In each thing there is an insinuation of death. Stillness, silence, serenity are all apprenticeships. — Federico Garcia Lorca
I probably seem heartbroken
To my still-new French neighbors, I must cut a forlorn figure. In the still-warm autumn wind, I stroll desolate beaches by myself, head down, eyes tight against the wind. Dressed in black more often than not, a grieving widow waiting for a ship that will never return.
It isn’t true. At least, it isn’t true if hearts can mend, which we all sincerely hope. My injuries, such as they are, are ancient. The invisible ones, anyway. As the body thickens and weakens, the heart — the metaphysical one, not the fist wrapped in blood — gets stronger. Eventually, like Byron said, the sword outweighs the sheath.
I’m not nursing a broken heart. I’m nursing one patched and soldered together at its weakest points, just like you are. Just like everyone you meet and hate. You can hammer copper nails into the trunk of a tree to make it die, but in the meantime, those molten bolts serve to hold it up straighter.
Still, there’s a certain amount of pain and loss that comes with the territory. You got it from the same place you got those opposable thumbs that help you slide into somebodies DMs in the hope, whether you see it this way or not, of procreating. You don’t get to choose who or what you are. None of us do. At the moment you’re born, there’s a gap in the universe, and you get poured, molten and glowing, into that.
I’m happy enough, most of the time. I ought to be. I live a life the angels envy, to be incarnate in all this magnificence and — far more valuable — to feel it in my blood every time I step outside. To see William Blake’s angels sitting in ranks in every tree.
Some of the time, anyway.
And maybe I just got all of that over with early. Got my heart broken really badly really young, and have been coasting off that ever since. There’s been some other knocks along the way, of course. But I live now with someone I love, and I never doubt that she loves me. Sometimes not the way I would like to be loved, admittedly. But let’s not get too picky.
Solitude is practice for death.
That’s what Lorca said. He has a point; he usually does. If that’s true, I’ve been practicing my entire life. I must be pretty good at it by now.
But I’m not looking for the end. Not now. Not like I used to. When life is a slow crawl over broken glass, the fact that it ends is a tremendous sense of comfort. Once you get comfortable, that comfort disappears.
Only a madman would trade it. But there are gifts, of resilience and fortitude and even a kind of luxurious kinship, in heartbreak.
Besides, anyone in love knows all about heartbreak. Because it’s coming for you, too. Because love will train you in this too. Even before you know it. To feel it, to accept it and all its dazzling rewards, is to accept also its end and the inevitability of destruction. Love as hard as you like, the sea laughs as it coughs up its dead. You will lose it all in the end.
I hope you’ll trust me when I say that as I dictate this to my phone on an empty and windswept beach, my phone hears the word bye dictated by the wind that comes off the ocean.
If I were making this up, I like to think I would do a little better.
Hearts get broken.
That’s inevitable. But they get repaired, too. If you’re lucky, they get filled with something better than what you started with.
And there’s more to this than mere recognition, the song that reaches you and touches you right where you’re hurting. It’s deeper. It’s an invitation to participate in the commonality of existence.
You know, as soldiers do in battle, that your hurting heart joins you to every other being under the sun. Loss is what life is, at least in a certain sense. It’s true sometimes. You could see it that way.
But there are other ways of seeing. Ways that suggest that loss and pain is not the duty you pay on love, but the reward. No one is as perfect as the dead. And the broken heart you carry around is the best part of you.
It links you to every person that ever lived, every tentacled creature that watched its babies die, and the sea that keeps reaching its hands out for the moon after billions of years of rejection.
Most Of The Time
In the tireless wind, I’m reading Christopher Hitchens review a bad book on Bob Dylan, and his sardonic snark is never better than when discussing the magnificent Most Of The Time. One of the greatest songs of loss and heartbreak ever written.
The book’s unlucky author doesn’t see it that way. And Hitchens rips into him as only Hitchens can. “What have you got in your veins — tapwater?”
He’s right. Your heart would need to be pumping some room-temperature plasma-less solvent to miss the agonizing beauty of the song.
The singer can survive. He can endure. He doesn’t even think about her. Most of the time.
Of course he does. And that’s the point. And once you get this, really get it, you’ll think about it every day.
Not like a forlorn lover wondering where their partner went and why they can’t be together. But like a lover looking forward to joining their beloved once again. Loss is not the end of love, but its consummation. The coda that plays us all out.
I’m not suffering from a broken heart right now. Maybe I’m not that lucky. But hearts are circuit breakers, the glass in front of the fire hose. There to be broken. And in that breaking, to save lives. Or at least make a life worth living.
Black clothes are practical to hide dirt. The scowl is etched on my face from formative years spent in a city where a smile was an invitation to violence, and a mean mug was a flimsy kind of armor to keep it away.
Inside, on my windswept beaches where the sand stings your eyes and the sea roars its grey violence toward the shore, I’m singing. And the inevitable loss, the heartbreak, when it gets here, only makes the song of now more beautiful.
Bye bye, says the wind.
© Ryan Frawley 2022
All proceeds from this article will be donated to Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontiers.
This post was previously published on medium.com.
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