I learned a couple days ago that my ex, Alex, is dating someone. Even now, to type that, I feel a twinge of a sick feeling in my stomach.
This morning while at work I broke down. I fled to a rarely used storage room, closed the door, and fell to the ground. I wept, and I shouted, and I hit the floor with my fists. I felt like the ache in my stomach was eating me from the inside out. What did this boy have that I didn't?! Why would he want to be with this other boy, and not me? It was making me insane.
By chance, he started texting me. He got defensive, and said that this boy knew he was a mess and that he was leaving in December, so nothing could happen anyway. They like each other, he said.
I like you, Alex, I texted.
Yes, but you want and deserve more, and I don't have to give that to this guy, he wrote.
Don't you want and deserve more? I asked.
His answer was that yes, he did, but he couldn't have it at this time in his life.
What it came down to, he said, was the original argument, that we weren't right for each other. I made it clear that this was his opinion, and that I have never shared that view of the breakup.
I was miserable, and I couldn't get it to abate. For the first time I have understood the relief people can find in hurting themselves. Although I was never suicidal while I dealt with being gay, this breakup has acquainted me with a desperation I haven't known.
I heard the door opening and stood up as if I had just walked in. This would have been a good move, except that the light was off. The girl that walked in jumped when she saw me, and I beelined it out of there. I recognized her. She is a grad student in the department I work for, and she knew about the breakup. She looked at me and said "Are you okay?" I shook my head and began to cry. "Let's go back in," she said, motioning to the storage room.
She held me, and I sobbed on her shoulder. I talked to her, reading some of the texts, and aching over everything of the last four months.
She validated my feelings, especially that I loved Alex so deeply. She asked me what I loved about him, and listened as I talked about the boy I fell so hard for.
Another friend, Birdy, had been on her way to see me, and showed up just then. The grad student left, and Birdy sat with me as I cried. Finally, we decided it was time for me to leave work. I grabbed my things, clocked out, and we left.
In a wise move, we went to the counseling center, and they found a counselor for me to talk to, since my therapist wasn't available. I talked to him, cried to him, and broke all over again. He helped me deconstruct me emotions, emphasizing how I have been placing my worth on what Alex thought of me. He said that I need to acknowledge the pain of losing him, but work on keeping the feeling of "therefore I am worthless" in check. "Don't run your grief through the 'shame machine'" he said.
At one point my therapist poked her head in. As soon as I saw her I burst into tears again, so relieved to see her, someone who so completely knew me and my pain, and who so completely cared about me. I didn't realize what a big deal she has been for me until that moment.
We came to some resolutions, and I left, finishing out my day.
I went home, tried to sleep, but nothing came. Birdy came over, and we talked. I cried, every part of my body aching. I wanted to cease to exist, to slip into the oblivion of nothingness, and for all the misery to finally stop.
"I just want him to want me," I told Birdy. "I want him to look at me with that look that says he loves me. It's been so frustrating to go on dates with boys once or twice and see in their eyes what I fought for two years to see in Alex's eyes." "I gave him everything. Why wasn't that enough for him?" I asked over and over.
Birdy knelt by my bed and she prayed with me. I wept, and felt so grateful for the angel God has placed in my life.
I don't know what prompted it, but I reached over into my nightstand and grabbed a little black notebook that I used to write poetry in during class over a year ago. If you click the tag "black notebook" on this blog, you can read some entries from it that I've already posted here. I opened it, and began to read.
"Finality is false. Tomorrow is a promise. Today is possibility. And self-awareness is power.
Deep within, infinite potential waits. The light that breaks the seal is the light that shines within us. And that light shines when we finally accept that we have always been enough."
I wept at this. I need to focus on this more.
"I shouldn't look.
I should lower my eyes and avoid you.
You are not like me.
You do not share my passion.
And you are spoken for.
So a simple look does no harm, right?
I'll just look for a moment.
My god, you're beautiful.
But of course you are.
Because while your visage emanates pleasure,
Your soul is to me a blank slate.
And I can paint whatever I want in you.
So I make you perfect.
And you become perfect sensuality.
I'll never touch you.
For the moment I do you'll shatter.
What I've made of you will be in shambles.
For perfection is best left to dreams and fantasies.
And you're best seen from a distance."
This was written about a boy in my Russian class over a year ago. I was so drawn to him, so attracted to him. And I knew he was beautiful because I was projecting all my needs and desires onto him.
"Like a moth to light, I am drawn to you.
I have a need, a thirst! to look and be near you.
You seem to shine, all of you,
and I wonder how it would be to be yours,
Each in turn.
I imagine waking up in your arms,
Looking into your eyes as morning breaks,
Kissing your cheek.
I look from one to the next,
living a lifetime in a glance.
Why do I look?
Why do I wonder?
I have arms and eyes and cheeks all my own.
And I love those eyes, arms, and cheeks.
So why do I look,
Why do fiery passions of "what if"
flood my veins?
Why do I feel this desire clawing at my skin,
trying to tear from within its fleshy prison?
What is the master emotion?
Is it fury?
Does anger's power make all exempt?
what a foolish question.
Humanity echoes from ages past and present
that love is the master emotion.
For love contains all the rest.
But what kind of love is king?
Does lucid infatuation rule?
Or does pleasure?
Perhaps passion owns all the rest.
Or is it yet contentment?
I have comfort.
It sleeps next to me,
wraps itself around me,
pulls me close.
Kisses me when only crickets see.
I wake up next to comfort,
I rest on its chest as sleep starts to fade.
Comfort is mine,
and I am comfort's.
I do not fear its loss.
Then why does the beast within me
yearn to break free?
What love pulls me?
What do I truly want?"
This was about three boys in my Russian class, all of whom were beautiful in their own ways. They would sit in just such a way that I could see all three of them in one glance. They were beautiful. And I imagined being with them. I once again made them into my deepest needs and desires. But I had someone. I had Alex. In this poem, he is the comfort. And comfort has certainly been what I have missed these four months. But as I read this today, I was reminded of the times when comfort seemed to be falling short and leaving me empty handed.
I continued on, reading poetry about my struggles over sexuality. I read prose about the numbness I felt. I continued, and then I came to this entry, where I think out loud:
"What is necessary for a happy relationship?
What more would I want?
I want to be wanted. I want to be looked at. I want to see him look at me "that way."
I want him to do nice things for me. I want him to be a man and be proactive sometimes.
He seems directionless, doubtful, and insecure.
Are the things that hold me there strong enough to support a lasting happiness?"
This hit me hard as I read it, slamming the sick feeling in my stomach right out. These were the exact things I was saying to Birdy earlier. And here I was, more than a year earlier, saying the exact same thing. Wondering whether or not I wanted to stay in the relationship, wondering whether what I felt was strong enough.
I remember this time. I remember looking up articles online while at work, trying to figure out if our relationship was healthy enough to last, trying to figure out if I was truly satisfied. I remember looking at these boys in my Russian class, and imagining the way it would be if they were mine, and if they were the person I wanted and needed. I remember the neglect I felt from Alex. The unmet need of having someone engaged in the relationship with me. Wanting him to want me.
The one argument we had from the beginning of the relationship to the end was simply "Alex, just love me!" "I do love you, Ty!" "Then show me!"
Kelly Clarkson sang it best in "Where is Your Heart":
"I don't expect the world to move underneath me,
But for God's sake, would you try?
Where is your heart,
Cause I don't really feel you.
Where is your heart,
What I really want is to believe you.
Is it so hard
To give me what I need?
I want your heart to bleed,
That's all I'm asking for.
Where is your heart?"
As I read this and remembered all this, I realized that Alex isn't doing any less for me now than he was then. He is not emotionally present now, and he wasn't then. He is neglectful now, as he was then. I receive no affections of his love, no expression of his desire to give his heart to me. I see no look in his eye that tells me he loves me above all else, not now, and rarely then. The only difference is that now he is not physically present, and he can date boys who are okay with his lack of giving.
But it also means that I can look for those Russian boys, so to speak. That yearning for a fulfilled and satisfying relationship can now become an action, a search.
What this really did for me today was show me that he did not take anything away from me that I already didn't have, save for the illusion that I had it.
I will still struggle. I will still fight the pain and the sick feeling in my stomach. I am not healed. I am not ready to fall in love. I am by no means ready to go out to dinner with Alex and this poor boy who he doesn't have to emotionally invest for. But I can take one more step away from him, and from the pain of the last four months. And I can take away a little more of the power he had over me, that he used so carelessly. I can take one more step toward freedom.
So Alex, where is your heart?