It was his 73rd birthday. He’d been taken into inpatient psychiatric care the night before, a phone call I had received while out at a bar with a group of friends. We were watching a Minneapolite musician, Dessa, play at Pizza Lucé in downtown Duluth. I liked Dessa’s music, but I really liked her writing. She’d detailed her experience rewiring her brain to forget a dangerous, almost obsessive love affair: the mechanics of love, told in poetry and electromagnetic imaging. Before the psychological intervention, she said, she had a kind of wild and inevitable connection to this man who could not be trusted with her heart. They were incendiary together, in good ways and not: a fire started with a glance, burning down the house with everyone inside. I’ve never had a love like that, but I could feel it anyway — her despair, her passion, and the terrible realization that whatever was happening in her was above or beneath her conscious mind, scratched into her whole brain. Every thought she had about anything traversed the rough path of that scratch — removing him from her heart was reductive: she needed to remove him from the apparatus of her Self, the thing that made her her.
I didn’t understand why this was so moving to me at the time, but now I do.