jianantonic: (Default)
My alarm is set for 5 hours from now and I really should be trying to sleep, but I'm just not that tired, and there are some bits from today that I want to write down.

I had lunch with Rafal's mom and stepdad (but, really, his only dad) today. I was so nervous beforehand, but seeing them was wonderful. In a really hard way. I had to come home and sob for a little while afterwards.

They both acknowledge what Rafal did, but don't know any of the details. They've been largely shut out by Whitney's family. All they know is what they've heard from police (the investigation is still open) and Rafal's friends, who are all just as stunned as anyone. No one saw it coming and no one knows why it happened. It couldn't have been premeditated. It sounds like Whitney's mom knew there was a reason to be worried on the day it happened, but whatever she knew is not public yet. The neighbor just said she sped into the driveway and raced into the house in a frenzy, like she knew something had happened. She gave a newspaper interview, though, where she just mentioned she'd been on the phone with Whitney shortly before and that she was planning to pick her up. Seems like there was more to it than that. Anyway. The point of this all is that while his parents don't know any details, they don't deny that Rafal committed the murder-suicide. But his dad kept calling it "the accident." Maybe it's just easier to talk about using that word.

They told me that Whitney kept hating me her whole life. That made me feel sad. I used to hate her, too, just the way that young, jealous girls do. But it had been 16 years. Jesus. But they said that Rafal always spoke kindly about me, and that he had even spoken to his mother about me the last time they talked, three days before he died. He said something to the effect of how he never thought he and I would break up, and he's not really sure why we didn't end up together. Not like he wished we did, just that he didn't know why we didn't. He's the kind of guy who would've made it work if I could've. It was my decision to end it, but he would've thrown his whole being into saving the relationship if I'd cooperated. I just knew I was done when I was. And the next girl he dated was the one he stayed with. He wasn't one to play the field. We talked some about the possibility that maybe he and Whitney were headed for divorce (he had assured them that she wanted to stay together and that they were fine, but maybe she changed her mind? Maybe he was misleading them intentionally? I don't think it's the latter -- he really didn't ever lie), and how that would've wrecked his world, even if he wasn't happy in the marriage. Just the idea of starting over for him would've been so daunting. I was surprised when his mom said she'd never thought of that possibility. She said a few of the things I'd mentioned to her (theories about how he might have been feeling, mostly) were things she hadn't considered. Hearing about him from the perspective of someone he dated, I guess, was new.

They also told me a really funny story about their immigration. When they came to the US, they had two suitcases, and Rafal, age 10, had a backpack. One suitcase was clothes, the other was a few blankets, and Rafal's backpack, the only thing he brought with him when they moved from Europe, was full of Legos. That makes me smile.

His parents used to spend every Thanksgiving with them at Whitney's family's house. Whitney's family no longer speaks to them, except through lawyers. They mentioned that they will probably move when they retire (next year) because they don't have any family here now that Rafal is gone, and most of their friends aren't here, either. After leaving lunch, I was thinking about Thanksgiving, and I sent them a message to say they'd be welcome at Massie Thanksgiving. Everyone there knew Rafal -- they wouldn't be strangers! They enthusiastically accepted. I'm really looking forward to including them. I feel very connected to them now, and I know it's not my responsibility to look out for them, but I still feel like I want to. That's how I'm honoring my enduring love for Rafal; by being there for his family. It feels nice.

When we said goodbye, Barbara asked to hold my hand for a while. "You give me positive energy, Meg." I hope that's true. She said Rafal is probably laughing at us right now. His mom is having lunch with Meg! Who would've thought?! And to see us both crying over him...I do hope that he somehow is aware of us, and is amused and happy and grateful that we spent this time together.
jianantonic: (Default)
I met up with a friend from my high school crowd tonight. I hadn't seen Tim since high school, but he remained close with Rafal, and I got back in touch with him after Rafal died. I wanted to talk to someone who knew him and knew me, and just remember. Tim and I agreed that we both remember Rafal fondly in spite of everything, and we reminded each other of a lot of old fun. Of course bad memories exist, but they don't feel important. I had a LOT of fun in high school, and I know I'm lucky to be able to say that. I told Tim how he and the gang taught me so much -- and helped shape the edgier sides of me. It was really, really nice to see him and catch up. I've had a lot of really nice times with old friends as we come together to remember Rafal, mostly virtually so far, but Tim and I discussed maybe doing a thing over Christmas when more people would be available. I'd really like to do something like that.

My visit so far has been really nice. It's great to spend time with Trevor and Emily and Chris, of course. Today I got to wear Trevor in a baby carrier for a couple of hours while Em and I walked around the neighborhood and also while she took care of some chores for her parents. He fell asleep while I sang "Gentle Arms of Eden" to him, and I remembered how much that song comforted me the last time I was afraid of our nation's leadership. Luckily, he's Canadian.

Tomorrow I'll head over to BC, as is tradition when I am back east, and then meet up with Nancy and her family for dinner on my way back over the mountain. Calling Afton Mountain "the mountain" is funny to me now that I live in the shadow of Mount Hood. The Blue Ridge are pretty in their own way, but I prefer the Cascades.
jianantonic: (Seahorse)
Rafal made sure to make my birthday special. It was only a few days after Marma's death, and I was still in a very sad place, but he treated me so sweetly. I don't remember what we did or all the gifts he gave me -- but one that sticks out in my mind was this album of the Billboard top hits of 1986, I believe. I was a little confused as to why he chose that, but then he told me it was because of the song "Lady in Red." He was really into techno and hard rock, but for some reason he loved that song, and it reminded him of me. I'm not sure I ever really wore a lot of red, but that's not important. He played the CD in his car stereo and we stood in my driveway and danced to it on my birthday. I felt like royalty.

The summer after we started dating, Rafal went to Poland for a month to spend some time with his dad. That month was torture for me -- I missed him so much, and he was only able to get online once every few days. I lurked by my computer all the time, not wanting to miss a chance to IM with him. But mostly I moped. I went to basketball camp at Virginia Tech while he was away, and made some good friends, but still spent all my time talking about him and whining about how much I missed him.

He got in late one evening in July, I think, and came straight to my house. I had been up waiting for him, not sure when he'd get in. This was before the days of cell phones and tracking flights online and whatnot. I was so excited to see him, and we were both so tired when he arrived. Me from staying up into the wee hours waiting for him, and him from the travels and jetlag. He couldn't keep his languages straight -- he would accidentally speak Polish when he got very sleepy. I thought it was funny, and would go on to prank him many times later in our relationship by pretending not to understand him and claiming he was speaking Polish when he was actually speaking English. He always fell for it. But I always let him in on the joke after I'd had a good giggle.

I think he spent the night at my place that night. I'm not sure if that was the first time, or if he did in fact stay over, but as time went by, staying over would become normal. We slept in the den, where there was no lock on the door, so I guess my parents assumed that we wouldn't do anything more than cuddle and they never objected to him being there. I don't think I ever asked permission...it's just a thing that started happening. And for a while, it was innocent.

My timeline is a little fuzzy on just when certain things happened in our relationship, but I do know that very early on, I told him that I would be willing to have sex with him, but I didn't feel ready. I thought I needed to say this, because he was older, and I assumed experienced. It turned out that he was also a virgin, but I didn't know that when I planted this seed. He was respectful of my youth and unreadiness for a bit...but he got anxious for the sex, and would constantly remind me of what I'd said so early on. He did eventually pressure me quite a bit, and it was something that we fought about a lot in the first year of our relationship...but I'll get to that later.

Awkward description of teenage sex stuff )His behavior with regard to sex is probably what led me to fall out of love with him. Over time, I got disgusted with how used I felt sometimes. He would come home from college to visit me, and the first thing he'd want was sex. We still fought a lot, about I don't even know what -- we both had bad tempers and I guess it probably didn't take much to get riled up on either side. I started wanting us to fight so he'd break up with me. I was afraid to break up with him because I was afraid he'd hurt himself. I can't remember if he ever suggested he would or not, but I was very worried it would happen anyway, so I wanted to make him end it. And eventually he did, but it took a long time.

Still though, after the breakup, I wanted him back. We reconciled for a bit, and things were good for a bit, and then they weren't again. I messed around with other guys, he found out, and that was the end for us. But I wanted him back again, and tried desperately throughout the summer of 2000, but he'd already found Whitney then. He wouldn't take me back, and eventually I got over it.

It was years before I heard from him again. After I married Jeremy, word got back to him that I was married, and he reached out to me. We did a lot of apologizing back and forth, and formed a really good friendship. I began to feel very attached to him again. We spoke every day for a while and grew very close. I guess Whitney sensed what was happening, because she asked him to stop talking to me. I was hurt when that happened, but I understood. Later, when I moved back to Charlottesville, I would run into them both at the gym quite frequently. I talked to Rafal when I saw him, but it was all just superficial then. I never really connected with him again. And now I never will.
I still have more memories to share from the relationship; I'll leave those here as they come to mind and as I have time. There's still a lot more to unpack.
jianantonic: (Seahorse)

April 24th, 1998. We'd gone out to a movie. We went out to lots of movies. We got home sometime in the early evening, maybe 8 or 9, and the house was quiet. I went upstairs and caught a glimpse into my grandmother's apartment. Something wasn't right. She was lying on the floor. Her eyes were closed and her lips were black.

"Marma!"

"Meg, get out of here. Mother's dead." My parents were in her kitchen, on the phone with the ME. I guess they'd only found her a few minutes before I got home. I ran down the stairs screaming and crying, to where Rafal was waiting. I sobbed out what I'd seen, and he held me. We went outside and walked around the neighborhood while I processed. He just listened to me talk about all the things that were so earth-shattering to me. I'd grown up with her. I was closer to her than any other family member. I just poured out my thoughts and sobbed while he held me and we walked slowly.

When we looped around the neighborhood and got back to my house, first responders were there -- I can't remember if it was ambulances or firetrucks or both, but the ME's car was parked on our lawn and they were just wheeling her body out. I didn't want to see that. We did another lap of the neighborhood. When we got back, the cars were gone. We went inside and I curled up in a fetal position on the couch in the TV room, still sobbing, while Rafal rubbed my back. Eventually, my mom came in to check on me. She and my dad had been too busy dealing with everything else. She was crying, too. She hugged Rafal and thanked him for being there for me. She left us alone. Rafal stayed with me all night. I fell asleep crying while he knelt beside me and comforted me. He never said anything like "it's going to be okay," because I think he knew I didn't want to hear that. He just listened to me process. He was exactly what I needed in that time. He handled it like a champ. It must have scared the bejesus out of him, but he never let on. We'd only been dating for two weeks.

I thought about how he was there for me in what had been my darkest moment to date, and how he had seen me at my absolute saddest, and how he had just been so understanding and so patient and sweet. I felt that because of that, he was perfect for me. I wanted him in my life forever, and this felt like the sign that he would be. As time went on, and I would question our relationship, thinking I might want out, I would think back to that night, and how he was there for me, and talk myself out of it. With the way he treated me in that moment, he'd bought himself admission to the rest of my life.

This sounds like a pretty unhealthy way to look at it, and maybe it was. Remember, I was 14 -- my 15th birthday was the day of the funeral. But also, I think it was fair. How someone treats you when you need them the most, when you are at your worst, is a true indication of their character. It's not that I used this one display of kindness to tether me to a relationship I ultimately didn't want; it's just that it always came to mind when considering his character and my future with him. It wasn't the Ace of Spades, but it was a powerful trump card. Still is. Whenever I think of him, this night is always a part of the picture. He was my first love, my first...other things...stories I may or may not decide to record as I continue this process...but he will always be the gentle, loving boyfriend who cared for me perfectly when I absolutely needed it the most. I am so grateful he was with me that night.

jianantonic: (Seahorse)
I don't remember when he gave it to me, but it must have been early on. I don't remember if I asked for something, or if he just gave it to me, or what the circumstances were. But he had this denim shirt. The brand was GANT, according to a little tag on the back. He gave it to me, and I sometimes wore it, always slept with it...held it very dear. I don't know what happened to it. I'm not sure when I stopped sleeping with it. I just remember that shirt.
jianantonic: (Seahorse)
I've been wanting to write a lot more, but it's hard. I've had to give myself a break from the sadness a bit. But here's a little bit more for now.

I honestly don't remember the first time I told Rafal I loved him. I'm pretty sure I told him first, because I was 14 and it didn't hold a lot of weight to me at the time. I liked him a lot, we were boyfriend and girlfriend, it was no big deal for me to say it. But I do remember the first time he told me. I think it was probably a day after I told him. It hadn't even registered that he hadn't said it back immediately. It was no more than a week into our relationship. We had been to see City of Angels, I think, with Phred, maybe some other people, too, and afterwards the three of us went to Agnor Hurt Elementary School to hang out at the playground. Phred and I were being goofy, and Rafal was annoyed because he was trying to say something serious to me. He asked Phred for some private time with me, and told me he loved me. There was a little bit of a speech involved, and I don't remember much of it, except I do remember Rafal seemed to want me to take it really seriously. And I was very happy when he told me, and gave him a big hug and kiss and told him I loved him, too. At the time, it was sweet, but not really the big deal that first Ily's carry in relationships once you've got earned some baggage. He told me he'd been really thinking about it, and to me that seemed silly because why would you need to think about what you feel? And why would it be a big deal to tell me? Wow, I miss how simple things used to be.

I had no idea what love was supposed to be when I was 14. I had lived a charmed life to be able to just freely give and accept it and not feel like it had to be a *thing.* I do think I legitimately loved him, even then, even as clueless as I was. I have always been able to tap into deep emotions pretty easily, so even if I didn't realize the depth of it, I do think the love was real. At least a seed of what would become a more adult feeling as time went on. I was crazy about him, and sublimely happy that he seemed to be crazy about me, too. 
jianantonic: (Seahorse)
It was freshman year at AHS. I had my first kiss at the beginning of the year -- Simon Moore, on the Downtown Mall at Fridays After Five. And then I'd had my heart broken for the first time, when Simon dumped me a few weeks later. But Simon gave me a confidence I hadn't had before -- that guys could like me and I could like them back and we could admit that to each other and then I could even have a boyfriend! So I mourned Simon, but I turned my attention to Alex Gomaa, a junior boy I knew nothing about, except that he had beautiful long blond hair, and a sister in my grade. I became obsessed with Alex, learned his schedule and made sure to walk routes through the school that were most likely to put me in his vicinity. I was a 14-year-old girl.

Midway through the year, my friend Rebecca, whom we all called Phred that year, started going out with Matt Binder. Matt was a junior boy from her Civil Air Patrol group. Because Phred and I were joined at the hip, I started hanging out with Matt's friends, mostly other junior boys and their girlfriends. They were somewhere on the teenage clique spectrum between the skaters and the goths. Mostly outcasts, but large enough in number that you couldn't call them unpopular. Just very differently popular. I got to know some of them a little bit, but I was mostly shy, being a freshman who was just hanging around because of this other freshman girl. I didn't feel like I was really wanted there. I listened and laughed and tried to be polite and behave however would keep them from telling me to fuck off. They were all nice, though, and no one ever came close to telling me to fuck off...that I know of.

Soon I noticed that one of the guys from this group, Rafal, had the same lunch period as me (we were divided into three different lunch periods), and that he sat at a table with Alex. I decided this was my in. But, me being a freshman girl, it wasn't as simple as talking to him to talk to Alex. I had to talk to Phred to talk to her boyfriend to talk to Rafal to talk to Alex. Duh. Long story short, that freaked Alex out more than flattered him, and nothing ever came of me and him. But now everyone knew I was obsessed with Alex.

AOL was in its infancy then. I had something like a 14,400bps dial-up modem that year (maaaaybe it was up to 56K, actually? seemed super fast at the time!), and I spent a lot of time logged on, IMing with my friends and waiting two hours for different Hanson websites to load their latest pictures. One day I got an IM from a screen name I didn't recognize. He was Clone99 and he knew who I was, but his profile didn't have any identifying information. He told me he went to my high school and was a junior there. Ever optimistic, I hoped I was talking to Alex. We chatted for a long time. He said I knew who he was, but wouldn't reveal. It was a fun game. Whoever I was talking to, I liked him. I asked him what his name started with, and he wouldn't tell me, but he did say "Not A, sorry." That was a giveaway that it was someone who at least knew about my crush on Alex. I decided the most likely suspect was Rafal, since he was the one I'd indirectly asked to be my gobetween. Except I had no idea how to spell Rafal, and I guessed "Rufaul?" So he said no. I really didn't have any other guesses, but we kept talking for a while and I was really interested. I can't remember if this unfolded over the course of one conversation or if it was several days, weeks, whatever...I'm really not sure...because I know I started hanging out with this crowd around Halloween (Phred had hosted a Halloween party and we were all there), but Rafal and I didn't start going out until April. (The 9th, to be exact.) Phred and Matt had broken up by then, so I don't think I was even hanging around the group anymore at that point. But anyway I think the IMing started very shortly before we started going out. I can't remember if he revealed his name first or asked me out first, but we agreed on a Wednesday that we'd go out that Friday. He would come and pick me up and I'd choose where we would go. I was so excited and nervous. I remember when he revealed his name to me, it was full of suspense. We were saying goodnight over IM, and he said
And my name is...
Rafal.
And when I saw the name, I remember the exact feeling. My heart fluttered and I got butterflies all over. I had wanted it to be him ever since I'd been informed that it most definitely was not Alex. As soon as he confirmed who he was, Alex was ancient history.
I sort of think all of this IMing and like insta-falling for him happened in one night, on that Wednesday. But it's possible that Clone99 strung me along for a long time before revealing himself. In any case I remember that it was Wednesday because our date was going to be Friday and we had two days of school between agreeing to go out and the actual day...and on Thursday at school, I went to find Rafal, and I hugged him, and everyone in the group made teasing "aww" noises at us. And that was April 9, the day that we marked as our anniversary.

Waiting for Rafal to pick me up, the clock moved so slowly. I don't remember what I wore -- I'm not sure I was enough of a teenager to care yet at that point -- but I do remember deciding to water the plants in the garage in the few minutes before he was supposed to arrive, so I'd be outside when he pulled in and there wouldn't be an awkward doorbell moment with my parents, or with me rushing to the door too quickly or something. But I remember having LOTS of nervous energy waiting for him to arrive.

So I'd had a boyfriend before, for like ten minutes, but I'd never gone on a date, really, much less had to plan it. Looking back, I cringe, but I told Rafal we were going to go ice skating. He was good at roller blading, but not great at ice skating, and I was really good at the time, and I didn't really stick with him that much. He probably felt like the date was really sucking. I was having fun, though, because I loved ice skating. He fell once. I was really embarrassed for him. After skating, we walked around together on the Downtown Mall for a while. I remember running into some other friends, including Simon, which further shittified the date for Rafal. But he liked me enough to just deal with it, and we held hands and walked and talked, and I was having a marvelous time, even if I was sort of torturing him.

When he dropped me off at home, we stood together in the driveway, leaning on the driver's side of the car, hugging each other. We both wanted to kiss, but we were too nervous, so we just held this long embrace. When he said he had to go, I took his car keys and threw them into the trees by my house. He liked that, and made no rush to find them. We just hugged, without saying anything. I felt his heart beating hard, probably because he was nervous, thinking about kissing me, and I'm sure he felt mine beating hard for the same reasons, too. We stood there so long that we actually fell asleep holding each other. Not like a long sleep, but we both nodded off. When that happened, we conceded it was time for him to head home. But he'd be back the next day.

I don't remember what we did on Saturday. We may not have gone anywhere, actually. It's possible he just came over and we hung out. What I remember from that night, anyway, all happened on the big brown couch at my house. I remember him telling me why he had developed a crush on me. When Phred and I would hang out with their group, he'd talk, and I'd make eye contact with him, and laugh. He said he could tell I was very sweet because of how I paid attention to him when he talked, and he'd had a crush on me since I'd started hanging out with them, back in the fall. But when I'd tried to get him to pimp me to Alex, he'd given up for a while. That made me so sad. I was really falling for him, and I hated that I'd hurt his feelings. I would have loved to have gone out with him, even at the height of Alex Mania. But we'd found our way to each other eventually. All was well now! He had told me over IM that there was an easy way to keep him awake if he was falling asleep -- I could give him a kiss. So that night, we're hanging out, and it gets dark, and we're alone on the couch together with no lights on or anything, and he starts nodding off again. Or maybe he's faking it. But anyway he reminds me of what he told me. It takes me a moment, but I gather my courage, and then I kiss him.

Now, Simon was the only boy I'd ever kissed before, and I was always so self-conscious while doing it. Simon only ever kissed with lots of tongue, so that was the only kind of kissing I knew of. I never really made out with Simon...just had a few long, sloppy kisses every once in a while at school. But here I am on my couch in the dark with Rafal, and no bell is going to ring to send us to class, and no one is around, so we just keep kissing. And I remember how he took the lead, and varied the amount of tongue, and how it felt so exciting and so good. I was amazed by what I was experiencing. I didn't know you could make out while not being deep into the other's esophagus the whole time. It was magnificent. Rafal also liked to do this thing where he would suck my breath out. It was a goof, but he did it a lot in our early relationship. I don't remember if he did it that night or not, but it's something I remember about making out with him.

We were doing some serious making out that night, when all of a sudden I hear the front door. We bolt apart on the couch just in time for my brother Adrian to open the door and see us sitting in the dark, three feet apart from each other and staring straight ahead. He knew what was up, and reminded me that he's not an idiot. He suggested that it was a little too late for me to be having boys over, and effectively sent Rafal home.

The next day was Easter Sunday, and I skipped church, because I'd been up late making out with my new boyfriend. My family had all gone, though, and at about 11:30am, the phone rang at home. I answered, and it was Mama Hallock on the other end. She was the priest's wife (Episcopal priests can be married). Except on Easter Sunday, she always dressed up as the Easter Bunny. So she's not using her regular voice, but she's using this high-pitched voice, and says it's the Easter Bunny. The Easter Bunny tells me she knows that I was with a boy last night and that's why I skipped church, and that's not cool. I was MORTIFIED. It was all in fun, though. It's not like kissing was doing something wrong, and I don't think Mama Hallock was really scolding me for dating. I'm sure my brother just thought it would be hilarious. And it was. To him.

Didn't stop me, though! Rafal and I were together every day from that point forward. He'd come to my house around 7am each morning to have breakfast with me and drive me to school. He worked in the afternoons at a vet clinic, but he'd come over after that. Sometimes he'd pick me up and we'd go out; other times he'd just hang out at the house with me. One thing we did a lot was we'd go into the small bedroom downstairs that still had a twin bed in it at the time, and we'd just lie down and cuddle on that bed. It was very innocent. When I was lying in the crook of his arm, I wanted to stay there forever. He said the same thing. And we did lie like that for hours on end. It felt really perfect.

To be continued...
jianantonic: (Seahorse)
I think I'm still a little bit in shock about Rafal, but I'm starting to feel things a bit deeper now. I hadn't interacted with him in a long time, but I thought about him fairly often, really. I'm not at all the same person I was when I dated him, and I'm sure he's quite different, too, but I do think that we fundamentally knew and understood each other from our time together in ways that only people who've dated long-term really do. And writing that feels almost silly, because we were CHILDREN practically. But those were formative years, and it did last a long time, especially for two kids. Thinking back on my teenage years, he's all throughout them. I want to record as many of my memories here as I can, now that I'm the sole proprietor of so many of them.

Before he died, if you'd asked me to make a list of the people I love, he probably would not have been on it. We were Facebook friends, but we rarely interacted and had few mutual friends anymore. He mattered to me, but if you'd told me I would never see him again, I probably would have just felt like, "yeah, I didn't expect to." But now he's gone, it's clear I still have love for him. I haven't stopped thinking about him since I found out about what happened. I want to write about him in two ways -- I need to process what has happened, and write about that, but I also just want to write memories from 20 years ago. I want to read those memories again one day and just have them, not his grisly death, on my mind. So I think I'll say a few more things about how I'm processing his death, and then move on to the memories in a new post.

I don't remember a single specific fight he and I had, but we did fight a lot. We both had terrible tempers. But he never laid a hand on me. I do remember being afraid to break up with him, because I thought he may hurt himself. I was never afraid of him hurting me, even when we got very angry. Maybe going through memories will bring up some specifics of our fights, because looking back I'm not even sure wtf we had to fight about. But anyway thinking about his temper and his passion, I'm honestly not surprised about what happened. (For those who did not see my facebook posts: he shot his wife and then himself. He had been with her since shortly after he and I broke up; nearly 17 years.) I'm nearly certain he did not plan to hurt her. I don't know why he owned a gun but I can say with near certainty that what happened is that they were fighting, it got incredibly heated, and because he had a gun nearby, he shot her without thinking. I'm sure he regretted it instantly, and then killed himself. From what I've heard from people closer to them, they were having marriage issues, and I think he was afraid of losing her. Maybe he was losing her, and couldn't handle it. He is absolutely the kind of person who attaches his identity to his relationship. Every photo in his Facebook profile is the two of them together. They did EVERYTHING together, even after 17 years. I'm sure he couldn't imagine life without her, or doing so sent him spiraling. I doubt there's a note, because I think it all probably happened in an instant. I am painfully curious about the details, but at the same time, I think I can imagine them well enough. I'm also certain that if he didn't own a gun, they'd both still be alive. I believe it was a blinded-by-rage situation, and not premeditated. It's possible I'm wrong about this, but I don't know. I don't know why they would've had a gun. Rafal could be very paranoid; maybe he'd had one just in case for years. It's possible he just liked shooting and went to ranges for a hobby. I could see him being into that.

A lot of friends have said to me that they're glad I didn't stay with him; glad it wasn't me. Sure, I'm better off for having moved on, but I don't believe he would've killed me if we had stayed together. I'd have never allowed a gun in my house. He could be mean and hurtful, but he never lied to me. I know he wouldn't have gone behind my back on the issue if I'd insisted. So I just know that situation never would've played out. So I'm not having the kind of emotional "oh my god that could've been me" attack. I'm not sure what all my emotions are, but they're not that. There's actually a lot of regret at not staying in touch with Rafal better, which is weird. I find myself wishing I had known him in his 30's, like I had in his teens and 20's. (The trajectory of our relationship was thus: friends for a little while, followed by dating for nearly 3 years, followed by a very painful breakup where we didn't speak to one another for years after, then he reached out to me when I married Jeremy and we became friends again. We started getting really close, and Whitney wasn't comfortable with it, so after a few months of that, we stopped chatting much. But when I lived in Charlottesville, I'd run into them both at the gym, and we were in touch occassionally on Facebook, and I know he was a regular reader of this very LJ. I'm not sure if/when he stopped reading. Probably the last time we actually spoke to one another other than a FB comment -- which itself was rare -- was around the time I moved to Oregon. So, nearly a decade now.) Anyway I feel like it should be easy to hate him, because look what he did. He's a murderer. And now he's gone so good riddance? But I don't feel that way at all. I regret that he ever got a gun. Because he and I are a lot alike, and I know that if I'd ever owned a gun, the chances are 100% that I'd have killed myself and probably better than 50% that I'd have taken someone with me in anger. And I don't think I'm a bad person. I think I have had trouble controlling my temper, and because of that (and a zillion other reasons), I know I can never have a gun. Maybe Rafal trusted himself too much. Or maybe he knew, just like I do, that owning a gun would be his undoing, and he made the conscious decision to go that route. I don't know. Maybe that's something the investigation will uncover. Whether those answers ever trickle to me is unlikely, though.

Anyway what I've learned so far from my own reaction is that I still held a lot of love in my heart for Rafal. It makes me think of how there are certain other exes in my life that I have often wished...not dead...but out of existence? I'm not saying I've ever wanted harm to befall any of my past loves, but there is so much baggage, with McKenzie especially, being out there in the world and involved in bridge in a way that keeps me from comfortably participating the way that I want to. And I have so much anger toward him, too. Sometimes I hate that he's successful or happy. It would be easier for me, sometimes I think, if I never had to know that he was out there. That sounds rough, I guess, but it's a feeling that's in me. And now with Rafal's death, I know that's not really what I want. Because no matter how much anger or even apathy I think I feel, I once felt intense and deep love for him, and that's enduring in me, somewhere, some way.

I wonder about their families...Whitney's especially. I know Rafal was very much a part of her family, and I'm sure they loved him. Do they still? Or do they hate him for his final act, taking her with him? Can they reconcile years of loving him as family with what he's done? Can they bury them as a couple? Would burying them together or separately be more of a dagger to their memories? How do you even?

I find myself wanting to talk with him. Meditating to connect. But I know that doesn't happen. The dead don't just talk to the living. Maybe they show up in some ways, plant seeds for us and leave signs, or visit dreams...or maybe the living just make up these ideas for their own comfort, and they're not real at all. But maybe, even if they don't communicate back in a way we can understand, the dead can hear our messages to them? I don't really believe this, but in light of this event, I WANT to. And so I've been talking to him a little, trying to get him to help me fill in the missing pieces in the memories I'm about to record. I don't know if he's there or not. I think probably not, but I want him to be. Even if he is a fucking murderer. Fuck.

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Meg

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