ISSN 2768-4261 (Online)
In this essay, I narrate my past around the random pieces of writing I’d made in times when I had been in and then out of a good relationship. I wrote and curated the bulk of this in a haze at two a.m. during consecutive nights. I had felt a visceral need to express and to be seen. This writing had felt so raw after that I kept it in a draft, ready to leave it unseen for the foreseeable future––slightly scared to be so vulnerable to anyone.
A friend of mine reached out to me for comfort the following day, expressing their heartbreak at the recent divorce of their parents. We spoke about love and aging and life, both of us recognizing with our limited life experiences that we just didn’t have any answers to the questions that kept bubbling up.
“Do you think people can actually stay in love? It feels like something breaks over time and love doesn’t exist,” they said.
Hearing that, I wanted to share my essay, which was really then a scattered two a.m. piece trying to archive my feelings, to provide them my most vulnerable and honest and up-to-date perspective on the existence of love. We cried together as they read it aloud and felt so connected. I knew at that moment that I would remember the feeling of this conversation for the rest of my life and that we both were given something from this exchange.
Sometime in my last relationship, I had become anxious about our future. I was filled with so much love and happiness, filled to the brim, that I felt myself pouring out into the world––to strangers I smiled at passing by, at work to my colleagues when asked about my weekends, to family and friends who’d find me smiling, to her as we lay in bed, entwined bodies like tied bunny-eared shoe laces.
||| To my dearest. I Know Your Breathing Well
(Written June 2019)
With their fingers entwined, his body curled against her back, and his ear against her head, he could feel the whole of her. He felt them entangle, felt the melding of their beings.
Tears welled up in his eyes, something he found hilarious because a year before, he would not have had the sensitivity for such a thing. Love did that. Love grew him a new skin, making it so sensitive to the touch. It grew him a new pair of eyes, exposing the beauty in things he didn’t previously notice. It grew him, making him write and sing and glow and smile.
In silence, he changed. He felt her breathing become his. Reflexively, his hold tightened, to speed this transformation.
“I love you,” he thought.
“I love you I love you I love you I love you.” It repeated in his head, in some ceremony. The words that drummed their unification, this transformation.
The butterflies that had taken residence in his stomach for this past year fluttered as they tend to. They could feel the familiar winds that the transformation stirred and flew in reaction. They drifted atop the gale, tracing his insides gently, tickling his body.
Their breathing mixed more, to the point he could no longer identify his own. The only proof of it was the butterflies fluttering as they tend to.
“I love you I love you I love you I love you” each time more softly than the last.
In those moments in bed, us as two people pouring this love into one another as if we were both gardens and watering cans (people can be so many things at once), we would talk about the same future that brought me anxiety. I wanted to so badly make these dreams of hers come true. I wanted all the things she’d describe and we’d decide, such as what we’d name our children, how many she wanted, and where we’d live next and next and next.
Living with such an overwhelming, growing, pouring love scared me. It was so precious and scarce, any wrong move may empty me in turn. The anxiety coupled with love. As I filled up and overpoured, I throbbed and feared. My heart would become full, and then heavy.
Hugging tightly, nose to the crown of her head, her cold feet pressed in between my legs––our height difference putting her feet to the top of my calves. My house had no air conditioning and it was a 20-degree Celsius summer evening, but this was a warmth that didn’t bother me. Peering down, I could see where her natural black hair bled into the bright red it was dyed to, could smell the shampoo we’d shared in the shower, and then tears started pouring. I could not believe how lucky I was in this moment to feel this fullness and then this heaviness.
I could only express a few words to her, describing why I feel the way I do, and she comforted me and understood. Because both of us felt as if we were holding, in our hug, in bed, something very precious and larger than the two of us––carrying and taking to term the most fragile good in the world, expectant on what it would birth and worried if we were equipped to nourish it. We were young and in love, given the chance to become and do much more than who we were and that is scary. We held each other and laughed and cried and then slept, believing these feelings were all a part of being in love.
I was stretched out in bed alone, later in the summer of 2019 (August maybe), not entwined with her that night. The double mattress suspended by the Ikea white bed frame held my weight well, the lightest of squeaks as I rolled to my side. My iPhone held in my left hand as my right index finger maneuvered my digital self through the universe connected through my phone. It was that two-a.m. time, where emotions usually rang at a certain melancholy. I had already said goodnight to her, my acha, and parents through texts.
I lay reading through our notes that evening, all of the emojis and pictures and sweet written words acting as moisturizer and nutrient and all those things good for people’s skin. After the notes, I moved onto her social media account, tracing back to a time even before we were in each other’s’ lives. A stray post remained of a past flame, her caption capturing a love she’s had with someone before me, an artifact of her past.
It wrote (if memory serves me right): “We kissed outside in the rain tonight and joked about what kind of school the children will be enrolled in, and he tasted like menthol and sweetness.”
Reading this, I could feel my heart becoming full and my eyes tearing up––I was really privileged to sneak such an intimate peek of her past.
In that moment where I was thinking hard about the person I was with, who she was before me, and what we had, I came to this specific thought: “Oh, this dream of hers, of our shared future––of a beautiful home with children’s art on all the walls, adorned like wallpaper, of a space with warm colours inside and out––she’s had this dream before, with other people.” She imagined her future children, the home she created, and the sweet words she spoke, all with other people. And it made me really happy, at peace, when I thought about this. And seeing how my feelings had responded to this stray post, I understood!
\\\ I love you I love you I love you.
(Written August 2019)
Of course I’m so glad that it’s me. That it’s me that you have tight long hugs with and plan the future with. But I’m so glad you get to do these things regardless of me. I want this for you, even if not with me. I was stupid to forget so. I realize truly again, reading your feelings for others, recognizing how it makes me so happy. That’s my love for you.
Stretched in bed, eyes pouring tears again, I understood. 2:44 a.m.
\\\ I Wrote But Never Sent
(Written September 2019)
Every day I wake up at seven, regardless of when I sleep. Thoughts of what I can do to lighten your parents’ and your burden spring, uncontrollably.
I want ultimately your happiness, to give you the sense of freedom. I am here today because I miss you and I want to be with you, I think time was needed to settle things. But ultimately, I am here because if I don’t ask this, I am not living true to us––not doing as much as I can to make it work. It kills me that you have to take on all the burden here, I am so so so so so sorry, you had to decide, you had to tell me. That’s so unfair. I can’t live with it. I want to take on the burden.
Anything, truly anything, this is no burden for me. I know this is partly driven by the emotions, I am saying though that beyond anything I am wholly aware who you and I are, and how truly lifelong willing I am––because that is the man I am for you. You are it for me, you are the love of my life––I know love and I know this to be distinct. So if then those cannot be, I will respect your decision, I love your decision, I know you would choose your parents’ happiness. I want to not burden your parents either, I want to alleviate all their burdens––I love them because I love you. I will do anything for you, the love of my life, even if it includes having to live the rest of my life without you. Yours, forever.
A Month later 2019
I am sitting, and just thinking about our love, thinking about it beyond the sadness of not having it, and am feeling warmed, a little warm and heart hurt. Feeling so grateful, feeling how it heals me, feeling how it is so beautiful, and accepting. I can’t be with her anymore, we really just can’t be together, but I can still house this love, this amazing warm healing familiar love. I know now that the numbness is gone, that maybe my torso is missing and I am disfigured. And that has to be okay, because this love will heal me, and the intention of our love, to be self-sacrificing, to place others’ happiness first, that it is the most special of loves and we lived true to our love. I have no regrets. She has none.
Months will pass, and we both will be so much better. And years will pass, and we both will have lived whole lives beyond and without each other. That’s so amazing. Two really good lives.
Same Month 2019
I bought a pack of Marlboros, threw out all but two.
I drove to where we said our goodbyes. First to the lawless parking lot of Soban, I drove at the time and on the day. October 9, 9:10 pm. I knew you wouldn’t be here, whether because you were recuperating from wisdom tooth surgery or because I know you well enough to know you wouldn’t come back on this night or because I knew you well enough to know you knew I would. You knew I treasured dates.
I drove to Soban. I parked in the far back corner, away from visibility. I wore a shirt you bought me. I smoked one cigarette on this 10-degree night. I wanted most of all to smoke and be away and to be by myself and to do something destructive. I knew as I lit the cigarette that smoking would never catch me as a habit, because I hated the taste and it didn’t do anything for me. I smoked out of some sense of ceremony. I inhaled each breath because I wanted to say “if I get cancer I get cancer.” And I inhaled and smoked till it was a stub. I sat by my car for an hour. Told my parents I had gone to see a friend. In reality I was visiting a ghost. A white Mercedes drove by the lot and I wondered if it was you. It was a comforting thought, to know we crossed even just for a second.
I sat for an hour. I kept the remaining cigarette in the pocket of the shirt you bought me. It felt best there. This shirt has more meaning now than it did when we were together. I still wear the things you got me, I didn’t end up throwing anything out. I found myself unable to. Because I wanted to keep the memories of this regretless love.
It has been a surprisingly quick one month. Life hasn’t ended, it goes on ahead of us. I broke my promise to you about not checking your socials, I read your Tumblr. It feels like the only way to see you without being seen or hurting you. I hope more months pass by as quickly.
Tears are odd now, they come in waves and don’t come exactly when I’m sad. It feels like I’ve run out in a lot of ways. People notice I am not the same, I don’t explain to many why.
It hurt so much that I lost my appetite (the first time that’s ever happened in the entirety of my life). Every week, I would strip naked and check my weight on the scale. I lost weight, pound by pound, for 2-3 months until I lost twenty pounds. My dinners, full plates once as over-pouring as I had been, had become smaller and smaller. I found myself unable to eat more than that, feeling sick! I was so subdued; at a certain quiet that I feel maybe only heartbroken people can attain, as if the act of expressing strongly further breaks them, uncaps the torrent underpinning their emotions. The self-destructive part of me thought that this was all fitting because it felt like my torso was missing anyways.
I would take these evening walks to the park near my home, dressed in my checkered pajamas and Birkenstocks, a complete mess as my ears and eyes filtered out the world around me. I would trudge, not walk but trudge, towards the seat beside the tennis court and sit down leaning forward with my elbows on my knees, chin placed on my hands. All I chose for company was the tree line of the park and whatever sad thoughts I fixated on. But then, in the pits, what I learned in those moments months ago and what I held onto when we decided to end things resurfaced in my mind.
(Written January 2020)
“I knew, I knew ultimately when I was with you: that I at the end of the day wanted to become a vessel for your love––that you would feel what you felt for me with other people, that you had felt these ways. That you built this future of a cute yellow house, a studio, kids’ art everywhere not for me, but for you, and that you gave me the privilege of inhabiting this space you created. To be a vessel for that. And so ultimately, I love you, we love, and I want that for you as well, for it to happen regardless of me––recognizing it and encouraging it. You will love so well, so wholly, find such warmth in your life everywhere. Oh, I look forward to your future, your happiness! It’s radiant.”
In the initial months of the breakup, even in the lows, I had in hindsight found good memories. I say “found” because hindsight months later provided me clarity to uncover the joy I had felt in those memories, which in the moment were muted by the overwhelming sadness of the times. This act of finding joy I consider to be as much a talent and gift as a cognitive bias. Time, even a month or two, had removed the sharpness of the pain I had felt consistently then. Time had become my friend who I deeply appreciated. Its ability to fade my mind, sand down the bad and good edges, and provide only rounded phrases of “I was sad then” and “Oh that day was good” gave me space to become my new self.
This joy I found was always tied to people. Family, friends, my community, and even this new person I was becoming. They all created this space for joy in my memories. Done through the love we shared. With this joy, I realized that love was all around and within me still. That it had not left or dissipated as she and I left, but rather transformed. This love that had sensitized me, made me grow new skin, and pricked me, it also saved me. Writing this right now, my eyes tear up––this love that these relationships house, it truly saved me.
And I realized I felt so full. I Felt So Full. I felt myself over-pouring still, affirming to me that yes, I am a vessel full of love still. And love is so un-rare that it is ambient. I smiled at people as I passed them by, I answered warmly about the weekends I had to my colleagues.
And Then I Felt Hungry Again, my appetite was like a chunky, black cat who finished its time outside and returned to its comforting home.
||| Teaches and sensitizes us.
“She became the voice in my head telling me to be kinder, live fuller, sacrifice for others.” |||
||| My acha (sister):
(Written December 2019)
My acha holds me close, she looks at me and tells me she is proud and knows I try. She tells me how my family worries and gives me the bitter medication of truth. She confronts me with my poor habits of holding on and grieving. She lays a gentle hand on my shoulder and asks me nothing. She says she is proud.
||| Laying at home, with my family, remembering us in Cafes––feeling Whole:
I lay out in the sunroom, head on a chair, washed by the light. It’s so warm that hot isn’t far and for some reason I think of your cold feet pressed against my thighs in bed. I look into the empty cup of steeped tea and see my own reflection. I wish I could show you this face staring at me.
||| Finding myself, with love filling me as a whole vessel:
I am ready to live a good life, to move on, to live many years without your love on purpose and still try finding happiness over and over again. I want to.
I spend my time outside work between reading, praying, crying, and helping. I write a little, spend time in the warmth of my family, and watch basketball. This is the rhythm my life is lived by, I want it to be a good one.
I volunteer my time for others, I try to do things wholeheartedly, friendships are being birthed, money and time and emotional labour is imbued into life. I love you.
\\\ I Am Such A Full Vessel of Love
(Written March 2020)
Gonna Love Me, Teyana Taylor
Happy Breakup Song, Femdot
She’s Mine pt. 1, J. Cole
This rainy weather, my stay indoors for the past three weeks (and in turn, more time to think), and the love present very obviously on Tiktok have herded my focus and thoughts towards love. And unfairly, love between her and I.
I am not writing this while heartbroken and crying, hands shaking and body starved with no appetite.
That was many many months ago. I’ve made as much peace as I can, helped by the beautiful relationship we were in and by the beautiful relationships I am in with my family and friends and community.
I am writing this with the lightest of heavy hearts, just a little bit of the “missing you” that happens.
Love to me is this ever-present energy. As a vessel of love, we nurture and enable these connections that build the warmest environment for love. I am surrounded by it, blessed to house it in the relationships that connect me with other amazing people. I am so full of this love, stretched and warm, overpouring.
Jamyang Tenzin is a Tibetan activist and grassroots volunteer who lives in Toronto, Canada. He is an aspiring writer who is currently working in technology companies. His primary passions include volunteering and community building. He hopes for a future where Tibet is thriving.
© 2021 Yeshe | A Journal of Tibetan Literature, Arts and Humanities