by Annabeth Leong
“I can feel the distance getting close.” - Tori Amos
This fortnight’s topic has made the Tori Amos song “China” run through my head every time I think about it, so I’m going to go with that. I first heard the song when I was way too young to know what it feels like for a long-term relationship to come apart in slow motion, but I felt the emotional impact nonetheless. Amos sings with an ache in her voice about the sense of growing distance--I love the line I quoted because as strange as it is to think of distance getting close, I think it’s very evocative of the sensation of a gradual estrangement that eventually must be acknowledged.
Now I’m old enough to know what it feels like, to know what it’s like to sometimes think the other person wants me to touch them but to feel so much distance at that point that I’m not sure how to bridge that gap or if I should even try.
To avoid getting completely morose as I describe this, I’m thinking about how the rekindled romance is actually one of my favorite tropes. One of the books I wrote for the now-defunct Ellora’s Cave, called Turn Back Time, was about this. A couple had allowed gradually increasing distance to tear them apart. They had separated, but the longing for each other was still somehow present. In the story, they receive a magical timepiece that allows them to return to the moments when they turned away from each other and experience what it would be like had they turned toward each other instead.
The book came out after Ellora’s Cave was well in flames. There was a boycott on, rightly so, but that meant that few people read the book and I never saw any money for it. It makes me sad sometimes, and that heartbreak created another sort of distance, too--from my writing, one I’m still trying to bridge.
Lately, though, I’ve been healing a bit from some of these things. Endings happen and so do heartbreak. Distance grows, but when I’m far from one thing I’m close to something else.
Life’s been strange for me lately. I’ve been across the Atlantic and back, and I’ve driven across the United States and back. So many distances, so far from home I don’t even have an address anymore. But wherever I am, I’m somewhere, and there are destinations I can choose to point toward.
In my rekindled romance story, the couple found their way back to each other in the end. They set their direction toward each other and began taking steps.
Now here I am, definitely going somewhere. I think it’s somewhere I want to go. I’m feeling better recently. I can feel the distance getting close, and when I see the next mile marker, I’m going to notice that I’m pointing in a direction, finding my way to things, both familiar and new.