TW: Abortion, eating distress, health anxiety
Hope’s #MadCovidDiaries – 23.4.2020
Thanks for the dance, and the baby you carried
It was almost a daughter or a son
— Leonard Cohen, Thanks for the Dance, 2019
You don’t like this song, because it makes you think about dying, about saying thank you as a goodbye. I kept singing it around our little flat and I apologised. I said it was an earworm. You said I was the only person in the world who could describe a Leonard Cohen song as an earworm.
You said you were worried I was singing it to say goodbye to you, because you’re dying. You told me you imagined I’d have lots of other dances, but now it’s the end of my dance with you. You imagine your heart beating strange whispers inside your body, where you can’t see. You listen, though, through the stethoscope you bought off the internet. You’ve had it for two days and listen maybe five or six times a day. You keep it in the soft bedroom where you can lie in bed and hold yourself still, staring into the nothingness of the ceiling. Sometimes you will hear the slip of some intangible horror and tell me you are dying. Sometimes you will listen to my heart, and I will let you. You are reassured by my heart sounding just like yours. But then you wonder if you misheard yourself. Maybe you only dreamed what you heard into an ordinary heart.
I wait beside you, seeing only the dark beauty of your eyes. Your eyelashes are gold and they flicker around the room as you listen. Since we have known one another I have watched you strain against the weight of embodiment, anxious forever that your body will find a way to betray you. You clutch handfuls of pale flesh gilded with delicate hair that shines in the light, like a fire or a sunset has come over your body. You tell me you need to stop feeding yourself, otherwise the fat will wrap around your organs and you will die. When we met, you were much thinner, and you wouldn’t eat very much. Then you became happier, more comfortable with me, and you increased the things you ate. You weren’t as small and fragile around the middle as once you were, and I stopped being frightened of hugging you so tight.
But then, after about six months, my body and your body worked too well and there was a pregnancy. We were living in a small one-room flat with a tiny window. You came to the hospital with me after they made us wait for six weeks and you listened to me in pain as the abortion happened. In the months afterwards I cradled the memory of what might have been and we both dripped into madness. I thought you loved someone else. You ate sweet things and thought your heart was becoming ruined. You were travelling to work too much in the winter dark. I was crying at home, away from you. You had panic attacks swollen with heart in the gym and on the train.
You had the strength to carry me on your shoulders while your worried heart was beating misheard echoes inside you. You loved me when I screamed. We moved into a bigger flat with real windows and sunlight. You ordered medical equipment off the internet— a blood pressure monitor for your arm, a thumb blood oxygen monitor, an electronic thermometer, and finally a stethoscope. You use them for a few weeks and then they lie like worry-shells on the shelves. I am glad when your mind does not need them anymore. I have scarred you with myself; the mad part of me, delusions flying in my eyes and out my mouth and all boiling over with horror. This has monstered your OCD and your eating disorder. I love you and I am sorry.
We don’t go outside because you worry that you will catch coronavirus and that it will be worse for you because you are overweight. It makes me feel bewildered when you say there are things wrong with your beautiful body. I shove my head into your stomach like a little animal trying to move my heart into your heart.
You worry the dance will be over because you have danced and loved before, and you are grieving. I am sorry for when I asked if your grandfather’s eyes were the same wrenching indigo as your dad’s and yours. I only wanted to know more of you and the beauty of the people who came before you. I have not known grief like yours, and I stumble. I thank you for keeping on living. I gaze at the greatness of your heart.
Thanks for the dance, and let’s keep dancing.
Pictures: a drawing of your face, and a carving of Adam & Eve that we saw together in Paris. Neither of us are religious but I thought it was sweet how this one has them both as the same person and made out of each other.
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