Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Into the Abyss

I have fictionalized places, government agencies, and names to protect the innocent and the guilty.

I was 20 when I met Sean, a strawberry blond lad working his way through college fighting fires for the Bureau of Land Management.  He grew up in an Irish Catholic family dripping with strawberry blond children and humor.  He made me laugh so I naturally fell in love with him that summer, the summer of 1980, the summer I worked as a Wildlife Biology intern in the Northwestern Nevada Resource Area for the Bureau of Land Management.  Someday I will comb my journals and share my stories with you, dear reader, of how he flirted and seduced my heart by collecting dying butterflies when he mowed the lawn of the fire station where we both lived.  I was collecting butterflies that summer for a professor of Wildlife Biology at the University of California at Davis who was working on the diet of native shrikes that ate insects.

I used to visit the hot springs with the firefighters.  They persuaded me to skinny dip with them.  I figured it wasn't so immodest a choice to make because we skinny dipped to the light of the Milky Way and the moon.  One night I was sitting next to Sean when I felt his fingers on my  thigh, his explorations hidden from everyone but me by the hot night's water.

I said, unsure if I felt comfortable with his attentions, "What are you doing?"

He removed his fingers, but some minutes later they roamed around again.

This time I remained silent.

The relationship was consummated in the weeks that followed, but Sean always vacillated in his interest and commitment -- one day ardent and attentive and avoiding me the next.  I always struggled with the ends of relationships, going into a depressed funk for two years after each one.  I did not want to repeat the pattern.  I did not want to be used.  I did not want to be neglected or mistreated or abandoned when the summer came to an end, so I ended the relationship.  I tried not to talk to Sean the day when the fire station chief assigned him to work with me as I worked on some wildlife forage evaluation transects far out in the Nevada desert.  It was many years before I learned non-violent communication which would have given me the tools to tell Sean how I felt diplomatically.  Sean knew something was wrong when I would not laugh at his jokes.  He tried and tried and tried until he broke down my resistance, and I spoke.  I told him I had a hard time with the ends of relationships.  I told him that he was not treating me in a way I felt comfortable me.  He promised to write when the summer was over.  It was all I needed as I was still so young I had not lived through that many broken promises of romance.  I had stood up at least a little -- something I had not done before.

When the summer was over and Sean returned to Mill Valley State University and I returned to UC, he did not write.

Months passed.  I wrote him a couple letters and agonized.

I called the directory for Mill Valley and obtained his number.  It was the days before the passage of laws protecting privacy.

My roommate dialed the number for me and put me on the phone after Sean answered.

Sean said, "I am never going to write; I am never going to write."

This is not a story about Sean's feelings about his actions.  I don't know them.   I do know he had stayed faithful through four years of college to a high school girlfriend.   In the end she married someone else.  

I remembered his cast off words said out of context, "Long distance relationships don't work."

I agonized.  Of course I should have known he was never going to write.

I agonized for the usual two years, considered suicide, felt worthless and unlovable, and fell into a prolonged depression.

Two summers later, the summer of 1982,  I worked as a Biological Technician for Great Basin National Forest -- a mere fifty miles across the basin and range plateau from where Sean worked once again as a fire fighter for the Bureau of Land Management.

On summer nights I looked across the plateau and thought of him not so very far away and yet a billion miles away as though he was across the universe on the other side of a singularity.

And I wrote Into The Abyss.

Twenty years later I learned that survivors of child sex abuse like me often struggle with feeling abandoned, devastated at the end of a relationship.  I learned my feelings were a normal symptom experienced by many abuse survivors.  That helped me understand my depressions and help me cope better with the damage done to me by abuse at age four.

So I share my poem with you in hopes it helps you understand your own feelings and behaviors or the feelings and behaviors of a loved one or friend.

Last thoughts only as I fall away,
A particle of planetary debris
Sucked into the black hole.
Whose gravity not even light escapes.
Now you see me,
Now I am a billion light years away
Across the universe,
Reborn as a microwave pulse oscillation
In your radio telescope,
Invisible to the naked eye.

Are we not all doomed to eternity
as Subnuclear particles
Locked into the endless
Oscillations of matter,

Each of us
Our own black hole universe,
Our lives lost
In tidal expansions and contractions?

As you reach out to me.
I am already gone,
Traveling away from you at the speed of light,
Matter to your antimatter,
Doomed to mutual destruction whenever we meet.

© 2014 Virginia Pickles Jones 

This is me in the summer of 1980.

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