When I think about Billy Wayne these days, it is with clinical detachment—as though he is a character in a novel I must study in order to pass a course. That is really all he has ever been to me, a ghostly shadow given substance by the meaning I pulled from my mother’s answers to my questions and given life through my compulsive imaginings. But the vain imagination of a girl without a name is a potent thing, and he grew into someone I knew—completely fictional, but still I knew him and grew to love him in this way.
I cannot even remember what he looks like; and now that I am older there isn’t even the pretend face that I used to look up to with my arms stretched wide for love. What does remain is a feeling that has never gone away. It is not love; having finally experienced love in its entirety, I know that love should not feel unpleasant and this unending thing is highly uncomfortable. It also is not pain—as a connoisseur of pain, I know that much of my pain is attached to experiences and memories–and of these I have none with Billy Wayne. What I feel is more akin to the sensation that I would imagine a heart attack victim might feel right before the pain. It’s the unnaturally tight feeling you get in the chest followed by a moment of panic—a suffocating pressure that won’t allow you to draw breath, that forces you to fight your way mightily into the darkness of passing out. Yes. Pressure…then, panic.
Immediately, someone could say—well maybe you’re just suffering from anxiety. I believe that I am experiencing the effects of a series of small heart attacks. You see, when someone breaks your heart that first time, and it isn’t fixed, each new crack simply splinters off the first original wound. My heart has never fully healed from this first heart attack. After the main fracture, then a second, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth…into infinity, each new shattering experience pulling the scab off the old, not quite healed places.
And so the memory, the legacy that I have from my father is a broken heart, and a lifetime of not knowing how to get over it. This is where I live, where I have lived all of my life–stuck in a moment of pressure, then panic, then brief escapes into emptiness before the inevitable pain that lies beyond the dark.