I realize, of course, the implication of my title. So, I’ll set things right at the onset. This is not my attempt at creating a euphemism for erectile dysfunction, nor is it a comment on the vest-pocket penis. For starters, I can most certainly trump "little engine" in the euphemism department:
"Gabe was a roll of quarters, and I’d spent too many nights wishing I could feel it in my stomach. In the same way you can’t imagine the taste of butter on your dry baked potato, you can’t fantasize the feeling of weight in your hands. Unfortunately, it’s not like the pimple on your face; it doesn’t feel bigger than it actually is. Been there, done a past life of that. Lesson learned."
"This is one you just can’t compromise away. The careless leaving-the-seat-up thing is a non-issue. There’s therapy for a bad temper. Get a maid to deal with the socks. But a lifetime with a penis made of kibbles n bits is a deal-breaker." —Straight Up And Dirty
I wasn’t being spiteful; I was being generous. But enough of the Wasband’s wee-wares. This is a post about trains… Or, is it? The truth is, it was going to write about trains, all about Thomas and his bits. About how I spent another sleepless night with wood glue, constructing a three-story fantasy train world for Kind Sir, and how obsessed I’ve become, wanting SureTrack Clips (so he can play on the carpet without the tracks coming undone), needing Wacky Tracking (so he can create a corkscrew road if he’d like), desperate for adapters and elevation supports. Damn exciting stuff, to one and all, clearly. Then I was going to segue to internal scripts—those things about myself I’ve always assumed, without question. I’ve spent so many years proclaiming who I am and who I’m not. "I am a Jackie Chan of a chef." "I am not someone who can install window screens." "I am someone who spends time looking back, but would never go back."
"Who would have thought," I thought—my foot supporting an ascending railway track as I reached for glue—"that I’d ever be the type to spend her Saturday night building a train station? Who would’ve thought I was the handy one in the relationship?" It’s just as The Little Engine That Could demonstrates; it’s all about internal scripts. Sometimes—all the time, actually—we convince ourselves of who we are and what we’re capable of. Mind over matter. The man who succeeds is the man who thinks he can, and all that. And here, all this time, I’d convinced (quite passively) myself that I wasn’t good at assembling anything more than a salad. It’s where I was going with the post, that is, until I was derailed with photos of the Wasband’s recent wedding…to another redhead.
That’s when I strayed from the main line and shifted directions: part of who we are is where we’ve been, what we choose, how we respond. A more intimate, quiet part of who we are is what we remember. It’s what we know.
I couldn’t un-know that I knew most of the groomsmen in the photos, that I knew which smiles of his were orchestrated, where the photographer asked him to kiss her head; I couldn’t un-know wedding dance lessons. I couldn’t un-know all the intimate things you learn when you’re with someone, as we were, for five years. Funerals. Grandparents. Weddings. Traffic. Clogged drains. Jokes about clogged arteries. Him always falling asleep first. Anywhere. In a bowl of spaghetti. Jokes about the way his mother always told that story. Doctor visits. Going with me to the OBGYN to see the heartbeat. I couldn’t un-know the way he liked to dip me at the end of songs. And as much as I tried, I certainly couldn’t un-know his mother, "Rome," but really, no one can.
I couldn’t unlearn the faces of his cousins, or his uncle—the one who was always so nice to me, but whom the Wasband privately called "A nothing; he’s a nobody." I couldn’t un-know it as I passed the photo, his uncle ready to prop him up for the Horah. You can’t unlearn everything you remember, no matter what your internal script. You can’t "I think I can" out of it. And many (even I) might argue differently on this: you can’t talk yourself out of the ugly. The kind of ugly that stays with you when you’ve loved someone. The ugly wishes, hoping someone along the way treats him the way he treated you, wanting nothing more for him than karma.
More than any of these detailed threads, the one that’s most telling, is that they’re with me still. The most telling detail in all these details is that I remember them. And none of us can choose what we remember or find a way to un-know all that we do. It sticks with you, whether you want it to or not. Sometimes he snakes into your dreams. Admitting this doesn’t mean you’re not over it. Not at all.
If I’d shrugged, if I was so far beyond it, without feeling or care, I don’t think I could’ve ever called what we had love. You can’t ignore that up until now it’s all felt like details and facts, descriptions of a breakup & breakthrough, but now it feels like something else: an acknowledgment that what we had was real. And you can’t unlearn that.
You can only ask yourself to please, if you’d be so kind, get the fuck out. So you close the browser window, write it all down, and you reach for the glue and get back on track.