Hay naku. I’ve been putting off writing this because I figured that a few months after breaking up things would look different. And they do, I think…except last night. I was reading through Ann Patchett’s book, Truth & Beauty–it’s a non-fiction read about the friendship between Patchett and Lucy Grealy who wrote this book, Autobiography of a Face. It’s honest and painful, worth my time in the beginning. I like Patchett after all. But Grealy almost made me scratch my eyes out. IF YOU HAVE ANY INTENTION OF READING THE BOOK, STOP READING HERE BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO SPOIL IT.
Lucy Grealy dies of an accidental overdose. Somebody please tell me what’s wrong with that last statement? Accidental overdose?! Seriously? And for someone whose book, classified as nonfiction, was meant to capitalize on the appeal to the human condition, Grealy seems to be another person entirely! I hate it when people aren’t who they say they are. I know I shouldn’t judge so fiercely. It’s just that when I first bought her (Grealy) book, I imagined a person close to my heart who understood the pain of living with a condition that was so physically evident. I thought she had learned a thing or two about the pain inflicted by others. In my mind she decides to be a good friend and values her life. Instead, the reality is that she was a horrible friend (at least if we are to believe all the Patchett writes) who died of an accidental overdose. Ugh. So I finished the book feeling severely betrayed and thought hard about a few things:
- A question of heroes comes up…are our heroes really flawed to the point of being frauds? Do we settle on our heroes based on one solitary act that really doesn’t define them as people? –The idealist in me is also a perfectionist (and often that makes me a tad bit hypocritical…but for the sake of this argument, let me just place this as a given) and so it’s difficult for me to understand how this can happen. How can an honest writer be such an awful person? (I feel awful just saying this.)
Anyway, after thinking long and hard about this Patchett-Grealy friendship, I realized something important. More than being in a relationship, I missed having a friend I knew so well. After reading about Grealy’s death, I fought the urge to share this ‘hypocrisy’ with Anton. He probably wouldn’t have cared if I called or maybe he’d be too busy like he always is…but you know, he would have understood how angry I felt over this. He would have known how to deal with the disillusionment.
And knowing you can’t share that with your person anymore is just tragic.
So I read something else. And that’s when I found the words to express all that I’d felt. In Nikki Alfar’s story, In the Absence of Eternity, this woman meets her ex after so long and invites him to her home. He plays with her son and counts from 1 to 10. The little boy always misses number 8 despite the attempts of his parents (they painted the numbers around their yard) to have him remember. Then, on the day that she has her ex over, he points out that a tree is sticking out, blocking child’s view of what is, the elusive number 8.
Cara shook herself out of her thoughts and looked–really looked–at the yard for the first time in ages. It was true. Somehow this tree had sprouted up out of nowhere in her perfect yard, right next to the wall, directly in front of the number Joel had painted there. She couldn’t imagine where it had come from, or how no one had noticed it at all this time. it was actually a rather attractive tree, but it had burst right through one of the flowerbeds, and completely obscured the number eight. And changed everything.
She could have it removed, of course, ripped out at the roots if necessary; but she knew, deep inside, that even if she did, nothing in her life could ever be clear or straightforward again.
-Nikki Alfar, In the Absence of Eternity