I’m ready to end this honeymoon.
Most people struggle to find ways to keep the flame burning. But I look forward to the day I’m in your arms basking beneath the final flicker. I want to revel in the darkness of domestication, the white noise of your snore, the look of your bedhead, the taste of your unwashed mouth.
Passion is perfect but finding love in the little things is where the real light shines through. It’s the way you stir your coffee, the littlest laughs at a television show you’ve seen a hundred times before. It’s the way you cradle the dog, the carefree way you carry yourself in public. You order so I don’t have to. You ask so I don’t need to. It’s how you know when to be distant without dislocating, to be close without being clingy.
As the temperature taxis into temperament, I realize it’s the nuances that narrate our love. We can take our heads off on a Sunday afternoon and lie in bed for hours, talking or silent, slowly slipping into a space of dreams and deep relaxation. Your warm body pressed against mine is all I need.
It’s a hug over the morning’s hash, a kiss over the night’s coffee. Your symphony voice. Your amusement park mind. The strength of your conviction. The bite of your humor. Shakespeare and slashers, French bistros and seedy dive bars, romance and rope bound tight. Multi-faceted, fantastic, and free.
Love is a quiet soldier, marching with a steadfast hope that it will protect the good and transform the wicked. It does not fight with slander but penetrates with protection. It marches, treads, crawls and wades to get to the heart of those it has chosen. It eventually pours over everything, purifying and perfecting in its own way. It does not punish but praises. It does not attack but encourages. It only fights to free us from our own demons. It encompasses each one of us then sets out to find another unsettled soul. We are the vehicles that carry it across sea and sky.
You carried this soldier to me. You convinced me to open my door and let it inside, to unlace its boots and lay down its weapon. It came a long way to find me and now it’s able to settle, to rest, to make a home here. And it allowed me to find rest myself.
Don’t be mistaken that our hearts are ever halved. We are whole and love comes to remind us that we’ve always been fully formed. It uses others to empower us to feel it for ourselves. You tell me with your hands and mouth, with your gestures of kindness, of care, of consultation. You push me to be better, encourage me to be bolder, and love me for all that I am and in spite of all that I have yet to achieve. I feel safer when you’re near, marching along in life with you as my armor, plated with protection, satisfaction, and the security I am no longer lost in this world.
When the decoration of honors and medals melt away, when the soldier leaves for the next assignment, it’s just us in the quiet morning light. We are left to breathe on our own, to soak in the safety of knowing the other will not leave this bed, that years degrade skin and mind but not heart. For love takes the lead and propels us forward through the sadness and sickness. It’s there with a hand to hold, a mouth to kiss, an ear to listen, each part perfected for its partner. It’s presence. It’s practice. It’s a feeling, an emotion, a compulsion that will not wither and die but will soldier on, endlessly.
All I’ve ever wanted was a warm mouth on a cool night, us wrapped together in fleece and flannel, feeling the unfurling gusts of wind whipping up whisps of hair across our faces. The smell of your lips turns sweet smiles into delectable dishes. Your hand rests on my chest, softening the harried heartbeat, calming the catastrophe of current events.
I always stepped into the day, downtrodden among the atrocities, reaching out in hopes of one day finding your fingers ready to soothe the ache of destruction. Facing each empty slot of time, relenting to the entropy when you stepped in as if on cue, ready to remedy the rust that had settled into my bones.
You lead me to the ground and embrace me as the night falls down around us, splitting at the seams and seeping out a serenade for you and me alone. All the bugs and blades of grass bend toward you to bask in your glow. But your focus stays on me, fumbling and funny, flirty and fortunate enough to fall into your line of sight, springing up with newfound spirit, safe enough to scream, to laugh, to share these blankets with you. Crickets sing, the air dances, and the light grows dimmer, hazy shades of green and black, plaid and pristine wrists, blue branches leading to your chest and lips and eyes. Your delicate cheek on mine shines against the light of the moon, piercing through the dark clouds carrying a rain that runs past us.
My head winds down, drained of dismay then fueled with a thousand fantasies swirling like so many leaves in the wind. A warm drink and skin and smile. Lips pressing into the flesh of forever. A lifetime encapsulated into a late night with you, my heart a steady drum, my blood a slow stream. Fluid dreams and concrete connections. Pulling me out of a ribcage coma and shielding me from the sun’s rays, random bursts of violence, and the gravitational pull of disappointment. It’s the clarity of breath, the breadth of belonging, a kiss so pure it hurts as much as it heals.
Let us not linger in the brightness that breaks through the webs of bark, illuminating the trauma of the world. Kiss me until the light leaks out once more, covered in the safety of this dark. Run with me through the black fields before resting again in the shadows. I listen as your heart slows. You wrap your arms around me and I am wiped clean, a blank slate without shame. You invite me to draw closer. I sink into you, close my eyes, and wish for the stars to burn bright forever.
“Again I belong to the night
I’m a mess Pull me over
I can’t forget her name
Slow me down
It’s like you’ve stolen my soul
So far from heaven now…”
-Issues, Slow Me Down
“I was your prized possession and who was your exorcist?
Thought you was heaven-sent
You left for the hell of it…”
The mind spins at the thought of affection. A desire brought forth those bright blue eyes from behind your fringe. Parting it back and basking in the realization of prayer, God-sent and God-fearing. But mostly fearing your own wants, needs, desires that deviate from the established word. You kept that hidden between kindness and kisses and a fringe of fellowship fell over my own eyes. I wanted to be your back rub. I wanted to taste your laughter. I wanted to get closer to the one who wanted me.
But not that close.
A firm grip on my fledgling innocence, milking it away from me with no choice, no exception, and no time to process the pumping. Building up and blowing out, rinsed in instant regret, falling farther away from the fantasy and crashing into a cascade of concern.
The brain braids together bonds of mutual fondness to detract from this indiscretion, forgetting the words that fell off a cliff, the kisses that cushioned before cutting, the tongue that lied before licking it all up in selfish starvation. Overloaded, overboard, and boring a hole into my chest with your iron-hot hands, singeing all the hair and stealing all the hope from within my heart with your uninvited skin.
A first crush. A last time. A lost signal sped up then jammed in the dark. Mixing chemicals, trusting words, crossing lines, lying in your bed and lying about your intentions. Red lips and nipples and hands, tensed from tugging, a tale tired from being told.
Rise and fall. Rise and fall. Singular in sensation, suffocation, and suffering. Alone in this affliction you thrust upon me.
Carefully selective only to be stolen in sweat and promises of partnership. Three decades dashed as you went down, determined to conquer this basketcase. Cold. Callous. Inconsequential.
An AWOL angel. An MIA messiah. Death waiting above to witness the final climax before climbing down to peel back the chambers of my chest. Thick down your throat, coating you in my trust. A simple spasm of the body. A complex thrashing of the mind. Attempting to reconcile the religion and the regret in the midst of two bodies melding. Had my savior sanctioned this person of faith to flay all my fantasies or was this just a disciple of the devil, deposed in prayer before prying the life from my lips, lungs, and limbs?
No ring, knock, or other notice of entrance. Barged in and banged down my door. Death of dignity followed close behind. A pale horse come to trample my misconceptions of your intentions. Naivety and hope hauled away in the revelation of identity. Ghosted, roasted, and toasted, burned down to the backbone, easily cracked in half under the ramifications of rejection, of need, of confirmation of humanity.
But the only true confirmation was that the devil teases while God taunts. In the face of lethargy and loneliness, when temptation chides chastity, when worship won’t wash away desire, when sigils, sermons, and sacrifices can’t cut through a calloused brain, we knew we had both failed our father. And that neither one of us were leading by example.
You know, Biblically-speaking.
The light from the television cradled his body, electric blue dancing in his eyes, a cool shadow on the other side of the bed. He rolled around, heavy with worry, his head thick with layers of confusion. A glimpse of a laugh, the rush of lapping it up, the memory of leaving. Crashing into him and forcing him to roll over to find a way to rest.
Beneath our bodies, we are constantly putting together a jigsaw puzzle of our portraits. Some of us are fortunate enough to find our own pieces while others need help from outside sources. People come to assist us in the form of friends, family, and lovers. They can often point out the parts that are hiding right under our noses.
And sometimes we take pieces from their puzzle to try to fit them into ours, thus changing the puzzle, thus changing our portrait. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The piece gets stuck and we end up carrying it around with us, even after the person in prior possession of that piece peaces out. The puzzle grows in complexity with all the extraneous parts, making it even harder to form a coherent picture. And when someone new comes along, they have to sort through all the clutter to help us assemble ourselves again. It gets messy and complicated and time-consuming. Some people come with a lot more pieces than others, and some with many more missing parts.
At the precipice of dreams, a hand brushed against his nose. A subtle stroke that stole his sleep. Constantly swiping back and forth, a ghost that gutted him slowly. A thief in the night, an omen of bad luck, proof that God hated him. Each imagined scenario avalanched his peace of mind, his desire to move on, his plea to just forget.
“That was the easy part,” he thought to himself. “The mouth conforms to shape and size and silence. Anyone can figure out the physical. But what lies beyond the bend? What compels someone to desire, devour, then desecrate someone else?”
It’s a balance of working at that puzzle without feeling the pressure to complete it. Because maybe the puzzle is never really complete. And maybe it’s not meant to be. Maybe it’s a lifelong exchange of pieces between partners, constantly fitting and subtracting, giving and acquiring. The portrait always changes, shifting with our choices, growing as we do, damaged as we are, and falling apart as we come undone.
His eyes finally fell down. Time tripped up the ghost. The words that poured from his fingers told him he would endure. It was the effort of living, the trials of falling, the grace of patience that showed him he had a lot to learn about people and intimacy, fear and greed, boundaries and the boundless hope that still resided in him. For his puzzle, while not nearly complete, was not frayed at the edges or bent in the corners. It wasn’t so much that his pieces had been handled with care. They simply hadn’t been handled at all. But they were just as good as anyone else’s and worth working on. There was potential in those pieces.
But can’t you still enjoy the picture that’s being formed even if there are a few vacant spaces? Maybe that’s the most difficult part. We want the end result, the complete picture. But how often do we stop to appreciate the progress we’ve already made? When he looked at his portrait, he saw something he hadn’t noticed before. It had changed. A few fingers were missing, a part of his left cheek, but while his eyes were closed, both his arms were outstretched. And there was the faintest hint of a smile. Like he was ready.
It was a nice thought but he wondered if he would ever find himself worthy of continuing his puzzle. Was it possible that the empty space between those arms could one day be filled? That his eyes could be opened to all the joy that life could bring? Yes. It was easy to say. Everyone deserves love, right? He could say he was worth it. And maybe someone would one day come along to convince him. But people came and went. He needed to know it for himself. He just couldn’t see how he could. It was a lesson that could take a lifetime to learn.
Maybe the steepest learning curve of all.
People cuddle people. Animals cuddle animals. People cuddle animals. I’ve watched enough cute puppy videos to see the comfort it brings both human and non-human to snuggle up to something else warm and breathing. It’s interesting to see that need for safety, security, and stability in another type of creature. When you think about it, you realize that need spans across all cultures, religions, and species.
I know I’m generalizing. Not everyone is affectionate or wants physical interaction and that’s okay. I still struggle with whether or not I’m that type of person. I’ve always liked the idea of touch but in actuality, it makes me uncomfortable. I wonder if it’s because I’ve been starved of touch for all these years and this is my new norm. Maybe I have just romanticized how therapeutic touch can be and maybe I made it more transformational than it really is. Or maybe I’m just naturally distant. Or maybe I’m just selectively affectionate.
But with the emerging popularity of weighted blankets and the undeniable adorableness of otters holding hands, there’s something to be said for being close. In the animal kingdom, it’s mostly instinct. Survival has a lot to do with it. Safety in numbers. But is it just about the body surviving? That closeness must encourage the head and heart to survive as well. It’s not just a physical need but a psychological response. Maybe when these animals get close to another willing creature, it lets them know they are worth surviving.
That instinct must extend to humans as well. I wonder if that’s where my desperate need to cuddle comes from. When I was cuddled for the first time earlier this year, I felt special for the first time in my life. And for a man who always feels worthless, it made a difference. I felt I was worthy of touching. I was worthy of getting to know. I was worthy of surviving too.
But now that it’s gone, it’s also made a big difference. And I wonder if I was wrong about being worthy of survival after all.
”Something’s missing in me
I felt it deep within me
As lovers left me to bleed alone
Down here, love wasn’t meant to be
It wasn’t meant to be for me”
”When you close your eyes even then your eyelids are beautiful
for so long there have been traces of you in blood vessels inside my skull”
-Showbread, I Want to get Married
A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to a wedding with an old friend. I didn’t know the married couple and all the attendants were new to me but the friend needed a plus one and borrowed me for the occasion. You see where this is going. I just needed to find something blue.
Despite my anxiety around crowds, especially crowds of strangers, I figured it would be a change of pace. A chance to do something different, to ask off work, and dress up a bit. I just hoped I’d be able to squeeze my binge-eating butt into my old slacks. I did…but barely.
The ceremony itself was fine. It was simple, inside a simple church with simple decoration. No blue sashes or neckties. No blue in the flowers. Just a red-faced toddler sitting in front of me and a bellowing baby sitting behind me and they both screamed in unison just as the ceremony began and continued their commentary throughout because my life.
Despite my current situation, I didn’t feel too bitter or sad about seeing two flesh become one. I was pretty unaffected witnessing the standard union of two people, in love and full of life. It happens every day. Life goes on. Good for them. The only discomfort came from those slacks. But one moment did stick out to me. The pastor read a quote from Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 that goes:
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Having never been in a relationship, I wondered why I’d never been able to find my own plus one. How had I made it 32 years while God made sure I remained lonely? If He had allowed such a declaration to be included in the good book, why have I always been denied the privilege?
While the ceremony was about 30 minutes, the reception went on for three and a half hours. And it was mostly held outside. No blueberries in the fruit plate while the newlyweds went off to be photographed with family. No blue ribbons adorning the arches. Why do people in the south insist on having outside weddings in the middle of summer? I was drenched in sweat and wanted to leave but the girl I went with wanted to stay for the cake cutting and to try to catch the bouquet. Don’t get me wrong, the cake was one thing this big boy was looking forward to but in this case, I’d rather have air conditioning than confections. I was a good sport, however, and smiled and blotted my face and tried to inconspicuously unstick my bat-winged balls.
And when it was cake time, I eagerly got in line. No blue fondant. The lady serving the cake cut off the smallest piece possible for me. Oh, sorry ma’am, I thought I was gonna be able to get more than a few crumbs that fell off your knife. I looked at her, thinking she would realize the error of her ways and cut off a little more for me but she just stood there so I quickly dipped out and ate the slice in three bites.
It was a little dry.
Turns out, the bride wanted to wait until it got dark outside so she and her husband could walk out under sparklers. Which meant more waiting, more forehead blotting and being the iPhone photographer for everyone else who knew each other and wanted to blow up Instagram with high school friends in rolled hair and pretty dresses.
Even the girl I attended with drifted away for a while to take pictures with former work friends she hadn’t seen in a while. I looked around me and saw everyone with someone else. Girlfriends. Boyfriends. Wives and husbands. Best friends. The caterers and photographers doing their jobs. Everyone with a purpose. I stood by the wall, unsure of what to do with myself. And I felt like there should have been someone next to me. Someone to help me up, to keep me warm, to defend me against my own self-destructive thoughts. Someone to make me feel like I also had a purpose. But the only thing that ever stands next to me is an empty void and that void only reminds me that I don’t have a purpose.
Night fell but the heat did not wane. It penetrated through the dark and doled out more sweat for me. All the single ladies gathered around the bride. As she flung the bouquet into the arms of an overzealous 20-something in a billowy yellow dress, I realized I had found my something blue. It was me.
God knows my heart, knows I have a lot of love to give, and yet I always stand alone. Sometimes I think I’m getting close and despite my hesitations to let anyone near, I do because there’s always the faintest hope that maybe my person has finally come, that this could be the one to turn it all around. But they only turn me in the direction I’ve already traced too many times. And I wonder why God would tease and punish me in this way. Denying me is one thing. This just feels deceitful.
I’m not saying I’m more deserving of love than anyone else but I do think I need it more than most. I can’t do life by myself. I can’t conquer my demons all alone like this.
The ache never really goes away. Sometimes it gets easier to deal with but it’s never defeated. Do you know what it’s like to see the world through glass, to feel others through gloves? To live life for bitter and worse, to endure sickness and hell, to forever be separating until death does me apart?
To be one strand already broken?
I’ve been crying a lot lately.
It’s mostly been over inconsequential things, like dog videos. And they’re cute videos about dogs tucking in babies or hugging other dogs. Just generally being sweet and adorable. It sounds lame on the surface to cry over this kind of thing (What the heck, am I a pregnant woman?) but I just love animals and dogs are just so amazing and beautiful and have pure souls. I’ve never met a bad dog. And they’re just so cute and it warms the coldness I have inside. And when I see those damn ASPCA commercials or the inevitable screen grab of abused animals that are advertised on the web, it breaks my heart. I don’t just see the images of freezing puppies chained to a fence or a cat with one eye sitting in the corner of a cage. My mind goes beyond the images. What happened to them to get them in that situation? What cruel person took this innocent creature and tortured it and neglected it? I step into their fur and see the world the way they do. I wonder how long they suffered. I hate that they never got to know love. I worry for them. I wish for them to be okay. And it just makes me so sad that there’s so much suffering in the world, especially suffering animals because no one cares about animals. We hear, “Save the Children, Save the Refugees” and I totally agree with that. But you don’t hear “Save the animals!” as much.
And then on Facebook I saw this video of this kid who had a mental and physical impairment but this guy at Starbucks gave him a chance and made him a barista and the kid said he felt like his life had a purpose now. That made me cry, too. And I thought that was just really nice of that guy to help out the kid and I thought it was great that the kid felt like he had a purpose. And his purpose was making coffee. And that seems so simple and inconsequential and maybe it is, but to him it wasn’t. Maybe it was just the fact that he had something to do, something to contribute to the world. He could help people. It was something so small but he was so grateful for it.
I turn that on myself and I feel like a jerk. I feel like my life has no meaning. I go to work every day and I fold shirts and tell customers their coupons don’t work on Levis and they get pissed at me and give me a hard time and then I go home. What am I contributing to these people, to the world, to life? I have dressed a lot of people for funerals, both attendees and the deceased. I suppose you could say by helping these people dress for a difficult situation, I am easing some of the burden. And maybe I am. And maybe they don’t think twice about my small contribution. I don’t know. All I know is that it’s not enough. But should I not be grateful for the little bit I do? Whether I’m pushing coffee or khakis, if I’m assisting someone make their day easier, isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t we all be helping each other, whether in small or large ways?
I constantly go back and forth between feeling useless and realizing that I am not. Or if I am, I could always do something about it. I could be an activist. I could spread good news. I could give to charity. I could hand out compliments and positive vibes to others. It just never feels like enough because I don’t see the effects of my actions. At work, I send people off with their clothes and never see how good they feel wearing their new outfit. I compliment someone’s haircut and don’t get to know how that might cheer them up if their in a bad mood. I donate blood and never know if it might have saved a life.
I guess this kind of sounds selfish, right? I do all these great things and get nothing out of it! It’s not that I’m looking for recognition or accolades. I just want to know that the admittedly little bit of good that I do is making a difference to someone. In the grand scheme of things, we are all useless. None of what we do or say is really going to matter. But some of us can make the littlest blip on the cosmic radar. Your great leaders. Your great artists. Your presidents and advocates. Those who created a lasting change. Those who started a revolution in thinking, working, loving, living. Even all that might not matter once the world explodes. But at least it might ease the burden on others for as long as everything is still standing.
Last month, my mom asked me what my plans were for my birthday.
“I get off work at 3 and then I’m headed out of town to grab a pizza and cake,” I said.
“What?” I asked.
“Nothing. It’s just pitiful you’ll be by yourself and picking up your birthday dinner.”
“Well, I don’t have any friends, so…”
And that was the end of that conversation.
I know my family isn’t the closest but that small exchange really brought home how emotionally cold we can be toward each other. She didn’t offer a sympathetic look or any word of condolence for my loneliness.
I suppose it could have been because she has a lot on her mind. My grandmother had to have another doctor’s appointment on my birthday. Another 3.5-hour drive. And maybe I’m being selfish for feeling a little neglected but I still left the room feeling like the various hints at hurt I give her go ignored.
It wasn’t the first time I’d given her a heads up on my heart. It’s hard in general for me to open up to her because any time I do, she criticizes me, makes it seem as if my feelings are invalid. So instead of outright letting her know how I feel, I wait for her to initiate an inquiry into my feelings or I’ll throw out a random comment on my discontentment and see if she responds. She never does.
I woke up on my birthday (three weeks ago) and had to get ready for work. The work day was kind of long but fortunately, I didn’t have too many rude customers or any complications. The lunch was catered and we were allowed to wear tacky Christmas sweaters and jeans so I was well-fed and comfortable.
I got off work and went home to open up my birthday cards. I was tired and didn’t want to go out of town but my favorite pizza place is located out of town. I’d been dieting and exercising and had done so well and I wait all year long to eat this pizza. It’s so good that I only want to have it on my birthday to make both the pizza and my birthday all the more special. God, what a loser, eh? So, despite my fatigue, I freshened up and got back on the road.
I thought about finding a place to sit and write once I got into the city. I don’t go out of town often and when I do, I want to explore, to visit the various shops and find a nice, chill place to write. The change of atmosphere really helps boost my creativity and productivity. The problem with that is I was tired and just wanted to pick up my pizza and go back home. It was already dark by the time I reached the pizza place and when I factored in the writing time, pizza eating time, picking up my cake, and the long-ish drive back home, it would be well past midnight before I made it back to my bed.
I thought about writing at the pizza place. That way I could eat the pizza fresh and get in some writing time but when I pulled into the parking lot, the place was packed. I knew I didn’t want to be the sole stranger surrounded by friends and family. Especially not on my birthday, especially when it would have been nice to be surrounded by my own friends and family. So, scratched the writing plan, grabbed the pizza and ate a slice in my car before it got cold.
I’ve tried to be a good person. I’ve always wanted to be accepted and trusted and I’ve made great effort to be the kind of guy that people could come to for laughter, guidance, or at the very least, a comforting presence.
That doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I have so many flaws that my face burns with shame. I’m lazy, selfish, and judgmental. My emotions range from complete apathy in regard to serious subjects to near mental breakdowns over simple slip-ups. Yet despite my irrational tendencies, I try to rise above them and be reasonable. But one person’s reasonable is another person’s bat shit crazy so maybe I’m not doing such a good job. All I can do is try my best. I know I falter. But overall, I hope I do a decent job. I think I’m likeable. I think I make people happy.
But the one thing I’ve neglected is my own happiness. During my life, I’ve met a lot of people who were not good for me. When I was younger, I didn’t always recognize these unsavory souls until later on in the relationship. More recently, I’ve been able to spot them fairly quickly. In either case, I have trouble letting these people go because I don’t want to be the bad guy. Remember, I want to be the one people can talk to, not the one people talk about. I’m always worried the end of a friendship will lead to bitterness and bad memories.
Despite my reservations on removing people from my life, I’m starting to find there’s been a shift in me. As I’ve gotten older, or maybe just more fed up, I am starting to understand the importance of these bad influences being taken away. But each time I consider cutting someone out, my fear of being irrational pops up again. What if I’m blowing things out of proportion? What if I’m the one in the wrong? What if I am just someone who can’t take a joke at my own expense, someone who is too sensitive, someone too needy to be neutral?
But the one question I’ve not thought to ask myself is, “Does it even matter?”
As I prepare myself to say goodbye to a friend, I always feel like I have to have a definitive reason for letting them go. What was the one thing they said to me that I could no longer tolerate? What was the one big event, the one final insult that pushed me into pushing them away for good?
There is usually never one moment or memory that comes to mind. It’s mostly cumulative, a collection of snide comments and false sincerity, lack of support and abundance of superiority. But it’s hard to put someone’s behavior into a single sentence that could sum up my decision. Fortunately for me, when I do decide to stop talking to people, they do not ask for evidence. Most of the time, they don’t even notice. That by itself should be reassurance enough that I did the right thing, that the friendship must not have been that rock-solid in the first place. Still, the doubt lingers.
It still makes me feel better to have a go-to motive for severing ties with others. But I sit back and realize it doesn’t matter if there’s a motive. Maybe it’s not so much about being rational but being resistant to putting up with anyone who makes me feel bad. There’s no right or wrong. People behave differently. Some behaviors mesh. Some do not. Being incompatible with someone does not mean either person is bad or that anyone failed. It just means sometimes we are better off not being around those people. In your life, people are either going to help or harm you, and many times these actions are unintentional on the other person’s part.
We have to take care of ourselves and if someone isn’t making us feel good, we don’t need to be around them. It’s really that simple. That’s not to say we should immediately and entirely break it off with those who give us the occasional side eye or insulting slur. But when the not-so-good feelings are frequent, it’s time to say goodbye.
Although I still struggle with to be liked and although I do feel like I let people down when it’s time for me to bow out, I know I’m doing the right thing. I’ve taken care of too many hearts other than my own and now it’s my turn for some TLC. But still it does hurt. I still think about these people. I still miss them. I wonder if they miss me, if they feel bad, if they feel anything at all. They keep moving forward while I feel stunted. I feel their void almost every day, even if I’m the one who put it there. It would just be nice to know that someone else cared as much as I did. That’s one of the side effects of ending friendships. Sometimes when you cut people out of your life, you’re the only one left bleeding.
“It’s dangerous to fall in love
But I want to burn with you tonight
There’s two of us
Bristling with desire
The pleasure’s pain and fire
-Sia, Fire Meet Gasoline
You go along with your work and your walk in life when, suddenly, you cross paths with someone. And as you carry on, they turn their head to tag along. They reach out their hand in greeting. And never one to turn down an opportunity for friendship, you accept. They’ve found some kind of interest in you. And as they take a seat to look into your life, you start to find yourself interested in them as well.
And then the most unexpected thing happens. Your chest warms at the thought of them. It’s a prickly heat that blooms in your heart. At first, it’s an unknown and unsettling sensation. Everyone else has come and gone like running water, leaving you feeling ice cold. But this searing is stationary. And as you take your own seat to observe their life, the heat gradually intensifies. You see the light in their smile, the kindness in their eyes, the love in their words. And the more you think about this person, the more you want to know. You want to see every picture, read every word, hear every laugh.
Your curiosity is a fire and you want to consume every aspect of them. Your rib cage is like the iron grates of a furnace where you want to place them to keep them safe and warm. You want to hold close to that kind of purity, to protect it. All the while, the heat rises. The burn sears into your soul but it’s the most beautiful kind of burn.
Yet you hold back because you’re nervous and shy and wonder if they feel the same way about you. Maybe they found you to be a passing interest or maybe they felt a little heat as well. You wait for them to make the next move, to fuel the next flame, to follow you to another spot. And they do. And as this person asks to be invited into another aspect of your life, you let them in with the assumption that they are as eager to get to know as much about you as you are about them.
You’ve had napalm in your heart without ever thinking anyone would come along and ignite it. You’ve not only been looking for a connection, but combustibility. And then someone comes along with a match and sparks that desire. And the heart swells as it ignites. And it hurts. But that’s just the heart holding in all the heat. It keeps you warm at night, keeps you moving forward, reminds you that you’re alive. You stare at their face, each feature a flint that fans another fire. They’ve come along. They’ve pulled you in. And they’ve burned their way inside you.
But then the shared interests start to skew. You like more of them than they do of you. And you start to wonder why you have to be the one to initiate each conversation, to singe the tips of your fingers each time you reach out. The things you do for the other person goes unnoticed. The gifts you’ve given go unopened. The words you’ve written go unread. Your humor is lost. Your path is no longer a part of theirs. Somewhere along the way, they’ve gotten up from their seat and set off on their own. But it’s only when the inferno falls away do you see they are not among the ashes.
And you wonder why they’d shake your hand just to keep you at arm’s length. Were you mistaken in thinking they cared more than they did? Maybe they were just a casual observer after all. Maybe they just wanted to watch you burn. And you wonder if, while you were on fire, they might have been handing out matches to a multitude of other people. The thought chills you. You realize they were probably never looking for napalm, just another number. And as the embers evaporate, you don’t feel cleansed, only charred.