One time, during a reading he gave, someone seated a few feet away actually whispered to the person beside her, "I love that. Did you hear it? I love that." After said poet read: "I am on sabbatical from the world."
Yup. That was mine.
At that moment, I wasn't upset, I was still rationalizing the emotional conflict I felt about being written and read aloud about. I was still hoping that my existence, if it had to be used in someone's poem, might have the ability to spark some sort of genius that I doubted my own life would be suspended long enough to create. On the first count, I'm fairly sure it didn't. On the second, I've now come to the realization I was wrong.
I have since decided I don't mind that I was written about and I've come to this conclusion because that person that was written about all those years ago is like the narrative self in creative nonfiction: chosen to serve a purpose, to tell a specific truth, not to make sense of or define a whole. That person, who was broken and depressed has remained just where he knew her and committed her: to paper..to the past.
Last semester, a student of mine from a class I taught his poetry to years ago emailed and asked me for a copy of his work saying, "I think my class would really enjoy it and I need to bring something in. Do you have it? Can you send it to me?" I didn't, but I directed her to the last email address I had for him, one I found in my old email account that serves as a receptacle for junk mail, forwards and the rare significant note from a long-lost friend, the one he used to write to when we still cared for one another in a way and with weight only letters could carry, around the time when he started to steal my lines and I started to fill my belly with bottles of rum and pills. When I found the address among the graveyard of my old life, those emails were there, too, shoved into a folder called "Ebay and Stuff" along with purchase confirmations and tracking numbers for vintage clothing from the 40's that I no longer wear. Those dresses of pink, black, white and plaid hang somewhere in the closet I share with my husband. I had forgotten I even had them.
When I navigate away from the email account, I leave the contents untouched, unopened, not willing to visit the girl that I was, afraid to hear what destruction she spoke, what lines he stole, how unknowing and desperate we were: he in his love, me in my despair. I think it's better, not feeling bad for what happened between us, not trying to make sense of that self I can't understand or excuse. I abandoned her there out of fear. How frightening it was to be left alone with her! Anywhere with her was like death! Even then, with so much time passed, I decide it's best to leave her there, amid the unwanted emails and unworn clothes, an age that defined an era, a movement of tragedy. Unopened, unread, unstirred. Sometimes its best not to linger on what scares us most.
When I send my student the address, I wish her luck, apologize I can't do more and hope he understands that by sending her instead of me I'm letting him know that I'm sorry and that he can keep the lines.