A stroke of luck makes the empty space shine brighter.
This was my last facebook status update, after finishing the novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan (just saw on IMBD that the movie came out last year), a story about a the life-long friendship between two women in an ancient Chinese province. I was surprised by how many people liked my update, since it seemed like a very obscure statement to make.
[an aside:] One chic, who I barely knew a million years ago, stole my line and put it as her status update (instead of sharing mine so I get credit). I was a bit perturbed by how many more likes she got, but decided against de-friending her for it. In the interest of friendship (see
It left my me thinking about the power of a single stroke of paint, which led me to remember the modern dance class exercises where you play with negative and positive space; the stroke of paint would be a persons body, say a hand curved down like an elephants nose. In dance you are encouraged to put just as much value on the negative space, the space around the body, the air within the curve; you are encouraged to see the shapes being communicated within the negative space, within the absence.
But the reason why dance would come to mind lies within the story. Though Nu Shu is a tangible art form, the communication that it represented was very much a constantly flowing, secret and unique relationship between the two women. The women became friends as girls in a contract that established a life-long bond between them before they had even known each other. This was a normal cultural practice at the time. They were old sames, matched through astrology and chance; committed for life. Their friendship was a dance that could never be replicated.
My facebook status was referring to my anxiety over recent, positive events in my life. I have landed a job that is beyond anything I've ever had or could have hoped for and will relieve all pressures for me to pay for school for my daughter. The play went amazingly well and I was truly shocked by the sincere compliments I received by strangers and others in the cast on my acting ability (hahaha!) We have found a place which is within spitting distance of my new job and will make our lives wonderfully easy as far as convenience. All of this happened within a few days and all I could think about was what was missing. A stroke of luck makes the empty space shine brighter.
My acute and chronic sense of worthlessness did not enjoy the positive attention the universe was giving me. I wanted to feel bad about myself again; I wanted to feel safe. So my mind strove to think of all the things I still wanted or all the things that could still go wrong.
It does not surprise me that a week after all this happened, last weekend to be exact, I went out with some cast members for a big night of fun and got too drunk and threw up, and kind of alienated them as I was very much that girl. I wouldn't give a shit if any of them acted that way, because whatever, shit happens, but these are fairly judgmental people- which is good in this case; I wanted to be judged.
On Friday night, I read that Jennifer Love Hewitt's mother had passed away and that they were very, very close and still living together. I had a very emotional reaction to this as I thought about how I would handle the sudden passing of my mother. What if? What if? What if? (it isn't that I am pessimistic normally, it is just that all this positive space, all these new strokes in my face have me scrambling) What if? What if? What if?
The next morning I received a short email about one of my closest friends in the states. I had no idea that anything untoward was going on in her life, as facebook had not told me so. Her mother had cancer, it was fast and hard, chemotherapy hadn't worked, she had a few days to a week left. What would it be like to have to write that in a message to someone? How do you do that? Since the day I met her I've known my friend as a cool glass of pink lemonade. She lives a wonderfully, happy, carefree life in which she is a happy, little dancer, dancing to a beat of her own and giving you no choice but to join in. Her family is so ideal it is remarkable; as in, they are not remarkable or heroic or astounding anymore than anyone else, but they have lived an ideal, functional, happy life, and raised wonderfully happy children, and that is fucking remarkable. And now her mother is gone and she is not even 26 yet. I knew her mom, not well, but well enough to think highly of her. I was very shaken by the news.
The last time a friend lost a loved one, it was two days before Christmas when we found out. We met in Grand Central Station, in the late afternoon. I had just come from my first one-night stand (only?), and we were meeting to do some last minute shopping. It was she and I, and another friend who had originally introduced us but then turned into a super-bitch. We sat on the floor of Grand Central while crowds rushed by us in winter coats and holiday frenzy. Grand Central has this very cool light show and orchestra and such during the Christmas time that is actually quite magical and sincerely festive. I was a little spaced out from my oddly enjoyable, unexpected night and the fact that I was rushing home in the evening to expect my mother who was arriving from Uganda.
A.C's father had had a misdiagnosed cancer that had taken some six months to wear him down. A.C said that her mother had tried to call her several times but had not gotten through; she admitted she was avoiding the call just in case it was bad news, but even as she said it seemed like an impossible idea.
Then she got a text message and said, "my dad is dead." We spent the next twenty minutes curled over our bags, bawling our eyes out in the middle of rush hour in Grand Central Station. The swarms of people passing by must have wondered, three 25 year old women: a Mexican, a Croatian, an a Ugandan huddled in a pile crying unabashedly (actually super-bitch was pretty dry-eyed and looked embarrassed, I remember that distinctly) but no one bothered us, no one stared; I felt protected by a shield of dignity. I had no idea that I would cry so hard, since I had never met the man. But to this day I cannot think of him without feeling the loss. He was my father, because this friend, Ms. A.C was-until recently-my old same.
In the novel, the friendship ends tragically, as the protagonist of the book, the one who is telling the story as an old woman, tells of her biggest shame in discontinuing the friendship and rejecting Snow Flower over a misunderstanding. She read the fan wrong and misconstrued the meaning of her friends message and she never finds out until she comes to her deathbed and cares for until her passing. But of course it is too late, and the guilt haunts her. The friendship had suffered because as the protagonist's life developed with luck and fortune over the years, her friend, Snow Flower, suffered horribly through tragic circumstance after tragic circumstance.
Two days ago, I wrote A.C a message I've been trying to write for weeks, to ask her why she has completely abandoned our friendship suddenly and without explanation. I know how hard her life is now (actually I don't, as she has been so silent). After her father died, she continued with school and eventually moved back to Croatia. Her family life was incredibly difficult due to his passing. She came to visit me in Uganda and stayed for two months. I spent the next twelve months risking everything in my relationship with my mother to get her to help A.C get a job in Uganda and move in with us. She did and spent one year living with us.
We have always been like twins, though you would never know it to meet us. Only two days separate our births, and she has always gotten on with my mother, maybe more than I. She was forced out of Uganda on an immigration issue. Back in Croatia, her life was just as bad as it had been and the last time we spoke, I really agonized of her health. No one can take that much pain and bad luck without being affected by it. I prayed and hoped that she would find her way back, but this time I could not do much as my life was also in total shambles.
I moved here and have continued my struggle to find peace and happiness, so far succeeding far better than I ever did in Uganda, and with the blessing of a wonderful daughter to keep me searching for the Truth of Love on her behalf (as well as mine). The main purpose of the message was to tell of death of our mutual friend's mother (though I am much closer to her) but as it had been so long and weighing on me so much I had to speak of my broken heart. This is what she wrote back:
The truth is that our friendship has been unhealthy and damaging for me for quite a long time now. I believe that a friendship needs to make people feel happier for the time they interact with each other and are in each other's lives. This is not the case for me within our friendship. I believe that we are on different paths and have non-complementing energies, and staying in our friendship is hurting me.
I am surprised by how I can read this without feeling so bad now. Like I said, the last time we spoke she was begging me and my mother to find a way to help her come back so of course I didn't see this coming. She was going to be my bridesmaid eventually and I hers; we were going to raise our babies together; and grow old together if we never found husbands. She was my old same.
So I got my wish didn't I? Nothing like total abandonment to make a girl feel like she's not worth shit, right? Yeah, well.....maybe for a second.