E is moving to Svalbard in [counts on calendar] eleven? twelve? days. If you don’t know where it is, look it up: if the world was a sundae, it’s right next to where the cherry would go. Six hours east of me (eight from where she will have used to live — what is that, the future passive particular?), and so far north that the oxygen freezes and falls out of the air. Well, that last part’s not true. She came to visit me in Kansas for a few days because we had things to talk about and arrangements to make, and it reminded me, again, of how dear she is to me.
My life looks sere, as far as relationships go. I am single(ish) and have been for thirteen years. I wasn’t always happy about it — and yet, when I was in relationships, even with wonderful, kind, generous people, I was always anxious and sometimes depressed, and greeted the breakup with grief, but also a certain shamefaced relief. (Why is there no word, grelief?) There were reasons for this, almost never to do with the people I was with, though of course they had their own scars. I came out of my childhood damaged (who doesn’t?), and even with lots and lots of therapy I wasn’t really able to sort through that in ways that let me be healthy when I was in a relationship. I loved my partners; I loved my friends. But I didn’t know what to do with that. And even now: I have a certain number of acquaintances in the town I live in, and some of them are inching toward friendship…after seven years. (Except for C., but that’s a special case.)
Many years of therapy later, I at last accept and revel in the fact I do love people, that it’s not a flaw in my character to care. I am not always near them geographically, but they are in my minds every day. Some of those people, I haven’t seen in many years — and yet, there they are, campfires I warm my hands at. I don’t know what they think, especially the ones from places I lived long ago and haven’t seen much since. I don’t often ask whether the people I love love me, perhaps because I am always a little afraid of the answer.
So, circling back to E: she gets that. Svalbard is a long way away, but so was Seattle, and yet we managed. But more than that: being able to love people at all is, for me, a plane-ride a lifetime long. 3871 miles is nothing.