Everything? Did you really do everything?
Finally, the question works its way through the labyrinth of my choices and avoidance, and returns to its true home.
Did I really do everything?
Giovanni is a good man. He brings home a small table to put in the corner of his room for me to write in quiet solitude. He concocts his own rub for the chicken and then works it into the perfect cubes. When I arrive, he is setting red bell peppers and summer squash in neat rows on a platter. “I’m about to light the coals. Go write.” I do. When I emerge, I fill the water glasses and pour the wine. We eat and laugh and argue and make our plans.
He is a good man for me.
Still. The timing is wrong, I am not ready, we are ill-suited for each other in a hundred ways, and we fight like we have money riding on the outcome. I tell him the marriage left too much smog and debris. I cannot see him through it. I only see reflections of Tee and of all the confused choices I made.
My fear of repeating the same mistakes drives me to insomnia. I leave. I come back. Again. Again.
Giovanni listens, and consoles. I round on him for making choices too much like Tee’s. He stands up to me. He challenges my assumptions and asks me not to have conversations in my head with ghosts. His good heart may be bottomless but his patience is not. Neither is mine.
I cannot face choosing, so I make the non-choice. I leave. I come back, and for the first time, he blocks my advance. “Not so fast.”
Not choosing, it turns out, is a choice after all. Now, the possibility that I have closed the door on what may be a sweet love wakes me up. It is the one sharp breeze that clears the air. I see Giovanni exactly as he is: strong and flawed and stunningly beautiful. And loving me and welcoming Bug. And hurt. And maybe done with me.
Did I really do everything?
A few weeks back, with his firm but loving touch, said, “You’ve got to let go.”
“Let go of what?” I asked.
“You know what,” he said. “And I can’t be the one to tell you.”
I cast about for what. Which fear? Which pattern? I know he is right. It is the edge I grip, the one I believe keeps me safe. If I hold on here, keep my arms and feet inside the bars, I will know exactly what needs to be done. Nothing can hurt.
The marriage clouds my vision. Tee blows in and blocks the light. Not Tee himself, exactly, not the real man with whom I am trying to work out kindergarten arrangements and holiday arrangements for 2013. Not my co-parent. The Tee I drag back into the frame is a phantom man with whom I am still grappling. The fights we had in the early weeks and months of dating haunt me, as I see now how the other choice was there, the other door, and I did not walk through it then. I had deep doubts, but I kept crossing the divide and choosing to believe. It only worked until it didn’t. The questions about what I missed, or where I missed a chance to choose differently, plague me.
Tee and I chose each other, and we did our best, and it did not work between us. It was not because of any one quality or one chain of events. Nothing about our unraveling is so easy to identify. Exploring those reasons is another story, though. It is for another day (or, rather, for all the days, quietly). The fact is that Tee and I are not well suited. We have moved without rancor into a new kind of relationship. We raise a son together, but we are not companions and partners.
I need to let go. Let go of Tee the history, Tee the boyfriend on the other end of those doubts, Tee the husband. Let go of the marriage. Release it to the story of before.
I have not done everything. I have not created a way to visualize or live that letting go. It is time to do so. It is time to do this, not to welcome Giovanni, but to welcome myself. Somehow, I have to take an action that will allow me to walk out into the fresh air and see the terrain around as it really is.
Today is the day. On this beautiful day in June, with a single cardinal on a branch outside my window, singing without restraint to the blue suburban sky, I begin.
I find the little toy Tee gave me on one of our early dates. It is a plastic figure of Grover in a cape and crash helmet. Somehow, this token became a symbol of our affection, and we passed it between us, letting Super Grover carry silly messages back and forth. It ended up with me all these years later, even though it had been a childhood toy of Tee’s. I wrap it in a letter thanking Tee for all he has done for me. Then I pack the words and the figure in a hand-carved box that Tee gave me. It was one of the many beautiful boxes he brought me from his travels. I love being surrounded by these small pieces of our shared story, but having them cluttered around me keeps Tee too close. Bug’s father is near enough, just by virtue of being Bug’s father. It is time to hand back these pieces. To release my grip, and let him do what he will with them.
And then to let the quiet, clear nothing fill my hands.
Perhaps Giovanni will fit into that space, perhaps he will not. Whatever happens next is uncertain. My hands are open. My eyes are beginning to be so.