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A brief note to say two things:
1. I've been doing a lot of reflective writing. A fair chunk of it, I just keep for myself. Some of it, I write to possibly be shared. I share some of it in case a few folks might find parts of my grief process around Chris and what happened relatable/resonating/maybe even comforting. There won't be important news in here. And I don't expect any friends or anyone to read it. It's just in case you want to and it might be nice to see someone saying some grief things out loud.
2. I've been processing so much of all of this through music. In this post, I've included little footnotes to songs I've been listening to that really connect with some of the feelings I'm writing about in that moment (and throughout the piece).
I know Chris did a lot of poeticising in his writing, in his abuse, in describing his abuse, and in his death. I'm not trying to romanticise something that of course is beyond summary in words. Just wanted to offer some songs I've found poignant & helpful. And then let you know what bits they sit with for me. As always, take/read/listen to what bits you'd like to; ignore the rest. X
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Draft Written Saturday 17 July 2021
Last night and tonight, I went out to the steps of the patio of my back garden(1). Just like me, Foley, had been moping a bit during the week and took a bit of convincing. But he eventually joined me. He rubbed his chin all over all his favourite spots on the patio first, then on each of his favourite plants. Then he went back and ate some each of the plants he had marked. That's how rabbits tell other small mammals something is theirs. They have small scent glands under their chins, which they rub on the things they love.
It was the first time I'd gone out to relax this summer. That was something Chris and I would always do with Foley. (2) Go onto the porch with a glass of something and watch the sun set, watch Foley frolic, and talk and hold hands in the enormity of everything.
I took my notebook out with me and attempted to sketch some scenes from one of my favourite podcasts (more of a sort of closed radio story told in instalments). It's called Dreamboy It has dreams and a gay bar and saving an animal that may or may not still be alive. And some erotic content - fair warning. So, not a surprise choice if you know me. Anyway, after going outside and drawing for a while, for the first time in a week last night, I had ok dreams. Not painful and horrifying and repulsive. Just sort of either ok or baseline sad/stressful. And I woke up and felt ok.
So I went out tonight again. This time, I drew the garden. I don't love where I live. (3) I don't like why Chris chose it and I don't like why he lied about why he chose it and I really hate how far it is from everything. But I love the view from the garden; the same view I have from my queercave/study window and my bedroom door out to the garden.
The moon has been gorgeously bright. Even though it's not even quite a half-moon. It has risen through the sky, even before the sun is down, with that searing kind of glare that makes you think it's going to hit a magnifying lens somewhere and set everything on fire. (4) And it doesn't. Of course. But when the edges are that clear and it glows so brightly, you forget that you can't see the stars or that it's going to be harder to go to sleep. Or I do, at least. I sit there, sort of transfixed and sort of in love. Sort of wanting to land on it one day. Sort of wanting to never get any closer, so I can hold it in my imagination.
I haven't cried this hard in a fairly long time. It reminds me of when I cried as a child. I was talking to a good friend who visited me only two days after I'd heard Chris had died.
Before she left, she held me for a while. Not because I was crying, just 'cause. I'm a lot bigger than her, but she invited me to curl up in her lap and be held. I think everything I got in that hug was sort of a condensed package of all the things I have needed to keep breathing and growing each day. Things from her, but also from a lot of friends.
There is a bit of a Doctor Who episode that has always stuck with me. It's from "The Beast Below," with Matt Smith and Karen Gillian. It's a bit cliche, maybe. But, it goes:
Amy: One little girl crying. So?
Doctor: Crying silently. I mean, children cry 'cause they want attention, 'cause they're hurt, or when they're afraid. But when they cry silently, it's because they just can't stop.
My friend and I talked about crying and I remember saying that I think I'd only ever cried because I couldn't stop (5). I couldn't remember thinking anyone would comfort me or do anything for me when I cried.
Actually, except for one time when I walked through a park all night. Feeling desperate, I let myself into the shared house where Chris lived to be comforted by him, because I didn't know what else to do. That's a different story.
Early on, very soon after Chris died, someone told me how ok it was to just howl. And I realised that was the word for how I cry. I suppose not when I was, like, a very tiny baby, but since I can remember, I've always sort of opened my mouth and silently howled. And I can't stop for a while, sometimes twenty minutes, sometimes three or four hours.
It feels like a very integral part of what I am is an eternal howl and when I finally let it out, it takes over a bit. And my body is too small in comparison to give it an actual voice.
I'm believing that theory less and less these days. Or, at least, the idea that the howl lives constantly and permanently in me, that it grew from something immutable inside me. That I have to listen to it every nanosecond of my waking and sleeping life to have any integrity.
It was Chris seeing something of that which initially made me decide I could and should trust him. And watching him die (albeit from afar), knowing he believed that darkness was an essential part of him. And having seen the days where he lived without it... I no longer believe that's how it works. At the very least, that's not how I want to believe it works for me (6).
There is a freedom in that. There's a liberation, of course, in realising during an enforced separation that my partner was truly and deeply abusive, how much better I felt without him. There was a liberation in the threat of his choices, compulsions, addiction, and perpetually care-less outlets of abuse, etc, finally being police knowledge. My worst fear came true and then I was free of that very tiny, high-density, six-year worry in the very deep, dark back of my brain.
But there is a much, much bigger something, an unlocking of reality, that comes into play when I no longer believe I need to be in pain and furious shame forever. Perhaps it was true that Chris would only love (I still don't know if "love" is accurate) me if that was part of our bond. Maybe that was mostly in my head. But there is a freedom in escape.
A lot of other feelings, of course. Especially if your home burns down behind you (7). And part of you will may occasionally glance over your shoulder towards where the ashes are. Would be. But there is always some wild ecstasy in the escape.
Chris wrote a letter to be read after he died by a few close friends. (8) He didn't include me in that list. Someone offered to send it to me (with an appropriate warning), and I read it. It was very long, which wouldn't surprise anyone who was familiar with him or his work. I don't know if I'll ever read it a second time. But fairly early in the letter, he wrote, "In the very first part of our relationship, I handed my then-boyfriend a loaded gun. Now, nearly six years on, for reasons known only to him (but let me assure you they are not the reasons he has apparently stated), he has pulled the trigger."
He told me incredibly dark things about himself. Very early on. I thought he'd done that with everyone - past partners, close friends. I'd seen it in his work. I hadn't thought it was a secret. I told him how much pain I was in, all the time. I told him about dark things that happened to me. I told him there were a couple people whose death would bring me peace.
(9) Somewhere around 6 hours into the 13 hours the police spent interviewing him, the lead detective called me to discuss the last few months of our home life. My understanding was basically that Chris had said the same thing to them - that he'd said that I always knew he'd had indecent content and that I, for some secret, personal reason, picked that moment to turn him in.
The thing about harm or abuse, I think, is that everyone has a limit. (10) And you can push someone way past their limit, but the second you cross that line, everyone involved starts to feel the effects.
Whether I was made more brave out of anger, whether I made the right or wrong choice about which wedding vows to uphold, and the whole, huge, tangled mess of gnarled roots that is everything Chris did for the last 25 years and my own faults, which got tangled in with his (along with so many wonderful moments) the last six years (11)... I don't know all the reasons that lead up to what happened. Chris didn't either, of course. The sequence of events is accurate. That's the story I can tell.
The thing I know is that something always gives. Usually at the weakest point (12).
When I went out to draw the moon and imaginary places and aeroplanes underwater and streetlamps in cities the last two nights, that was a howl. Dancing in the middle of my study at 1 in the morning is a howl. Sexting a stranger from a queer dating app. Uncertain, rejoicing, still wild, a howl. Chaotic freedom and celebration and the things we love and are too searingly bright and if we ever put wolves on the moon, y'know, neither one would come out of it in great shape.
Foley (13) hasn't done this since Chris was arrested, but if thinks he's in danger, he thumps. He can't talk or scream, but he just starts thumping with his huge back foot. It's loud. He can't hear it. But he can feel it.
There's never danger. He's inside and there are no animals - it's just me and him. I sit with him. He keeps thumping. I give him some carrot. If that doesn't work, I cradle him in my arms, swaddling him. And eventually he resets. He lays on my chest and kisses my chin, rubs his chin on mine. On the off chance a sneaky rabbit sniffs me out in the middle of the night and tries to steal me away. The deep, loud, fearful, howling instinct isn't gone. But he knows the world didn't end.
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1. Lemon Boy, Cavetown
2. Counting, Stick and Poke
3. Home, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
4. To Be A Ghost, Jeff Rosenstock
5. The Wrong Train, Ghost Mice
6. Brave As A Noun & Survival Song, AJJ
6.b.Brave As A Noun, (beautiful, imo) cover by Local News Legend
7. House on Fire, Ghost Mice
8. Darkest Heart, AJJ
9. I'm Not A Good Person/We Don't Get Tired, We Get Even, Pat the Bunny
10. Doth Make Cowards, Local News Legend
11. Archive, Mal Blum
12. Beachboy, McCafferty
13. E for Estranged, Owen Pallett
"But promise me you'll always try. 'Cause I don't wanna hate you. And I don't wanna hate me. And I don't want to have to hate everything anymore."
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Some bad drawings:
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