Tình thương làm người bị thương. Surrendering love causes pain (literally: the hallmark of love causes injury to people)
There is a reason why “love” and “hurt” are the same word in Vietnamese.
I am in the process of healing a freshly broken heart, learning how to walk away on my own. Oftentimes, it feels as if I am only drifting.
The process of learning another human being is hard. The idea of allowing someone else to fully experience the strange, sappy, ugly, and very real parts of me and for me to experience those parts of them—that is hard. It is vulnerability. It is romance. It is the love that I was taught to give and desire as a young woman. It is undeniably me.
Growing up, I had a sense of knowing that I would eventually get married and have children. This is what we are socialized to do—but I did not truly feel this way until I fell in love with you. You served that prophecy—lifelong companionship, marriage, parenthood, tending for my aging parents and yours, holding hands well into our old age when our children would care for us too. I recognized early on that we were raised differently, but I had hoped that it would not negatively affect me and you. My Vietnamese parents taught me closeness and consideration—to keep loved ones at the top of my mind. Your English and Mexican American parents taught you independence and individualism, to love from afar.
And still, I had visions of you and me. You were my self-fulfilling prophecy.
It is strange to contemplate the mere idea that I will once again become familiar with another creature—quirks and thoughts and scent and body. I may never know truly and exactly how they will react to the slightest change in air and atmosphere, but I will have the closest idea of how they feel without them breathing a word.
Those things all felt so sacred between us. They still do.
I am afraid of exploiting the very few things I have left to treasure. How will I recount the nuances of my childhood to someone else? How the overcast skies in my first home gave me a certain inexplicable nostalgia that still floods my daydreams. How can I teach them my favorite Việt catch phrases? The very words that took nineteen years to slip easily and intentionally from my mouth into open air. How can I extend my hand out to theirs, dropping a tiny bottle of magical minty dầu in their palm as if it is not special to me? All these things are special to me. All these things are me.
I am a hopeless romantic unlearning deep-rooted attachment.
I do not fall in love easily. And still, I long to float on the same wavelength as another human being who looks at the world with curious eyes, lies beside me only telling truths.
But I fear vulnerability once again. I fear bearing resentment. I fear nakedness and shedding skin. And I do not know how, at least not yet, I will be able to ease into a contented place with another person again.
I allowed myself to hide from the world in contemplation of what “us” truly meant. I seek to convey these feelings of love and sadness embedded eternally in the fabric of the universe… though I am studying the art of doing so without you.
by ELAINE LE
image: (Be With and Without Me, 2009 Daehyun Kim)