First death, then what? (Part I)

Impoverished of heart by a loneliness so profound as to be insurmountable, I sat alone in the confines of an existence marred by heartache.

I was alienated from my family after coming out.

Struggles with accepting myself and what it meant to be gay in America forced me to realize I would never be equal, could never share in the same joys as others.

I buried myself in work, became the workaholic that would define me for many years to come, and that only to realize immediately how unhappy it made me…yet driven to pull the covers of employment over my head so the world could not find me, could not torment me.  Or at least so I could not be forced to examine my own misery in the reflection I cast in the mirror of years.

The tatters of my life seemed like nothing more than fodder for the cannons of hate and agony.  Such was the self-imposed prison in which I became entrapped.

Too immature to understand what would be so clear a decade later, my sole purpose in life defined itself in terms of “being with someone.”  I raced from boyfriend to boyfriend, from bed to bed, from heartbreak to heartbreak.

Finally, in a relationship that ended long before I realized it—or accepted it, I wasted emotional credit buying time in a desperate search for that which mattered little yet deserved my every breath.  My heart lay broken upon the eternal shore of deception and selfishness, and there I remained for too long trying to put it back together.

How can one survive without another? I often asked myself, and with equal rapidity I gave the same tired answer: One cannot survive without another.

So I went on aching and lamenting what I thought I needed, comparing my own misery with that of “normal people” too crippled by anguish and torment for their own good.  I knew someone without another meant little, deserved less, and died reaching for loved ones who did not exist.

I refused to be that person.

Torturous distress in codependent hell motivated me to seek others, to keep looking for something more.  Life became an endless search.

When finally I met Derek, suffering beset me from every side and I reached out to him with a longing I dared not acknowledge.  In return, he became a confidant, a friend, a lover, a roommate, a sounding board, a debate partner, an adversary, and a loved one.

Our relationship scarcely could be defined as smooth.  As it evolved, however, and as we nestled into a rapport based on kindred spirits and comfort, I slowly became aware of the change that had come over me.

Through many years wrought with turmoil and fulfillment, the longing within me grew to accept that a friend meant far more than continual heartache.  Having someone to talk to, to share ups and downs with. . .  Well, life took on new meaning then.

No longer besieged by my own desperate quest to live the normal life that others lived, the life I knew I could never have, I wrapped myself in a settled existence surrounded by love, sometimes hatred, and always trust.  Joyfully tumultuous and furiously sedate, a mixture I came to recognize and appreciate in all human interaction, we became brothers who tended to each other, spoke without reserve, expected brutal honesty, and lived comfortably.

Never before had I trusted anyone with The Kids like I trusted Derek.  Never before had I equally despised and adored someone without whom I felt I could not live.

And thus began the curse that would vex me for years to come.

When finally The Disease wracked his body with ailment after ailment, each worse than the one before, already I had started the process of pulling away, of seeking my own life, of feeling trapped by this mutually beneficial living pungent with secure subsistence and—in my eyes anyway—lacking the verve and vivacity I felt I needed.

Yet after all those years, one thing I knew to be true was that I could not turn my back on him.  Even as my resentment grew, I sacrificed more and more to help him survive.

Now more than three years after his death, I finally realize that empty space can never be filled.  Other songs will fill the void, yes, and other bouquets will lend their fragrances to my days, but alone I must mark the time since his passing, alone I must bear the weight of what has been lost.

Too often I find myself calculating days with increments of “What would Derek do?” and “What would Derek think?” and “What would Derek say?”  Too often I stumble through my mind wishing he could offer his intellect and wit to just one more trouble, one more question.

“Death is a dignitary who, when he comes announced, is to be received with formal manifestations of respect, even by those most familiar with him.”  Ambrose Bierce penned those words.  On many occasions I have used them in reference to Derek.

But what of those left behind?  Dare I apply the same commandment to the bitter taste of loss that even now infects my palate?

Sometimes death is less a dignitary and more a terrorist.  What then?

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