I’ve got boxes to pack and arrangements to make and a dozen or more things to take care of before I leave for NYC — nine days from now, about this time, I’ll have already landed there — but at this point those all seem like technicalities. A lot of things will end up in the alley behind my house over the next few weeks (I don’t have to be out of my place until June 26, and since I’ll be coming back every other weekend to see the boys I’m not putting things into storage until then) and it won’t take long to box up books, papers, music, the remaining detritus of my life here in Chicago.
The catch, the thing that stops me short when I think of leaving, is knowing my life — my past — with Jack is also being left behind. The good news is that not one single person in NYC ever met or knew Jack, other than stories they heard from me or through the heartache they witnessed when I was there and he kept relapsing. But this is also the bad news. Or at least a difficult realization to process.
I don’t want to be that person who never lets go, always prattling on about a dead person. But it’s really difficult sometimes. If you’ve been here you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you will one day. Consider yourself lucky if you die never knowing what I’m talking about. There will always be a Jack-sized hole in my heart. Some days it’s filled with love and memories; some days with sadness and a fear I’ll never love anyone that way again, that no one will ever love me that way again.
But once I land in NYC that whole process — loving Jack and losing him and grieving terribly is just another thing that happened to me in my past, just as others have car accidents and lost jobs and their own dead people. “No one will know you; you can reinvent yourself,” is a common piece of advice offered by those who hear I’m moving. True enough, but that’s not really possible without telling too much of a lie. I’m marked by all these things; I struggle with a deep awareness that people get tired of hearing about them. I know I do, and I’m the one who chooses to say them.
I suppose I should view this move as a means of healing, removing myself from the scene of the crime, as it were. In some sense, I sincerely hope it will be that way. Indeed, I’m so impatient to just get the heck out of town largely because I’m done here. Done with remembering and feeling and just overall aching for that summer with Jack. Maybe if I leave I can open myself up to other summers with other men who may or may not love me like Jack did but I’ll never know if I don’t let them try.
It’s all jumbled today — probably obvious — by going to a meeting where I met Jack for the first time. In the early weeks after he died I couldn’t go there without feeling as though I were suffocating. A little of that came back today, thinking of how much I loved him and how much he suffered from just being alive. The people there remind me of him: the things they say, the way they say them, the unintentional references to Jack and his several dead friends.
The point being: I’ve grieved. A lot. I’ve introspected and reminisced and done the grief therapy thing and shared how hard it is and cried (also a lot) and overcome a lot while wallowing not a little. I’ve done all I can do here — not just in my life but also with Jack’s death — and sometimes the only thing left is to pack up and move on. I can’t say grieving will be easier or better or over — probably it will be none of those things — in NYC but I do know that I can either move forward or stay in Chicago (but I can’t do both).
Nine days and I’ll make a new start. Jack will be part of my past in Chicago, someone I used to love and who loved me back. The only thing left to do is leave. I’m glad I’ve got a few days to come to terms with that. I need them.