I can see us lying in those supple sheets, your hand running up and down my bare chest, your lips brushing against my neck. I can feel the tingles and tickles charge through my body in the orange light. I can envision these pillows like portals carrying me out of my world, my mind, my self. I can fantasize taking you with me, this place we’ve carved for ourselves in the early morning hours, a space without alarms or algorithms. An alcove of absolution.
We are perfection, free from guilt and insecurity. We are all the oxygen, all the rush of blood and water. We are connected to the creatures that fly and furrow. We’ve tapped into each other and all that surrounds us, grafting onto gulls, gears, and ground. I could stay here forever, reckless in responsibility, oblivious to obligation. Nourished by you alone. I could get used to my heart pumping anew, filled with a forgotten joy in the face of a long-abandoned possibility: that love could touch me. That love could last.
I can imagine it all, each blade of grass and each strand of hair, all made presentable for you. But it’s all just in my head, a vision unraveled in times of respite. Perfection was possible but yet you remained unattainable. As much as I wanted you to hold my heart, I could never find a way inside your mind. You shielded it with smiles, distracted me by drumming your fingers along my spine. I was guarded, kept away from the cancer thriving inside you. It deteriorated your ability to be close, to fuse yourself to a future with me.
The orange light only burns now. You’ve left long ago but I still allow myself to take a semblance of you back to that sanctuary with me. I don’t know if I’m soothing or searing myself by doing so. But it’s comforting to imagine us together. I sail right past the painful realization that love has never been with me after all. I’m unaffected. It’s nothing new. I choose to focus my thoughts elsewhere. It’s healing to think of the possibility that your hands could be real, that your mouth could have been the best thing to happen to me.
The alcove is empty now. I often sit there alone. And I think. And I pretend to know how people carry on with each other. I go through the motions. I plan our partnership. And I know it’s all for naught. But not for me. It feels as natural as your smile sinking into mine.
I will not plunge into these waters. They are too deep to see and too murky to feel anything other than hesitant. It’s always been toes deep and trepidation and this feels like it is going too fast to be healthy. Each look at you is already one less dose of oxygen.
I will not give into the motivation to move toward your mouth. I will resist the delicacy of your dimples, will not nip at the sugar lacquered onto your lips, will not make mention of making out. I will not admit how my soul blooms when you call my name, how our conversations build kingdoms, how your body next to mine brings the breath back to me.
I will not get used to feeling safe inside your arms, accepted inside your walls, invited into the tapestry of thoughts and desire, of beauty and brawn, of brains and benevolence.
This is too good to be true, to last, to be more than a mirage of the heart. I pull against this web of actuality, of living within your lush presence, of willingly being subjected to endless days of longing. I push back, my muscles straining, my voice of protest weak against your influence. You tighten ‘round me, constricting, cracking my resolve with your care.
I can’t rely on your skin to survive, won’t gain sustenance from your voice, refuse to intertwine bodies and plans and build a better world for each other. I’m waiting for you to abscond with my heart but all the while you’ve gotten really good at wanting to stay.
Careening into capitulation does not make much sense. But conceding to you is all the clarity I need.
I cannot, will not, love you right now.
I think I will tomorrow.
one for the head, one for the heart…
At night, I let your lips carry me away.
I’m often restless when lying down. The day’s events bulldozer my brain into a rubble of untapped possibilities and debris of doubt. This fixation on fixing the past pulls me away from dreams. I switch from my back to my stomach to my side, turning away from the thoughts that grip me awake. But it doesn’t seem to work.
Until my mind meets up with you.
With closed lids, I think about your face and it helps filter out the superfluous noise. My mind’s eye pans out like a camera until I can see us both. Our lips are perfectly framed as we close in and kiss. But it’s not riveting. It’s relaxing. Your mouth is the melatonin that helps soothe me from the days’ stresses.
It’s this vaguest sense of shape, you and I. It’s been so long that I almost don’t know what it looks like to be intimate. I have to color in the missing parts of parted lips in order to properly set the scene. And focusing on filling in the gaps helps put me to sleep.
Other times, I think of you in bed next to me. I hold my extra pillow close to my body, mold its shape to what I imagine you’d feel like. Occasionally I’ll wrap my arm around it, other times lay my head on it like it’s your chest.
I recalled a conversation we recently had about cuddling and how you thought it was uncomfortable.
“It’s a nice image,” you said, “but the reality of the situation is it’s not as romantic as it seems. It gets hot. Quickly. And your arms go numb.”
I smiled at you and said, “I don’t care. I want to do it anyway. People experience these things. I wanna be one of them.” And I wanted to do it with you. But I’d never have the courage to tell you that.
Back in my mind, taking into account our conversation, we do eventually separate, inching our way to our own side of the bed. But our backs still touch. Our spines connect like cogs, interlocking as they work to spin us into sleep.
I take comfort in just knowing you’re there. We don’t have to touch from head to toe. Your energy is enough. Just knowing you want to lie with me is enough. Just knowing that you will be there tomorrow is enough. It’s just a dream before a dream, a fantasy to help me focus on getting to the other side for one more night. And that, too, is enough.
The only light comes from the sun that shines through the blinds and barely touches your bare shoulder. Your hands twist in the sheets as you pull them close to your shadowed chin. The red curtains filter a warm glow in the room that make it impossible to pull away the covers. I am impeccably warmed by the sun and the body in bed next to me. I wake first, pulling you from my dream and placing you tangled between my legs.
I watch your sleeping face. Your lashes slope, lending direction to your cheeks and mouth, an impish smile from a romp in the brain’s frolicsome fields. What’s going on in that head? What kind of imagination is blooming along these blankets? I reach out and run my fingers across your fringe.
And then you open your eyes in your usual slow manner, glints of light like celestial sparks highlighting grey rounds. You smile as my face forms in your senses. A soft moan of recognition tickles your throat. You pull me in closer to your chest and I smell mint and eucalyptus.
I delve deeper into the delicacy of your dimples. This is my church. This is my sermon. You are my sanctuary. Your smile is a sacrament. I receive your flesh, am warmed by your blood as it rushes like ink that writes scripture on your skin. I could easily lie here with you for days, filling up on the gospel of your lips, praying a thousand thanks for your presence.
This is our day off from work and the world. There is no alarm, no obligation, no need to gravitate toward tea and toast. We are content and complete within the nourishing heat of flesh and flannel. I am drunk with sleep, my belly swelled with love, safe to again fall unconscious in your arms.
We have no plans, no desire to dally away from the curvature of our backs, the smooth hair and shiny teeth. Nose to nose, we send salutations to our skin before retreating back into the tranquil pool of sleep, wading in the water of a peaceful day, taking comfort in the comfort of each other, slipping away in the face of a brand new morning.
I often wonder if you think of me.
Can you separate me from the others you follow? How do I stack up against better beards and bodies?
I wish you knew I post things just for you sometimes. I study what you like and try to follow suit, to show you I like it too. We have a lot in common and I think we’d have a lot of fun together. Do you ever think that?
I want to show you who I am through pictures and words and song lyrics. And maybe a few funny memes here and there. I want to be smart and funny and intellectual. I want to be artistic and slightly quirky with a keen sense of pop culture and wise words. I want you to see I’m well-rounded, that there is an infrastructure of feelings beneath the surface level sadness. I’m more than my misery. It’s just hard to convey that sometimes.
I don’t know you. But I know your smile. And I want you to know mine.
I’m often disinterested in things around me, be they people or policies. I’m numb to the nightly news and find favor in sleeping. I don’t care about a lot these days. But for some reason, I care that you will one day care about me. And maybe it’s because you’ve awoken my interest like a long-dormant entity roused by provocation. But what you’ve provoked in me, I’m not quite sure. I can’t say I understand it but there’s a part of me that finds comfort in it. There’s a part of me that finds electricity in it.
I often want to talk to you. I want to reach out like the many times I’ve reached out but I’m scared to make that step. My fingers are frail from past failures, my legs weak from chasing abandonment. I’ve stayed to myself for so long, for too long, and there is an ever-increasing curiosity as to how I’m now coming out of this relationship coma.
But would you like me if you knew me? I’m kind of hard to deal with. I have trust issues and I don’t think highly of myself or anyone else. But I’d like to think you’d change my mind about that. I know it’s a big task but I’d like to hope you might be up for it.
Or maybe I should keep things the way they are, a delicate balance of curiosity and anonymity. You don’t really know me and I don’t really know you and maybe I’m too scared to crack apart this fragile daydream. I’m afraid what spills out will spoil this moment, these days of studying your interests and engaging you from afar.
I dream of advancing inches, of getting closer to conversing with you. But I also dream of just keeping you in my mind, of late night movies and simple dinners, of you grabbing my arm as I make you laugh, of you keeping your hand there two seconds too long. It’s safe to think these things, to enjoy the moment in my head without fear of failure or falling by the wayside. And for now, it’s enough. And really, it will always have to be enough because we will never be. And maybe keeping the faintest attachment is the best thing to do. Hurt often follows closely behind beating hearts.
For now, I’ll just be comfortable being curious. And I hope that somehow you read this, although I won’t explicitly show it to you. And I hope if you do, I make you curious as well.
I’ll take this moment. I’m content with knowing you like what I share. It gives me hope that you might think about me what I think I think about you.
Several days ago, I bought a lip balm that made my lips explode.
I hoard lip balms and any time I see a new one, I have to buy it, even if I think it’s going to suck. When I came upon this particular one, the description said it would make my lips “buzz”. I checked the ingredients and noticed it had cinnamon oil in it. I assumed it would work like menthol or peppermint oil and give the lips a nice tingle.
I slathered the balm on my lips and after about a minute, true to the description, they buzzed. There’s no other way to describe it. But this was no Burt’s Bees tingle. I felt like I had just Frenched an electric fence. I had never felt anything like it before. And it wasn’t pleasant.
I eventually wiped off the product but my lips were left feeling numb and beat up. The description said the buzzing is safe and addicting but I couldn’t imagine every using that product again.
One of the draws to the lip balm is how you can transfer the buzz to your partner when you kiss them. It’s a novelty but one that could be interesting. You’d definitely make an impressive if you kissed someone while wearing this lip balm.
But as I put away the cinnamon death stick, I realized I wouldn’t be able to make anyone else’s lips buzz. I had no one to kiss. And as I surveyed my lip balm collection, I wondered if my multiple failed attempts to keep my mouth kiss-ready was in vain. I had no one to pucker up to. All I had were the tiny tube reminders of lonely lips.
I’ve struggled with loneliness for as long as I can remember. I’ve never loved or been loved. I’ve missed out on midnight kisses and dancing and dinners with someone special. I’ve not experienced the sweet release of letting down my guard and inviting someone into my heart and mind. I’ve not been able to intertwine my heart with another and it’s led to a half existence, like I’ve been skimming the surface of life, never allowed to fully dive in and let the water into my bones.
It’s a pain I’ve learned to carry and compress like a dull headache that never heals. And so when I hear someone who’s been in several significant relationships tell me they feel they’ll end up all alone just because they haven’t made it to the altar yet, it makes me angry. That’s when the headache magnifies to a migraine.
I’ve had several people come to me over the years and express their fear of forever alone. But they’ve had relationships in the past. They’ve tasted skin and love. They’ve dived headfirst into the water. Many times they come to me before they’ve even fully dried off.
Most recently, I had a girl tell me she thought she’d be alone forever because she was talking to several guys but didn’t see much of a future with any of them. She was obviously desirable to have all this male attention but she still felt deflated. Meanwhile, there I was, newly fat again, depressed, and with no prospect of love.
I wanted to tell her to shut up and let her know she had no idea what loneliness was. She’d been single for a little over a year by that time, merely a blink of an eye in comparison to my 28 years of loneliness.
But then I pulled back and scolded myself because, to her, being single for a year was difficult to digest when considering she had been in a relationship since she was in high school.
I had to remind myself suffering is relative. Just because she hadn’t experienced loneliness as long as I had didn’t negate her feelings. She had every right to feel as lonely as she thought she was.
We all experience feelings in various degrees of deepness. And almost every feeling we have is valid. Just because it doesn’t match up with someone else’s experience doesn’t mean it’s not real or genuine. We all come from different backgrounds and have experienced different triumphs and disappointments over the years.
And because each one of our stories is unique, it should be difficult to pass judgement on others. But it doesn’t make it difficult at all. We pass judgment on people every day, most oftentimes without even thinking about it. I passed judgement on my coworker as if it were as natural as breathing. That was wrong of me.
I still don’t think she knows what loneliness is but that’s my opinion. I can’t push that on her. She knows how she feels and I know how I feel. And if we could all sit back every once in a while and be aware other people’s circumstances, we might begin to understand them better, might become more empathetic, might become less cold to other people’s emotions.
We all have our own journey and we all have to take care of ourselves. But that doesn’t mean we have the right to invalidate others along the way. I’m also not saying we should sacrifice and live for others to the point we ignore our own needs but if we could just find the balance between nurturing ourselves while considering others among us, it might make things easier on everyone.
“Love is nothing, nothing, nothing like people say
you gotta pick up the little pieces every day…”
-Liz Phair, Love is Nothing
“For a heart beats the best in a bed beside the one that it loves…”
-Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, Crane Your Neck
For a while, it felt like everyone else was falling in love and I was just falling apart. It was like some kind of pheromone phenomenon. Everyone around me was talking and dating, mating and relating, getting engaged and pregnant and coming together. Normally, I couldn’t care less about people and their paramours but when so many people were coming together in such a small amount of time, it threw me for a loop.
And I kind of felt down about it.
I never wanted to be the kind of person who was happy simply because I was in love. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you don’t need another person to be happy. I really believe(d) that. I know my writing and whining about being lonely doesn’t always (or ever) reflect that philosophy but even loners get lonely…right?
But what if I’m wrong? What do I know about love? I’ve always thought I had the level head, that my heart wasn’t tainted by crushes or heavy feelings and I could dole out decent advice about the topic because I was removed from it. I could think logically. But maybe you can only know so much about love from mere observation. Maybe the best way to know about love is to live it, to love and be loved.
But how do you start to love? How do you know if you’re doing it right? How does any one of us know? The heart doesn’t come with a handbook. Love is universal yet it seems the way in which we all come across it and experience it is unique.
And what if happiness, or at least some form of it, does come from love? If you don’t love, are you missing out on happiness? Continue reading
“You love, love, love
when you know I can’t love
you love, love, love
when you know I can’t love you
so I think it’s best we both forget
before we dwell on it…”
-Of Monsters and Men, Love Love Love
If someone says they love you but they don’t show it, does it really count?
It’s like living in poverty with a million dollar bank account no one told you about. You’re rich but you’re not rich. You’re blessed but you’re not blessed. You’re loved but you’re not loved.
I don’t want to say not being in a relationship has been detrimental to my self-worth but I don’t think it’s helped. I just keep thinking how I’m 27 and have never connected with anyone on a deep, meaningful level. And the one time I thought I did, well, it disintegrated and completely changed the way I saw people. If that strong of a friendship could crumble, there was no hope for me and anyone else.
But stuff happens. People form relationships and those relationships sometimes end due to any number of circumstances. And sometimes you’re left wallowing in your own cesspool of self-doubt because no one else comes along to help you correct your interpersonal errors. Sometimes locations and circumstances make it hard to hone in on a partner. Or even a friend.
There must be some benefit to being told your loved by someone outside your bloodline. They can be with anyone but they choose to be with you. They open their hearts to the possibility of pain and see through the marks on your skin and the mistakes in your mind. Someone out there came to you and decided to stay because you were worth getting to know. For me, people have come into my life but it’s the staying part that seems so difficult. Do I subconsciously drive people away? Do they just get tired of my incessant self-deprecation? Or do they get bored with my personality?
I often feel like a novelty act, a brand new Brannon still in the cellophane and once the protective casing has been cut away and I’ve been squeezed of jokes and encouragement and conversation, I am discarded. The newness wears away as the imperfections poke through the shellacked surface that’s eventually worn away through long exchanges and lots of laughs and eventual awkward pauses. Then missed e-mails. Unanswered text messages. Phone calls not returned. There’s something about me that hooks people in but once they’ve penetrated whatever “thing” magnetizes them to me, they realize I am too flawed, too flat, too frail to stick with and they eventually pull out.
I’m not trying to make myself look like a victim. I know you think I am. But I’m not. And I am not blaming anyone who has gone away. I wouldn’t want to put up with someone like myself either! The novelty becomes a nuisance after a while. And everyone says they aren’t like everyone else. They’ll stick around. They never do. Some stay longer than others, but for me, it’s just a waiting game. Classmates never called when class was over. Co-workers never kept in contact when they found better jobs. Old roommates haven’t written. It hurts. It hurts so bad. But I’m not bitter about it and I don’t blame them. I just take it for what it is: another form of rejection, just a slow kind, a knife plunged inside by inches.