SO FAR AWAY
“This is my life – it’s not what it was before, all these feelings I’ve shared. And these are my dreams that I’d never lived before. Somebody shake me cause I, I must be sleeping. Now that we’re here, it’s so far away. All the struggle that I thought was in vain. All the mistakes one life contained, they all finally start to go away. Now that we’re here it’s so far away, and I feel like I can face the day. I can forgive and I’m not ashamed to be the person that I am today. These are my words that I’ve never said before, I think I’m doing ok. And this is the smile that I’ve never shown before. Somebody shake me cause I, I must be sleeping … I’m so afraid of waking. Please don’t shake me” – Staind
(The Plane Has Landed …)
Dear Flyboy: Let’s see, where do I begin? I have absolutely no idea! Now is the time for me to sit down, reflect and try to put down in words exactly what has transpired since that destined moment that you passed “the message on the napkin” over to my tray table, my Angel from Flight 438. (As if I haven’t bombarded you with enough of my words already!) If anything, please remember that this is more mental therapy for me than anything, so once again, be patient. What follows is complete and total honesty and clarity – with myself, from within myself and due largely in part to you. This will be hard because there are so many things I don’t want to leave out, but I have to believe that somehow, someway, you will be able to fully understand and believe that these words come from a depth in my soul I truly never knew existed, and they are probably the deepest feelings for another human being, other than my kids, that I have ever felt or known. Here goes …
By now I assume that you have read “The Diary of My Perfection”. What did you think? Best seller? Has the picture of all things Kitty Cat become any clearer? I tried so hard to convey to you in person the fact that somehow over the years I have managed to rip myself apart at the seams into this extremely jaded shell of a human being that’s broken into a million pieces. The same goes for those people that have surrounded me. I feel as though my existence in many peoples’ lives has jaded them a bit as well. But perhaps my story helped you understand the magnitude of it all and helped more intensely clarify exactly how lost I have been here inside myself for SO many numbing years. I have been unable to feel a single, real thing, except for where my three babies are concerned, and until now they have been my only connection to human feeling, compassion or spirit.
As you have probably gathered by now and perhaps even within moments of knowing me, I am very much comforted, enthralled and kept alive by my son’s existence in this world, and he, along with my daughter, are the only true successes that I have ever known … at least until now. All good then. If I leave this world tomorrow, I leave successful! Christian, despite all odds, is and will always be one of the most incredible human beings I know. I am certain that just as his strength of character and wisdom have enlightened and inspired me there will be countless other lives He will have touched along his way before it is all said and done. I made him! My daughter? God, I wish you could have met her! She is one of the most strikingly beautiful and amazing creatures I have ever laid eyes upon, both inside and out, and her smiles alone have been more than enough to sustain me in the worst of all my days. I made her! Even that tiny wonder that greeted then left me in only a few short hours of time … broken, yes, but perfect in every other way. I made her too! And as painful as it was to watch her life slip through my fingers, and as haunting a memory it is for me to live with, I find it surreal that I was able to hold that little girl in my hands from the moment she came into this world until the moment she left it. How many mothers can say that? Sometimes Henrik I’m almost thankful she’s gone. Does that make me depraved? Who knows? I look around at this place that we live in. So much evil, ugliness and disdain. She never had to know it. She just got to be tiny and innocent, grace us with her overwhelming presence, then leave this place completely unknowing and unscathed. This, I think I’ve found, was the blessing behind her very short existence. You know, I think I’ll keep running with that so that perhaps someday the agony I feel when I think about how it ripped my heart out watching her struggle and gasping for air will begin to fade. I truly hope that in time I will be able to reconcile those two things within myself so that the healthier of the two thought processes overtakes and consumes the other.
Can I tell you Henrik and could you ever believe me when I say there were moments during our time together, I wasn’t actually sure that you were real? Be it not for the fact that my son and the other boys on that plane confirmed that you were indeed on it I might still not know whether you were real or imagined! A more likely scenario was that you were an actual Angel sent from to me from God. Man, it sounds too ridiculous and again I am sitting here saying, “No Catherine, you can’t say that to him. It’s weird and creepy and this poor fucking guy doesn’t need to hear this.” But as you can see, I’ve gone ahead and included the sentiment because it is very real to me and I feel as though I have nothing else to lose. Do you remember that during our visits there were times I just reached out and touched your face with my hand? I needed to feel your skin to convince myself you were real! Do you know how long I waited for a single human being to come looking for me inside this darkness? You can’t even begin to know. Please refer to “The Diary of My Perfection”, and more specifically to the final plea I made to God just days before I left for France:
“Well then, how about an angel? Can You send me another angel, and preferably one a little taller than two feet, and older and wiser than 15? Someone I can talk to? Someone to hold me and make me feel alive? How about someone who doesn’t think I’m just whining? Someone who understands my heart, my pain, my grief. How about one person that will look beyond my surface to find the broken little girl hiding inside herself? Someone who will hear me and not say everything is okay. How about someone who doesn’t think I’m perfect, or that all the things I have should preclude me from feeling any pain? And can You send me a hug, or a kiss, or a touch? Will anyone even want to touch me?”
That was just rhetoric! A genuine prayer, but not one I was expecting to be answered. I cried out to God, and yes, I meant what I asked for, but it was more sarcasm on my part than anything. I think I told you that as I boarded that plane to France, I did so hoping for the best in my wish to “leave some things behind” but not really expecting it to happen. I have almost become comfortable dragging these demons with me everywhere so a more likely outcome, which I’d have been fine with, was just a much-needed vacation with my son. Nothing more. Nothing less. I am all too accustomed to NOT getting the things I truly need or want!
Henrik, you walked onto that plane and stopped my heart! Like my daughter you too are strikingly beautiful and sitting beside you gave me peace. I just kept watching you, and the more I watched, the more I had to know you. Then watching you watch that baby? It melted me from the core in mere seconds. One sweet smile in that child’s direction and I was absolutely done. I wanted to jump out of my skin, into your existence and know who the hell you were and had NO IDEA how I’d manage the plane ride home if I couldn’t speak to you (although as you know I did try to resist). Everything inside of me just wanted to keep that hat pulled as far down over my eyes as possible and just “cry and think” my way home. What were you thinking? Only God Himself knows. Well, God and you that is. Can I tell you something else? When we parted ways at the airport that day, I can honestly say I did not think I’d ever hear from you again. For one thing, and to reiterate, I wasn’t even sure you actually existed in the first place. Those ten hours were just too sweet to be real. Second, I was scared to death thinking that you were just been being polite and kind since you were all but trapped with me there. I honestly didn’t think I’d hear from you again, which was fine, because just those hours alone carved a decade off filth off my soul.
So why was I compelled to slit open every one of my veins and so quickly spill the entire contents of my soul into your lap? I instantly trusted you Henrik and I don’t do that. I trust no one and am highly skeptical of every thing and person I see. You looked into my eyes when we spoke and kept me there. I tried but couldn’t look away. I don’t do that either. In fact, that’s one of the things I’ve always had a problem with – making eye contact with people. Maybe that’s because I’ve been too afraid that if I actually did look someone in the eyes when I was speaking and they actually looked back at me they’d see the rotted out schism between my mind and body and run as far away as possible. I am petrified of people Henrik. Scared to death of anyone not of my womb. Surface level is all I can do. Nothing deeper. Don’t need it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about our conversation on the plane. Remember, I told you that the night before I had shed the very first layer of my skin with Adoram. But Henrik it was dark outside, and we were staring out into the ocean. When I spoke, I was just “speaking” and he was listening. It was almost as though I was a song playing on a radio that he couldn’t shut off. Poor fucking Adoram. The first of two innocent bystanders foolish enough to ask me “what’s wrong”. The first true casualty in the war of reconciling my soul. We drank, I cried, he stretched out his sleeve and wiped away my tears. But he wasn’t actually looking at me! I was in a very safe place talking to him … in the dark, no eye contact. But with you? Looking into your eyes comforted me and I wanted to stay there because it felt so good and safe. Do you remember what I wrote in The Diary about Gia? Some of the sweetest moments in my life have been those mornings she grabs my cheeks with her tiny little hands, forces me into eye lock and says, “I Love You Mommy”! It’s a miracle that she somehow intuitively knows this is what I need. But how did you?
So then, what of all our visits and chats? You have blown me out of the water Henrik and I’m not sure what to do with it. You hugged me so many times and with every one I felt a steady release of pressure from deep within my core. Each time you hugged me my breathing got a little easier and the tight grip that constantly clenches the pit of my stomach loosened. That night when we stood in the parking lot? Do you remember that hug? The one where I had my face pressed sideways against your back and you pulled my arms around to the front of your chest? I could hear your heart beating Henrik and can still hear it even now! It sends chills up my spine when I close my eyes and remember. It was at that very moment that I decided if you were in fact an Angel you had to have been the kind that could actually manifest itself into a human body, because how else could I have felt so much from a being that didn’t exist?
The night that I gave you the music and the medal you were so concerned I had given you so many pieces of myself, but what had you given me? God man, you did give me a piece of yourself. Can’t you see that? How can you not see that? You gave me your kindness and true compassion and you gave me your eyes so that I could begin to find myself. You made me want to look into the mirror and try to see what you were seeing! For 16 years I have searched for my own reflection in another person’s eyes but could never find it. I looked into the mirror and felt ugly. I felt dirty, empty and invisible. I see the way people look at me but have never really understood it. What the hell could anyone possibly see? There’s nothing here. I’m hollow. “Lights, smoke and illusion!” Please, please, please Henrik, hear what I am saying: Last July, when it was finally time for the doctors to take the bandages off my chest and stomach, I came home and couldn’t even walk past a mirror, much less look inside one. I knew then that my destruction was finally complete but just didn’t know how to reckon myself with the reality. That’s when I decided to not EVER search for my missing reflection again, whether in a mirror or through the eyes of another! I just gave up. Two full days passed before I was finally able to take my shirt off and I couldn’t actually look at myself for weeks. When the day finally came, I just stood there and cried. I touched my scars, held my stomach, dropped down to my bathroom floor and cried for so many hours you can’t begin to imagine. I thought my life was over, which was par for the entire course, and I knew from that day on I would NEVER show “myself” to another living soul, whether physically or emotionally. When I was done crying, and God I remember this like it was yesterday, I stood up, wiped away my tears, straightened my shoulders and began to devise a plan that would allow me to continue the “grand illusion”. I got dressed, got in the car and had Him drive me to a little shop across town that carried prosthetic implants I could stuff inside my bra to disguise my mutilated chest. I walked back out of that shop a whole and “perfect” woman again. Got back home, pulled into the driveway and never looked back. I have played the game very well I might add with the cards I’ve been dealt in a manner that would cause no one I love to suffer.
So, then what of all that? Do you know that although you never asked (and I have to tell you I am more than impressed with your fortitude of principal), if you had I would have very willingly given myself to you? That’s what you gave me, Henrik … Breathe. Desire. I trusted you and trusted myself and would not have been afraid to let you see me. That is such a huge thing for me to both say AND realize. Every time I walked away from you, I walked away wanting to look into the mirror to try and see what you were seeing. That is what you gave me Henrik! You made me feel alive and important. You asked nothing from me and made me believe it was possible for someone to genuinely care for me as a human being worth trying to know beyond the surface. You made me feel beautiful! Absolutely, intensely and extraordinarily beautiful! I can look into a mirror now because of you and I’m no longer afraid of what I’ll see!
So now are you beginning to understand? You know, along with every other thing you have given me, these last weeks have also helped bring closure to one of the most painful chapters of my story, the life and death of my relationship with Mitch, “my Cajun blaze of glory“. I loved him Henrik, so deeply, and as much as I possibly could given the heart I had to work with at the time. But you see, he and I came together at intersections in our lives where we had both begun unraveling. We were equally broken and sick together and hid our pasts away within the safety of an unconditional love. I found him, or he found me, not really sure which one, not too long after my rape. He was recovering from his own self-destruction and had only recently spent four years at Angola State Prison in Louisiana for a series of really stupid decisions. He too was violated inside that place, many times in fact, and his time in prison hardened him in ways that even he didn’t realize. We shared that bond – the violation of our most sacred temples, our bodies. I didn’t even have to tell him what that night in the parking garage had done to me. He already knew firsthand! So, then we came together, each having found a safe, warm place to be broken. There were nights that this man, this six-foot, three inch vision of masculinity and strength would cry himself to sleep in my arms because he couldn’t find his reflection either! He too was an illusion to most everyone he knew and all he saw when he looked into his mirror was a body with its manhood completely excised from it’s being. He’d served the sentence but was never able to leave his prison. There were so many times that he would look at me and say, “Thank you Catherine … thank you for loving me. Thank you for letting me be me again.” He said I made him feel alive inside for the first time in all his years and that he had never felt so completely safe with another person. He said that each time we were together he was more able to leave his stolen virtue behind and remember what it felt like to be a man. But you see until now I didn’t really understand how profound his words to me were. I appreciated hearing all the things that he would say and the gratitude and sentiment he showed me every single day we were together. But only now do I understand exactly how he must have been feeling. Henrik, for ten years I have tried to understand “why”? Why did God put Him in my life only to take him away? What was it all for? What did it mean? I can’t believe that a decade later I finally understand: It was ME God placed in HIS life just as YOU were placed in MINE! The plan was never “forever”. Maybe I was his Angel? That man was tortured from the inside out for all that he’d done and had been through and was an empty, walking shell when I found him. I know with every shred of my being that the night he left this world he left knowing how beautiful he was and how it felt to be truly valued! He died having known compassion – true and unconditional love and friendship – and having been able to give himself, show himself and be “seen” by another human being completely. I did that Henrik. I did that! I did for him what you have done for me and now I can finally let him go.
So, let me begin to close by letting you know how things are going for me now. As you can imagine, He is hurt, angry and wrecked beyond belief. You read it in his email. I can’t really say that I blame Him and if the shoes had been reversed, I probably would have written you something even worse. These weeks have been painful for Him. He feels jilted and remorseful and is finally beginning to realize the role He played in my becoming what I have over the years and how badly I needed Him all the while. We’ve talked and talked and talked some more and today I told Him all about you. Things no man no would ever want to hear from his wife: “A stranger walked onto my plane, into my life, ripped open my heart and saved it. I love him. Here are the reasons why.” Every one of the thoughts and feelings I have expressed to you herein have been made abrasively clear to Him by now and He knows that for as long as I’m alive on this Earth I will always hold a candle for you and that I will always eagerly await our communications. I think He’s sorry He’s not you and He wasn’t the one to reach me inside here, especially given the fact that He’s had almost 20 years to be the man who I felt so compelled to trust and give every single piece of myself to but instead chose to take me for granted. He understands that although we’ve decided to try for our children’s sake to co-exist and perhaps somehow repair the 19 years’ worth of mutual abuse, that either way I will always want you to be a part of my life. I told Him that if what He wants is for me to lie to Him and myself and say you never really mattered to me, that you will ever stop mattering to me or the two weeks between us never happened I would never be able to say and mean it. Lying to Him that way would not only be unfair to Him but would belittle one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever known and I simply refuse to do it. I must convey all these things to Him somehow, clearly and concisely Henrik and still can’t believe that I have to do this. Again, with me and my recent cases of “don’t do it Catherine” but then I do it anyway. He is hurting so much but I won’t lie to Him, myself or anyone else ever again!
We have given ourselves a year or maybe even longer. He needs to do some serious soul-searching and self-repair as well if this is ever going to work. He too has been damaged by his past, our past, and also needs to shed some skin. We have tortured and abused each other to the point of no return but our history together has got to count for something. We are living here together and will remain married on paper but are separated in every other way. He’ll do His thing, I’ll do mine … basically nothing will change as this is how we’ve existed for years. Only now there are no false pretenses or expectations as to what we either can or can’t make of this farce of a marriage. I won’t lay in a bed with Him or any other man for that matter and give myself completely unless I can honestly see myself as beautiful and whole in someone’s eyes as I felt in yours. That is what I want, that is what I need, and after 20 years of living this way I will settle for nothing less! What I want and need probably most of all is to finally be able to have my own husband, the man I’ve been chasing endlessly around for almost 20 years, try to begin to see who I am, what I am, what I’ve become and be the one who I can truly connect with, and not in the imaginary way it has been this whole time. Maybe, just maybe, then the years of chasing Him will not have been in vain and the hole He left in my heart can be patched and filled. This next year will be about legitimately trying to find and repair ourselves, separately. When the time is right, and who knows when that will be, we’ll begin to spend some time together, try to get to know the new, healthier people we will hopefully each be becoming and see if there is any shred of hope left between us other than our kids that we can salvage. I honestly don’t foresee that happening at this point and I think He is a little more hopeful than I am. That is probably because I truly don’t know if I’ll ever be able to look into His eyes and not see the huge joke He sees in me reflecting back. We’ve pushed each other and pushed each other and then pushed each other some more and now it seems we’re so far away that all this could be pointless. There is so much water under our bridge and so many damaging things have been said between us over and over and over … many of which still ring inside my ears, and probably his even as I write this. But I will give it my best effort for the love of my children and because I do love Him as well. Twenty years are too many to throw away and something tells me that if ever it were possible for Him to really look at me and see me as you did then our relationship could truly come full circle. How we’re gonna make that happen? I have absolutely no idea. I think He does truly love me somewhere deep inside, but I need to know the reasons why. Does He love me because I am the mother of his children and He doesn’t want to hurt or leave them? Does He love me because He only thinks He loves me, and He really doesn’t want to give up or fail? He needs to find an honest place, as painful as that may be, to land when it comes to me. I think right now the person who came back from France is scaring Him half to death and maybe He has no idea how to love the “healthy person” that actually knows for the first time in her life what she truly wants and needs.
Like me, He has a lot on his plate and now it is His turn to deal with the demons He’s been harboring inside himself. What worries me most is that I’m not even sure He realizes how damaged He is inside because I know if we’re ever going to truly be able to love and know each other and have the actual, “real thing”, He will first have to come to the place that I have. That’s a little scary though because there is a fair enough chance that once He dissects it all from deep inside out, He’ll realize that He never even loved me in the first place. That too is a chance I will have to take in all this. Only God knows if will ever be possible for us fully connect on every emotional and physical level the way that I know I need to. It’s just going to take some work. Lots of time and lots of work. I feel very sorry for Him because I know that He’s hurting. Far above and beyond everything else that this next year will bring He will also have to reconcile himself with the fact that He now lives here with not only me, but yet another ghost in my heart as well. Your shoes, my friend, will be incredibly hard for Him to fill but now I know that just about anything is possible. Maybe, just maybe, God will send Him an Angel too.
In the meantime, know that I am fully aware that within the confines of these pages have been set forth so many open parameters that you may feel as though I have overstepped any possible bounds of reality. You may actually find after having read this letter that you think I am surely insane and perhaps it would be in your best interest to say goodbye, call me a “friend of sorts” and walk away scratching your head. I am prepared for that consequence, won’t like it, but will accept it if I must. I will respect any of your wishes as far as which category you would like to place me to best suit your life and needs. I can’t really imagine how I would feel if I was in your shoes. You’ve just been handed a lifetime sentence of lingering in my life and mind. Only you can choose not to accept the “in my life” part of your sentence and simply walk away. Fortunately, your participation is not at all required for the latter. You are here in me for as long as I’m alive and there is no amount of time that will ever change that.
One last thing. You know by now that one of the things we shared was a similarly intense love of music and that in my life when I have been unable to “otherwise speak” or “feel” it has always been my music. So, here is the song of my life. “So Far Away”. I imagine that it is the one song that will be playing the loudest in my head if the day finally comes for me to walk away from here for good. God only knows that sooner or later it may be time for me to move on once and for all and start over fresh somewhere else. Believe it or not, I kinda love you Henrik. You truly ARE an angel to me! Please pray for me and my family, as I’m sure you already are, and more than anything please take these words for whatever they are worth to you. Or don’t take them at all. Either way, they remain. Catherine