Writing this feels like my heart is being pinched between two fingers, held up to the light and rolled like a marble, just like the bunny heart in this photograph, which I scooped from butcher paper and examined over my kitchen sink. It makes me feel like my love is an organ to be scrutinised. I try not to reduce events to story-worthy components or turn private episodes into public tales. But, now and then I feel like the only way to close a chapter is by writing the bit that comes at the end. And so, I give you this.
Slightly more than a year ago, a devastatingly unhealthy relationship came to a close. The break-up was ill-timed and awful, but with it came incredible relief. I felt the potential for lightness, like I was slowly returning to a well-built life. Suddenly single, after years of scorning Sex and the City as irrelevant crap I felt a creepy affinity to the one who eats too much cake and tosses the leftovers in the trash, only to retrieve it from the bin and take a few more bites. Bobbing in fresh new freedom, I felt panicky that one day, I’d have to learn how to go out with a man, and framed dating as a dreaded but necessary pursuit. My relationship status became an ominous blob casting a three-storey shadow over its prey (me). I resented how easy it was to let the rest of the world melt into the background while I showcased my self-absorption and preoccupation with finding love.
Girlfriends and I joked about the perils and pitfalls of dating, about the risk and danger of trust, about showing a new man “the naked”, about the fact that our bodies are like record albums — each time you play the record, the vinyl deteriorates therefore each time you listen to a song, that’s the best it will ever sound. In other words, today is the best my body will ever look, so a man who sees me naked three years from now will see me after three more years of record-playing. We joked to reduce the sense of urgency about acquiring gratifying love, and to make light of real anxieties about trust, intimacy and affection, which strained like elastic bands clamped around our hearts.
I wrote posts for this blog about botched dates and ridiculous encounters, vignettes that came off slightly funny, slightly nasty, tempered with slightly sad. A list of the ten worst lines men laid on me was vindicating to compose, but rereading it now makes me frown, gulp, and feel a bit ill. I don’t believe dating is futile, that men are jerks, that my energy should be diverted to landing a mate. I don’t believe that sarcasm and humour adequately bandage a hurt, nor do I feel like there must be blame or fault when a connection doesn’t work out. But, I do believe that there is a spot at my side, which has been vacant nearly eight years, and which yawns like a conspicuous hole. And, I’ve grown skeptical that it will ever be occupied by a good man who sincerely wants to stick around.
I know there are people who would scold me for sounding like I need a man to complete the picture of my life, and indeed, that’s not what I mean. But, after years of trying to sound confident and content in my independence, and like the Little Red Hen, prepared to do the whole job on my own, I am admitting that I don’t want to. I am fucking tired of waking up to no one trying to catch my gaze across two pillows. Tired of running all the errands and remembering when to get eggs. Tired of sharing exciting news with my cat, of sucking it up and pretending I don’t really need that hug. Tired of no one bringing exciting news home to me, reminding me we need eggs, taking my wrists and drawing my arms around his waist because today is a day when a hug is simply required.
I feel like I’ve written this blog post a few times in the past year. Tentative springtime dates left me flat, a series of bland evenings spent gazing into the faces of men with nothing to say. Men who made me feel like a goofy lady whose hands were always in the wrong place, an unsophisticated weirdo with lurid tattoos and out-of-fashion pants, a potty-mouthed woman who had no idea how to modulate her behaviour on a first date. Probably, my dates detected none of those traits, and all that judgey anxiety was pumped by my efficiently worried heart. Then, I met someone who was ill-matched but funny and kind, and I spent three months telling myself things were really going places. When he ended it, I cried at inappropriate moments for days, not really tears for the guy, rather for a sense of lost potential.
And then, someone new came along. He’d simmered on the backburner for nearly a year, a sweet man whose daily routines bisected my own, and he kicked around in my thoughts even though romance didn’t seem to be in the cards. He was seeing someone about whom he seemed quite serious, and my inner pessimist observed, “Of course he’s taken. It’s because he’s a good guy. If he was a dickhead, he’d be knocking at your door with a wedding ring and the date already booked at the church!” A girlfriend suggested he was a reminder that there was a lovely man out there, somewhere, who would eventually come into my life. Things fell into place: both single, both interested, both willing to take a cautious chance; our paths at last bisecting then merging, it would seem. For awhile, our steps were in tandem, and then, overnight, they were not.
Unlike the parade of social retards and emotional children who littered my 2009, this man is no dickhead, no weirdo, no jerk. And so, this one really stings. It’s more flattering to imagine he backed away from an emotional gamble, but I know better than to revise a story to suit myself. Now, I am reassembling my heart into a whole without putting either of us on display, without rolling our story between my fingers like scraps plucked from butcher paper, without reducing my disappointment at another lost potential into material fit for a blog.