It’s funny how much we allow our parameters of reality to be defined by love.
One moment you’re standing on your own two feet, looking at a broad horizon peppered with people, things yet to conquer, ideas to be challenged. Shit’s uncertain, but you’re cool, you’re collected, you’re self reliant and resourceful–you’ve been that way for as long as you can remember, for effectively forever. But maybe you take a look downwards to tie a shoe or root for something in a pocket and when next you look up there is only one thing in the foreground, and he’s incredibly close, incredibly earnest, incredibly warm. And just like that, there’s just one thing to win and work for, one idea to wrap your mind around, one warmth to grow into. Reality constricts: you don’t miss the horizon, your goals become willfully tangential to those of someone else. And hey–those feet once so firmly rooted in the ground? Baby, you’re floating, and your feet don’t touch the bottom. But you take it–and you like it– ’cause he loves you, or he says he does, and you in your infinite wisdom think he does, and ’til he got there you didn’t realize how goddamn tired you were of fighting every battle on your own. Life is good. You don’t have to cry alone for two years, except when he makes you, and he’s learning how to make you less and less, so that’s something. But then something joggles loose, reality dilates, and suddenly you’re squinting up into the sun like a portly little mole who’s been underground for decades, blinking as you look around at a landscape that’s changed so much you no longer recognize it. Huffing the air, rubbing your eyes, you wonder where everybody went, why the world is so large, and what the fuck it could have been you had your sights on when last you saw the sky through nobody’s lens but your own.
I’m there now.
I know what it feels like to be tossed incautiously aside and to be betrayed–betrayed for real–with sexual organs and everything. Having an invested partner is a beautiful thing, but the repercussions of its going sour, I tell you, are the pits. From one moment to the next I’m not sure if I’ll smash something or sob, and I can’t tell you how many spontaneous, wild fits of crying the bathroom at work has seen over the course of the past five days. For nearly two years I’ve grown myself around Greg, learning him, loving him, patiently waiting for him while he does his growing and trusting that, at the end of the day, I matter enough that he’ll grow toward me, too. Perhaps foolishly, I pinned my deepest joy upon the next time I’d see him, considering he and I were a perpetual long distance love story. Now, with him forcibly removed from my world of his own cavalier accord I find myself, for the first time perhaps ever, extremely lonely (lonely!? I get lonely? What?) and extremely confused about who the fuck I am and what I want.
I’ve spent so long winding myself around Greg that the reflection that meets me upon regarding myself in the mirror is not the woman I think I remember from two falls ago. That girl was writing an ambitious thesis, dominating in seminars, slinging razor-edged wisecracks so fast they made whooshing sounds around others’ ears, tutoring, drinking copious amounts of cheap rose wine before dining hall dinners and giggling maniacally with graphic design buddies over thai noodles. She was plotting a future that involved a foreign country, a grand escape, a plan to be an academic and change people’s lives for the better. What a sovereign nation I was! What an island! And then Greg stepped on the scene. There was a tectonic shift, a comfortable collision, suddenly, an aggregate “we.” For two years I got lost in the hinterland created by our borders’ collision and now that there’s a rift between us that spans from Hartford, Connecticut, to Coos Bay, Oregon, the distance between fidelity and philandering, maturity and uncertainty, I have nothing left to do but go back to what used to be my base camp and see whether it’s tenable, or if I can even recognize it upon arrival.
We were together through one of the greatest adventures of my life–my year in Spain. Every night I shared my world with him, despite the ocean that separated us. Perhaps it sounds silly, but so many of my memories from that year don’t even feel like my own now. I signed the paperwork. I gave him joint custody. So much of who I’ve become I can only trace through phone calls with him, nights in a shared twin bed in Madrid, lazy afternoons holding hands and walking around cities that didn’t belong to either one of us, reunions that felt good enough to negate having been apart for so long and missed him so much.
It’s been so long since I imagined a future without him in it that I don’t even know how to begin. He used to like to talk about marrying me, about a future. It scared the shit out of me and I balked, even considered dumping him for suggesting such a ridiculous, premature prescription. But slowly, sweetly, he wore me down, talked about kids, about second childhoods in Europe, about traveling together, about being part of one another’s lives in a way I finally trusted. Perhaps he was just kidding–about everything, including loving me–but it seemed sincere. I decided not to fix it if it wasn’t broken. For the first time in my life, I just let go and I believed. But things have changed, there’s too many broken things to pick up, let alone fix and now I wonder, who am I? What do I want? Where am I going, and why am I going there?
I don’t know. I can’t know yet, but… I guess… I’m going to find out. 🙂