A Strangling Winter

Other things
When the sand turns to glass, and all that's left is the past, I will love you still.
Other things
Take from me my disbelief
I know it should come easily
But it remains inside of me
It battles and devours me
It cuddles up beside of me
In whispers, it convinces me
Other things
Blessed are the hearts that can bend; they shall never be broken.
Other things
As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment. And then the moment was gone.
Other things
If love's a word that you say Then say it, I will listen.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Dear Connor,

Your mother e-mailed me nearly three weeks ago, inviting me to a get-together at your house on the one-year anniversary of your passing. That get-together, in your memory, will be held tomorrow.

It is evening now, and I am seated at my kitchen table trying to deconstruct the myriad of feelings I have about tomorrow. There is a downpour just outside the kitchen window, fitting given the state of my emotions. Nevertheless, I can hardly hear my thoughts for the sound of the raindrops hitting the sill.

Tomorrow, I will make the pilgrimage from city to suburb, carefully crossing county lines to reach your cul-de-sac. It is a familiar journey; one that I have made many times before. Yet this time will be different. This time I will be returning to where we started for the first time since your life ended. And I will be forced to accept the reality of your death. Over the past year I've tried to make my peace with your passing, and I've made it with distance. Tomorrow I will bridge the gap and force myself to accept the fact that you won't be coming home. I will cross that threshold and, for the first time, you won't be there to greet me.

Oh, Connor. All of my happiest memories reside beneath that rooftop, within those walls. It was there that we first came face-to-face. It was there that we shared our first kiss, there that you made love to me for the first time. The promises we made reside there too, the walls their witnesses from yesteryear. I will move within the madness, my stomach tied in old familiar knots as I contemplate the course of our relationship.

Around my neck, I'll wear the trinket I treasure most: the small suede satchel that contains the key to your heart. There is something poetic in having your heart's key rest against my shattered heart. I can still remember the night you gave it to me. I can still see that face I knew, that perfect face illuminated by the flickering candles. I can still smell the incense permeating the air, the sweet scent setting the stage for your declarations of love. You left a part of yourself behind for me, your love laid out in metal. Tomorrow, I will leave a part of myself behind too.

Love,
Aurelie

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posted by Aurelie @ 8:14 PM   1 comments
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Dear Connor
"If I knew you could hear me, I would tell you that our fingerprints don't fade from the lives we touch." -- Trailer from Remember Me

Dear Connor,

Today would have been your twenty-seventh birthday. Given our history, it is likely that you would have celebrated without me. Our time for celebration ended long before that fateful day in October, when you departed this world for the next. Nevertheless, today I am haunted by the ghost of you and me.

Do you remember when we began? Our relationship began with words, Connor, verbalizations that I could interpret as clues to understand a man who wasn't entirely sure he wanted to be understood. Our conversations lasted for hours, colored with an honesty and emotional openness so raw that it stunned me. No topic was off limits to us, as we discussed the ills of the world and the depths of our souls. In one conversation, we presented our worst flaws to each other, promising to hide nothing in our quest to become friends.

Connor, the cool precision of your voice haunts me, even now. The stifled impatience in tone that always arose when you needed to deal with someone less intelligent than yourself. The softening of the edges when you'd confess just how deeply you felt for me. The raw emotion of pain, when the words began to choke you. The songs you'd sing to me softly, always with a hint of shyness, as if you were afraid of your own voice. A plethora of words and tones that still echo through my head at the most inopportune moments. Do you have any idea what I would give to hear your voice aurally, instead of mentally?

Later, I began to add other details. The softness of your lips, during our first kiss, when the sunbeams danced around us and my favorite song played in the background. The rough stubble of your jawline, when I would trace my lips across it and nip at your earlobe. The heat that I could always feel emanating from your solid body as you held me, a wall of flesh and muscle designed for my own protection. I think I will always know, instinctively, the beating of your heart against mine.

My happiest moment, Connor, was nothing out of the ordinary for us. I woke up, naked, in your arms. The sun was streaming in your bedroom window, bathing your body in a golden glow. My head was buried in the curve of your neck, your pulse beating softly beneath my lips. Breathing in, my senses were submerged in that scent that was uniquely yours. And in that place between asleep and awake, in that moment before reality crept in, I thought to myself:

"Remember this. You have never been this happy, Aurelie. You may never be this happy again. Remember this perfect moment. Remember his smell, his taste, his touch. Remember the sound of his breathing, as his chest rises and falls with yours. Remember the sight of your limbs, intertwined together, in the morning sun. Remember the feeling of loving so completely, that it feels like your chest will explode at any moment, unable to contain the feelings that he inspires. Remember the feeling of being safe and warm and, above all else, loved. Remember this forever, and never let the memory go."

I haven't forgotten, Connor. It is still my most treasured memory. I have visited that moment again and again. When things fell apart, as they are wont to do in this imperfect world, that is the moment that kept me in love with you. That is the moment that kept my heart bound to yours. Even when I didn't show it. Even when I pushed you away.

Do you remember the last time we saw one another Connor? It was in my apartment. We had broken up months before, when I'd found out you were calming the storms inside you with prescription pills and heroin. You'd insisted you weren't addicted, insisted you could quit at anytime but balked when I asked you to do so. And there you were in my living room, smiling lovingly at me. And there you were leading me to my bed, laying me down gently and kissing me. And, there I was, pushing you off me, refusing to succumb to the love inside my heart without promises of rehab. I told you I couldn't trust you anymore, wouldn't trust you until you sought professional help. The pain on your face split my heart in two, but it was quickly replaced with anger as you stormed out of my apartment.

If I had taken you back, would you be alive today? If I had given you everything, would I have been able to save you? As I sank deeper and deeper into the abyss your drug use had created, would I have been able to pull you out unscathed?

Your last words to me in a Facebook message in July insisted you were doing well, Connor. Did you believe it or was that simply your way of insisting you were fine without me? You'd move onto other women. I'd gone back to Ethan. Our worlds were spinning on in different orbits. Did you think of me as often as I thought of you?

Since you've been gone, you've haunted my dreams. In one dream in particular, you are trapped in a house, unable to leave. You have been sentenced to an eternity imprisoned within its four walls. You beg me to stay with you, beg me to marry you, insist we'd be happy if we were only together. You are whole and healthy and off the drugs and you are asking me to share a lifetime with you. When I wake up, I realize that I am sleeping through all the dreams we never made come true.

After you died, I promised I would write down all my memories of you. Every time I try, I dissolve into tears and am unable to see the page. Those tears are not my friends, but they aren't my enemies either. They are merely my body reacting to the piece of me that broke the day you left.

I will try again to capture all our happy moments, Connor, and all our sad moments also. I will tell myself, as I did that morning so long ago:

Remember this, Aurelie. Remember it.

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posted by Aurelie @ 10:09 PM   8 comments
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Proposal -- Part 2
So when we last left our young heroine (i.e., me), she was sitting in Radio City Music Hall praying that she wouldn't be called onstage by a jolly fat man in a red velvet suit. Luckily, my prayers were answered. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular ended without any embarrassing public displays, for which I am eternally grateful. After exiting the theater, Ethan asked if I would like to walk over to Rockefeller Center to see the Christmas Tree. I readily agreed and as we began walking, I noticed most of the Christmas Spectacular audience had the same idea. It was incredibly crowded at the Christmas Tree, so we only stayed a short time. We asked two police officers to take our picture, and they initially turned us down. They quickly changed their mind when Ethan flashed his own badge. Dating a police officer does have it's privileges. And I'm not just saying that because he's gotten be out of seven moving violations during the time we've been together. Okay, maybe I am.


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Prior to leaving Rockefeller Center, I asked Ethan if we could visit Top of the Rock, the observation deck above Rockefeller Center. It was a surprisingly short wait, and we were enjoying the city skyline in a matter of minutes. We spent some time wandering around the observation deck, absorbing the magnificence of our city from all angles. It was so cold that my body was trembling, so Ethan suggested that we head back inside. After coming through the glass doors I saw a young woman sitting on a bench, in the throes of hysterics, sobbing into her cell phone. I was about to head over and offer my services when I noticed the empty ring box beside her and the gleaming diamond on her hand. I nudged Ethan with my elbow and whispered "Look, she just got engaged." He nodded and directed me toward the elevators. As we were standing in line, awaiting our descent, the elevator operator was waxing poetic about how "lame" it was that someone proposed at the Top of the Rock. He insisted that, when his time came, he would rent out a movie theater and blast his proposal across the screen during the movie. A very practical guy, he admitted to hoping that his soon-to-be-fiance wasn't in the restroom at that time. Ah, true love.
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We left Rockefeller Center and grabbed the nearest available taxi to head back to the Ritz Carlton. When we reached our room, Ethan announced that we had better turn in for the night, as we had to be up early tomorrow for my surprise. Despite massive amounts of cajoling, he refused to tell me what it was. I changed into my fleece pajamas (sexy, I know) and climbed into the king-sized bed. Cuddling up beside him, I quickly drifted into dreamland.

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BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! The alarm went off at 7:30 am. Ethan rushed me into the shower, telling me that we had to arrive at our destination by 9:00 am. Still bleary-eyed, I stumbled into the shower and relaxed under the hot spray. After dressing in another satin shirt and sweater combo, I exited the bathroom. Ethan handed me his Under Armour pants and socks and asked me to put them on under my jeans. I looked at him incredulously, thinking that he was taking this whole "dress warm" thing just a wee bit too far. Still, I obliged. As I was getting him dressed, I noticed him sending text messages on his phone. I asked who on earth he'd be texting at that particular ungodly hour of the morning. He explained that he was responding to text messages from last night that he'd only see in that moment. He put his phone in his pocket, walked over to me, and placed my wool hat (with ear flaps!) on my head. He took my hand and led me out the door.

We took the elevator to the lobby and Ethan asked the doorman to call us a taxi. When we got in, Ethan gave the drive an address. Just an address. Nothing else. Using all my knowledge of NYC, I tried desperately to figure out where we were going. I knew the museums were up that way, but I wasn't sure of their exact addresses. And why would I need to dress warm for a museum, anyway? No, that couldn't be it. Ethan asked why I was being so quiet, and I mumbled something about being tired. We rode the rest of the way in silence.
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When the taxi stopped, I noticed that we were at one of the many entrances to Central Park. Ethan took my hand and led me into the snow-covered woods. The following conversation took place as we walked:
Me: Where are we going?
Ethan: I told you, it's a surprise.
Me: Are you sure you know how to get there?
Ethan: Yes, I'm sure.
Me: Well, it's ten to nine. Are we going to be there in time?
Ethan: We'll get there, don't worry.
At this point we descended a large staircase overlooking the lake. We arrived at this location:






Ethan stopped dead in his tracks. And the conversation continued:

Me: Why are we stopping here?
Ethan: We have to wait here a minute.

Me: Are we meeting someone?

Ethan: Well, yes and no.
At that point, I began looking around the area for people we could be meeting. Ethan began taking off his wool hat and his gloves.
Me: What are you doing? It's freezing!
Ethan: I'm not cold.
Me: You must be crazy.
Ethan smiled at me and took my hands in his. He asked me to give him a kiss, and I did. Then, without warning, he dropped to one knee in the snow. He opened a blue velvet ring box and spoke with an unsteady voice.
Ethan: I love you so much. You're my best friend and I can't picture my life without you. Will you marry me?
Me: Yes!
He stood up and hugged me. We kissed, over and over again. He lifted me up in his arms. It felt like something out of a movie.
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And then I noticed something.

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A blond woman was peering out from behind the fountain with what appeared to be a camera. I narrowed my eyes.
Me, in almost a hiss: Ethan!
Ethan: What?

Me, outraged: There is some psychopath over there spying on us, and I think she is taking pictures. How dare she intrude on such a private moment! I can't believe this!
Ethan: She's not a psychopath, I hired her to take pictures.

I was stunned. Completely stunned. The woman came over and introduced herself for the "big reveal" Ethan admitted that he had been texting her that morning so she'd know what we wearing. Taking off his hat and gloves were the clue to her that he was about to propose. That sneaky, sneaky, guy.

The next hour and a half was spent doing an "engagement photo shoot" all over Central Park. 183 pictures and some frostbite later, we were finished. We climbed into a taxi cab and rode off into the morning together.











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posted by Aurelie @ 8:51 PM   5 comments
Sunday, February 28, 2010
The Proposal -- Part 1
"Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be." -- Robert Browning.

It was the week before Christmas. Ethan and I were sitting across from each other at my favorite Italian restaurant. We had just finished our appetizers (baked clams, if you must know) when the following conversation took place:

Ethan: What are you doing on Christmas Eve?

Me, puzzled: I thought we were stopping at your mother's house and then heading over to my godfather's house. Isn't that the plan?

Ethan: Well, yes, but I meant the morning of Christmas Eve.

Me, still puzzled: Um, nothing. Why?

Ethan: Well, don't make any plans. I rented a hotel room for after we see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular on the 23rd, so we won't be home until Christmas Eve morning.

Me, suspicious: You rented a room? At what hotel?

Ethan: I'm not telling. It's a surprise.

Me, still suspicious: Why would you rent a hotel room? I live pretty close to Radio City.

Ethan: I have a surprise planned for the next day.

Me, somewhat alarmed: Are you going to propose?

Ethan, adamantly: No!

Me, narrowing me eyes: If you were, would you tell me?

Ethan: Of course. I can never keep a secret from you.

Me, calmer now: Oh, okay. Good.

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It is now December 22nd. I am attempting to pack for this impromptu overnight stay at the mystery hotel. I call Ethan and ask him for advice. The only thing he'll tell me is to "pack warm clothes." I hang up and proceed to pack a large suitcase with several outfit choices, none of which include a scarf or warm shoes. As an afterthought, I throw in a hat and some gloves, because really, how cold could it be in NYC in late December?
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It is December 23rd. I arrive home from work and take a significantly shortened version of my daily afternoon nap. Ethan drives over to pick me up and we begin our traffic filled trek. He tells me that we will be stopping at the hotel first, to drop off our things. I am relieved because I am not sure that I can sit through the entire Christmas Spectacular waiting to be surprised. I am appropriately stunned when we pull up in front of the Ritz Carlton. The freakin' Ritz Carlton. I immediately burst out into an off-key rendition of "Puttin' On the Ritz." Ethan looks at me as if I have lost my mind and asks me what the hell I am singing. I spend the next five minutes searching YouTube on my iPhone for the song, so that I can assure Ethan that I am not insane. Even after I have played it for him, I have the feeling that my sanity remains in question.

We check into our room, which overlooks the Hudson River. It has an enormous bed that is quite possibly the most comfortable one I have ever slept in. It also has a telescope for stargazing. Despite my doctoral degree and his Eagle Scout past, neither of us can figure out how to make it work. We give up and focus on freshening up before we head to the Christmas Spectacular. I slut it up a bit with a low-cut brown satin top, but add a sweater over it when I remember Ethan's directive to dress warmly. We take the elevator to the lobby and Ethan asks the doorman to call us a cab. While we wait, we take a few pictures beside the Christmas tree in the lobby.

The taxi arrives quickly, and Ethan asks the driver to take us to Radio City. On the cab ride over, Ethan realizes that I am staring at him suspiciously. He asks me why I am staring at him so intensely. I smile sweetly and tell him that it is because I love him. In actuality, I am wondering if he is going to propose this evening. I glance at his pants pocket and do not detect the shape of a ring-box. I visibly relax.

We arrive at Radio City and take our seats for the show. We have amazing seats, only a few rows back from the stage. My suspicions immediately return and I spend the entire show panicking that Santa is going to call me on stage. I have told Ethan time and time again that he is forbidden to propose at a sporting event. Would he propose at a Christmas musical? I look over at him and he looks...bored. I force myself to pay attention to the show.

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To be continued... Guesses as to what happens next are welcome in the comments!

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posted by Aurelie @ 3:21 PM   2 comments
Friday, August 7, 2009
Friends and Family Friday #1 -- Ethan
"A therapist once told me that we're born alone and we die alone. It's not true. We all have an extended family, people whom we recognize as our own as soon as we see them. The people closest to me have always been marked by a peculiar difference in their makeup. They are the walking wounded..." -- James Lee Burke, American Author

While the above quote applies to me and the majority of people I hold dear, there is one notable exception: My boyfriend Ethan.

He is the antithesis of the walking wounded, with tranquil blue eyes and an easy smile that spreads across his lips at the slightest provocation. While the darkness has invaded my life, hugged me close to its bosom, and changed me in ways I can't begin to define, it has barely touched the fringes of his life. He is eternally light, foolishly optimistic, the owner of a laugh so constant I'd swear I hear it echo in my dreams.

It is difficult for him to identify with my pain. The torment that has touched my life throughout the years is foreign to him, written across my heart in a language he is unable to understand. Yet while he cannot translate that pain into something palpable, he is one of the few people consistently able to drive it away.

In a journal entry written over four years ago, I described the following event:

I called Ethan last night while droving home from a friend's house, with the rain pounding at my windshield and making it impossible to see. The roads were unfamiliar and further obscured by the storm that raged outside. By the time he answered the phone I was nearly hysterical, a note of terror echoing in my greeting. His voice was a beacon of light, steadying me, guiding me to safety. He talked me through my fear and, by the time I'd made it halfway home, I was calmer, less skittish, stronger.

In my melancholy moments, I've considered that a metaphor for our relationship. I am the stormcloud and he is the silver lining. I am the darkness and he is the light. He may not be able to understand the pain, but he is always able to help me through it.

I can't help but wonder if the darkness has an effect on the light, dimming it with its opaque touch. I hope not. I never want to change him, my bright, innocent, happy boy. The strong man that I have loved for the past six years, and maybe even before that. When I chose the name "Ethan" to represent him in the blog world, I'd forgotten that it meant "strong" and "firm." It fits him perfectly.

Ethan. My Ethan.

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posted by Aurelie @ 11:59 PM   0 comments
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Doctor's Visit
"There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as the expectation of something better tomorrow." -- Orison Swett Marden, American Writer

I awoke to an e-mail from my boyfriend Ethan, written when he'd returned home from work after midnight. While I realize that the private jokes may defy understanding, I still want to share the lovely sentiments with you, dear internet. And so, without further ado:

Dear Aurelie:

First things first: MOO.

On a more serious note, I love you. You are the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to me. You are the reason I strive to better myself. We both have our good and bad days but the one thing we can both rely on is each other. When I need an ear you are always there for me, when you need me to beat up your brother...well we'll cross that bridge when we get there. Almost every night when I am driving home from work I think about what it would be like coming home to you. Although it would be late and most of the time you would be sleeping, just having the opportunity to be close to you is exhilarating. I want you to know that whatever the test results are, nothing will change. I will still love you with everything I have.

Love always,
Ethan

My parents drove me to the doctor's office, while I sat silently in the backseat. It had already been decided that my father would remain in the car, as parking at the physician's office is often difficult. My mother, on the other hand, would accompany me to the actual appointment. Despite being a doctor myself, sometimes a girl just needs her momma for moral support. When my name was called, we walked back to the examining room. I undressed, while my mother took a seat on a nearby stool. The assistant handed me a consent form, which recommended that you reconsider the procedure if you have heart disease, a clotting disorder, various other medical conditions and extreme anxiety. Extreme anxiety?! Aren't you testing me for cervical cancer? I'm not exactly in a calm and serene state at the moment, you'll have to forgive me.

The doctor entered the room and asked my mother to vacate the stool near my feet and take a seat near my head. I was glad she requested this because, as much as I love my mother, there is no need for her to watch the doctor poking around in the ol' bajingo. And poke around she did. I'll spare you the gory details, dear internet, but it is my firm belief that the speculum is actually a medieval torture device and any time a doctor tells you you're going to feel "a little pressure" you should brace yourself for some pain.

After peering through the microscope, the doctor indicated that she'd found two spots she'd like to biopsy. I will get those results sometime within the next week. In addition, she explained that the previous test had categorized my abnormal cells as "high-grade", the type that are most likely to lead to cancer if left unchecked. As a result, whether it's high-grade cells or cancer, the odds are favorable that I will need to have a cone-shaped piece of my cervix removed. So, as you can imagine, I'm more than a little freaked out about that.

I truly covet your prayers and positive thoughts as I begin another week of waiting. I am so thankful to have the support of my family, friends, and hopefully faithful blog readers like you!

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posted by Aurelie @ 6:57 PM   4 comments
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Health Scare
"It is health that is real wealth, and not pieces of gold and silver." -- Mahatma Gandhi, Indian Philosopher

Well, the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions. The day after my last blog post, in which I detailed my plan to be a more active blogger, I received a scary report from my doctor that left me speechless for over a week. Nevertheless, I've emerged from hiding to comment (albeit briefly) on what's been going on.

My immune system appears to, once again, be slacking on the job. This is nothing new, as my medical track record had been filled with interesting incidents such as:
  • Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) beginning at 7 months old.
  • Wolff-Parkinson's White Syndrome (WPW), a genetic condition that causes SVT.
  • Two catheter ablations, the heart procedure that eliminates the accessory pathway common to WPW.
  • Thalassemia minor, an inherited blood condition that impacts the hemoglobin.
  • Arthroscopic knee surgery in college, after sustaining several tears to the cartilage.

And those are just the highlights! At 27 years old, I am often the youngest patient in my cardiologist's office when I arrive for my twice-yearly checkups. But back to my story...

I received a call from the doctor last week, and immediately knew something was wrong. Am I psychic? No. But at the appointment she had mentioned that she'd only call if something was wrong. Seeing her number light up the 'ol iPhone was enough to have me on edge. I answered the phone and was told that the lab had found some "abnormal" cells on the screening test they use to to detect premalignant and malignant (cancerous) processes in the cervix. She asked me to come in for further testing and promised to discuss the results further when I did. That appointment, dear internet, is tomorrow. Any prayers or positive thoughts would be very much appreciated.

I'll keep you posted!

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posted by Aurelie @ 11:35 PM   3 comments
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