Christmas and the holiday season should be the happiest time of the whole year: the entire family gathered together, group activities, snow, the scent of pine, warm gingerbread.
Christmas always seemed like love incarnate to me, which is why when I perused my old journal this past month, I was startled to see the following entry. I could attempt to explain it, justify it, or write it off. But know only that I wrote this on Christmas Eve my junior year of college, three weeks after admitting to myself I loved other men. At this time, only two other people knew.
It is a collage of my worst memories:
Friday, Dec. 24, 2010
Another wave whispers quietly up the beach and lays soft, cold kisses on my feet. The sky glows like a burning rainbow, streaked with dark blue strips of old wallpaper. A heart lays drawn on the ground as I pass. When I return, it has already been nearly washed away. A young man lunges to catch a frisbee thrown by his father’s deft hand. My mother walks next to me. Words are shared, but I am absent. Even with the company, I feel only an aching loneliness.
Walking in a sea of people. Screams from twisted metal, shrieks of joy. The acrid scent of garbage and warm, carb-loaded fat tinges my nostrils. I can feel the warm asphalt through my sandals. My feelings repulse me. I feel the need to void my stomach. My brow remains furrowed, though my smile still shines quick and frequent. My face will not betray me.
Another beach, this time at night. The sand feels chunky and damp and sucks at my feet. When I walk along the area of the receding tide, I feel that soft, sagging feeling of the just-moistened ground. Each footstep makes a soft sigh as it presses into the ground, and an echo as it leaves. The beach lies desolate but for the stars and the heavy boulders that tinge its borders. Why won’t someone come? My prayers spread outward and are lost in the ocean’s depths.
Sitting against a wall. My brain feels fuzzy and I feel that loose-limbed numbness. I can still taste the whiskey on my breath. “Pat, you look like you’re going to cry.” A laugh, a joke, another deflection. A movement toward the bathroom. That reflection in the mirror. Despair covers me like a cloud. Washing my face in that cream-colored basin, the burbling of the water buries the sobs. The water stops. I smile at myself, my practiced eyes crinkle at the edges. The master actor walks out while his soul lies in the salty torrent that slowly spills down the drain.
I keep trying so hard. I push my mind harder and harder. You can do it, if you just try hard enough, you can do it. I lie beneath my covers in that alien place, beneath that breathless and pine-scented air. I eventually make my way down the bunk, slipping into the bathroom. I stare in the mirror, I sit on the toilet, on the edge of the bathtub. Eventually, my task wearies me. The defeat has taken me to the brink. I crawl into that porcelain womb and sob into my arms.
That strange, frenzied flight. The now-unfamiliar scents of home. The dirt and grime of a few days lying caked on my body. Into the shower, as always, the one solitude in a crowded life. The water pours over me. I remember the sunburn, the snowcones, the scent of chlorine, the feeling of wet swim trunks, the bite of my first liberal curse words still giving me the hungering taste of blood on my tongue, the deft movements of a tennis racket, the dimpled surface of a basketball, a leather armchair, sleeping forms, a simple statement that in its brevity haunts my mind. The memories pour over me with the torrent of water. Why is it all lost? I cannot keep it. I cry as though I have lost God, himself.
Why? Why? The chimes sing, but their song burns my skin. The bitter wind refuses to calm the fire that spins and spirals down my limbs. My heart lies lanced with an agonizing pain. Why? I cannot even cry.
All breaks in a numbness of years. The flatness of most of it haunts worse than the canyons of my pains. The most meaningful moments might seem familiar; I have rewritten them many times in my mind. I often speak of thunder, of echoes, of shrieks and cries, of music in stillness. Yet so much of my life has been a rushed exhalation of air, a grasping of desperate fingers, a soul spreading outward in a spiral of lights…
Yet, the silent tears pool in nothingness. I beat at the waters. There are no ripples. The obsidian surface shows no reflection.
There is only a silence so terrible that there is no scream.
You can follow Patrick Boland on Instagram @patrickjboland0 and on Facebook – patrick.boland.146. You can also subscribe to his blog at www.patrickjamesboland.com, which gives weekly ‘homework’ assignments on finding health, wealth, and happiness. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.