Sharlene the Cancer, the designer, the New Yorker from Jamaica/Queens who retained her accent in the words orange, terrible, and water. On our second date she brought up poly-amory to me and I explained that I'd heard of it, wasn't terribly knowledgeable beyond the basics and suspected it could work for me under the right circumstances. By our third date we were rolling around and by the tenth day, fourth date, she was telling me she wished she could find something wrong with me so she could say "I love you."
I fell so hard for her the ground of all my notions shook. I was like Alice and didn't know when it would end, if I would still be me, if "Shana" would be able to stand.
I didn't learn a whole lot from Sharlene, but I did learn a lot about myself from our relationship. While Sharlene taught me how to ride a fixed gear bicycle and add the right amount of dill to everything, I forgot how to write poetry. I forgot how to see the divine in the plants in the cracks of concrete and in surprise caterpillars on my car's windshield.
I imagined a life I didn't know I wanted in which we moved to the East Coast for her to go to graduate school and I worked my way into the industry of writing advertisements to sell shit to consumers. I began watching FOX news in the morning.
But that was later, that was after I came out as a lesbian to family and declared to my Gramma that I was in love with a wonderful woman. My family was great about the declaration; after my mom got over the shock, she was good too. She just couldn't understand why all of Sharlene's shirts were plaid. I loved Sharlene's style. I love that she rarely showered and that she had thick calves and forearms and wide shoulders. I loved the way she would declare things about people and it sounded so profound I wanted to quote her on billboards. I loved how broken she was and how she was held together with ink, picas and electrical tape.
By our sixth date, we were monogamous. Her other lover and she had been spiraling toward the rocks and the lover had smashed it apart. She cut Shar out of her life. Shar was upset by it because she didn't understand it, but she said, she wasn't a sentimental person so she wasn't terribly sad. As I understood it, the ex-lover played a big role in Shar's development in recent times, but none of Shar's friends liked her much and they liked me a lot. I didn't think about the implications.
By our sixth date, Sharlene told me I was her "heart song." It was cheesy and stolen from the animated penguin movie we'd just seen, but it was so romantic I melted. She told me I held her heart in my pocket, and to be sure to keep it there and keep it safe. I felt it beating against my leg, I kept it warm in my palm in my pocket at all times.
I stopped sleeping at home, I started eating greasy fast food with her and watching her play video games. I was stagnant but so comfortable in love that I didn't notice any of those things. She called me "huggy bear" and "squish monster" and loved me in a way that felt totally new and full.
Within four months Shar began to grow weary of my full time attention and devotion and tried to tell me about it. But, because we'd been in newlywed monogamously blind bliss, I didn't want to hear, and so didn't. For three months things slowly ground down until I was without a heart in my pocket, without an understanding of healthy poly-amory, and wondering where the hell all my dreams had gone off to.
She eventually cut me out of her life for quoting a Carole King song to her when she was feeling really fucked up bad. Her broken family was changing; breaking and mending, and bending, her ideas about herself. For anyone this was a shit storm, for Sharlene, who'd felt more like an orphan than anything, it was a Shit Storm and an excuse to be totally blocked off and emo full of angst.
The Carole King lines? "You just call out my name, and you know where ever I am, I'll come running, to see you again. You've got a friend." It was Pride Weekend in Chicago. I'd thought I was moving on and becoming able to have a friendship with her that would be good for both of us. It was Saturday morning and I was going to the Dyke March. I thought I was showing some love in an unobtrusive way.
She used to tell me she thought I had borderline personality disorder, I even joined an online discourse/support group for it. She used to tell me that I never listened and would pick apart my semantics and tell me I was a hypocrite. I never understood any of that, but I tried so hard to be good for her.
Sharlene loves Jews. She loved that I am a Jew, however non-practicing and new-age I may actually be. Jew often were the parents or Bubbies of her friends and would clothe and feed her in the cold winters or hot summers. She feeds her friend the way the Bubbies fed her. She connects to a common Jewish identity and familial generosity, she has a traditional image of "the wandering Jew" tattooed on one of her calves. I hope Sharlene finds herself at home inside someday. The world needs her strong and clever, she can do a lot of profoundly good things.