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2007-08-15 6:40 a.m.

to absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists

I just pulled an all-nighter, going through my old stuff and deciding what to keep, what to throw away, and what to put into a box and thus defer the decision until "later." Today my sister and her husband are supposed to move into the room where said stuff is currently collecting dust and mold, you see.

It's been like an archaeological dig. An unpleasant archaeological dig.

The past seemed so far away while I was in Japan. My life was simple there, and I kept my possessions to a minimum.

But here there is a mountain of detritus that once belonged to me and nominally still does. One part of me wants to throw it all away, and another part wants to save every movie ticket stub, every birthday card, every occult website I printed out when I was 19.

I found a couple letters that Duchess wrote me in the post-Canada period.

At one point- I think it was my freshman year of college, but it might have been even before that- Duchess gave me a single rose. I put it in a vase, where it gradually drooped, withered, and died. I kept it, still in the vase, throughout my entire college career. After we broke up I would tell people that the rose was a symbol of our love. Dead. When I left for Japan, I put it away in a closet. I discovered it again last night, and it immediately seemed to me to be an evil charm. I threw it away. Maybe now the spell will be broken. Maybe now her ghost will stop haunting my dreams at night.

But though Duchess has been the queen of my dreams, she rarely bothers me during my waking hours anymore. It's the memory of Junko that is still most likely to darken my day.

I found pictures of Junko, gifts she gave me, birthday and Christmas cards she made for me. I couldn't bring myself to throw any of them away.

In times of darkness I still think breaking up with her might have been a terrible mistake. Or rather, that staying broken up with her was. Such darkness is deeper now knowing that she no longer responds to my emails. I sent an email to her about a year ago, and another about a month ago. No response. Even if I wanted her back, that window has clearly closed. Is she married? Pregnant? A mother? The selfless part of me hopes so, because I know that's what she wanted. Is she even still alive? I don't know. And maybe that's why it's so painful. As far as she and I are concerned, she might as well be dead. She is dead to me.

I remember in the first months after I dumped her, sometimes the lack of her would settle on me so heavily I couldn't breathe. The night before I left for Japan three years ago I spent several mostly silent hours with her. She never knew this, but I passed most of that time agonizing over whether to ask her to marry me. (In the process forgetting that I had promised to meet up with Nemesis later that night. Nemesis was not happy about that, to put it mildly.) When Kami dumped me, she told me I should go back to Junko. I didn't, whether out of pride or something else I couldn't say. Then when things began to get serious between WTF and me, I began agonizing once again. Somehow I knew that that would be my last chance to make up with Junko. I was right.

I don't know that I would do things any differently where she's concerned if I had them to do over again, though. All I know is that it hurts. Why does it still hurt?

I also found letters that Little Wing sent me from Chile. There are a lot of might-have-beens where she's concerned, as well. But she reads this and I've said all I have to say to her. I think. Though she caused me plenty of pain in the past, she causes the least pain now of all the girls I might have married but didn't. Maybe it's because she still talks to me (or resumed talking to me); because she is not dead to me as are the other two. Or maybe it's more than that. Or less. I don't know.

I found my paper journals from my time in Canada and the time just afterward. Going back there was also not enjoyable. I had forgotten just how much pain there is in my past. And for the first time, I actually wanted to forget.

WTF arrives here in a matter of hours. She will arrive nervous and uncertain in a country whose language and ways of thinking are completely alien to her. She is coming for me, and she needs me to be her anchor. Yet here I am, pining for the dead.

I fear I'm making the same mistake with her that I made with Junko. I fear I'm taking her for granted, not realizing the true value of what we have together. I fear that one day I'll dump her, and then never forgive myself for it.

A so-called psychic once told me that Junko was my soulmate, and that if I broke up with her I would regret it for the rest of my life. While riding a Greyhound bus a year ago, a former biker-gang member who was missing an alarmingly large number of teeth and fingers told me the exact same thing about WTF on his way to turn himself in and go back to prison for violating parole. Both seemed pretty sure of themselves. So which one was right? Neither?

I feel so old right now. It's not that I feel I've been here for a long time, or that I feel that I'm decaying. It's just that I seem to have so much past, almost too much to carry. And yet, barring unforeseen accidents, I know that I ain't seen nothing yet. There will be much more past in the future. And at the moment that thought fills me with a certain dread.

Darn it. Things were going so well this last year in Japan. And now I've come back to the US and right into a major funk. Maybe I should go listen to the Eels. Or maybe I should go to sleep for a few hours.

and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due,