For the first time in a long, long while, I feel pretty good on a level deeper than mere fleeting enjoyment and present mirth. Sure, I've not been too down recently, but I haven't had this sense that I do now, this sense that my life is actually, fundamentally okay.
I think things are more or less back to some sort of pleasant normal with my best friend. That's a relief, to be sure. Today we hung out together at lunch, discussing entertaining nothings, much like old times. And instead of being partners in arch-villainy, like we used to plan, we're now both henchmen of another arch-villain, so that's pretty fun. She announced today that she is going to take over the world, and everyone in the vicinity instantly volunteered himself ('everyone' is a singular noun, people seem to forget that rather often) as a henchman. Leigh (my best friend) is going to be the guy who stares in a weird way and says 'Yesss, Master...' in a creepy voice. I got the best role: the henchman who follows the boss around, standing quietly behind her and a little to the side, usually quiet but offering bits of information when they are needed. Really it's too bad that's not considered a legitimate career option - I could totally see myself in that sort of devoted-personal-servant role, and offering information that technology could probably offer just as readily is one of my stronger talents, but unfortunately one that is being rendered obsolete and reduced to a mere party trick by all these accursed personal pocket gizmos. But anyway, that's my current career goal (and unfortunately only a joke): sidekick or henchman.
No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
Am an attendant lord, one that will do
To swell a progress, start a scene or two
Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
Deferential, glad to be of use,
Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
Almost, at times, the Fool.
From 'The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock' by T S Eliot
(And no, despite my name, I'm actually not obsessed with Eliot in the slightest. 'Prufrock' and 'Macavity' are actually pretty much the only works of his I've read.)
Anyway, what's more significant than the fact that my best friend and I hung out together just like old times, after more than three months of near-estrangement and worry, is that this all happened in one of the places that was the particular haunt of the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name [Grey]. And all year (school year, that is, of which there has only been a little more than a month, but even so) I have been deliberately avoiding that place, and a few others, not willing to face the memories. But today I faced them, faced them all, and to my surprise, it was actually okay.
First, at lunch, the room where she used to lurk (not that she lurks, mind, angels don't lurk, but when lower mortals act in similar ways, spending a lot of time in a particular place, it is lurking by my definition). I steeled myself, entered hesitantly, and for a while merely stood, looking around, picturing her, remembering times she had been there, remembering what she had said and what she had done. And I didn't feel sad, or frightened, or angry, but I didn't feel numb, either. I don't know what to call it. It's like how peace is more than just the absence of conflict. Something in me had made peace with something else. Whether that 'something else' was in me or not, I do not know.
So the lunch period passed with me being more content than I have been in a long time, and also more comfortable in that place than I can remember ever being. It used to be that I had to be always on the alert, always guarded, because if she was not there at the moment she was likely to come in at any time. I had thought that the memory of her, her ghost if you will (although, thank whatever powers may be, she is not dead, only graduated, which is not the same), would haunt the place in similar fashion, and that I would have to be on particular lookout for her many spies, but no. I was actually able to relax and enjoy the company of other people - which for me was an amazing and almost new experience.
Later, I faced the spot where I, under duress and weeks before I had planned, confessed to her that I had a crush on her. That's how we put it, at the time, a crush. I was saving the l-word for when I knew I would never see her again. Several times in the past month have I come very close to passing through that spot, as it often lies on the shortest path between where I am and where I need to be, but always I have balked, doubled back, found another route. But I went there today, and sat for a few minutes, and thought a bit. And again, something inside made peace.
Likewise later, with the place where, on that most pivotal of days, I said goodbye and told her I had always loved her. And with that last, small peace, I started to understand that I can lose the pain without losing everything else. For months I had been clinging to my pain, clinging to it as proof that everything was real, that my love for her was real. But it dawned on me - actually, the idea had been floating around in my mind for a while, but it really sank in this afternoon - that while the pain does have to go away eventually, the love doesn't have to go with it.
And that belief, which until then had been only a thought, set me free in a way I still don't fully understand. But I know, now - know with something that isn't a certainty, isn't a doubt, somehow, but an understanding that what I know may not prove to be true, if that makes any sense, which it doesn't to me - that I will always love her, but will be able to think of her without pain, and, most importantly, be able to love someone else, even many persons else, with no breach of faith. Who that or those else may be has not yet been shown to me. But it will happen, I know.
Even now, the pain is almost gone. That pain to which I clung the way I cling to those few material tokens I have of her: the few photographs, the few notes written in her hand. And I don't miss it. I have always known it would go, eventually, but I didn't want it to. Now I no longer need it. And that...that makes me feel incredibly content, and incredibly free.