There comes a time in every one’s life when they must reevaluate. When they must change, rearrange and repair all the broken things in their life. I am at that point. It is not the change that is painful but rather the transition.
There was a time when I was a different person. A kinder person, a softer person, less stressed and fragile, more hopeful than cynic. There was a time when I was a happier person. I don’t really know that girl anymore. But I miss her. I think I liked her better.
I loved once. The first time I feel in love I was twelve years old. I know what many are thinking; that’s too young to truly be in love. And yes, that’s true somewhat; I was too young to be in love by our adult definition and understanding of it now, but for who I was then, who we were then, it was valid.
I stayed with him for six years and the day I realized it wasn’t working, that it was time for us to go our separate ways, it felt like dying. That is what loss that large feels like. Dying. I could never explain to anyone what a wonderful man he is, how amazing he was to me, how many times he saved me from myself. And to have to let go of the first and only man I ever loved, family included, it was… I can’t even describe that kind of pain. He didn’t have the courage to say the words that neither of us wanted to hear after a six year relationship that lasted longer than most marriages we knew. So I did it. I knew it was best for him, for me, for us, but it was devastating. I cried myself to sleep for countless nights for almost a year. The calls still came, we still talked, still went out, still included each other in our everyday lives. After so long it is hard to teach yourself to be without someone, hard to teach yourself how to be a friend to someone you have never been just a friend to. But something was so irrevocably broken.
Things deteriorated and soon after I moved to D.C. We stopped talking. I decided I no longer wanted to be the girl in his life who always came in and disrupted things. I no longer wanted to be the thing that held him back, that kept him tethered. I no longer wanted to be the same scared little girl that he always had to swoop in and save. For once, I wanted to be the one to save myself. I think that may have made him feel unneeded, like he didn’t have a place or a role in my life. And I, in my noble but misguided attempt to be strong and independent, didn’t know how to tell him that I needed him, would always need him, would always love him, that he was still so incredibly invaluable in my life. I think I may have broken his heart. I don’t know. We’ve never talked about it except the politically correct things that one says when trying to prove they are over some pain that could never possibly be repaired like, “It was for the best.” True as it may be, it doesn’t make the pain lessen.
I will never forgive myself for breaking his heart.
And here we are nine years later; nine long years of mostly smiles, some tears, some drama, so much laughter and so much happiness, long distance, and the possibility of infinite separation… and I still love him as much now as I did at twelve.
But who finds their soul mate at twelve, right?
I started to fall again October of my freshman year. We were introduced by my sister. He smiled at me in front of the Fine Arts building as my sister rattled off his six or seventeen names and I felt… comforted. I knew I was attracted to him but I wasn’t ready. I told him that and he told me he understood. He pursued me and I do mean HARD. Calls everyday just because he had been thinking about me or saw/heard something that reminded him of me, coming to see me, making me laugh, putting me at ease. But my favorite things were our walks. We walked all through that fall, spending hours together just talking and laughing, getting to know each other, sharing past pains and secrets. It was a give and take thing; I’d tell him a story, he’d tell me one. He was the only person I had ever known who could understand my pain so completely because he had been through so much of the same. I felt like I’d found a kindred spirit. For hours we would walk around campus my tiny hand in his big, warm ones, wandering around the city or sitting on the yard and talking until the sun came up. I hadn’t felt so content in a long time.
Things continued this way for about six months. We were together and things were so good; to us, to all the friends we shared. And then something happened. Something broke. I don’t know what it was. To this day I couldn’t tell you, after countless nights of lying awake and contemplating it I still have no idea. But something happened. I can unabashedly say it was more him than me. But I felt the break. And I couldn’t stand the thought of that loss again, feeling that dying in my soul. So I did everything I knew to do. I am, by nature, a “fixer”, a nurturer who will take care of the people that she loves by all costs. Even if the price is herself. I am ashamed to say that the person I became in those last six months following the first six months of happy, is a person I have never seen before. Remnants of that person, to this day, still float around inside me on some of those tears I still keep bottled up.
I have never known me to lose so much of myself. Ever. I tried being patient, tried ignoring it, tried talking it out calmly, rationally, tried the crying and screaming. I tried being distant, I tried always being there. I was everything and everyone at once. Holding on to the thought that we were two of a kind, that maybe if I just loved him hard enough, like no one had ever done for either of us, that he would come around, he would change back into the loving, attentive man I met that beautiful October.
It didn’t happen.
Instead we broke up that January. And when I say “broke up”, I of course mean that we “didn’t have an official title but we still slept in the same bed every night, talked everyday, still had the same friends so we were together all the time”. No such thing as a clean break. So much was still lingering like smoke from the dying embers of a devastating fire. But the fire wasn’t completely out. The embers would catch again. They started smoldering the day I found cut marks on his long elegant wrists; deep, jagged cuts, perfectly aligned across the skin. I freaked out, cried harder than I ever remember crying. I realized then that something was so wrong with him past even my comprehension and definitely past my ability to help. I knew that I had to escape but I still didn’t know how.
I remember the day things went from bad to worse. It was early in the first hours of a new Valentine’s Day. We were in my room and we were talking. More accurately, I was wondering why he was curled in the fetal position in my bed crying and he wasn’t talking. Right in the middle of a sentence, he got up and tried to walk out on me. I cannot stand people walking away from me.
And I snapped.
I tried to keep him from walking out the door. What followed could only best be described as a clip from a domestic dispute on an episode of COPS that left me scratched, bruised, bleeding and confused. That night I fell asleep in the arms of a friend after taking way too many sleeping pills to numb the pain from the knot on the back of my head and the shock of seeing his fingerprints that left an oddly beautiful ring of purple bruises around my neck.
After all of this, one would naturally assume that would be the last time we spoke. That, of course, was not the case. He apologized and I accepted the next day. But from then on I was afraid of him. I jumped anytime he came at me at any tempo faster than a crawl and everywhere he touched me, my skin turned to ice. But most importantly, I was afraid of me, of what kind of woman I was becoming. I spent hours alone in my room, a self inflicted solitary confinement that I have still not quite grown out of, sinking into a moodiness that I have still not overcome. I listened to old blues songs and sang along, singing being the only thing I had that felt like some attachment to the old me.
I finally made my escape that summer. I ran all the way to New York, to an exciting job in an amazing city. I swore to myself that I would not call. And I didn’t. I took it one day at a time, sometimes just one minute at a time, however much I could handle. I was in detox, learning how to function in the world while not about being addicted to such a poisonous person. And of course then the phone calls came. The “I just wanted to hear your voice”, the “I haven’t talked to you in so long”, and eventually the “after everything we’ve been through you’re just gonna cut me off?” conversations.
One morning around 3am, my phone rang. It was him and he was drunk, something that he had been doing a lot lately, and when he drank he had a tendency to finally say what you could never get out of him sober.
“So what,” he viciously slurred in my ear, “just because we ain’t fucking no more means we can’t even be friends, bitch?”
My heart fell out of my chest. I fought back tears, determined not to ever shed another tear over this cruel man. After almost two years I had been reduced to the level of someone he used to fuck?
I didn’t talk to him for awhile after that… that is until he and a large group of my friends came to see my sister and I in New York. That weekend he was the man I remembered from those late night walks in an October so long ago. Somewhere along that weekend, he held my hand all through the streets of that city I love, kissed me and still gave me butterflies. I thought somewhere, back in the back of my mind that maybe we could at least be friends, be civil to each other so our friends wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable. Our break up had been like a divorce, returning the possessions, deciding on custody and visitation hours for our friends. Maybe now, I hoped, we could at least act like adults about the whole thing.
It was a shaky road at first. But slowly we started building a friendship. We talked everyday or so, casually, sometimes about lingering issues we still needed to get off our chest, but mostly about whatever came to mind. It felt like a return to our October but without the romantic feelings.
Then one night when we were all together, my mother called me and asked to let her speak to either he or my best friend who was also with me. My heart immediately constricted though I tried to maintain normal conversation. The two of them walked ahead of our group. Pretty soon they returned my phone without any comment to me. I started to relax a bit until they suggested we go sit in a nearby McDonald’s. My body tensed; we had just eaten. Why did we need to go there? We sat down and my phone rang again. My mama called to tell me that my grandmother, my hero, and friend was in a hospital bed dying and I had to get to Atlanta right away. That night, my friends rallied around me and I will always love them for how well they took care of me. This man I had known, who, months before, I could not even stand the thought of ever touching me, held my hand all night. Looked over me with watchful eyes, went with me to the airport in the wee hours of the morning, held me, hugged me, told me everything would be ok. And I believed him.
At home in Atlanta things were bad, worse than I originally thought. The day came when we had to decide as a family if we were to take my grandma off the ventilators that kept her breathing. I fled from the building, phone in hand and before I knew it he was on the other line and I was sobbing, trying frantically to get my story out. Somehow, by the end of that twenty minute conversation he had me not only smiling but laughing out loud. I will always love and appreciate him for that. When I returned to D.C., we stayed up that night talking like we used to and for once I felt at peace about things. Later on that month, this was late September, we had another talk where we got EVERYTHING in the open. And I felt so light. We were finally friends and at peace with each other. And seeking peace for ourselves and our issues.
That lasted about three hours.
Long story short, I found out that he and my best friend, one I trusted with my any and everything, had feelings for each other. That didn’t hurt. What hurt is that they planned on acting on these feelings without even asking me if I could deal with it and had been sleeping in the same bed together for months. And so came the loss, the acute sensation of dying again.
And Gay Husband was born.
I wound up in the hospital where my doctor told me, basically, if I didn’t cut some of the stress out of my life I was going to have a stroke before the age of 22. That scared me. Enough was enough. That night I walked out of that hospital room, I hugged and kissed both the man who had been my love and the person I had once referred to as my best friend. I told them I loved them… and hated them all in the same breath. I told them I hoped they both suffered for what they did to me and that I never wanted to see them again. I walked out of the hospital. And for once I didn’t look back.
For awhile I tried to be the bigger person, to be objective and understanding. I encouraged all of our friends to not cut them off or treat them any differently because of what they had done to me. I wanted so badly for the group of friends I’d had around me since freshman year to stay together. But it was not be. Slowly, the fissures, which had only been minuscule, hardly threatening, grew, stretched under the pressure and became irreparable breaks. The battle lines had been drawn and sides had been taken. Yet for awhile I still tried to compete for some saint award and be impartial but soon I gave way to the anger. I was PISSED. I was LIVID. That my friendship could be so TRIVIAL and so easily tossed away, that it was so invaluable that it could be traded for a relationship that probably wouldn’t even last was BEYOND any logical thing I could possibly fathom. They had been living together, sleeping together for MONTHS (as they still are). Mostly I felt stupid because I didn’t see it. I had always just been glad that this man I had loved had someone he felt he could talk to. For all my suffering, all my patience, THIS IS WHAT I GOT IN RETURN?!? I was tired of loving things that leave, tired of going out of my way for people that didn’t appreciate it. I was DONE being nice.
I became a person I didn’t recognize. A bitter, spiteful, vengeful person. I did so many things that I am not proud of, things I won’t commit to paper. I lost sight of who I was when I was twelve and believed I deserved a fairy tale, when all was hopeful and innocent. I was angry that they had taken these things away from me, had been the catalyst for this drastic change in me.
I can’t say that during this time I was innocent either. Before any of this ever happened, I had become involved with my Gay Husband’s best friend, Almost Fiance. Not in a physical way but in a much more dangerous level; he had reached me on an emotional and mental level. What started out as great conversation after being introduced by Gay Husband, turned into 4-6 hour conversations every night, a trip to Baltimore to meet his friends, and countless words we should have never exchanged. And we of course, beat ourselves up, vowed never to speak again after one night he spent with me. Nothing happened unless you count me cooking for him, and him spending a night with me wrapped tightly in his arms. But the groundwork was laid. However he was on his way to Alaska to be stationed at an air force base and we felt so guilty. We both berated ourselves for allowing any of this to happen, no matter how innocent, and we decided not to talk. It lasted all of a day. I can’t explain the connection we built over six months, it was deeper than what I imagined could happen. Because we had none of the physical intimacies to distract us, we could work on building something solid, something with substance. Of course word soon leaked back to the expansive group of casualties in this war that we were involved with each other and of course the immediate consensus was I was doing this all for revenge. I even wondered if that was the case for a moment. But it wasn’t. It had been brewing between us for two years, we just allowed ourselves to become the victims of space and opportunity. I have never been happier to call myself a victim.
You see the thing is, that loving and losing Gay Husband allowed me to find what I never thought I would find again after losing that hopeful little girl inside me after things fell apart for me and First Love. I found someone who told me I was beautiful 1,000 times a day, included me in his future plans, didn’t censor himself when he talked to me and told me even the things I didn’t wanna hear. I found someone that told me he loved me just because and not out of habit or obligation. I found someone who excited my mind and my soul and not just my body. I found someone unafraid to be real, to be human, to be flawed with me, someone willing to love me just for me, despite my imperfections, my impulsiveness and my irrationality. I found someone who encouraged me, built me up, took care of me when I swore I didn’t need taking care of. He stepped into my life so willing to deal with me just as I came to him, issues and all, someone willing to share himself, all of him without holding back from me. I found someone to love the pain away, to renew my faith in not just men but in people in general that I lost somewhere along the way long before the time I ever met Gay Husband that October.
And that was all I ever really wanted to begin with.
So I owe Gay Husband. Had he not done all the horrible things he did to me I don’t know if I would have ever been able to let him go to make room for someone else. I don’t know if I would have ever been able to beat my addiction to him without it. I would probably still be fighting to get away, to somehow reverse the hold he had on me and get back to myself. I used to say I hated him and maybe I did for awhile but no more. I thank him for breaking my heart. Because he forced me to let in the possibility that there could be someone out there besides First Love who could give me that great and total love that I crave and deserve. I had decided long ago that if I did not end up with First Love that I wasn’t gong to be with anyone. I resigned myself to the fact that no one could ever love me like that again and some days it still feels that way. But had he not done the things he did, made the mistakes he made, I still would not be ready for any good man that came along.
I’m not angry anymore. I refuse to be because anger creates nothing but barriers and blinders from those good things that are standing right within your reach. Now I’m not saying things with Almost Fiance will work out either. Right now it doesn’t look like it, but I don’t know. There are many outside circumstances that might prove to be too much for us. But only time will tell.
As for right now I’m moving on. I’m finally ready for love. I know it won’t happen overnight and I don’t want it to. I’m not even under the assumption that the next person I am attracted to will be someone I can be serious with. But I am more open to the possibility than I have ever been before. I am not the bitter cynic that I allowed myself to become but rather some cross between that hopeful twelve year old I once was and a woman wise enough to deal with the realities that accompany fairy tales.
And I like her just fine.