03 July 2014

Inside Out

But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?
The Return of the King 5.viii.867.

For a long time I lived in a place I hated with a woman I loved.  And, as hatred does, that hatred poisoned everything.

I wish I could explain why I hated that place so much, because that would mean I understood where that feeling came from.  I don't.  The easy thing to do would be to blame it on the place, on the way it was and on the people who lived there.  But that would be false.  Like every other place I've ever lived, it had good and bad, smart and stupid, educated and ignorant, open-minded and prejudiced, polite and rude.  And of course the bad, stupid, ignorant, prejudiced, and rude people we meet are just so much more memorable.  How convenient, and incomplete.  It leaves me out of it entirely. Whatever precisely made me hate it there so much, my reaction to it was no less to blame.

People are so glib about hatred.  Haters gonna hate, right? They have no idea. Like love, it takes over your life.  But it throws shadows on you.  It murders sleep. Unlike love it does not feed you.  It wastes you. It's only worse when it's a particular person you hate; and having a good reason to hate that person is no help to you "alone, in the bitter watches of the night."

Once you have learned true hatred, the word seldom crosses your mind lightly again. When it does, and you catch yourself saying you hate a movie, a song, or a book, you feel a little embarrassed, like you've trivialized something at once sacred and terrible.

But that hatred made me dark and sad and smoldering all the time, and I didn't bear any of it with as much strength or grace as I would have wished.  There was one year near the beginning where I bore it like a fool, and said far too many foolish and angry things.  Pain can make you do that, but pain cannot excuse that.  By the time that year was over, the gap had already begun to open between us. She went quiet and hurt.  We could never really talk again afterwards.

The house grew silent.  The desultory, trivial conversations we had about work, the dogs, the cats, and what color we wanted to paint that room could not fill that silence.  All the talks we once had, about books, and thoughts, and life, and us, talks full of laughter and feeling, talks full of time, the talks that gave the trivial conversations meaning, were buried.  The house grew lonely.

And yet I could see her right there, every day, morning and night, in every room, in the garden, in my wood-shop, right there, but there was this silence I just could not break through.  She was so bright and lively around everyone but me.  I remember seeing that movie, The Sixth Sense, in which the character played by Bruce Willis keeps talking and talking to his wife, but she never responds at all. It's like he's a ghost.  I felt like him.  At the end of the movie I wondered if maybe I should take my pulse.

It was a special kind of loneliness which hatred brought where none should be.


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