things that we’d never told anyone else, a closeness in the middle of the night when defenses are down, anyway. It felt like sunshine to be completely myself, her rays wrapping themselves around me until they got too bright. My cheeks hurt especially, because I could not help but add saltwater to sunburn.

There are so many levels to this story that I cannot add, because it would hurt more people than the two of us… and not only do I not want to hurt her, I don’t want to hurt anyone else, either. I have to think of my family at that time, which includes Dana’s.

But sufficed to say, it wasn’t Argo’s fault I began to burn… or, not completely. I have to remember that I can only take responsibility for my own actions, of which there were plenty. Even in DC, the plan was to stay off her radar and just make my own friends, hoping against hope that the things I did to try and repair my mistakes would at least put some dirt into the hole I’d dug… and it worked, for a time. I am very proud of myself that at least I can say I tried… that I tried to become the friend I couldn’t be when I was too enmeshed in my own mental health to see past it and into the damage I was doing to her heart, as well.

We caused each other’s heart to break in the way that only friend-hearts do.

So when T-money asked me if there was ever going to be a time in my life where Argo wasn’t in it, I could only answer a solid “I don’t know” and “maybe.” Because even if we never speak again, too many things were shared between us that I won’t forget. If nothing else, she was the first person to treat me like a real writer instead of just the Velveteen one… as if that was my calling in life and not the job I needed to stay alive.

I will always have jobs, but writing is my career… and anyone who helped me see it is going to be long in my memory….. loooooooooooooooooong.

I can always hope for resurrection in the middle of the mess, but I hope for it in the same way most people wish for a big blue box to show up on their front lawn, knowing that if it doesn’t, it’s just a future that never happened. Nothing to be upset about, nothing to be angry about, nothing to regret… because the future I was meant to have is already happening whether the blue box appears on my front lawn or not.

Because my other friends have never met Argo, in Portland, Houston, and DC, I have always compared her to The Doctor… and the look on Aaron’s face comparable to Rory’s when The Doctor and Amy walk up to him in the park.

However, I refuse to sit in the backyard with my suitcase packed.

So if talking about Dana and Argo as if they are my present, it’s not. It’s because they are my presents for a life well-lived. I made mistakes, and I own them, but that does not mean that at the time, they weren’t FANTASTIC.


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