Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference, living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; taking this world as it is and not as I would have it; trusting that You will make all things right if I surrender to Your will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next. Amen.
− Reinhold Niebuhr
“Last man standing”; a phrase coined to define the sole survivor of a battle, the last eyes to shut down in a sleep over, sole winner in a competition, the uneliminated. Sounds fun right? Like something people would want? On the flip side, this author chooses to narrate the tale of the sad last man standing. The story of the wins that feel like losses, loneliness that comes with standing out, anxiety that shadows the odd one out, heck even the yearn to join the fallen and belong.
Time elapsed and nature creeped in sooner than we both cared to admit. The constant crave for each other’s company brewed stronger and stronger. Whenever I think of what we had, only one statement befits: He loved me, in fact a lot, and I loved him back, just as much.
It was the kind of love that was new, trying to blossom, trying to gain roots. That stage my species like to call the “honeymoon phase”. We spent each waking and sleeping moments together. Our laughs grew heartfelt and the debates heated. Hellos couldn’t be any sooner nor goodbyes anymore loathed. Any slight touch felt like sparks building up to an explosion yet more was still ached for. Most time spent away from each other was used up on planning to see each other soon.
Our love was forbidden thus I can’t begin to tell you how sweet it was. We derived pleasure from any seconds we could steal. Hanging onto glances we could share, hugs we could hold onto a little longer, texts we could read in each other’s voices whenever we were a few feet apart and the few seconds we could sneak away from all prying eyes.
From here the script is a classic. We got caught-up, we got reckless, we got caught in. We raised brows here and raised even more questions there. Our friends and family gambled and debated a lot on us: are they dating? smashing? Their curiosity drove them closer and closer to us, studying us intensely like some science experiment. Most thought we should stay away from each other, so we promised them we would. A promise we both knew, each time we made it, that we would break it. A promise we had made to each other many times before and still couldn’t keep it. How could we explain that we were bound by forces stronger than us? That what we experienced around each other was out of our control? That we knew we were bad for each other yet couldn’t help how badly we loved each other? That we also didn’t know what we were doing and were instead living off our impulses?
He always said our ending would still be a classic: that regardless of all that magic we held together; time would have cruelly estranged us. I didn’t doubt him then. I doubt him now. Now, I like to think that we would have had a full-blown illicit relationship. That kind that breeds the other family of wife and kids. Too much? Okay back up. But then again, I still have that part of me that believes we would have been a classic. That part just feels guilty to admit so at this time.
Time welcomed me to my nightmare. He left. At the peak of my unstirred emotions, he left. Ungraciously, without saying goodbye, he left. Despite my begging him not to dare do so, he left. He joined the lot of “loved ones”, “Memories to be treasured”, “Messages to be read and reread for no newer ones were ever to come”. For a person who hated sleeping as much as he did, it is his commitment to staying dead that baffles me to date.
They say that grief comes in five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
I remember denial, that one came first. Denial had me building castles in the air (haha, finally used one of these!). In some of those castles, he would raise from the dead. In others, he would walk up to me and say it was all a prank. Denial was short-lived.
Anger, on the other hand, didn't seem to have a home. Anger, like the parasite it was, inhabited every aspect of my life. Irritable is a word so commonly used in paediatrics to describe annoyance as those patients are yet to verbalize it. Irritable is also what I turned into. An irritable adult. Anger and I developed a toxic relationship thus I will spare that story for another day.
Bargaining came in cloaked. Bargaining was a magician, hosting one of those early morning shows. Bargaining attacked my yet fully awoken mind, sneaking in and out stealthily, dropping thoughts and ideas. Bargaining convinced me that my terrors were just but a bad dream. It convinced me that all I had to do was open my eyes and the world would be set all right again. My weak mind always fell for that one, I always opened my eyes. My harsh reality would always set in. The next morning, bargaining would report for duty again. You know what they say about people who are fooled twice... Bargaining did more than shame me.
Paradoxically, depression was fun. You see, I have no memory of depression. If you asked me, i never felt depressed. The thing with depression is that it sets in as an excuse. For example, my three-month social withdrawal was excused by: I have a busy schedule, I am beat, I have a lot of movies to catch up on, I am sleepy, owning a phone is bugging me etc. Depression always had excuses for my signs and symptoms. Depression had me comfortable and fearless. It drove meaning out of life, shrunk my whole universe such that, I, its main character, became an atom in it. A comfortable atom at that. One with no future nor sense on repercussion for any current actions. In summation, depression worked to surface all my demons and encouraged them into an unremorseful peak.
"Grief," they say.
"Everyone griefs differently." say they also.
My kind of grief did not get the script. That b***h decided to give me a sour mess of all stages interchangeably. As if on some balanced diet, she served anger to break the fast, denial for lunch and depression by dinner hour. Ultimately, jealousy set in among my demons. Anger and resentment started a tag of war within me. Pulling hard enough to hurt me, but not too hard to rip me off. Preserving enough of me to persevere in a severely broken situation. Finally, I felt it. Broken. My shell shattered. My nakedness paraded.
My emotions summed up into a vector that propelled me into acceptance. You see, the worst day of loving someone isn't the day you lose them, it is the day you accept it. I only asked to be reassured about the noises in the cellar and that window that should not have been open. And you see that bumper sticker begging for attention, I only asked to touch it. So, I took a moment to step out of my being and watch the unfolding circus. As if looking into a mirror. The image that stared back was horrific. An advanced level of my tag of war was playing out. Anger and resentment had taken to different ends of a beam balance, swaying off terror as the pivot. This new trio burned my eyes with tears that clouded my already cloudy vision. It filled me up with energy that sort dispensing in ways that either hurt me or hurt other beings around me. A sick degree of restlessness that aimed to ferry my feet on a Cain’s journey to forever wander aimlessly shadowed me. Clothing this last man standing in a cocktail of sadness and confusion.
Roses are red, violets are blue
I lied when I said, it would never be you
Now the roses have wilted, the violets are dead
Words have been left unsaid, with eyes to teary to bear
A heart too gaped to mend, and a soul enveloped in grief
Bearing into pitch darkness, with dire questions lacking answers to share
Aching for the hand that can be clasped no more
To behold me for I cannot sleep
To whisper words of comfort, for I cannot stop physically hurting
With nothing more to lose, you said forever, only to put the entire universe between us.
I think about life beyond. I wonder whether we will meet again. I wonder if we would remember each other. I wonder if we would add more chapters of us to our very brief book. I wonder if you will have stayed young. I wonder if there is anything I can currently do for you. I think about life at present too. I wonder if I will stop missing you. I wonder whether I will wrinkle up or leave before that happens. I worry that I may forget you. That one day, you will fade into memory. I wonder if I need to totally let go already.
Sometimes, just sometimes, living scares me to death. Survival is of the fittest. Perseverance of a species is based on their ability to gain beneficial variations and reproduce young ones who inherit the said traits. I like to think of evolution by natural selection as our “system updates” from the creator. Today, this author chooses to make some lemonade out of the lemons life hands over, to evolve, Darwin, I-Ching, adapt, improvise, just roll with it, whatever man!
Rest easy in sleep eternal,