I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
She went to bed earlier than I did. A little hold over from her time spent in corporate America and my late bedtime a hold over from my youthful artistic phase – one that I never seemed to shake. I quietly crept in the dark room, got into bed, and nuzzled my way up against her. No matter how many times I say it, I don’t think she ever believed me.
“God, get off me.” She would yell out half-asleep, “You are so hot.”
I would smile and playfully struggle to wrap my arms around her, “This is the best part of my day.”
She would let out an annoyed sigh, roll over, and do her best to get back to sleep.
But it wasn’t a lie. And I said it time after time. I think she thought it was just a sweet thing I would whisper to wake her up. And maybe it was. Because sometime you just get excited to love someone but it really was my truth. It was one of the few things I was absolutely certain about in my life. And in a world full of betrayal, instability, and take-backs – it was a pure and genuine moment of bliss.
Until I pulled away.
I have gray chin hairs and my knees ache when I get out of bed in the morning. I have had the privilege of sleeping next to a lot of women and one of the few commonalities they all share is the pull away. And it wasn’t something obvious until relatively recently.
There is small form of low-level panic that sets in when I feel a little too comfortable. Maybe because I was raised in such turmoil that a sense of calm and emotional stability will forever feel foreign to my brain in the darkness of 2am shared beds. Maybe it is out of fear of becoming too close to someone only to have them steal a thousand dollars from me and fuck my friends behind my back. Or maybe it is something more destructive. A realization I have spent decades avoiding. One that permeates the hearts and minds of not only distant men, but women as well. That when I hold you late at night, without you pushing me off because I am “too hot”, and without pressure or agenda – I know you could be taken from me. Cancer, car accident, blood clot, another man, woman, career – something could come along and tear away the one person I had the audacity to invest my hope and future.
Because it has.
It has happened to all of us.
Someone was stolen from us.
Unfortunately, mine began with my brother and a grandfather who raised me. Death planted a seed so deep that it would prevent me from holding a woman I loved close to my chest even decades later.
As a child, I grew up with disappointment and unrequited love. People who came and walked away with pieces of my heart and hope. People who never looked back to see if I was still there. And no one who came back to check on me as an adult to see if I had managed to stand back up after their deceptions. And like the rest of the world, I was scared. Scared to allow anyone to get close. And like the tired story that plays over and over again like a broken record, I sabotaged any person that could possibly bring me a true depth of love.
What was fulfillment?
How would I react to something I had never felt?
What if god heard me say I loved her like I said to my grandfather and brother and then he smashed the life out of her with metal and broken glass while she bleeds to death on the cold pavement?
So I pull away and roll over and close my eyes tightly and will myself into nightmares and short bursts of half-awake naps. And I am fine with the dark circles because they have always been there. They are a debilitaing comfort. Ever since I would spend the nights on the cold tile bathroom floor because I couldn’t bring myself to go sleep in my bed because it smelled like my grandfather. Ever since the nights I would spend as a child smashing my fists into the side of my head in hopes it would erase the memory of everyone that I ever loved that had been taken from me.
And that – that is why I pull away.
I pull away because I care so fucking hard that if anyone ever knew, it would be the exhaust port to my Death Star. A weakness so planet-shattering, I couldn’t bare to live through it again. And it is easy to live a life of dark circles and five hours of interrupted sleep. Because it is what I know. And there is comfort in the damage, because when you sleep in a smashed car you don’t worry about anyone scratching the paint.
What is the most tragic part of all of this is that I know you can identify.
I know you are reading this right now thinking of how easy it is to pull away. To roll over and push away the good and wonderful because it makes you feel uneasy. Like someone handed you a winning lottery card, but you are sure someone will flip it over to be fake and they will laugh at your naievity. And you don’t want to get your hopes up once again because they will inevitably come crashing down around you and it is so much easier living amongst the pieces than it is to allow yourself to stand up and be broken once again.
I never lied when I said it was the best part of my day. To feel someone so perfect under your arm and how they are so comfortable with your damage and ugly life and you can’t imagine how they put up with you and all the garbage that festers in your brain but they do. They love you. They probably know you better than you realize and they fucking love your stupid fucking brain and your stupid fucking heart and they love the garbage human you have become and guess what? I don’t have to get it.
I don’t have to understand why they love me. But what I do have to do is respect that love. Respect their investment. Even if I don’t get it, I have to honor that love and allow it in.
Because the only real failure would be to allow that love sit out in front of a door that never opens.
And wouldn’t it really be amazing to see how it lights up our lives?