24 July 2017

Et Tu, Amor? (Sensory Deprivation)

Long ago I read somewhere something like to be writer one has to deal in hard truths, discomfort, and things that make one cringe and squirm. Honesty of feeling is paramount in what goes on the page. Credibility is at stake. I know this. I have written about some things that made me squirm and cringe. I understand this need for honesty. Honesty has been on my mind overly much these days, a byproduct of emotional turmoil and loss. Here is a little hard truth I need to purge. I want love to bleed.

My cup may brim full of cynicism and bile, but love is an asshole. An asshole with inexhaustible resources to keep reminding my heart of that fact. Omnia vincit amor (“Love conquers all,”) wrote Virgil in his Eclogue X. I believed him, once upon a time, but in a very different fashion. That has changed. Love may conquer all as a creator, but this time it conquered me as a destroyer.

In my time of writing I have spilled much ink, digital and physical, in defense of love. How it can sustain you. How it ties one to others and allows growth, security, desire. Now I am seeing I have no faith anymore in my own hype. There is a limit to the numbers of heartbreaks I can take. It is most maddening that we have no way to hold love accountable for its transgressions.

Love lied to me. Not once, not twice, but three goddamn times in my adult life it flattered to deceive, pulled me down a path I believed led to a cure for loneliness and pain, a fountain of belonging. Love betrayed me. It smiled the entire time, every time, with every twist of the knife. So begins the stripping away of the senses that give juice to life.

Betrayal by love disturbs touch. Heat, cold, rough, smooth: all that is tactile carries with it at least a little irritation. Even the absence of sensation creates its own peculiar pain. The hands mourn the loss of a lover's hip, the mouth the lover's lips. There is perhaps nothing so generative of heartache than the void within one's grasp. To reach out in the night and feel nothing but space and sheets is agony realized to a degree bordering on obscenity.

Love as a pillager can ruin a good music library. All those great songs, and so many become unlistenable now. Listening is either a reminder of how good love was or how searing its absence. It is a small percentage of songs left that I can or want to hear without hitting skip. Raw emotion, anger, frustration working itself out in the screaming of lyrics that speak to all of those things festering in a heart exploding along the scars and fault lines. Most importantly, a verbal catharsis to help numb the lonely helplessness if only the sound did not hurt so much.

Do not think the palate escapes the collateral damage of losing love. Oh, no, taste suffers its own degradations. Brightness and sweet fade from the tongue. Savory turns to sour, ashes in the back of the throat. If taste remains it is bitter metallic. To sometimes eat alone by benign circumstance is a fact of existence, easily endured. To eat alone because of banishment from the table of the heart is an exercise in catered despair. Forget about cooking for joy. Stirring the pot with a broken heart is mere pragmatic numbness. The soul may be in limbo, but the belly has its own agenda. When they quarrel, hunger often wins at the cost of inner peace.

With love's loss, the eyes offend us but common sense lobbies hard to not pluck them out. Much business of life still depends on seeing in spite of the searing reminders of what we once had. Who knew that a photograph could pass as a branding iron? What terrible hooks in the heart are pulled at passing glances of social media feeds and photographs! They lie in ambush, these frozen memories of a life once well lived. Turn the page, scroll down left or right, none of it matters. Our eyes collide with the now fractured landmarks of a shared history that was more good than bad.

The heart swears that it recalls the scent of love yet it is the nose that does the work. The gentle aromas of existence, sunlight on a lover's skin combined with rumpled cotton and sweat. Pheromones aloft in the kitchen sensed over the aroma of dinner, teased out with a nuzzle to the neck. Exhalations and inhalations of a nightcap's departure in that time-stopping moment before the consummation of a goodnight kiss. Even the humble nose deals with loss when hearts disassociate.

Someone once told me that love is never the wrong answer. For years, I subscribed to that theology. I was a True Believer. It felt good, it felt right. But I woke up one morning after a few weeks alone again and decided my name was Thomas. The stigmata haven't changed my mind. Maybe because the stigmata are in my palms and I know the source of the pain.

You may think I wish to banish love from my life. No, I want to interrogate it. I want to cuff it to the table in the Box, break it down masterfully like Detective Frank Pembleton did to those perps on Homicide: Life on the Street. I want love to sob into its fist and tell me what horrid excuse it has for killing my heart. Of course, love is not guilty of murder, because I'm still alive. Fraud is another matter, and love is guilty as fuck.


  1. Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom. ~ Rumi
    I have this tacked on my wall. Some days I look at it and nod in agreement and some days I call bullshit.

    1. That about sums it up. Right now there is little difference for me between an open heart and an exploded one. It hurts too much for anything to make sense, and my capacity for belief is, shall say, virtually nonexistent.

      Thank you for the annotated version of that quote. Good viewpoint!

  2. Oh, this reads so true. You are a true talent, my friend.
    And in Ms. Foran's wake, I post this:
    I didn't trust it for a moment,
    But I drank it anyway

    The wine of my own poetry

    It gave me the daring to
    Take hold of the darkness
    And tear it down and cut
    It into little pieces. ~ Lalla, 14th century Persian poet

    Hang in there!


    1. Oh, I like that! There will be some grappling with darkness in the near future. Thank you!

  3. Truer words have never been written in the throes of heart felt pain. Love ya, Irish. All the feels.


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...