“We do not throw him away.”
I am looking at a person who looks like so many people I have known in my life: discarded by the rest of us for an acute failure to conform to the standards of existence that have been arbitrarily ascribed to us via capitalism. I have tasted the madness in the world, and so has he, but for some reason I get to parade around, declaring that I am better, because the wounds that I wear are more palatable for the rest of the world to look at. Him? He is decaying.
It’s easy to throw people away. Fuck, I throw people away all the time, in grandiose, public displays of humiliation. Over and over again. The feeling of superiority is fun, and the thought of hanging onto people who will eventually hurt and disappoint me seems like a waste of time. I only want to invest in people whose friendships benefit me, and when that benefit is lost, so is our friendship.
Perhaps that isn’t a great way to live. I admit that I have been starkly afraid of watching people die slowly over time, and it’s easier to walk away at the first sign of trouble than to use all my strength to drag all of us out of hell. So I throw people away and tell the world that it is “the moral high ground,” even though the only reason I can call it that is because I never stick around to see what happens after a person is thrown away.
“Everyone else has thrown him away, but we do not throw him away.”
Having recently gone through the emotional roller coaster of outing and suing a predator in the #metoo movement, it was easy to point at the defenders of my abuser and call them stupid and cruel for sticking by a man who hurt me. There is something grotesque about the public display of defending a fallen man, but white men are generally not discarded by society, and that is not what I am talking about here. I am talking about those private moments, behind closed doors, when you do not have to defend your love to anyone: do you discard him, or do you keep him?
I discarded him because I thought that he was using me as a crutch when he could still secretly run. That I had to shoulder all the weight of a burden he could full well carry on his own, and now that I am gone, the supports have given way, and he is crawling on the ground. Which is why I have to ask: why do we like to watch certain people crawl on the ground?
No, that’s a lie. I never look back. I never look back at the people I used to love and watch them crawl on the ground. I pretend that they are flying just beyond my peripheral vision, and I am crawling in my own way.
But that’s not true, either. Even when everyone else told me to throw him away, I kept him. There were lots of good reasons to throw him away, but I didn’t because I loved him, and I’d like to think that my love isn’t that cheap. Even when it made sense to throw him away, even when it hurt to keep him – I couldn’t do it. My friends told me I would have been better off without him, that I should have gotten rid of him years ago. I guess that’s just relationships nowadays – we demand perfection, but never give it. We insist on moral purity even in the midst of our own sinfulness.
It’s easy to throw people away, because to keep them is to risk looking like a fool. Getting played. It’s easier to throw someone away and watch them crumble just to save face than to muscle through the madness with no end in sight.
But I have been disposable, too, and I have been thrown away, and I should know better than to abandon someone whom I claim to love, because I know the pain of being deserted in the dark with no one left to find me. Loneliness is a calamity, and it is slowly killing all of us.
So I turn to him, and I tell him, “You are safe here with me. I will protect you.” I will protect him from his demons, even though he is his demons and his demons are him. There’s no separating one from the other, but I close my eyes and kiss him anyways. I will sit here in the darkness and the screaming silence for as long as it takes, and when he doesn’t need me anymore, he can throw me away.