“I’ve never met someone like you before,” he said.
I returned my best Marilyn Monroe gaze, parting my lips to respond, though nothing came out.
My chest fluttered…like a butterfly twitting about in an empty barrel.
It’s not that I didn’t know I didn’t feel the same way. I knew, but in a faraway place; a place that demanded discounting. I was twenty-seven, without a prospect in sight.
I told him he was too old for me, I had been on the rebound, that we had to break up so I could date other people. He complained I was holding things against him that were out of his control. I wrung my hands together and furrowed my brow.
He said he didn’t care if I dated other people. He’d made all his decisions in his life out of fear and he wanted to make this one out of love. We weren’t breaking up.
In the ensuing months, I talked myself out of all the things I knew. That I didn’t want to marry someone older than me, that I wanted to be with someone more ambitious, that I choked every time he stuck his tongue down my throat, passing it off as a kiss.
Who was I to judge? He was older and wiser. I was young and unsure and so very adept at ignoring myself. My voice was trapped in the empty barrel and the barrel was soundproof.
Forever is much longer than anyone tells you. Forever is a time during which a trapped voice yawns and stretches and pokes its head out like a genie from a bottle.
It makes noises that it’s tired of being ignored. Once it pipes up, it’s hard to shut it up, and then you have a real problem on your hands. You’ve made a mess of things.
In the end, I was fortunate that my neurosis paled in comparison to his psychosis, breaking the dam of denial. I got out, not quite unscathed, but considering… it wasn’t so bad.
Drama masks one’s flaws. So much easier to focus on his drug addiction, which consistently created the catastrophe du jour. I did that for a few years before seeing the degree to which I’d abandoned myself from the get-go, and in so doing, contributed to his ruin.
Though I found the love of my life shortly after, the love that so surprised me was the love I found even later. Self-loathing can be worn like Harry Potter’s invisible cloak, naked to even the eye of the one who wears it.
Once I understood, well, then I knew. That’s when I began to love both the person I didn’t know I hadn’t and the last one I ever thought I would.