"Are you still in love with Sean?" The intake therapist's arm hovered over my intake survey. I chewed on the question. She glanced up at me when I hesitated to respond. She pressed on. "Are you still in love with Sean?"
Months later I've been struck by the answer, that I've never really fallen out of love. With anyone. When I was 12 years old I distinctly recall the moment I looked into Mike's eyes and knew I was in love. A few weeks ago a message from Mike popped up on the corner of my Facebook screen and after all this time my heart still fluttered. I never did fall out of love with him. One afternoon someone told me that Mike's girlfriend was pregnant, that they were going to get married and move out of Bakersfield. I had a good cry, but ultimately resigned myself to the realization that he was starting a family with someone else and I would have to move on. But I guess, as the cliche goes, a part of me kept holding on.
Sean was a different story. He was gone so instantly, unexpectedly, and violently and I wasn't ready to let him go. Though I saw his dead body and commanded it to rise and walk even while it laid stiff next to the gun that killed him, a part of me has always believed that someday he'll be back. He couldn't really be gone - not with so much left to say to him. I suppose I am still in love with Sean; more than I am in love, I think even after nearly eight years I am still in shock.
As I tie up the lose ends of the last three years I'm advised often that I should take this opportunity to learn something. There's nothing I learned from this experience and marriage and divorce that has been worth the pain. I didn't need to touch a hot stove to know that it burns; I didn't need to feel this way to know that heartache is miserable. I don't know how to love halfway, I fall deeply and swiftly, and I hurt the same way too. Divorce certainly ties suicide as the worst ways to break up with someone. The feeling of helplessness surrounding both is uncanny. The afternoon that I arrived at Sean's apartment complex and started to put the pieces together that something was terribly wrong, a silent ringing began echoing in my ears, seeming to cancel out all other sound. My fruitless pleas sounded distant and muffled even as I felt them tearing from my throat, but by the time the emergency vehicles began to arrive the noise had begun to fade back in, crescendoing with the sirens. For the last year, the sound's been slowly fading back in. I feel like I've been operating with only half of my senses. I can only gather that the feeling must be some sort of defense mechanism - as if my mind is protecting me, aware that I simply can't absorb the experience all at once.
Still, the biggest part of me can't wait to fall in love one more time. The first time I felt that flutter again I think my first response was relief - My heart hadn't gone completely cold after all. One might think I would learn to guard that heart a little better, but true to form I gave in to emotion. I felt hopeful that I'd met someone wonderful and so special, and frustrated that the feelings were unrequited, but I also felt human. Being human sometimes - frequently - hurts. Sometimes being human as meant waiting to hear from someone that my mind knows I'll never hear from again. But sometimes being human means getting that unexpected message from someone from the past or from someone I hope will be a part of my future, and feeling my heart skip a beat, reminding me that I'm alive and still have a heart after all.