Thoughts on loss as I load the washing machine

Losing people hurts.

No, I’m not only talking about death, although that of course is the most extreme and sadly a very common example when thinking of loss.

And no, I’m not really talking about breaking up with a romantic partner either, although that is also a very common loss and more close to my thoughts right now.

What I meant to say is that losing friends hurts.

Not in the way of death and of the breaking of a romantic bond but no less hurtful for that.

It can be way more subtle, you drift apart for years until you realize that the person you have in front of you share all the mannerisms and memories with the person you once knew. But like a hollow doppelganger, they just aren’t that friend anymore.
Personal growth, experiences unshared and choices you don’t have access to have stolen them away down a path you can not follow on.

This feeling, although false as you both have drifted, can be devastating.

And I think it can go both ways. Sometimes you can meet up with someone and you realize that they haven’t changed that much, they are still very much like that friend you knew. Not that they haven’t grown. Just that their trajectory may have changed changed them less in those areas that you know to look at. But you have changed. Maybe for the better, maybe for worse, almost certainly both. And you just, don’t find them interesting anymore. Their quirks, beliefs and mannerisms may irritate you now, or at best bore you.

I think both times can be equally hurtful in a way.

I don’t know if there is a point to this.


My best friend, a whirlwind who always has a new fascination, a whirlwind who takes me to dinner on particularly gloomy afternoons, who scoots home through foreign rainy Italian cities after drinking cheap bottles of red wine.

My best friend, whose voice I’m starting to forget.

She is standing at the end of the yellow school hallway reading a Berlin guide book. I smile as I walk by. I know her, I think to myself, but I didn’t know she was going to Berlin.

She sits next to me in History class and fiddles with the bandage wrapped around her knuckles. I know her, I think to myself, but I didn’t know that she had hurt herself.

Our memories tie my heart to hers, hers to mine, but they can do little else. They promise me nothing.

I keep smiling as I pass her in the hallway, and she keeps sitting next to me in class.
It is a silent charade
and I do not know who we are trying to imitate. And so I think of loss as I load the washing machine. And so I wonder what this is trying to teach me.


I’ve been part of many collections of people on my way from birth to here. Most of them are now people I barely know anymore.

Between 11 and 12 I ran in a pack of boys that roamed the block I grew up in. But then, one day, as if we had rehearsed it for months, we all stopped calling one another. At times I see them as i walk in the city. We nod to each other, knowing that we no longer have anything to talk about.

As I became 13 I became one of the members of a merry band of nerds. This group expanded over the years, and then, as we eased our way slowly into adulthood, members left. To start families or careers or simply because they didn’t have the time anymore. I remember them fondly although I would never lift up the phone to call them. And I still have friends from this group that I know today but we are now something more akin to family once removed. We keep tabs on each others life but we don’t meet too often so that the starkness of our differences can be mollified by our shared nostalgia.

At 15 I joined a now lost crew of make-believers. We’d spend hours on end telling tales and I attribute much of my initial growth as a storyteller to that time. But as I reached 20 we drifted apart. I remember this bitterly quite as these were people close to me even then and I felt betrayed by them for not calling me back each time I tried to reach out. As I grew I recognized that they had had their own troubles and that I had been harsh in my anger. I met them quite recently on happenstance, for a big part of the group still gets together. I recognized them, the friends that once were are there deep inside of them and they have grown in ways I suspected may come to be. But that growth is perpendicular from mine so I left the chance meeting fast.

A few years ago I was adopted into a coven of witches. And although I shift in and out of their lives we keep an almost daily contact. I don’t know if we will drift apart, my experience tells me that we will. But then again, experience isn’t beautiful for it’s permanence.

I do think that each of these groups filled a function in my life. Each with their foils and lancers and hearts. And each have made me grow.

I don’t think that the losses of these people could have been avoidable. Not with the road i have chosen for myself.

Maybe that’s the point? That loss is the flipside of growth?


Dearest T,

Remember when I held you in the shower after your panic attack after that douchebag boyfriend of yours had dumped you, after you lost your job, after you lost your mom and you said through your tears ”ALL THIS FUCKING OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH” and the crying mixed with laughter as the water mixed with my clothes and I was completely soaked. I had just been on my way from the office, I was heading to a tinderdate but you called and said ”can you come over?” And i heard in your voice it was important and i biked as fast as I could and used my spare key and you were there in the shower, naked on the floor with all of your plants there with you and I held you and brushed your hair in this jungle of yours.

I think of you at least once a day.

I just moved back like a week ago but I haven’t dared to call you and also I saw on instagram you were moving away. Maybe you already moved? This city is just filled with traces of us, we were like little slugs and did a good amount of staining on the benches and floors and stores and kitchen-tables. All of the sweat and tears and blood and saliva and fluids. But also our tag is everywhere still! I saw that little long finger while on the metro last night.

I finally put the shirt I borrowed from you the last time we saw each other, the green shiny one, in the washing machine. I am gonna wash it, 60 degrees. My finger is hovering over that start button, when I press it the smell of you will be gone and with it maybe I can start to let you go?

I thought we made promises to each other to always be the widow friends and hold each others hands and go to Ikea with each other and things like this. We were E.T together, so extra terrestrial, so loving with glowing hearts and fingers and toes (but weirdoes ofcourse)!!!

You would always have the decency to break up in person with your stupid silly dates but somehow you are ghosting me for over a year now. You were angry at me and now I am very angry at you. I think you’re a coward. I am stalking you on instagram so I know that you are having a baby and I am happy for you, but it also breaks my heart because I always imagined being there, holding your hand through it.

I feel like you are this unresolved knot. Can we not just see each other? Just once? Can you not scream at me and I can scream at you, we can have a little JuiJutsu wrestling match (be careful i have been working out) and then its all good? It really feels like a nightmare to not have you in my life anymore. So much has happened since we spoke.

Loss is a flipside of growth and as I load the washing machine and wash away the stains and traces of what has been, the fabric gets thinner but also softer, cleaner, and at some point breaks completely. I don’t know what really happened between us or in you but I know that I miss you and I love you and I am really really sorry and AFOG (another fucking opportunity for growth) and goodbye and goodluck with the baby.

Love
E

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I miss us at times.

In a nostalgic way, my mind filters away the betrayals and the sniping and the general way we made each others lives bad in the end.
I miss us sometimes, but I to say that I regret us parting our ways would be lying.

It’s almost 5 years now to date and I washed out everything that held your scent the first few months. I’m actually horrible with dates but that one stuck with me. It was when I came home from that festival, with energy to spare. Finally ready to actually talk things out with you about how things had been. That night, we ended it.

I think that it was a wake up call for both of us.

Neither could provide what the other needed. I couldn’t be the person you needed me to be. Neither could you be that one to me. And trying to be had slowly made us resent each other. Do things that would hurt the other.

I wouldn’t call our relationship toxic, it hadn’t reached that point yet, but it was going there.

I’ve grown much in these 5 years. Defined boundaries and realized what I want. And, perhaps just as important, What I don’t want.

Through the loss of us I have somehow gained what I am.

So yeah, I can miss the good times we had. The walks in the woods, having sex in the laundry room, learning to surf in Spain, cuddling up on the sofa on Thursday nights watching Dr Who after climbing practice.

But, and I say this with the utmost of love, I never want you back in my life. And I think that feeling is mutual.

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You are not who I wanted you to be.

But once you were.

Once you hold my back, once I hold yours.

In this foolish universe of adulthood

I can just recall – or is it how memories are created –

The days.

I didn’t let you down.

You didn’t let me down.

And although we disappeared when it seemed

That life was getting bigger than life

There’s nothing to feel bad about.

Promise yourself that we were good

When we could.

Hold my hand and whisper my name

For I have not forsaken you.

It’s the memory of me that stands still

And it will help you when you ask for it.

I don’t think it’s loss.
It’s not loss if you’ve never owned anything in the first place.
We don’t possess other people. The best we can is inhabit them.
The best we can is to be besides them and crawl under their skin.
I, I have never thought about loss as organic. I think we impose loss.
It’s all how you think about it. You can be a stone.
Aren’t we all made of stone?

That’s from a popular song by the Stone Roses. Or something.
I used to be happy when I listened to it.
Now I’ve lost that too.
I lose things all the time. I was lying.

It was not as awkward as I had thought it would be.

We stood there in a party venue, celebrating a common friend’s 40th birthday.
We saw each other and did the downward nod. The one that tells each other that while we will accept each other’s presence, it’s best not to poke around in old wounds and long forgotten histories.

The most awkward part was that people kept trying to introduce us to each other. As if we hadn’t known each other for half of our lives. Each person was gently dissuaded from further action by me and I guess that you did the same on your end. After an hour, people got it and only a few were curious enough to be told that I didn’t want to talk about it.

Then I saw you laughing from across that room with the chocolate fountain and it was your genuine laugh, the one where you show too much teeth which makes you look slightly demented. Seeing it again actually made me smile with the nostalgia as I poked yet another alcohol drenched strawberry into the dripping chocolate.

I left shortly after that and our eyes met one more time just as I was pulling on my coat and saying my goodbyes to the hosts. The coat that I got from you because it frankly was too large for you but fit me as if it was tailored. You smiled quickly, winked and then walked away into the room that had champagne.

Not too bad as closure goes.

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No, it doesn’t mean I want to see other people. I don’t want my loss to be inherited by others, to be inhabited by others. But I will never be lonely. Perhaps you won’t approve; but our mutual friends, they are my friends too. That too is love, and for that I open myself.

I allow you to be in me. I allow the image of you where I live. I allow myself to think of you, but you don’t evoke anything for me anymore. I see in my memories your alter ego.

Sometimes when I couldn’t sleep I tell myself, do better. I go to furniture shops at night and remember when my life was just starting, when I still needed to think about furnitures. It doesn’t mean I’m thinking of you. Then I come home and the smell of heavy chemicals get to me, and when I fall asleep I couldn’t wake up in time.

When they say that the truth hurts, it is this: I think of you because you are easy to think of when it is convenient. You, hairball of broken heartstrings and old memories yellowed and softened. You, early Taylor Swift songs–no, before all the purposefully bad dancing, outwardly dismissive, inwardly hopeful–early Taylor Swift songs.

When the car breaks down for the third time in as many weeks and my daughter’s howling in the passenger seat, I think of how you would doze with your face mashed against the window and all I’d do is push the hair away from your softly parted lips.

When it is 2am and painted to the back of my eyelids are all the promotions missed, all the passion projects I’ve given up on, I think of the summer you let me buy you a new holiday wardrobe and for those two glorious weeks we were what I could’ve had for the rest of my life if only you hadn’t upended your wine glass into your travel bag on the last night of our vacation.

I do not mourn the loss of you, but I mourn the loss of what you could’ve been. And because you were never what you could’ve been but were not, you are not my failing. I think of you, sometimes, more often now, but I wish that I didn’t.

[A SIDE NOTE FROM AN ALTERNATIVE FORCE]

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I saw you on Tinder the other day. It was lunchtime and I had done a fry up of leftovers (these work from home times does make it easier to cut the lunch budget). Pasta, oil, garlic, stir on high heat and add a piece of tomato. Anyway.
Swiping around between all the brilliant summer smiles, bikini yoga pictures and people holding a wineglass, your face popped up.

It is a little over two years since we split. We were friends, never lovers although it may have been in the cards at one point if things had gone differently.

But they went like they did. We haven’t talked since then except for the one time when we had to to sort out the logistics of ending the company we had started. It was an awkward 15 minutes.

It made me happy to find you on tinder. It reminded me that there are losses that are without regret or sorrow.

I smiled as I swiped you away with my middle finger.

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I gather up all the dross. All the crap. Shake out the inside out shirts and pants and check pockets. I do it on autopilot but I don’t employ my mind any more gainfully on anything else because the tedium of the task at hand dulls everything. My thoughts wander from place to place with no purpose. Is this what I have become? A purposeless wanderer? With nowhere to go and nothing to do beyond care?
This was not the plan. It was not the intention. It is not the fire I used to feel inside my belly. No. NO. It is not what I will be. I will not be nothing, I do not want to be nothing, I was not destined to be nothing!
The click of turning the machine on brings me back into the moment. My thoughts were not wandering without purpose. They were seeking their previous purpose, mourning the loss of their previous purpose, grieving for what once was that felt so valuable when what is now feels so pointless.
I must regain the control. Regain the purpose. I don’t know how to begin. But I know I can begin, I want to begin and I have to begin or the outcome will not be good. It will take time but it will not be good.
I let my eyes scan the room I am in. They rest on the cupboard with all our shelving. Two seconds later the entire contents is on the floor. I’ll relight my fire. Sorting through the contents of my shelf might seem an odd place to start but I know it is where this begins.

I feel my pilot light flicker.

I’m going to be ok.

There is a lot I keep to ourselves. I think of the world as circles enclosed upon circles. Structures of Italo Calvino, bequeathed, Palomar dying at the moment of his divine realization. Everything good is accidental, including you, human encounters are accidental, even if they make a lot of sense. It made a lot of sense for me to meet people and lose the connections.

I’ve taken up a strange new hobby. I sleep till morning but then I go to cafes and streets at midday, dressed all proper, and I’d stare at people who I knew would take an interest. I look like a career person, I have been unemployed for two years, a little more, I get by. I can make money any time, I can make anything come to me, if by force, by invisible force. I’d stare and they would think a big magical cinematic thing is happening to them, although I am all ground and dust and nothing special, and they would move. As soon as things go into dynamics I stop and disappear. I enforce loss so I own my loss. The lossless quality sound of my snores, a moment forever.

Yesterday I saw my friend and I saw the loss that she is about to encounter.

It stared out from her eyes even though she tried not to show me that it wanted to be seen.
We talked about it. I am too brash not to ask and she loves me enough to tell me to fuck off if she needs to.

The thing is her loss is in front of her. Every. Single. Day.

She cannot avoid or escape it. It often follows her around and talks to her. It continues to function, occasionally with surprising results, but mostly just with a zorb of danger and impending loss hanging heavily around it. A heavy air pressure before a storm cracks.

The thing is that her loss is in front of her. Walking. Talking. Being.

She married her loss and I don’t know whether, at that point, she knew about it or not. It is a cliche but it does not make it any less real. It is always possible, of course, that her loss might become her gain instead of becoming her loss. It is still within reach that the loss might be averted. But, between us I can tell you, it is unlikely.

The thing is that her loss is in front of her. Because she loves him.

He has been airlifted to intensive care too many times in recent years. Warned of the irreparable damage done to his internal health if he continues. Oblivious to the words of experts who try their hardest to fix people who have become broken. I imagine that, now, they roll their eyes and wonder the point of continuing to treat him when he refuses to help himself but nevertheless expects to be helped each time he pushes himself too far.

Her loss is right in front of her. She adores him. She wants to help him more than anything else she has ever wanted. But she can do nothing until he wants to help himself.

Is this only further illustration that we’re always alone? Or that some cannot be helped?

He loss is right in front of her. He is my friend, known for several decades now. Yet I don’t know him at all and I don’t know how much longer I will know him for.