The Aftertaste of Sorrow

(Warning: I’m too depressed to bother about grammatical mistakes.)

Dear friends, in the last week or so I’ve turned from a romantic hero into an almost-maniac. Sometimes, out of too much enthusiasm, out of too much passion, out of too much love, we lose our heads and say and do foolish things, we become bad versions of ourselves, automatons that make mistake after mistake and hurt the people we care about. I plead guilty. Overwhelmed by enthusiasm, thinking I had finally found the complicity of a romantic friendship, I became too insistent with my visits to the clinic and said and did foolish things, and to conclude, the blue-eyed nurse now frowns upon me.

‘I don’t like you,’ she said flatly. ‘At first I thought you were interesting but now I know better.’

The whole weight of the world dropped on my shoulders. The setting was the entrance to her apartment building. Her arms were crossed in a defensive stance. The light kept flickering, going out every few seconds, and she constantly turned and hit the switch, restoring light for another few seconds, before repeating the procedure.

I’m not sure how I ended up there. We had had an awkward parting at the clinic that evening — blame it on a white rose — and I just could not tear myself away from her and followed her to the bus station — she was with a colleague — and took the same bus with her and then a cab, and after an interminable ride through the lazy traffic ended up full of doubts and uncertainties before the same building I had visited a few days before, where I had picked her up for a visit to the museum.

For a long time I hesitated, but finally I called her. After some pleading on the phone, she descended, a veritable block of ice, resolved to freeze all my romantic hopes. I did not want to beg her love, only to see her and talk with her.

‘Out!’ she said, frowning at me.

My body wouldn’t move. I could not tear myself away from her. I clung to her like I clung to hope. She headed for the door and I followed her. Out of cowardice, or maybe out of courage, I stepped toward her and awkwardly tried to kiss her. She pirouetted and then I remember holding her gently, facing her for a few moments, during which she hesitated, and then trying again, just as clumsily. I knew it was a terrible mistake, something that would give her the excuse to get rid of me for good. There was no passion in it. The desperate act of a desperate boy. She turned her head, avoiding me, and tore herself away from me and headed for the door.

‘Out!’ she cried.

‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry!’ I implored her.

‘Show that you’re sorry and go!’

I wish I had the strength. Seeing I did not leave, she tried to walk by me toward the elevator, but I stepped in front of her, preventing her, begging her to wait a bit more. Another mistake, I knew, another desperate act. But home awaited me loneliness and despair, regret, remorse, the sound of silence after the music of her voice, the coldness of isolation after the warmth of her presence, the cancer precipice.

‘If you don’t leave I will,’ she said.

She opened the door and ran into the biting coldness of the night, dressed but lightly. I rushed out after her, but she was gone, hidden in a shop or some other place. Slapped hard by fate, I slunk away crying, wanting nothing more than for the ground to gape open and swallow me.

***

Ever since, I’ve spent harrowing days in the gallows of solitude, burning with shame. I tried to remedy the situation. After sending emails of apology, I summoned up my courage and visited the clinic again. I wanted to talk to her, to apologize, to try to explain that what I did I did out of weakness and foolishness, not out of meanness, that I repented and was willing to do anything to make amends.

Her eyes were frosty blue.

‘You’re a patient and that’s it,’ she said. ‘Here’s your envelope with your lab tests. Go home.’

I insisted. I scared her with my insistence, with my awkward apologies, with my pleas for mercy. Tuesday evening, after she walked me out, I waited for her outside on a little bench. It was night. When she came out I got up.

‘Can I talk with you?’ I begged her.

‘Leave me alone or I’ll call the police!’

Imagine! The boy with a hat thrown behind bars! I ran after her. She hurried away and I realized she was scared and I’d better stop. I slunk home veritably dejected.

The same urge for understanding, the same need to make peace, sent me again to the clinic Friday evening. Bad mistake. I pleaded, I insisted, I tried to talk with her.

‘Nothing has happened between us. Go home,’ she said.

‘Nothing?’

As if I had not let myself be pricked about ten times just to get the chance to be around her. As if we had not been together on two quasi dates. As if we had not wandered through the park at night for hours. As if she had not eaten all those chocolates I had given her. As if, on the balustrade of the natural history museum, I had not tickled her nose tip with a strand of hair. As if afterwards I had not bought her three red roses, which she had put in a square, transparent vase.

‘Go home or I’ll call the police,’ she threatened.

Her voice was formal, devoid of pity, sympathy, or recognition She did not look into my eyes. She kept her eyes on her computer.

‘Fine, call the police,’ I said.

She did. Fifteen minutes later, a policeman appeared from the station across the road. A polite conversation followed, and then I understood that lingering there was of no use.

‘If this is what you think I deserve, I’ll leave,’ I said, smiling at her sadly.

She did not say anything.

I sought solace on the little bench, and I took my head in my hands and stared at the pavement and cried a little. Not for love. I had realized by then that it would never work between us, that we are too different. She’s a deeply religious girl who fasts and goes to church, and has many firm notions and convictions, and believes strongly in the afterlife. For my part, art is my religion. We are not on the same frequency. She certainly enjoyed the attention I had offered her, but I don’t believe she felt drawn to me. As for my part, I realize that my ‘love’ for her was but a cry for help, a plea for warmth and understanding.

‘I cannot help you and I don’t know what advice to give you,’ she had wrote to me. ‘You need specialized help.’

I’m in a sorry state. I can’t eat, I can’t write (I struggled to write this), I can’t think. I’m not sure what’s going on with me. It’s not heartbreak. It’s despair at my own shortcomings. I feel a gargantuan disappointment with myself. I realize how vain and empty my life is, how wrong everything I try to do turns out, how I tarnish what I touch, how everything that can go wrong goes wrong.

I stand here at my desk gazing through the window at two old fir trees, big and stately, one taller and broader than the other, so that they look like a couple, a faithful couple that has been together through scorching summers and harsh winters, who have been bent almost double by violent winds and weighted down by the burden of snow, and yet who have endured, still standing close together, and I am keenly aware of my loneliness, of the void that has been deepening in me for a long time, and whose presence I fear I can not tolerate for long. The horizon looks bleak. I do not know what the future holds, but an impending feeling of calamity slowly creeps over me.

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31 thoughts on “The Aftertaste of Sorrow

  1. Hello, Boy with a hat,

    I can’t say I know how you feel, because that would be condescending in sorts, but I can say that the way you have written this post – struggling or not, I swear great works come from tortured artists – it reminded me a lot of what I had done for another man not too long ago. He was quite a years older so when he was the first to draw the line I became desperate. Same lonely pleas. Same apologetic, awkward defense of trying to communicate how great and equally terrible I am. I never visited him, but I would crouch in the corner of my bathroom while on the phone and ask, “Am I allowed to speak with you again?” and then just as likely say that I understand when he told me to gently go away. I mean, how else to balance between reclaiming that last bit of supposed grace between absolute infatuation? But you are so much more honest than I ever was in writing about it, even privately for myself. In that, you made it somewhat beautiful; respectable, despite the oddity of that.

    (:

    1. You hit the nail on the head: “I swear great works come from tortured artists”. That’s the truth! All you need to do is take a glimpse in the lives of Van Gogh or Edgar Allan Poe.

      Little one, I KNOW EXACTLY how you feel because I’ve felt that way for years. Take a deep breath and pour your heart and your feelings into writing.

      It will get better, I promise.

      1. Thank you Valentina (: it definitely has gotten better, thanks to a number people and things – writing being among one of them. In all regards , I still try to remember what Winona Ryder had said at one point , because she had so believed that all great artists were tortured she had indulged unknowingly into a sort of abyss, just forlorn and withdrawn into herself, and coming out of it she just said her greatest fear would be to be a self indulgent person so she decided to stop.

        Certainly, I’m still nowhere near that sort of wholesome clarity, but things always come to bypass us, with or without our permission (:

          1. I’m sorry to hear that..but afterall, Christmas is coming, and it has always been one of my favorite holidays, even if I’ve never really properly celebrated it in the most traditional sense as I have in my imagination – it’s what we make it, no?

  2. It took me until I was twenty- nine years old to find the love of my life. Don’t look back, look forward. You’ll meet your love too. When you meet her, life will unfold like one of your red roses.

  3. It does sound like you got a bit carried away. Love is a very delicate thing, and doing either too much or too little can bring about discomfort or shatter hearts.
    Whilst I’ve avoided romance most of my life, I have observed those around me and learning from their mistakes.
    I think you just became infatuated with someone you knew very little about and acted too quickly; your actions possibly catalyzed by your fears of mortality.
    However, I don’t know the whole story so this is just my theory of the situation. I could of course be wrong.

    You are an amazing person and you’re already loved by all your fans and readers. I think that you will find that truly wonderful someone someday, who loves you for you.
    Vincent, I wish you the best of luck in love and life!

  4. Agree with Daniel above.

    These are the terrorising experiences that can help keep our hearts steady in the future. If nothing else, it showed what your heart is capable of. A sane love awaits.

    Wishing you well and short-lived bruises.

  5. Oh no. I am so sad to hear how this has panned out. I’d been cheering for you since you mentioned her. If there is one thing to take solace in (and I understand that right in this moment it is unfathomable to even begin to comprehend) is that you tried. You ever so bravely put yourself out there. You showed up for love, and sure it may have slammed the door in your face but with it came a lesson. An important lesson about who you are and what you are capable of. Something that you can put into practice for the next girl who ignites your soul. Not many people are prepared to be as brave as you were, putting your heart on your sleeve and giving your all to another. There is someone out there for you, someone who may very well worship art as you do. Another soul who will challenge you creatively, stimulate your mind and inspire you like never before. Sadly not all of us locate them immediately (I am in my late twenties and still await him myself) but I believe we eventually do. You are in pain now but imagine if you had not frequented the clinic so, had not waited outside and walked her home that night. You would surely be sitting by that window, in pain and thinking “what if”. If there is anything more horrible in this world other than heartbreak and rejection it is most definitely regret. And regret is more crippling than those. Trust me on that, I know it all too well.

  6. I can’t say how sad the post made me that there was no-one there who could perhaps just hold you close and tell you that there is a future even if waiting for it is hard. I’m guilty of similar mistakes to you in the belief that I had to have someone with me because no–one would ever love me. I think I was wrong and I’m sure that you are.
    When love comes it will light up those dark corners of your life and you’ll be confident in it. Even if you are different people, church v art it won’t matter.
    BUT, you mustn’t contemplate anything awful because of today’s pain, please. Let there be a tomorrow where this hurt disappears and leaves space for the love to come. Your health will return and you can concentrate on your art again.
    Best Wishes n’ Hugs.

  7. After I’ve written this you’ll probably disown me, but it needs to be said. No matter how deep your feelings for someone, no matter how intense your passion, you must never place them on a pedestal. Girls are human, not goddesses. Admiration flatters, adoration scares. You threw yourself at this nurse, I’m afraid, and backed her into a corner where she had no choice but to say no. From all that you say I think she would have been too terrified to do otherwise! Prostrating yourself before her (figuratively of course) was an unmanly act, unforgivable so early in the game.

    Just as you would feel wonderfully blessed to ‘get’ the attractive girl, so she needs to feel privileged to have attracted you. Without suggesting any inequality, a woman seeks certain qualities of challenge and strength in a man – an ardent lover, yes, but with a certain quixotic freedom. Art has a place in that, but not before mood. Art should feel dangerous, slightly demonic, an adventure.

    I do speak from experience. I have made some of the errors (possible errors: it may be your case was blighted from the start) you seem to have made, though not all at the same time, I admit. I lost someone I loved very much, someone I might still be with, had I learned the rules.

    But then, I found someone too – someone I can love equally well. The future need not always be hidden by a thundercloud, need it?

    I

    1. Frederick, what makes me want to climb up the walls is not so much the romantic loss — lovely as she is, I don’t think I could have ever loved her with all my heart… we’re too different — but my own behavior and my weak character. I think a man needs to be of quality before he can quest for love, and this incident has shown me just how little quality I have.

      1. Vincentiu, I am struggling with the same obstacle at the moment, of wanting love so eagerly.. But I also recognize that I TOO need to be of quality before I can expect to be with someone on a completely mature and respectable level. I believe that because I am still learning about who I am, what I love, what my purpose is and what exactly I desire in life, I cannot fully satisfy the needs of another individual. Maybe you are possibly dealing with an unknown issue of your own, especially when you become so desperate for love and attention. You must first love yourself so, to be able to love another the right way and doing it by forcing someone to see/talk to you, is not the right way. Love is appreciation and if you appreciate someone so much, you will make the necessary actions for their well-being. Don’t worry though, keep your chin held high, everyone has their own timing and it is just not yours. In the mean time, I suggest some alone time, meditation and focus on you and mainly you. Give yourself the attention you would give to a girl you are greatly interested in. Pursue yourself, then someone will notice your strength, and so will you.

        P.s. A struggling young love

        1. I agree with you Marisa, but the problem with quality is that it’s not always something you can acquire, especially when talking about one’s looks. I profoundly dislike my weak body.

  8. I know it sounds stupid and a little crass, but I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    I spent 5 years with Her, a girl disguised as an angel yet as fallible as sunlight through foggy glass. And one night, she took my love and threw it all away. I didn’t send apologies, I didn’t leave secret notes and I doubt I have the courage to do so more than once.

    Maybe, my dear Boy with a Hat, maybe girls like that are to remind us of the truth. That beauty is fleeting, and love, real love, is eternal.

    I thought I wouldn’t make it but its been a year and I still breathe, and I still write. Do not look to the horizon, your eyes deceive you. Do not look to the past, hindsight is worthless. Keep your eyes at your feet, on the here and now, and take every chance, every failure, with a glad and unburdened heart.

    You are not alone. We are here.

    So remember these words every time you doubt the outcome of your endeavors.

    “Fakt 1034: Life’s a cigarette, smoke it to the bud.”

  9. I’m sorry you loved someone who doesn’t love you but all hearts don’t fit, no matter how much we hope. All you can do is move on, putting your energy in other things. The best to you.

  10. I’ve been there, dear hatted boy. With tears in my eyes, I have been there.

    I wish I had words of comfort. You probably don’t want to hear from or talk to me, either. My life has spun out of control recently, and I have lost touch with all of my friends from afar. But I have not forgotten you.

    When something is too much work, and you wonder if you’re doing too much or too little, if she likes you or if she doesn’t, if you said the right thing or the wrong, if you should go or if you should stay — it isn’t right. When you stop trying to so hard, and go to a park and read for hours, and bump into a girl in a similar stance, and you weren’t looking for it, and somehow you end up talking, and it isn’t hard — that’s when you know it is right. Everything else isn’t worth your time or energy.

    But that’s easy to say in retrospect. In the moment, we are desperate and only want things to be right, even when deep down we know that they are not.

    Be easy on yourself, Vincent. Not so hard. Time heals… At least that’s what they say.

  11. I hope that that ” impending feeling of calamity” has passed. I have felt that. We all have felt that. I hated hearing people saying that it will pass. it didn’t feel that way. But, it does.

    And I think on some level you know that. I have seen how bright you are – as well as how sensitive you are.

    If you feel you made a mistake, let it go. We all make mistakes – big and small.. All our lives. No one dies from their mistakes ( I hear my family saying that in the background of my mind).

    Eventually the experience becomes a possible opportunity to look back and realize that we could have, and should have, handled it another way.

    Feelings are nice, love is nice, but feelings and love are not facts.

    Being attracted to someone causes a lot of anxiety, and that causes us to do some pretty extreme things that later we feel upset about, embarrassed by, even humiliated. But the other person gets over it – and goes on, and often doesn’t think the more or less of us. We continue to re-play it. We have to put the experience into prospective and let the over-reaction to it settle down.

    Let her go – in your mind. That’s where she is living at the moment. Every time you think of her, it, the experience – breathe out and think/say “I let it go”. You said you both were very different. You over-acted based on your emotions. You know that it takes time to know someone, and if you think over time, that you really like them, enjoy their company, then you let your feelings out, slowly. Intimacy grows over time, which you know, and not in seconds.

    Hope to hear from you soon. Randy

  12. Life is about learning. Life is what makes us what we are. You grow. Take what you can and learn. Don’t wait for it to happen take what you learn and make it happen. I found my true one late in life; I maybe slow at the learning part but I did give up.

  13. I’m not saying that you took the best approach with this fair lady, but I must take exception with her, “I thought you were interesting…” comment.
    The Hatted Boy is nothing if not interesting!
    Tonight, I shall take a moment on my front porch, where I shall combat the night chill with the warmth of a smooth cigar, and I shall think of you my friend.

  14. Dear boy, this is a tragedy. Alas, I hope she reconsiders. And just in case you think your faraway Aunt has forgotten you, I came to tell you she has not. Life has the better of me this year. But I think of you, and your pages that await me, every day…

  15. I’m going to climb back in where maybe I should not, because this discussion of emotions is worthwhile and raises memories for me. It has a very personal aspect.
    What perhaps is being forgotten here is the severe penalty art brings. To be a true artist you must convey an intensity of feeling which will reach your audience, something which comes from every fibre of your being, something which has possession of your soul. That is a great gift, but it has a price.
    We feel everything more deeply – sadness, joy, pressure, pain, and of course, love. Emotion is a wild stallion running; it will lead us down strange paths, through amazing, revelatory experiences, and into box canyons of desperation and hope. We act in ways most of society will consider irrational, we suffer acute and complex guilt. Those who succeed are skilled enough to control this creature yet not tame him. Those who fail can pay a terrible price. Those who harness the beast probably lead a happier, simpler life, but they sacrifice their truth as artists.
    What I’m saying is, you should not feel shame for acting in the way you did. You followed the stallion. My sententious comment above was intended to help you rationalize, and if possible exert more control over the stampede next time!

  16. If I could embrace you then and there
    I’ll whisper you words of consolment
    For sorrowful heart
    Needs more than hugs and words
    My dear boy this one of many
    Love will come or maybe not
    Just don’t make the vow of celebacy
    For love comes to those who wait
    And those who try and fail
    Your sweetheart will come someday
    For you this is a lesson
    To become the man
    Worthy to hold her in your arms

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