03 July 2017

It's Not A Romance

I don't want to know what it is. I know what it is not.

It's not a romance. She's not my girlfriend, my fiancée, my significant other, or "the one," though in truth, I don't believe in the latter concept at all and, perhaps most painfully, I don't really believe in the former ones anymore either. It's a good thing. It means she'll never be my ex or former anything. Unless she will be, which I don't think about.

I think the first time we actually slept together was after the haze a night of drinking settled into the mental twilight that isn't quite a blackout, but is still nearly as far from consciousness as oblivion. I do remember she said "because I love you" in response to something I asked her earlier that night and I didn't know what to say to that except, perhaps, "what?"

I don't know if she sees – that is, sleeps with – other people. I don't ask because I don't want to know. To ask would be to care. To know might mean to become jealous and though I feel the occasional pang of jealousy – the hot sting in the pit of my stomach that I fight down like a fever – I refuse to fuel it with information. I don't want to know. I don't want to care.

But I know. She leaks just enough information so that I know. As for caring, well... that's neither here nor there.

What I care about these days is not finding myself where I was last September, with my heart carved out. Or not finding myself on the receiving end of suddenly being blocked on every single form of social media that you could think of – including LinkedIn, though that was apparently an afterthought as it was fairly recent – by a woman I once I thought of as one of my dearest friends, later a lover. I care about being able to sleep at night, which doesn't happen often.

And, to my agony, I care about her.

But I don't know what relationships look like anymore. I see other people in them and yes, I "get" the whole "let's-show-off-how-cute-we-are-on-Instagram" bit, but I have no idea how any of it works and, truth be told, I sometimes exult in watching them shatter. It's bitter exultation because it proves what I have long believed without ever really wanting to: that all things fall apart.

When we both finally work up the courage to talk about the thing that we're both wondering if the other notices, all the fears that I have kept dissolved in the solution of my life – in gin, denial, and in conversations that I don't have – suddenly grow into shards that crystallize along the soft places that remain in me: the fault lines left by others, the scars wrought by things that fell apart.

We fight. We fall asleep together. I wake in the morning surprised to find her, just as I am always surprised to find her.

Just as I have always been surprised to find anyone.

We lie there in unfeeling silence for hours. We have sex. We sleep. We order food. When she leaves late that afternoon, I resist the urge to stop her, resist the urge to hold her for just a little longer. To hold anything is to admit that it is not yours, that it can never be yours, because nothing and no one can ever really belong to anyone. Nothing can change that. No vow, no oath, no promise. No kiss. No contract. No blood. No binder.

Not a book, not a body, not even these words. Everything belongs to itself and, in the final argument, to time's threshing floor.

I write to her later, mustering stoicism when I actually ache. A last attempt at courage, partly because I know that I am still mangled, still badly damaged, and there's not much more that can be done to me.

There's not much to say on the matter, is there? I don't think either of us are terribly stable or conventional creatures and I'm not in a position to tell you how to live your life: it would be 1) hypocrisy and 2) a foundation for later resentment. 

Some part of me wishes that I had something - a bankroll, mostly - large enough to care for the people closest to me. But I don't. And I don't even know if that would 'solve' anything. 

I was uncomfortable lying to myself about all of it anyway. I just didn't want to deal with it, didn't want to face it. Last night I ran into another one of reality's little minefields. That's life, I suppose.

She replies.

I wondered if or when this might come to a head, & from which angle. It seemed impossible that we could just wordlessly carry on as we had been, but I didn’t dare to assume. Part of me wondered if it was a game, a seduction, carefully-chosen steps. Part of me wondered if we were playing with emotional wildfire & pretending it was candlelight. 

Before I am halfway down the message, I realize that I know what it is, that of course I know what it is, that it can really only be one thing, that it has always only ever been one thing.

Because she is unavailable. Because she will disappoint me in the way that I am always disappointed. Because she is unattainable. Because I fear – and perhaps expect – that she will eventually outgrow me and become less than a stranger to me.

I know what it is. And so I cling to the last words of her reply before I go to sleep: a drowning man clutching a piece of driftwood just before he disappears into the darkness.

Whatever the case may be I love you, too.