I drove up in front of her house yesterday morning. I’d woken up a half hour before in the back seat of my car at a nearby rest area. I’d been unsuccessfully trying to reach her for months, and decided to try apologizing again. Maybe this time she’d let me do so.
Because she wanted to believe in me, she pushed aside the lies and rumors that swirled around me and looked through glass 49 different times at my shrinking face. But we’d had just one telephone conversation since I last spoke to her in 2015, and that was only because she thought it might be someone else on the other end of the call she chose to accept. Our glass-wall conversations had nevertheless been face-to-face, and I wanted to apologize to her face-to-face as well. She has no idea how badly I feel. I have carried the weight that is the debt I owe her for all of this time. She’d say I owe her nothing. I say I owe her so much more than even I can understand.
She was a very good friend to me at a time when I desperately needed one. She went above and beyond. She wanted to love me, and I wanted to love her, too. I really did. I just couldn’t. George Strait says you can’t make a heart love somebody. I tried to prove George Strait wrong, but George Strait is right.
My heart was taken by someone else. It shouldn’t have been. It wasn’t okay for it to be. But it was, and she who owned it had broken it. I’d pushed her into breaking it, and can’t blame her for doing so, but I wasn’t able to tell the person on the other side of the glass all of the things I wanted to tell her about the condition of my heart. The circumstances wouldn’t allow it. I tried to hint at it, but how could I possibly say things so that person on the other side of the glass could understand me, while those listening could not? I didn’t see a way to do it. Some of my hints were taken… wrong. I was frustrated that I couldn’t express myself. I couldn’t even write about it, because my letters had an audience that didn’t need to know the things I had to say.
Yesterday, when I saw her again, she called herself a bitch and said I wouldn’t like the person she really is… and she tried to prove it by hurting me with her words. I’m sure she even meant some of them, maybe all of them. But I don’t think she understands that there’s nothing she could possibly say that would be worse than what I’ve heard from others.
She also said, “I’m a mom. I have four girls. I’m getting married again. My man wouldn’t like you. Good ol’ boys would…” she trailed off. But “do harm to me,” was the implication.
But I’ve been down that road, too.
I mean, I guess good ol’ boys who walk free could, if they wished, do more than bash in my face and break my bones and try to sexually assault me — all things that have been done to me since I last spoke to her in person — I just doubt a free man would risk losing his freedom for such as me.
I got the point, though.
“Why aren’t you writing brilliant things?”
That was a change in tone. I was confused by it. It didn’t seem to be sarcastic. I told her that I don’t write because I have nothing to say. And if I had something to say, nobody would want to read it, anyway. This new life… it’s a lonely world in which most won’t even return an email. Facebook’s blocking feature gets a work out from those who used to know me.
It’s not possible to understand how I feel. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but it seems I’m really good at hurting people. And because I hurt someone I loved, I’m in a group that it’s still okay to hate, still okay to treat like pond scum. Maybe that’s deserved. Many would say it is indeed. Yet I have a hard time with the way I’m esteemed. Logically, I get it, but my heart sure doesn’t.
In my last life I spent nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with a person who became the world to me. She needed me, desperately. I’m drawn to that kind of need. The docs say it’s a low-self-esteem issue at work within me. They tell me that we got to the root of it. I marvel that a lifetime of choices were influenced by things that seem so simple. But humans are complicated, and the way we react to simple things isn’t always so simple. I’ve heard it said that hurt people… hurt people. I guess I’m a statistic to prove the saying correct.
It annoys me to write that last sentence. It feels weak to write that last sentence.
But who am I kidding? Nobody gives a rat’s derrière whether or not I’m annoyed at such things.
The drama machine said a lot of things I became too tired and broken to argue against. Nobody wanted to hear the truth, and it would have been a waste of effort and words to try to share it.
But I can tell you this, dear reader, and if you want to believe something true you should believe this:
She whom I loved [still love] was the sweetest person I’ve ever met in my life. She had so much potential. She had lived a life in which she’d been forced to keep her pain silent or face undeserved shame, ridicule, terror… (terror is the right word for it). It had taken years to break that terror down into something smaller and less scary. I’d seen someone who had been verbally and emotionally pounded into a state of timidity, and I’d helped that timid little mouse emerge into something full of hope for the future. I played a big part in that transformation, and it moved my heart and made me feel useful.
I loved. My love was labeled manipulation. How can that be? I didn’t feel like I was manipulating. I felt like I was head-over-heels for someone I wanted to marry, and I wanted to give her “happily ever after.” I’ve been shown tables and statistics, and the writings of smart head-doctors have been shared with me. I’m not stupid, and I really want to accept what those smart docs say, but I just don’t feel it. What I feel inside is much different than what the words describe.
Lots of people saw the man who stood on a stage and traveled the world and said things that moved people and was interviewed by cameras with big shiny bright lights, and they thought that guy was great. A handful of women wanted to date that guy. A handful of women wanted to marry that guy. “That guy” was annoyed because he knew “that guy” was not what those women thought he was. But she whom I loved [still love] saw the person who farted too much and ate too much and weighed too much and picked his nose almost constantly. And yet she still said wanted to marry him. She said so repeatedly, and I wanted very much to believe she meant what she said. Some would say she didn’t know what she wanted, that she couldn’t know what she wanted. I think they underestimate her. Someone who has been through the things she’s been through has lots of issues, but it’s my opinion that when she consistently says what she wants for months and years, it just might be possible that she knows what she wants. But just in case, I planned to give her a very long time to change her opinion: I told her it would be eight years, to be exact, from the day when she started calling me her boyfriend until the day she could marry me if she still wanted to do so at that time. She needed to get her degree and face the temptations of college before I’d be satisfied that she really wanted to be with me for life.
For a long time I’d placed a wall up to keep my emotions from going to where they should not go. One conversation with her dad, in which he told me that he would be proud to call me his son-in-law, tore those walls down to rubble. When the walls fell, in flooded a rush of complicated feelings and emotions that I’ll never be able to explain to anyone who isn’t trying very hard to understand. A person would have to want to try to understand in order to even get close. I’m not a stupid man. I knew how it would look. I decided she was worth the risk. I am not justifying the choices I made. My choices were wrong. The facts of what actually happened aren’t anywhere near what was claimed by the gossip-loving circus of people who spread “fake news,” but what really happened was still wrong. Still wrong. Still very, very wrong. I knew better.
To me, she whom I loved [love] wasn’t defined by the number of trips she’d made around the sun. She was the one who had moved my heart with her tears. She had moved my heart with the strength I witnessed beneath the layers of weakness behind which she had hidden for so long. She had opened up to me, and none other. I was flattered by that. I, too, was a person in hiding: I hid under false confidence, which covered extreme self-esteem issues. She showed me what was under her façade and I showed her what was under mine, and we still wanted to hang out with nobody else. I wanted to believe her when she said she was going to marry me someday. Others try to convince me she didn’t know what she was talking about. Sometimes they almost succeed. Sometimes I’m not sure. Sometimes I want to eat a bullet because it hurts to think about it all. I never had an appetite for bullets before this happened, yet now I am much closer to understanding those who’ve consumed them.
I don’t “write brilliant things” because nobody wants to hear what I have to say. Nobody wants to deal with what I have to say. It’s definitely not comfortable to read what I have to say.
I see a lot of things differently now. I wanted to explain some of those things to the one who had on 49 occasions been separated from me only by a piece of glass.
“What do you want?” she’d asked.
I spent a large amount of clock-ticks thinking about matters relating to her. I wanted to express them to her and I wanted to try to find words that would express the apology that burns inside me. I didn’t find those words when I finally saw her face-to-face again. Instead, I saw a person who was so disgusted that for a brief period of our conversation she felt the need to protect herself by making sure the buttons of her shirt were done up to her neck, so that the nearby pond-scum didn’t see anything he shouldn’t see.
I understand why so many think such reactions to my presence are warranted, but you can also believe this is true: I wouldn’t have even noticed the unfastened buttons if such an effort wasn’t made to fasten them. I wasn’t there to look at cleavage. I was there to express remorse and apologize. A lot of assumptions go along with the label I now carry. Those assumptions are disgustingly incorrect.
This new life has very little joy. I wish I could tell others how to avoid a life like this, but the audience, like Elvis, has left the building.
“He’s so smart, Jenny. You’d be so proud of him. I am. He, uh, wrote a letter, and he says I can’t read it. I’m not supposed to, so I’ll leave it here for you. Jenny, I don’t know if Momma was right or if, if it’s Lieutenant Dan. I don’t know if we have a destiny, or if we’re all just floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both is happenin’ at the same time.”
– Forest Gump