I love being in a new place, but I detest the process of getting there. If only I could afford to just hire people to come in, pack up everything (magically knowing what I want to keep and what I want to get rid of), and transport it to my new place (once again using their supernatural powers to deduce how I would like my new place decorated). But unfortunately, this queen ain’t rich and so all of the packing and sorting and transporting falls to me and a select group of trusted friends and advisors who can snap me out of it when I go to far into procrastination mode and find myself distraction projects that don’t really accomplish anything (but really, how can I move until all of my CDs are alphabetized, my pictures all dusted and sorted according to how long I’ve known the people in them, and my cans of soup are all lined up based on their proportion of broth to noodle and vegetable?).
Moving after a breakup has the added danger of all the potential emotional landmines that you can come across while packing, some knick-knack or souvenir minding its own business at the bottom of a drawer or on a shelf in a closet suddenly unearthed and sending you running for the nearest vat of Ben & Jerry’s. I’ve been pretty lucky in that respect: right after “the shit went down” I did a pretty thorough job of searching the house for items that were left behind or that may have some extra significant emotional aspect to them and purging them. “The shit went down” is the phrase I’ve come to like the best; “divorce” doesn’t really get at the ugly suddenness of it all, the instantaneous changes that someone can force on you when you aren’t legally married, but “breakup” seems too small a word. I enjoy the ambiguity of it, flavored with just a touch of profanity. It simultaneously requires the asking for clarification and discourages it. I enjoy contradictions.
One of the items I’m having trouble determining its fate is a canvas I made not long after the wedding. We’d received one of those vinyl wall stickers with a quote I was particularly fond of (“Always Kiss Me Goodnight”) and I decided that rather than sticking it to the wall, I would attach it to a piece of canvas; that way, if and when we moved, we could take it with us. It was a sentiment that I truly believed in: no matter what is going on or how stressed out you might be or what problems the world might be throwing your way, marriage means that there will always be that person there to hold you, kiss you goodnight, and remind you that you will be safe. That there is someplace to return to where you can feel protected. That the end of every day together is an occasion to be celebrated. Don’t worry, this post isn’t going to turn into a Lifetime Special Presentation; after all, you know how that particular story ends.
Now when I look at that canvas, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, it is still something I believe in. I like the thought of ending the day with that simple gesture, taking those few seconds to celebrate each other. Whatever the future holds and however my thoughts may have changed about marriage, that celebration is still part of my larger vision. But now there are more strings tied to it, different associations than what I ever intended. Like the time, not too long after “the shit went down” when a friend came over to see how I was doing and to drop off a few things. We were talking and since she had never been to the house before, I showed her around. When she saw the canvas, she read it aloud and said, “How sad. You don’t have anyone to kiss you goodnight.” After I stared at her blankly for a few seconds (and made the mental note that she probably shouldn’t be invited over again anytime soon!), I thought about what she might be trying to say in her own bumbling way. I know she wasn’t trying to be mean. And I didn’t have anyone to kiss me goodnight. And the whole situation was pretty sad.
But I think she was having trouble seeing it as more than just a cute, romance-y picture hung on the wall by two newlyweds who thought they knew what they were getting into. It wasn’t, or at least it wasn’t supposed to be just that. It was supposed to be something more…substantial. Like a declaration or a plan, or maybe a house rule. One of those nonnegotiables: forget other trivial things, but never forget this. And maybe that’s where things started to come apart. We stopped making sure that we were kissing each other goodnight. Now when I look at that canvas, I see my determination to have that in my life, but also my failure to keep it when it was there.
And I also feel angry. Angry that we didn’t try harder to keep that promise, that we let things get in the way of it. That things had to end in such an abrupt and ugly way. But mostly I’m angry about that feeling of ritual and of safety being taken away. I can’t find it in a kiss before bedtime, or reaching across the bed in the middle of the night and feeling that silent, snoring presence reassuring me with its simple act of being there.
Trip by trip, box by box, I’m emptying out one space and filling up another. I’m getting used to a new layout, new paths to walk in the dark, new settling sounds from the boards beneath my feet, and new locks to check before laying down to sleep. And so far, that yellow canvas with its simple message leading to such complicated meanings is still hanging in the same spot on the wall next to where our…my bed used to be.
(I love, love, LOVE this song by Pink and the lead singer of Fun, from Pink’s new album “The Truth About Love.” A heart-breaker. And I think it goes well with what I’m feeling.)
Tags: Always Kiss Me Goodnight, Champagne Dreams Productions, divorce, drag queen, drag show, Janessa Jaye, Janessa Jaye Champagne, Just Give Me A Reason, marriage, moving, P!nk, Pink, The Truth About Love