because none of us is fucking up like we think we are, is what i'm trying to say

Monday, 10 August 2015

Unrequited, A Lesson

superlatively rude

I went to bed making notes about him on my phone and when I woke up he’d emailed, because the universe has a funny sense of humour that way. He wanted photographs of when he stayed with me, last summer. He didn’t apologise for how long it had been since we last spoke – since he broke off contact because I threw him out of my house, because I was in love with him and I couldn’t pretend any more.

After all this time, I said, you email about… photographs?

He snapped at me, but I am stronger now. I don’t bend to his will like I used to. I don’t contort myself into shapes that put him at ease. He is a lesson I have carried with me since it happened. From him I learned that I do not have to demonstrate my capacity for love by losing myself in it. By giving everything I have even if they don’t (especially if they don’t), by going ninety percent to another’s ten. From him I learned I am worthy of being met halfway, and I wouldn’t trade a single thing, not one iota of hurt or embarrassment or humiliation that happened, for that knowledge.

I’ve been worried, I said. I’m coming to Rome for the summer and I’m terrified I will bump into you and do it wrong.

Don’t worry, he said. I’m not in Rome anymore. Can I have the photos or not? It’s not a problem if I can’t. Whatever.

I didn’t respond, because you can’t elbow your way into my thoughts that way and shit all over them. Don’t we deserve to figure this out? I’d written, to which he said, Well I have my version of what happened, and you had yours, apparently. I wasn’t going to let him start a conversation engineered mostly to tell me I was wrong. Not like this. There couldn’t be any sense of resolve like this, and he didn’t seem like he wanted any resolution at all.

Deleting that email was a win. With him I couldn’t ever think, only feel. I have one friend, in particular, who I still don’t think has forgiven me for losing my head, myself, in the way that I did with him, but I am clear as tropical water now. I read somewhere recently that we shouldn’t ever pick a guy based on how he makes us feel when we’re with him, but on how he makes us feel when we’re not. And when we weren’t together he didn’t call. Didn’t text. Didn’t make me feel how he did when we were, indeed, together – and I’ll be damned if that isn’t an important lesson too.

I'd adored him for four years and finally admitted it last summer, in Rome. He came to London afterwards for the month. We were to return to Rome in the September – I’d picked up a few weeks’ teaching work, and as a teacher he had to begin the school year - but by then it had all unraveled. I’ve never demonstrated physical symptoms of an internal pain like I did then, coming back without him. My colleagues let me drink too much and talk about it too much and then I got a new haircut and a tattoo and left without hearing from him, not so much really sad as really empty. Defeated by it.

I put my pieces back together, slowly, with generous help from the people who love me - and I knew (declared) I’d never be the same as I was before. When I put my self back together – a hard, arduous task in matters of love at all, but unrequited love is a particularly piercing breed of pain – I did it so that I would be stronger. Changed for it, but not afraid. I think I was so devastated because I looked in the mirror for a horribly confronting long time to see how I was responsible for what had happened. 

He didn’t take everything – I gave him everything. 

That’s on me. 

I don’t know if that makes it easier or harder.

Mine was a love based on conditions. My conditions. I promised him I would love him forever, even if only as a friend, and that was never true. I would love him forever for as long as there was the tiniest glimmer of hope that one day he would feel the same. And he did love me, in his own way. I got mad, frustrated, confused as all hell that he didn’t manifest that in the way I expected him to, though, needed him to, and that’s where the trouble was.

The trouble is that I lied to myself. When he emailed, I couldn't lie to myself again.

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