She sits there, across the table from me. Her eyes are glistening, she’s almost crying. I can’t tell if she knows how hard this is for me. Obviously she’s been hurt. Her voice stammers and I feel her from deep inside. I’m not good at this. I tend to shy away from confronting my fears around relationships and the past especially when one of them is sitting less than two feet away from me. I tried to tell her, six months ago, when we first looked at each other and did that eyes-meet-who-are-you dance – that I was challenged. Yet, actually I think that it’s more like I’m cursed.
Somewhere in the few times that we’d been together I’d freaked out and left without a saying a word. Writing a note instead – a collection of muddled thoughts laid out in two short lines and then I was gone. She says she read it and from what I’m hearing she thought that I was blaming her for all my ills. I couldn’t take who I was when I was with her. I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t be myself. I didn’t quite know how to act when it wasn’t just about me anymore. I felt so useless, so lost, like I was embracing my past and everything about it was still the same.
I’ve tried to avoid this moment. I’ve tried to avoid even thinking about this moment. Now it’s here and there’s nothing to do but just let her talk, let her say the things that she needs to say. Mercifully I don’t seem to have those feelings where I need to be right. I know that I handled it wrong. I know that I handled the entire affair, from start to finish, from birth to death, from conception to destruction as if I wasn’t really involved. As if everything was gonna come out all right without me even lifting a finger or saying a word.
Sitting here, listening to the sound of her voice, the inflection, the way she projects her vowels like she’s a kid in school learning the alphabet for the first time. I’m hearing her speak but I’m thinking of Gina. I’m thinking of Debbie. I’m thinking of Nadia and Stephanie. I’m thinking about how much I was in love with all of them, or at least how much I thought that I was. I’m thinking about the times we had together and I’m remembering them leaving, leaving me to go back to getting high. Leaving me after three years, after two, after six months, after I went away to jail.
When a girlfriend leaves you for drugs it isn’t the same as when she leaves you for another lover or the relationship just sort of ends, you both mutually calling it quits. When she leaves you to go back to getting high there’s nothing that you can really say or do. There’s certainly nothing that I can say or do, as many times in my life I’ve been guilty of this very same sin, the draw of using being so much greater than the bond of love. The only recourse is to wait. To wait for her to finish using, to get help, to maybe want be with me again. Only for me this has never happened.
Whether I like to admit it or not, these days, these past behaviors and fears is what I bring with me to a relationship. I carry the carcasses of former love affairs. I take all the pain that I have carried for years and present it like an offering of sorts. Here, if you want me, you gotta deal with all the internal chaos that I bring with me.
Looking across the kitchen at the microwave’s digital clock I vaguely remember that there were things that I had planned on doing this morning. There was a small list somewhere in my brain. It is now shoved away, lost, forgotten. I can’t even remember what time I had said I would show up at the studio. I think that maybe I should go work out or walk to the post office, drink some coffee, read the newspaper. I need to shower, I need to shave and get dressed, start my day.
Across the table she sits, silent now. Staring down she’s avoided eye contact the entire time she’s been here. Her gloves and sunglasses off to one side, a New York Times crossword puzzle sticking out of her tooled leather bag. Because of awkward moments like this I have avoided intimacy. I have avoided a whole section of my life and this morning I wasn’t able to avoid it any more.