Two weeks ago, my aunt’s husband passed away. They had been married for thirty-nine years. They were truly, deeply in love. He had a stroke, lost consciousness, and never woke up again. No chance to say good-bye. My aunt was inconsolable—her husband once said that if she died, he would die too—he would not know what else to do. My aunt feels the same way.
Two years ago, I was corresponding with my aunt, and then I stopped—because I was too lazy, too sad, too busy, too self-absorbed maybe. I have never spoken to my aunt on the phone—only ever wrote her letters. My mother went to Los Angeles for one week, and during that time, she called me twice, telling me that my aunt would like to talk to me on the phone. I refused. Why? I was selfish. I was too scared. I was too concerned about myself. Even though I didn’t know my uncle well, I feel for my aunt. I regret my inability to offer comfort—I regret, I regret so much. My mother told me yesterday that my aunt would like a letter from me because it would comfort her.
I finally wrote my aunt a letter tonight, trying to offer comfort, feeling with each word I wrote that everything I said was inadequate. Such a loss—the loss of true love—there is no comfort someone else can offer. My mother told me that when my aunt is home alone—in the home where once she shared with the love of her life—she walks around, calling for her husband, wishing that if he had become a ghost, he would come back to her.
The only thing that I could think to offer to such loss was my own loneliness. I have never known true love, and I cannot imagine the devastation such a loss would cause. I’ve made a promise that I’ll write her a letter every week, no matter how busy, how depressed, how wretched I am. It is going to be difficult to write those letters.
If I were a character in a fairy tale, I would be the hard and bitter old witch, sitting in my tower room, brewing my potions, reading my spell books, weaving dark spells. I have spent my life avoiding people, because I always get hurt when I get too close. Something always goes wrong, and each time something does go wrong, the deep and dark forest around my witch’s hut becomes more and more impassable. Loneliness becomes my bad addiction. It becomes my way of life. It is so difficult to care about someone else.
A year ago, a friend told me that my life would be guided by love. Of course I laughed bitterly—I’m chained to love, more like it. I’m addicted to love. Most of the novels I read each year are love stories. The stories I tell myself before I go to sleep are all love stories. The stories I write are all love stories. The most bittersweet dreams I have—the ones that I dare not write about—are all dreams of love. Every year, I tell myself—it’s over, no more of this pathetic letting-love-guide-your-life nonsense. Find something else. Let ambition guide your life. Or the quest for knowledge. Or hope for peace. Or your need to understand religion. Anything but love. I tell myself—living like this—longing for love, hoping for love—this way of living will kill you. If I knew which part of my brain is love, I would cut it out, with no regrets whatsoever. I would cut it out and throw it away. That may seem harsh, but I know—surely as I know anything about myself—that my cyclic bouts of depression are because of unrequited love. Every time I fail in my quest for love, I shut down—I lose the ability to function, I lose the will to live. My emotional stability is pathetic. My loneliness becomes a monster crawling inside my mind.
That is why I fear writing to my aunt. For only one precious month so far this year, I have not suffered because of love. I have been free of hope, of fear, of desire for love. I have been functioning like a normal human being. I have been okay, and I have been feeling that I will be okay forever because I know my weakness, I have made the same mistake too many times, and I am stronger than this sick need for love. I feel like I am being tested. Am I strong enough to write to my aunt and hear her stories about her true love? Am I strong enough to offer comfort, even when I feel awful, just plain awful, that my aunt, who has suffered so much in her life, has just endured the worst loss in her life? I think I am. I am so angry, so sick, so freakin’ bitter about the way love makes me feel that I think I am strong enough. I am strong enough on the strength of my negative feelings. If it helps to be a bitter, hard, lonely old witch, then by Thunder, I will gladly take on this persona. Am I closing myself off to love? Yes. Yes. Love belongs in my stories and my imagination, but longing for it in real life is akin to seeking my own death.
[Self-Commentation: Whew, I seem to be having a bad day. Where’s my sense of humor today?? Actually, it’s a relief to write all this out, because that’s really how I have been feeling for three years—been too afraid to admit these things to myself, I suppose. The truth surely hurts, and I hope my sense of humor is back tomorrow.]