Pieces

by Laura G. Goetz

I don’t know what details hide nestled between the name of that country we visited and the month I only had enough energy to play bejeweled, ready to fill my mental jigsaw of empty swaths.

Maybe I don’t want to understand after all.

What I know:
We started too quickly and ended too slowly. In between, making breakfast for you was a highlight of each day. Eggs with a splash of water, like your father made you, blanketed in the right kind of hot sauce and a soft shell, with a cheesy cheddar glue, strong enough for a tortilla but not able to keep us from splitting at the seams.

What I don’t:
Why I stayed for so long when I knew it was over. How you turned every attempt I made at breaking up into a conversation about our future. What you imagined that future to be…my attempts always drew a blank slate.

What I know:
A few days before I found you lying on your bed, you took me to the Emergency Department with symptoms of a heart attack. It was a heart attack of sorts, but not the kind that shows up on EKGs or ultrasound, or could be treated by a cardiologist. They asked, “Are you under any particular stress right now?” I pictured the fear and rage in your jaw when you told me I was the first person you trusted with this and if anyone else learned what you were doing, or considering, it would just be you again. I lied.

What I don’t:
How many times did I induce a panic attack to try to stop you from yelling at me or hurting yourself? Not induce… release—the anxious jack in the box was barely contained beneath the surface that year and certainly didn’t need much of an invitation to take me for a spin. It’s a party trick I pray I’ll never use again.

What I know:
Our hands fit perfectly while walking. I wanted our lives to do the same. We shared well—food, mixtapes, jokes, laundry duty.

What I don’t:
Why you wanted me to be everything. Why I tried to be everything. Why I couldn’t be everything.

What I know:
We were doomed from the start. You don’t believe it’s possible to have fun doing activities that aren’t explicitly fun, but life is full of rain, and I love hiking in it. You called me your beacon of joy, and I lived for it, trying to fill your glass to half full with my endless optimism.

What I don’t:
Why I gave so much. Why it was never enough. How to be my own beacon of joy.

What I know:
I loved your eye crinkles and how much you made me laugh in the early morning. I believed you would get better. When you said you’d always be in my corner, my favorite word was “always.” I took so many cute pictures because I desperately needed a way to remember your smile and convince myself that you wanted to be here.

What I don’t:
Why wouldn’t you talk to anyone but me? Why were you so convinced that nothing would help you? Did you want any of it to work—honestly?

What I know:
You were livid when you found out I’d told some of my friends about your hospitalization and refused to see them. It was the worst day of my life, but it wasn’t mine to tell. Your feelings were life and death, so mine didn’t matter. Your eyes became all pupil when you were ready to hurt someone. It was scarier when that someone was you, than me. When it happened, no matter what you said, I wouldn’t leave, because I’d found enough “last” razor blades hidden in your room to believe that my soul was harder to break than your skin, and I loved you too much to not protect you.

What I don’t:
What the line is between a rough patch and just plain rough. When should I have left? What would have happened to you if I’d left? Will I ever get back the piece of myself that I lost by not leaving?

What I know:
I take pride in being friends with exes. You wanted to “chat” on the phone to catch up. It’d been a year. I agreed, which horrified my friends but didn’t surprise them. I didn’t tell you I’d spent the past few days discussing my journey healing from the trauma of being the one who intervenes with someone who wasn’t as lucky with outcome. I didn’t tell you that within 2 words with you, the vices gripping beneath my sternum and behind my eyes awoke from hibernation and I haven’t been able to fully quiet them yet. I didn’t tell you that I learned a lot from our relationship and sincerely hope that you did too and find something healthy and good in the future. I didn’t tell you that I can’t be your friend. All are true.

Laura “Teddy” G. Goetz is an overly enthusiastic medical student, writer, photographer, biker, runner, and research dork, with a penchant for cooking without recipes and referencing Audre Lorde, Donna Haraway, and Buffy. Her goal (as both an artist and a doctor-in-training) is to help people feel seen. Her prior training includes an MS in transgender hormone therapy and BS in biochemistry and gender studies, focusing on interdisciplinary scientific research informed by individual embodied experiences. More of her recent poetry and photography can be found in Journal of the Medical Humanities, The Intima, Wards, Ponder Review, Heirlock, Watershed Review, and SIREN magazines.