I walked with my friend into her darkness yesterday.
She is in the midst of raw pain from a new divorce; lonely, shaken, exposed, angry, wild, and new. She was breaking loose from years in shackles. She needed to at once curl into her tenderized soul and nurse the open wounds of failed dreams and yet spread her wings in the updraft of full abandonment.
I followed her into the darkness like a cautious parent might scamper behind a reckless child. I remember that whirling concurrency of Freedom’s crazed ecstasy and Shame’s debilitating ache. I knew it all too well.
You first, Wild One. I’ve been here before; I’ve seen its tricks and follies.
I was lost in the darkness for far too many years, having raced in without tether or guide. Wine, whiskey, men, drugs, risk, pain, loss. It took me a long time to find my way back into the light.
So this time I held a rope. I would help her navigate, but I wouldn’t go past the entrance. I would just be visiting: deep enough to let it rip through her, but not so far to become lost again.
Red wine, she said, let’s have some red wine.
I held the rope. We took a step forward into the darkness.
Ah, Wine, there you are, old friend. She relaxed into her freedom; she played music and sang, her voice releasing itself from the dampers he had packed around her throat.
Cigarettes, she said, eyes wild and sparkling. Let’s smoke some cigarettes! I feel like a teenager!
[Ah, yes, my other demon.]
I held tight and we stepped again.
We giggled and hooted our way to the gas station, cackling like old biddies at our outrageousness, tittering like naughty schoolgirls at our recklessness.
We sighed at the forgotten silkiness of each long white cylinder and blew plumes into the humid night air. I felt the familiarity of the darkness. I felt the slipperiness of its slanting floor.
I looked at her, head thrown back, almost dreamily, her soft laughter sliding into sobs. She leaned into me as she cried.
I held the rope. I held my friend. I kept us from falling.