“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.
We preach about weight loss and disease prevention and other aspects of physical health but we rarely talk about taking care of our mental health.
While it’s generally accepted that we all struggle from time to time, very few like to admit they might struggle more often or to a greater degree than what might be considered the norm. But if no one talks about their struggles, how can we even define a norm?
I’ve always tried to be transparent with my struggles with depression, disordered eating, body dysmorphia, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. It’s because I want others to know they aren’t going through it alone. One of the worst parts of mental illness is how isolating it can be. I’ve often felt that no one could possibly understand my loneliness, fear of people, the compulsion to binge eat, or my deep-seated self-hatred. But I’m not the only one. So many people deal with it every day. And knowing that doesn’t fix the problem but it does take some of the pressure off it. And it makes you feel a little less alone and a little more understood.
And because we don’t like to talk about it, you never know who’s going through something difficult. Money, class, and religious affiliation does not exclude you from depression. Just think of celebrities like Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, and Robin Williams. They have access to the best psychiatric care possible and it didn’t help them (assuming they sought treatment). And through the years I’ve learned the people from high school who I thought had it all were in actuality suffering greatly. One classmate killed himself about a year ago and another, arguably one of the most popular girls in my grade, is currently in treatment for severe anorexia. I’ve even talked to people who said they thought I had it together but I’ve always felt like a huge mess.
You just never know what someone is going through in secret. So why do we make it so hard to tell each other? Why do we make it so difficult on ourselves to reach out, to give a helping hand or to ask for one?
I got to a point where I knew something had to change in my life or I just wasn’t going to have one. So I sought counseling. I’ve been in therapy for about a year now and while none of my problems have been magically erased, I do believe it has helped.
One of the best things about it is just knowing I have a safe zone where I can rant, cry, and ask questions without the fear of being judged or shamed. But really that’s something anyone with a good friend can do. And let me tell you, therapy ain’t cheap. So if you do have a good friend with a willing ear, use it. If you’re in a position to go to therapy, use it. If neither of those are an option, research online resources.
I don’t have as many destructive thoughts anymore. I don’t automatically tear myself down when I make a mistake. I’m insecure and I want positive attention and reassurance and companionship. I want to make a difference, feel like my life has meaning. I’m also scared of being left behind, scared I’m not good enough for people, scared to stand up for myself. I can be aloof or distant because I don’t want to be abandoned again. I let others reach out first because I don’t think anyone wants to talk to me and I don’t wanna be a burden. I have high standards and low self-esteem. I love giving advice but can’t take criticism. I’m hard on others and extremely hard on myself. But it’s only because I know we can all do better.
And all those good intentions and bad habits make me human. And I realized there’s a difference between wanting to be better and beating myself up for not being perfect. I’m never going to get it right every time, whether that comes to people, work, or art. But that doesn’t mean I’m not worthy of the good things life and people have to offer.
One of the things I’ve learned in therapy is to love myself, something I’m not sure I’ve ever done, something I never even thought I should or could do. But it makes sense. When you don’t love yourself, you allow other people to dictate your actions, your mood, and even your self-worth. But the more you love yourself, the less others have control over you and the more you get to have a say in how you live your life.
We make the easiest things in the world so hard for others. And ourselves. We keep affection at a distance because we don’t want to feel vulnerable. We attack others’ choices because it makes us feel superior. Pain begets pain and, well, that’s just not cool. But I get it. I want to lash out at people sometimes too. Not because I want them to hurt like I’m hurting but because a lot of the time I don’t think people realize how badly I am hurting.
But I guess that’s when we need to take a step back from our own pain to recognize other people’s paths. If only we could use our experiences to help guide instead of gun down the hard times of others. Pain isn’t a pissing contest. We all have it crappy in one way or another. And as long as we can keep our crap and everyone else’s crap in some kind of perspective, it might make things easier on all of us.
55 miles. 1.5 hours. 2 more days. Speedometer climbing from 45 to 55. 3 traffic lights. 4 songs left on the CD. The slowest, saddest song was next. 5 minutes and 33 seconds. My favorite.
Light poles illuminated the sky like shiny pearls forming a winding path. Leading me back to the smoke that filled my lungs and dried my lips, the noise that cluttered my brain and strained my neck. A warehouse of carpeted excess. Flashing lights and MIDI sound effects. Chirping machines and amber drinks. Scraping ash in a silver vest night after night. 2 cars whiz past me. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I graduated college and received a degree and depression. The security of school was gone and I had no choice but to become an adult. And a janitor in a casino. But how could I be an adult when I was never a kid? Just a trash bag enveloping a skeleton. 100 lights down that hill, steering me toward that ash. That smoke. That drink. Those epileptic lights mocking me. I so badly wanted to be scraped away as well.
55 to 65. 3 years wasted. 90,000 dollars down the drain. Humiliation. Rejection. Gnashed between God’s teeth. 1 life wasted. No friends or family to see the pain. No instructors to see the potential. 2 tears rolling down my cheeks. Such a waste. I could have been better. I was too weak, too insignificant, much too afraid to touch the face of a lover, to grip tight to a goal, to push past the persistent patterns that planted me to that place. Too poor to leave. Every decision was dumb. Every friend was fake. But I was the fakest of them all. A total fraud. I couldn’t do it anymore.
The bug-blurred windshield splintered the light in all directions, turning the pearls into shards, stabbing me on my way down. I wouldn’t do it anymore. I could stop.
So I accelerated.
65 to 75. 2 hands on the wheel. 5 cars trailing behind me. 1,000,000 thoughts, fears, hesitations, and determinations flooding my brain. My heart pounded at the thought. Would I really do it this time? Adrenaline sang in my ears. Then a calm crept up and confirmed my course. I squeezed the steering wheel until I saw 10 white knuckles. And then I closed my eyes.
75 to 80. 80 to 85. Darkness for 1, 2, 3 seconds. Eyes squeezed shut. Lights bursting behind my lids like silent gunfire, a celebration of an end. Just let go. It doesn’t matter anymore. Because you never did. 85 to 90. My grip softened. I peeled my fingers away and for the longest time, I felt like I was floating. Flying. Skyrocketing toward rest.
And then the fear pounded into me, funneled into my fingertips and pried my eyes open. I steadied the wheel, let off the gas pedal. A Rolodex of responsibilities spun around my brain. It was only a few seconds. But I wanted to. I needed to. I just didn’t have the guts to have mine splayed across the dashboard.
I turned into the parking lot and turned my life over to another night of labor, of boredom and ashtrays, fingerprints and sticky beer bottles. Clinking glasses and walking holes in floors. I tugged at the last bit of moisture that clung to my lashes. I watched as the knuckles turned as pink as my eyes.
I learned the real labor was existing with this sickness, to breathe with no pulse, to live with no purpose, to have to fight with lungs and heart just to get out of bed, to know you are a fuckup, to count each day as both a miracle that you made it through and a tragedy that you didn’t die.
8 more hours to go. I couldn’t do it anymore.
But I did it anyway.
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.
“Let’s type words
Because they amount to nothing
Play it down
Pretend you can’t take what you’ve found
But you found me
On a screen you sit at permanently…”
-Ellie Goulding, Guns and Horses
When you get carpel tunnel from scrolling through your news feed, you’re probably following too many people.
It’s always interesting to me when I see others who follow hundreds of users on social media. I wonder how they’re able to keep up with so many individuals. How long does it take them to get through their feed before they hit that familiar old post they left off on from their last visit?
It takes me quite a while to go through all the ones I follow and I don’t even follow that many. But I do get through everyone. I know what they’re up to, which is why I followed them in the first place. It means I’m interested in each person. But if you’re following so many people that the individual gets lost in the abundance of memes and controversy-of-the-week type rants, then what’s the point? What are you getting out of it?
I don’t like change so I don’t follow too many new people. ‘Cause when I follow someone, my feed changes. And it’s usually not for the better. It’s not so much that anyone is annoying or not interesting. It’s just that I’m a douche bag. But I think it’s also because I want to be careful with who I follow because I already have a full plate and a limited attention span. If I’m with you, I want to give you all I have. I don’t want to follow you and then now follow up with a little communication. I don’t want you to get lost in the shuffle. You’re more important than that.
I used to assume other people worked that was as well. People got to know me and know what was going on with me and my life. They saw each post, read every word. ‘Cause why else would you follow me, right? But sometimes I check on users I follow and who follow me and see they are following hundreds of others. And I realize that, compared to the handful of people I follow, my posts probably bleed into everyone else’s. I am probably scrolled past because there’s hundreds of images and words to get through and no one has time to dedicate to my long-ass text posts. I always hoped the content would hook them despite the length. But that just isn’t the case.
But I’m just not like that. And that’s when attachments become one-sided. You forget you’re not as special to someone as they may be to you. While you’re breaking your finger to scroll through the endless fuckjerry’s and beigecardigans, I’m focusing on you. And I like your stuff. And you like mine. But only occasionally. And it’s hard to understand that your acknowledgement is really just a like-and-run. Nothing really absorbs or resonates. You pepper your feed with red hearts while my heart is grafting onto you. You peruse analytics while I analyze you as a person.
And “liked” become messages become attempts at genuine friendships, which are shrugged off in favor of favoriting a funny quote instead. And I’m let down. And every time your screen name pops up, it pops me in the face. And I realize I’ve been stupid and have developed feelings for someone who can’t tell me apart from the other bearded guys they follow. I feel lame with a quivering stomach and confused heart. I gotta stop this now before this one-sided situation goes any deeper.
I gotta let you go. I unfollow and my feed gets that much smaller. While I deal with my feelings and try to move on with this unresolved relationship, wanting you to know I felt and how much it hurt, I know you’ll never notice me bowing out, replaced by hundreds of other memes and montages. And it sucks. But I have to remember that I never really knew you that well in the first place. I have to remind myself my chest ran ahead of my skull. It was my fault, really. Time and Tumblr do not a friendship make.
But I did like you.
“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.
I am always covered up. Because I’m a big guy, I prefer to wear layers. You’ll never find me without an undershirt. It acts as a substitute corset that helps smooth out lumps and bumps.
But it gets old wearing so much fabric all the time. I always feel boxed in, caged by my own clothing. It’s hot, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s constricting.
One day, I decided to sleep naked. I always sleep in a top and underwear but that night I was feeling experimental so I ditched my drawers and pulled my shirt over my head.
And then I snuggled into bed.
I found a comfortable position and as I put my hand on my bare stomach, I realized my skin was warm. I know that’s an obvious, if not odd, observation. Like, duh, right? People tend to be warm. But you have to remember I am always touching my clothes. When I rub my chest or scratch my back or cross my legs, I’m interacting with relatively cool fabric. But that night, it was skin on skin. And it was warm. And it was comforting.
And it just made me realize how out of touch I am (pun intended) with not only myself, but with other people. I’ve never touched someone else’s skin, never felt safe enough to get close to other people’s warm parts. And while my hand grazed my stomach, I realized it would probably be a nice feeling if I could. It’s something so simple, something so many people take for granted. And something I have yet to experience.
And I imagined how good it could feel and how soothing it could be, the kind of soothing that wasn’t just good to the touch but could do wonders for the soul.