It is HIGHLY unlikely you’ll ever read this,
I’m writing it anyway.
Who the fuck am I kidding.
Honestly? Frankly? The “You” to whom I’m writing only lives in my heart and mind. The “You” you are today is years and miles away from the man who upended my life, careened me into new and previously unknown realms, and left me shaking and alone, but ready to be who I needed to be. This exercise in writing “You” a letter isn’t about writing a letter to the actual James.
No, the “You” to whom I’m writing is a kaleidoscopic doppelganger of emotional glassbits that tumble through the scratched lens of my mind’s eye.
It is the “You” I first saw in Barney’s Beanery in December of 1993 in Los Angeles.
It is the “You” who opened up a channel to my future from which spoke a voice alerting me to the unfathomable changes that you’d unleash in my life.
It is the “You” whose gorgeous, simple, heated coarse brutality shocked and completed me so totally, it obliterated every thought of ever desiring anyone but you, ever and ever forever and ever, amen
It is the “You” I adored so completely that I spent hundreds of dollars a month, money I didn’t have, to keep your voice and laughter and despicable beautiful lusts in my head even though we were a continent and an ocean apart.
It is the “You” that, no matter how fleeting our subsequent borrowed times together were, they were enough to sustain me through the years…even through the other relationships…because “I knew in my heart of hearts!” that I was yours, and yours alone, and that some day you would hold this knowledge as surely as I did and you would permit me to love you and yourself to love me the way that Fate intended.
It is the “You” for whom I still struggled to make space, even though I knew it was futile. Some ambertrapped part of me knew…knew…that you would remember who we were.
Today that “You”…those iterations, all of them and more beside…all joined me at once. As I ate my fucking bleu cheeseburger and tried to hold my shit together.
See, today was a rough day. Closing out a convention that had been a bit of a roller-coaster for me. My weekend had been fraught, hormonal issues didn’t help any, and one of the bits of my life that I’d hoped had settled, thereby relieving me of a substantial amount of stress had come undone and I was kind of back to square one.
Today it really hit me in a whole new way, how strange and loopy my life is become. I realized that the next 2 weeks of my life were leading up to some Pretty Big Shit and I wasn’t at all sure how I was going to hold up.
And I was lonely…so lonely.
You know how this is.
The crowd, the people telling you how awesome you are, and still it is so hard…so hard to absorb. I remember how tough it was for you before you gained the degree of notoriety you have today to hang in there when your situation was so discouraging…struggling like so many artists do. I remember one night in Islington as we scraped together pence and pounds to get supper and fags you telling me how you were so grateful and happy that I was there with you, through that rough time. I remember a lot more…but that is for my memory and yours alone.
So it is painful and awful to have so much of these memories blurred and torqued into something less than effulgently fulfilling as I remember the other “You.”
The “You” who reminded me, with a shockingly callus emotional brutality, that my feelings for you weren’t important in light of your “real girlfriends” feelings.
It is the “You” who, after a decade, of my foolish naive hopes, explained that I was not nor would I be, yours.
The “You” who berated me for writing, with pride and passion, about our affair, and how transformational it was.
The “You” who, when his “people” discovered that we were easily linked by a couple of savvy Google searches, called me to insist that it was all inappropriate, and that it should be removed immediately.
It speaks to the still extant desire to please you that coiled, latent, around my heart that my first reaction to this shocking demand was…shame. Shame and sadness and the impulse to say “You’re right, and I am sorry…sorry I spoke. Sorry I wrote. Sorry I am who I am. Sorry that I took this stunning secret me that you unearthed and I polished it and refined it and set it out for all to see and share.
Sorry I am who I am.”
How terrible it is to have your own personal twisted Henry Higgins help you embark on one of your life’s great journeys and then reject the creature he’s helped you become.
But I hold on. I hold on the what is right and good and beautiful and true because I will NOT let your life’s choices negate mine.
And usually? I live in that headspace.
And the irony is? I invoke you so often, Jim. With affection, and with love. When I talk about being involved in BDSM, realizing I had desires and needs outside the “standard,” I tell parts of our story and how it was you who first gave me that permission. You who asked the right questions, you who helped me take both a deep breath and that which was my right.
But today? Today, you got me. Ambushed.
Sitting with a dear friend, confiding some of the fear I leave buried lest I scream like an unearthed mandrake root upon exposure to the sun, I was taken by surprise.
Irony is insufficient to describe the situation where you are pouring out your heart about your fear of never being enough, of being too much, your fear of going home again alone, your sadness and conflict about your successes, your terror of failure, the fact that no one has ever possessed you the way you wish to be possessed and then? I’m sitting and stirring through this viscous emotional gumbo and even as I sit shaking on the edge of a deep sadness I hear the first four chords of…that song.
The one you played for me from thousands and thousands of miles away on the phone one summer evening in 1996. The one you wrote for me. Not the only song you’d written about me. In fact, you told me that half of the songs on the album you were then cutting were about me. But this song, there is no escaping it because it is about me, named for me, unequivocally mine.
What happens? The aural apparition of your First Real Love slamfucks your cerebrum, renders moot your cerebellum, and painfully crippling your autonomic system with the softest sweetest toxin known to humanity…a song about lost love…and not only that, no…because THAT would be too simple …this is…THIS is actually a song where he calls to you…calls you by name, calls from lo those years ago sweetache deadweight sorrow and yeah, you lose it.
And I shattered.
It is strange to sit in the sober light of a Ruby Tuesday’s in Atlanta, Georgia and feel your own body so shot through with nauseous adrenaline and nameless overload that you can’t control it. Hyperventilating, hands shaking, sudden-onset speech impairment to a st-stu—tt-tter that cripples the one thing you rely on at all times: your capacity to communicate. Gone, ripped away and you’re left unable to fully explain to your friend across the table who you have just startled to dismay with your animal yelp and sudden shaking as you just point to nothing and croak and babble nonsensical bullshit.
That song. You singing to me, out of the past, frozen in fucking time…a blast from the past, baby…a hundred other bullshit cliches.
I swear on the broken tusk of Lord Ganesha: if you put that shit in a movie? People would roll their eyes at the ham-fistedness of it.
Welcome to my fucking life.
But there it was and there you were and the song rolled out of the speakers and I couldn’t do anything but sit and shake and unravel, waiting to hear that voice, those inflections, those lyrics, you singing my name. Over and over.
All of “You” came back. All of the joy, the first magically problematic 17 days we spent together, the subsequent years we spent apart, the brief reunions. The hope I held for so very, very long. The pride I felt watching you sing my songs for me and hundreds other people who wouldn’t ever, ever know how much they meant to that Black girl standing, wide eyed, admiring you, knowing that you were mine, if only for the briefest of nows, and wanting nothing more to be yours. The subsequent slow decay of that bond…the shame and dismay, the torch carried despite your best efforts to extinguish it.
All of that. At once. All of you and all of me. And how stunned I was to realize that all of the gentle and not-so-gentle advice I’d been given by people to “Just let go.” and to “Move on.”and the less gentle “Just get the fuck over it already. Its pathetic.” …all of that advice?
All of it was based on a flawed premise.
See, you DO belong to me. And I to you. Your place, your mark, indelible.
I AM where I am today, for better and for worse and for “WTF?!” in part because of who you were to me.
“Getting over” you means deleting one of my base emotional truths. And I can’t do that.
It isn’t my job to erase or modify these feelings. It is my job to Tell.
To Tell who I was before you.
To Tell who I was with you.
To Tell who I was after you.
To Tell who I am today.
And to do this Tell with pride, and humor, and dignity, and love, regardless of the fact that our paths diverged a long, long time ago but I couldn’t see it. Wouldn’t see it.
It isn’t even true denial. I saw and lived that divergent path. I am on it, owning it. But the fact of the matter is this: I live the path down which you set me, even though it isn’t yours at all.
You aren’t The One with whom I was meant to walk This Life.
For whatever reason, I am graced with the challenge of walking this path alone for the most part. This challenge makes me feel the insanity of my often oxymoronic loneliness in a way I do not relish. It makes me question my faith and it makes me wonder if I will ever find the person to evoke in me the feelings that you once did.
People keep assuring me that I will.
I will let them hold that precious hope until I can keep that flame safely alive.
But mostly I am writing this to say I love you.
And I forgive you.
And I forgive myself.
I forgive you for being who you are instead of who I wanted and needed you to be.
I forgive you for your fear and your humanity.
I forgive myself for holding to hope, for sitting in my own fear.
I still love you, James. I always will. To deny that would be to attempt to exorcise the roots of my submission. I love who you have helped me become. I love the strange and convoluted life I lead. I love the difficulties. I love all of this fucked-up dangerous dark and crazy shit. I love the epiphanies and I love the struggle and I love the freedom.
And despite your denial of me, despite your disavowal of who I am, I know that you loved me too, once. And every time you sing the songs you wrote for me, I feel it.
And I am grateful.
Muses have to pay the price, sometimes, for inspiring art. And in spite of everything, I know that you still think of me, too.
You kind of have to.
There’s that song, after all.
And the others…but we won’t speak of those today. I am, after all, a damn good Muse.