Stories for Lent: #27 Punishment

The magazines make it sound so simple, getting over people. Cut him/her out of your life. Block them on social media. Never mention their name. Burn their stuff or donate them to a charity shop. Have a moonlit ceremony where you destroy a symbol of all your memories together. Erase. Delete. Block. Suppress. Destroy.

Don’t acknowledge any weaknesses. Don’t let them get under your skin at all.

It’s bullshit advice, as far as I’m concerned. I just can’t let go of people. Having a meaningful connection with anybody is so rare, so novel, still, that it feels like a waste to move on from them, even when they hurt you badly. Even when holding onto the connection hurts you more than letting go.

Look at me, standing atop of this burning house!

People aren’t an ugly suitcase I can discard after it’s done its time. They’re more like an extra limb that I didn’t think I needed, then realized I loved, then had to amputate. I can feel them like phantom pains, rising up at the strangest of times. When I hear a song, or eat a meal, or set out on a long walk. When I lace up my running shoes or draw a geometric flower. There they are. Lingering on the edge of my mind. Looking over my shoulder.

And if I really want, I can talk to them. All I need to do is get on Facebook.

*

Being on social media is its own brand of Hell, but it’s not the worst culprit. I can block newsfeeds, “blind” myself (metaphorically speaking) to cheerful announcements and even more cheerful pictures, I can tell myself that it doesn’t matter one whit, that it doesn’t concern me. But what do I do with the rest?

I once joked that boys come and go, but the damage on your playlist is forever. It doesn’t seem like much of a joke now. Every once in a while, I’d put my music on shuffle, and there it would be, a Skillet song, or something I sent him, trying to find common points, and then I would die of shame. And yet, years on, I still rock out to that song, even if the person who introduced me to it isn’t even in the same time zone. I’ve made this song mine, in a way. I find joy in it, regardless of lingering embarrassment.

When the neighborhood children make fun of me running, I don’t stop. I don’t burst into tears. I run it over and over in my head, but that’s neither here nor there. I like running, and I won’t stop because of something like that. Three years ago, I would have. I hadn’t been doing it for long enough to fall in love with it, even if I fell in love with it because of somebody else.

I love to draw and to paint, even when I sometimes take months and years in between. It’s something I reckon I will always do, based on the fact that I kept it up, even when I was feeling extremely low. But there are always pangs of guilt accompanying my picking up a brush. Guilt for the old me, and guilt for all the teachers who encouraged me to keep on going, whose advice I didn’t listen to.

Small punishments, but punishments nonetheless. Piling on top of one another.

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