Monday, September 17, 2012

When I am willing to be eaten

Once upon a time there lived a mystical star-worshiping maiden. One fateful evening, she found herself exploring a wild and dark fireswamp of online dating where she chanced upon an abstruse quest-bound Prince....

In all probability, if not for my plenary preoccupation with veracity, I never would have known The German. I can state this with relative certainty because he resided and worked in the same small neighborhood where I lived (or frequented) for an entire decade without our ever having met. Thus, despite space and time, the opportunity for a connection was ultimately born of a menial error I noticed while browsing his OkC profile; namely, his attribution of "Scarlet Begonias" to Sublime. In lieu of the wonted flowery prelude, I shot off a brief communiqué of correction and then promptly forgot him. Curiously, my impersonal dispatch alit a trifling, yet enduring, flame of intrigue. Following multiple declined invitations over the course of several months, he eventually addressed me in one of his solicitous messages as "my Ruca" and I, charmed by his facetious familiarity, agreed to a date.

On the afternoon of our introduction, I first encountered The German while stationed atop a mountainous stone tortoise. My expectations in advance of meeting him were remarkably low and so when I glanced down to discover him quizzically half-smiling up at me -- all lunisolar blue eyes and exponentially more handsome than his online photographs had suggested -- I sorely regretted the utilitarian Russian potato farmer getup (complete with black wool shawl) that I'd haplessly donned for our chilly, late winter trip to the zoo. Essentially from the moment of our acquaintance, I suspected that I’d truly met my familiar and, as our winsome date progressed, I was increasingly taken aback, existentially thrown, and joyfully unsettled by how thoroughly I enjoyed this stranger's easy company.

After our extrodinary day at the zoo, I returned home and began exaltantly beautifying myself for a second date with my German-- this one scheduled for the very evening of the original. My best friend recently recalled that I'd phoned her following date number one to enthusiastically rant and rave at length regarding how much I positively relished this man; she concluded that my fervor for him was absolutely unparalleled and, given that we've been friends for longer than I've been dating, she would certainly know.

Needless to say, date number two was comparably spectacular and unforeseen. I could easily compose an entire blog entry about the events of that night. Suffice to say, it featured a stately well-to-do professional in a stunningly tailored suit who decorously requested the use of my lighter so that he could smoke his marijuana cigarette on the porch of the wine bar where we were lounging. I, of course, readily agreed to the favor and the look on The German's face when he subsequently returned from the restroom of this bourgeois establishment to find me enveloped in tendrils of sweetly miasmatic smoke was arguably more priceless than the extravagant vino that the other patrons were heartily imbibing.

Our acquaintance blossomed swiftly thereafter. Several additional dates were enjoyed that first week and the weeks developed into months of conversing, exploring, kissing, quiping, singing, fucking, playing, drinking, listening, dreaming.... With him, I engaged in activities previously unthinkable like plucking my nocturnal sleep-worshiping self, voluntarily and routinely, out of bed early so that we had ample opportunity to walk the dog and eat breakfast together before work. He taught me myriads about how to live well; how to patiently take things as they come; and how to avoid reducing anyone or anything to inane black and white presuppositions. In illustration, after having quixotically avoided ever handling a gun, he showed me how to safely hold, fathom, and even shoot them.

Speaking of guns, my dearest-held remembrance of our romance was of observing him ethereally bathed in a many-colored pool of late afternoon sunlight as he quietly and methodically serviced his revolver. The meditative steps involved in breaking down this prized silvery pistol into its composite elements and his careful utilization of the various maintenance accoutrements thereof was perversly serene to behold. More significantly, I was struck by his profound lack of self-regard. It felt as though I was wholly with him and that I intuitively knew who he was-- unfiltered, unadorned, and unguarded. I was grateful to be absolutely in his element, reading one of his well-worn paperbacks, with his dog plopped lazily on my feet and his cat blithely lounging to my right. His milieu was humble, compelling, and beautiful.

Roughly nine weeks after having met this man, I imprudently revealed that I was tremendously in love with him. He pulled me to his chest and, instinctively stroking my cheek, he asked, “…but isn’t this a little soon?” I laughed and unabashedly confirmed, “Yes! Actually, I strongly suspect that I loved you within the first month of our dating, though I couldn’t conceive of telling you so at the time" – so ludicrous it seemed --and so ludicrous it still seemed. But love it was nonetheless. And I loved him copiously. I adored his intellect, his worldview, his ethics, his elucidations, his self-direction, his voice and manner of speaking, his seemingly limitless devotion to his loved ones, his work ethic, his storytelling, his sense of humor, his body language, his kindness and innumerable scores more.

But, the thing is, he didn’t want my love. For reasons that are his own, The German most assuredly did not. So loveblind, so pure, so mystical was my faith in the sanctity of this love that I could not even begin to apprehend his lack of reciprocity. And, lest you somehow wish to fault him for misleading me, be advised that I’ve known him for a year and a half now and he has directly informed me of his insouciance on a number of occassions:  he did so when he cleanly broke off the amourette only a few months after it had begun; when I hotheadedly kissed him eight months later; and again about a month ago. Indeed, even when we were still dating- within weeks of our meeting- he told me unequivocally that he was content with being single and that he had no intention of settling down with me or anyone else anytime soon. But I fatalistically and obstinately declined to give up.

To be sure, I genuinely tried to abstain from him (we ceased all communication for three uninterrupted miserable months following the breakup), but failed to appreciably benefit from the effort. Upon learning of my unvanquished feelings, a friend sagaciously warned, "Unrequited love is a prison of one’s own making. Don't be so foolish." Another friend admonished, “You can’t make him love you and, even if you could, it would be a bitter, unsatisfying venture.” True. All of that was true, but I remained unpersuaded.

What did pierce this tenacious illusion was an inchoate notion that my lover put forth. She said, "No matter how fantastic and luminous he may seem to you; no matter how infallible and abiding your love for him may be; no matter the strength and tenacity of your hope; still, one fatal flaw remains: he fails to comprehend how incredible you are and if he can't understand that much, if he isn't running into your arms with sheer jubilation, than he clearly isn't worthy of you. It is just that simple." Looking into her eyes, I intuited that I was missing something fundamental. I felt the love she freely gave me juxtaposed against the witholding I received from The German and languorously my self-constructed deceit began to collapse around me.

I've been struggling for some time to understand why I've continuously subjected myself to this soporific, oozing leporacy of lovesickness. It wasn't as though I didn't know what to rightfully expect. Yet, I have repeatedly smashed heart first into that same steel reinforced palisade and thereby bloodied my soul over and over again. When folks asked how on Earth I could persist in this excrutiating vein, I half-jokingly replied, "Well, I am a masochist...." But that is clearly a shallow pay-no-attention-to-the-woman-behind-the-curtain reading of the underlying mechanisms involved. Moreover, I'm crippling a friendship that I value immensely. The German is one of my favorite people in this world, I admire him, and he is a good friend to me. It is awful to know that I am paining this person whom I love and that my love itself is a source of malcontent for the both of us.

And so the once guileless maiden came to understand that, despite what fairy tales may portray, unconditional love is not a grace-filled enchantment. Indeed, in the end, it can treacherously fail to serve both the lover and the beloved....


The truth is that the stories that I tell myself about The German (such as the one above) are only a distraction from my much larger reality. As unpleasant as unrequited love can be, still more unpleasant is a deeply disturbed home-life. Fortunately, I'm an autonomous adult, but I've a stupifying worry and concern for my youngest siblings who remain in the care of my parents. Though I know that my mother and father try to love their children and that they strive for goodness, they very rarely have the emotional and financial resources necessary to realize their aims. Thus, they too often prove themselves to be a force more collectively destructive than constructive.

As an adolescent, I desperately sought security. But my parents were like angels of certain doom. Any thread of normalicy to which I clung they forcibly, purposefully, even maliciously cut down. My friends have taken supported risks and grown up to become editors at big publishing houses, doctors, PhDs and so forth. I, however, remain at a dead end job, in a dead end city because I've carved out a safe and secure place for myself. I've chosen personal security over professional satisfaction and I made this choice both for myself and for my sisters. I cannot bear the prospect of them feeling as helpless and groundless as I once felt. I want these girls to have the space and permission to grow that I didn't have when I was their age. And I believe that we are accomplishing this together. They've both acknowledged that I am a hugely influential and helpful person in their lives.

Perhaps this peripheral, almost unconscious, seeking of security is why I persisted with The German- even when it was to no avail. Like me, he is the oldest of five children. However, his parents were much older when they conceived him. They were financially, mentally, and emotionally stable-- complete people and effective parents. On some level, I wanted to live vicariously through The German. I wanted to hear all of his happy stories about this large charismatic group and learn what it was like to have a healthy family life. Being with him helped me to gain insight into how I could model confidence, patience, and strength for my sisters. It is terrifically difficult to admit, but deep, deep down - buried under all sorts of weird shit - I must have dreamed that I could be a part of his family. And that must have been an exceptionally difficult dream to relinquish....


In addendum, I've come to realize, particularly since I began drafting this piece, that I must return to therapy. Financial security only provides a foundation (frequently transient). I need to now build self-confidence so that I can take the risks necessary to progress toward a truly fulfilling life. In addition, I need to home in on the ways that I create sustaining romantic distractions rather than directly confronting life's challenges. I've a superabundance of life to live and I refuse to continue to exhaust myself on infecund dead-ends. Happily, a friend was kind enough to refer me to a therapist who takes my insurance and who will likely be an outstanding therapeutic fit for me. I look forward to working with her in the near future. I have faith that, in time, we will be able to meet these goals and, thanks to The German, my patience is now damn near impeccable.

...I would love to tell you that all
of this has a certain ending but...
The path goes on and on. The road keeps forking,
splitting like an endless atom, splitting 
like a lip, and the globe is on fire. As many
times as the book is read, the pages continue 
to grow, multiply...

I run from the story that is faster than me,
the words shatter and pant to outchase me.
The story catches my heels when I turn
to love its hungry face, when I am willing
to be eaten to understand my fate.

-from Tina Chang's "The Future is an Animal"