Untethered. By Yolanda Olavarria-DeMarco.
A few weeks before Christmas my husband and I separated. He left. I had the opportunity to say, “No, don’t leave, please stay.” But I didn’t.
Against the floating debris that had amounted during our years together, we decided to go out on a date that night. The waters had finally receded. We went to our favorite Sushi restaurant. One by one the drifting floaters surfaced that evening. The question longed to be asked.
The inevitable emerged.
I just sat on a chair silent, staring at a Frosty the Snowman gift bag that stood on a table across from me. My husband sat in front of me; he was waiting for an answer. His questioned echoed in my head. “Do you want me to leave?” he had asked.
Time stood still.
Frosty was flashing a jolly smile without the pipe. When did he stop smoking? I really would like to know what makes Frosty a jolly happy soul. What’s his secret? What exactly had he been smoking? A sushi roll now drenched in soy sauce waited in a small rectangular dish. I hold on to my chopsticks with a firm grip.
Realizing what I was holding on to, I let go.
I excused myself and made my way to the restroom. The restaurant was packed. It was a Saturday night in Gainesville, Florida. Students still lingered; some with parents, perhaps celebrating. A silent version of Akira Kurasawa’s Seven Samurai flashed on a big screen. I locked myself in one of the bathroom stalls, techno music playing in the background. Facing the toilet as if prepared to hurl my rage.
Lost in the silent, black and white version of my life flickering inside my head, I cried.
I felt cradled in the dim-lit, Asian-inspired stall. Something within me became untethered, allowing a gush of stored memories slip through me. Stagnant tears, finally released, made their way down my face feeling them settle on my clenched collarbones.
I unlock and open the stall door. A mirror stood right before me. As I look at my reflection, I see a vaguely familiar face. I walk towards myself wondering if this was all a dream. With a look of despair on my face, a much younger woman places her left hand on my right shoulder and asks if I was OK. I look at her, but can’t say anything. As she walks to leave she says, “It’s always half as bad as it seems.” A laughing crowd is heard as she opens the door and then just muffled sounds as the door shuts. As I open the door, I hear a multitude of clear voices in undistinguishable languages.
The vociferous crowd swallows my pain.
I walk back to the table. He was waiting for an answer. The check and leftovers stood in front of him. The Frosty the Snowman gift bag, still there, as if it, too, were waiting for an answer. We walk back to the car, this time he didn’t hold my hand or open the door for me. As we drove back home, I thought about Akira Kurasawa’s other film, Rashomon, and wonder what versions, surely contradictory, of what happened tonight, would be remembered?
The night before, I dreamt that my husband had died. In my dream, I discovered his body lying by the edge of a lake. His body stood with its chest wide opened and hollow, looked like an empty pupa case. The sky was grey, the air was moist, and the grass was unusually green. His body, still wearing his brown leather jacket, had exploded was what I was told. I cried in my dream. I wailed in my dream; it was painfully vivid.
My loss was real.
My reactions to losses are always delayed. I slowly absorb them, thinking that it may ease the pain. It’s a habit that I can’t seem to break. I flutter my wings to stay afloat. I immediately begin to focus on the bright side, without embracing my pain. I put up a levee, then the pain hits me like an exasperated wave. Unexpectedly. With no impunity, my losses slam against me. This also happened when my father passed away.
As I saw my father’s lifeless body on the hospital bed, I didn’t know what to do. To no avail, I searched for a blink in his fixed, dark, and dilated pupils. I just stared at his body. His death had been expected. The process was lengthy, as he too had fluttered his wings to stay afloat. During his final hours, his silence seemed to ask, should I let go or should I hold on.
Later that day, I helped my mother purchase a coffin. My mother chose a royal blue one. She insisted in selecting him a nicer coffin then the one included in his funeral package. Initially I had objected, the corpse I had seen, was no longer my father, therefore the extra expense would be meaningless. However, I gave in.
The following day after my father died, parts of me could not be found. I needed a black dress. So I went shopping. I found a sleeveless black linen dress. It was June in central Florida. The sound, the music, the people seemed distant. Did I have my earplugs on?
My body felt warm, detached, and dazed. The heat followed me everywhere I went, even inside the dreadful mall. I was numb. I saw a gold bag that would look so well with my black linen dress. I thought I needed to look good. My father’s body and his friends would be there. As I made my purchase, I saw my dad. Our eyes met. He seemed to be patiently waiting for me to finish shopping, with a look as if he was trying to say, “Let’s go, I am hungry and your mother is waiting!” My knees gave way. The stagnant tears made their way down. Uninterrupted.
The drive back home from the sushi restaurant is immersed in a in utero-like silence. My husband left that same night. He didn’t say much. He was sad and perhaps a bit relieved. I was left with the feeling that every single thing in my life had amounted to that moment. I tried to breathe. I was unable to catch up with my breath. The pain was unbearable. I pretended not to acknowledge the pain, and come up with what I call an emergency-gratitude list. I was grateful for: the divine, my family, my friends, my dog, my cat, my health and my life. Fluttering my wings, once again, to stay afloat, while my bowels ignited.
The Christmas trees blinked while the scent of the pine wreath permeated throughout. As the night moved on, I went to the guest bedroom and lied down on a Yoga block for a chest opener. I needed to breath. I allowed the magnitude of that night to sink in: sushi, Frosty, Akira, techno music, younger woman, loss, deception, silence, uncertainty and sadness. Or was it anger?
Wholeheartedness took over. Like a contrast agent running through my veins, it highlighted everything I needed to feel. My mimicry disclosed. That night, and my body, exploded.
A seeker of stillness, beauty, and truth, Yolanda Olavarria-DeMarco is a native of Puerto Rico. She works for the Gainesville Latino Film Festival, is a Spanish interpreter, and is a student of Transcendental Meditation. She finds comfort in knowing that her father’s spirit is with her. Yolanda attended the Jennifer Pastiloff and Emily Rapp writing retreat in Vermont in October 2013. She is currently training to become a butterfly interpreter at the Butterfly Rainforest of the Florida Museum of Natural History.
She can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and very soon at bestillbetrue.com
Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon,, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Seattle in May and London July 6. (London sells out fast so book soon if you plan on attending!)