Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Johnny the Human Puddle

Now as our paths diverge and our screen fades to black
I feel the panic surge, but it’s too late to go back.

There are lots of reasons for feeling as though my heart is being torn from its moorings. I don’t like drinking, or being around people who bore me, and most people bore me. Claire loves drinking, especially around lots of other people, of whom she is so avidly tolerant that I’ve sometimes felt as though she could revel in the company of anyone, regardless how self-absorbed, with a beating heart. My eating fish and, occasionally, fowl are anathema to her, as her condoning violence against property in the name of animal rights appalls me. I have long felt that I place second on her list of favorite creatures, behind her dog.

But all else pales in comparison to the fact that she can’t bear living in my country, while the thought of returning to hers — where we lived together for five years until the autumn of 2007 — makes me shudder.

So after nine years together, we’re coming to the end today, as she and her greyhound return to the UK for good, and I feel that at any moment I could become Johnny the Human Puddle. All else aside, I will be without the best friend I’ve ever had, without any knowledge of when we’ll meet again.

It’s been business as usual around here since January, when we agreed that our parting was imminent. We’ve been almost nothing but cordial and affectionate with each other. We’ve shared the treasury of little in-jokes we’ve been compiling informally since our first hours together. We’ve played the various characters we’ve invented to amuse each other — the in-bred aristocratic couple, the shy little boy and the nanny who derives such delight from scaring him rigid, the whole gang. We’ve followed American Idol faithfully, in spite of Lily Scott’s maddening expulsion, as we’ve enjoyed following every such show on two continents since Pop Stars, the UK show that in 2002 launched the group she called Heresy. This past February, Claire even managed to enjoy watching the Super Bowl with me.

As her departure date has crept ever closer, I like to think I’ve managed (in spite of a crushing ongoing depression not to do with the split), to appear almost nothing but cheerful, even after the walls of the home for which we chose all new furnishings together were stripped of all the things she’s having shipped back to the UK. I nearly burst into tears at the sight of the denuded refrigerator, on which she’d displayed her remarkable collection of fridge magnets, a great many of which I helped select. No more memories, when I get something from the freezer, of that frigid afternoon in Prague when we spent hours tracking down exactly the right Kafka magnet.

On the night her father died, it was I who held her when she woke up sobbing in the middle of the night, as it was she beside me when I went to pay my last visits to my own mother. She’d never known the pre-Alzeheimer’s Audrey Mendelsohn, but you should have seen how tenderly Claire addressed her — not to impress me, and certainly not to impress my mother, who was long past being impressed — but because that’s who Claire is.

Well, I’m not feeling so brave now.

At our last session, the psychotherapist who’s…treating me nowadays floated the idea that sadness can actually be enriching, as it helps us to appreciate happiness more than we otherwise might. This week stands to leave me abundantly enriched.

I will never not adore you, Claire.