I became good at projecting what people wanted to see. It didn’t help that older men would arrogantly say “Why don’t you smile?” without realizing how sexist they sound. All the negative emotions, those are my memories to examine, mine to shove into the pit of my stomach, mine to hide. Whenever the conversation of my parents came up, it became instinctive to pretend they were both still very present in my life. Over the years I learned how to respond to this question, because when people actually find out what happened, their reaction was incredibly disappointing. It is bad enough that we do not have the answers, but to carry their pity is unnecessary weight that only makes it worse. I decided it was easier to deny his death toward others, and ultimately myself.
So I did what came naturally. Seemed fitting for the concrete jungle, seeing as everybody keeps their emotions to themselves anyways. It really was the perfect place to isolate my heart. Trapped on this island of bittersweet numbness until someone would rescue me, or perhaps, I would rescue myself.
It takes a lot for me to trust someone. I learned quickly in college that partners are selfish, uncompromising and continued to see it in every relationship I attracted. I was content with close friends, both men and women, and simply enjoyed that kind of love. No need to complicate it with passion that would inevitably fade. Despite the chip on my shoulder, there was one man who slipped through the cracks and appeared as a sudden beacon of light in a dark restaurant bathroom line. He came off so incredibly genuine and caring, that I couldn’t help but let my guard down as our friendship blossomed. It didn’t take me long to figure he was also carrying a small piece of baggage, but I didn’t care. It fit so well with mine. Together we took our luggage and adventured anywhere the wind took us.
Weeks turned into months and life suddenly became purposeful. Slipping into routine, I found myself looking forward to our weekly hangouts. I had never felt this way about someone before; the calm satisfaction of knowing who you are when they are around. With each romantic dinner, with each mundane bagel morning, there was this…je ne sais quoi.
It carried on like this for a while; I was regaining trust and confidence that maybe the universe wasn’t that savage after all. Life was good. So good, my roommate and I wanted to host a celebration. We decided to throw a rooftop, speakeasy-style (later got busted) taco party on our Chinatown apartment. I invited him, and to my disappointment, he avoided the text completely only to reply a week later that he was not in town and now wanted to hang out. Thus began the conflict of my close friends urging me to ditch this joke. I was confused: how could we continue to have these movable moments, yet feel so stagnant at the same time?
As silly as it seemed, this taco party was the tipping point for me. Familiar feelings quickly resurfaced. I shouldn’t have let him in. I wasn’t strong enough to go through another heartache. I soon realized that I was depending on this person to replace the people I have lost. I had not forgotten about my best friend or father, but he was distracting me from reality. What would happen if he left me and I had to face that sorrow again? I couldn’t bear the thought of crawling back into that dark hole. So I did what I do best: I ran.
I took a life-changing trip to clear my head. It was enough to give me hope for a better future and meaning to life. Months after, my job and housing situations were stuck in this vicious cycle and once they conveniently and simultaneously crumbled, I decided to take my exit. I put in my two weeks and gave notice to my not-so-nice landlord in Dumbo. I hammered the nail on the coffin by purchasing that ticket to Norway at the end of February. I would be damned if I had to spend what is always a depressing month in this lonely city. There was no turning back now – I was leaving NYC and everyone there behind.
Yet there was one thing I didn’t account for. I was so empowered and certain of my decision that I failed to predict how he would react. I assumed it wouldn’t effect him much and wrote it off. For someone who was so uncertain about their emotions, he certainly knew how to confess them all at once. Words were flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup – the sweetest love-struct sentences one would ever hear. Perhaps I hurt his ego and he didn’t like the idea of knowing yet another woman left him because of his incompetencies. Perhaps everything he said was true and he was really bad at expressing feelings. All I knew is he was depriving me of feeling wanted and I deserved someone who wanted me. At the time, I wasn’t proud of my actions, but his words never left me. I desperately wanted to believe the best in him. After all, love makes you do crazy things, right?
Wrong. It took me three years of sorting through the confusion. It became clear that he only wanted what he could not have. What kind of person is so bitter about the breakup that they don’t want you to move on either? It was bad enough that I wasted a year of my life trying to convince myself I finally deserved love. Yet he took it a step further and prevented me from experiencing love with anyone else. I may have been miles away, yet he was controlling my actions, well aware of everything he falsely promised, later writing it off as an unhealthy time in his life. If you are somehow reading this, I forgive you for being so cruel. I am at the very least thankful for the memories shared, and hopefully showed you how to love the next woman. You certainly taught me the value of feeling secure in a relationship.
So here I am. Marooned on this island, compiled coral by coral of all the lies I have stacked. Everything leading up to this moment has been one big fantasy. I was silly to think I could actually replace someone. I subconsciously held on because I didn’t know what else to do. He reminded me both of my father and best friend, so I built up this image of someone who is not. To acknowledge that it is over is to acknowledge that my dad is gone, and Mylena as well.
Life is great at sending storms, but it also has a way of providing a life raft. Question is, will I take it? Do I know, nor care where it is going? I am so tired of carrying this self-loathing. Tired of putting my hope in false promises. Surely anything is better than this paradise of putrid.
I can now see that I deserve love. Despite my attempts to fend it off, I have wanted it all along. Perhaps you have to be deprived of all the love in the world in order to realize there is so much to be shared.