For The Girls Who Want To Turn Back Time
I’ve watched so many movies. Movies about everything. EVERYTHING. Somehow the movies that have had the most lasting effect on me are the ones about love. My mom would tell me I was a “hopeless romantic,” a term I thoroughly detest seeing as how I don’t want to believe that there is anything hopeless about the idea of romance; I must have been about 12 the first time I heard it. I was late to the whole "boyfriend falling-in-love" game. My only love was acting. I thought boys were funny, welcomed their adoration, and would never turn down a kiss…but I was in no way interested in belonging to someone. And love? Love was a dish better served…from a far away distance—as far as I was concerned. My parents seemed to love one another though they split when I was about eight years old. Unlike many, I wasn’t devastated. My parents had this wonderful way of showing me how much they loved and respected one another despite their inability to make marriage work for them. My father, though flawed and adulterous, always showered me with the love a little girl so desperately needs to become a woman fully capable of being loved. My mother was what most mothers are—the disciplinary—but she was also soft and kind and she often cried to express her deep love. So, I wonder, how did I inevitably become a woman who often fantasizes about wiggling straight out of love’s reach?
I don’t know.
There was Brian. I was 13, he was 18 at the time. He was the light of my life as far as I was concerned. He was older, dangerous, and smarter than the boys my age. I can say that he is the first and only man I’ve ever loved with complete and utter trust in his affections. He was the first man to teach me to not take men at their words. He first taught me what a lie feels like when it pierces through a trusting heart. I swallowed his pills of pain until it almost felt like they’d dissolved. I tucked his dollops of disappointments far beneath the surface of my young soul and covered them with tears that only the inside of me could see. But I was only 13.
Time passed. My heart repaired and there were a few boys in between. Dennis, Andy, some boy who was visiting a neighbor of mine for the summer whose name I can’t remember, my endless crushes on men much too old for my affections, Kobe Bryant, etc…etc…
Finally in high school after focusing solely on school, acting, and life—I found love, again. I was 15 years old, boisterous, outspoken, the center of attention, and fearless. He was quiet, unassuming, funny in secret, and easily missed in a crowd. We were inseparable. He was my first real boyfriend. The boy who my parents could actually know about and meet. We spent SO much time together. We were, for lack of a better term, high school sweethearts. We experienced many of our firsts together and he held my hand through the hardest time in my life—the loss of my father. When my father left this earth I, unknowingly at the time, was broken. I had nothing left to give to anyone because I was using every fiber of my being to prevent an emotional breakdown at the age of 17. I was finishing high school and I badly needed to get away from the city that held every single memory of my father; I was going to suffocate if I didn’t find a way out. So I went away to college and we began the first (of what would be my MANY) long distance relationships. It was good at first, trying but good. We were still very young. I was away from home in a place where I knew no one, still grieving and growing as a person. He was staying the same, in many ways, due to the fact that his surroundings hadn’t changed. But he was always working for our love, our very foolish and immature love. When we finally split ways due to his infidelity and my needing to see what life was like without him…I retreated.
I pushed all of the feelings down deeper. I went to Europe. I saw some of the most beautiful places in the world. I felt them. I thanked God every day for the opportunity to go thousands of miles away from home and do what I love at just 20 years old. I loved paintings, poetry, and street performers whole heartedly. I threw my affectations upon the oceans in Barcelona and I drank strawberry beer relentlessly. I ate way too many croissants and gained about 10 pounds that I loved. I never once thought about the love I didn’t get, give, or have. I lived life. And then I came home…
I took time after that relationship ended. I wouldn’t even go out on a date. I kissed fewer boys at 20 than I had at 13. I went through the harder part of a breakup being back in the country, the ugly part. The “my mom is calling me asking me if I’m sure I’ve made the right decision” part. The my-ex-has-now-asked-my-mother-for-my-hand-in-marriage part. The parts that made me miss my father a lot because he would’ve known exactly what to say…those parts. I pushed those down too.
Twenty-one brought about a new liberation. I was almost done with college. I’d dedicated all of my time, energy, and sleep to my acting program and though I still had no desire to belong to someone…I kissed more boys. I was a tyrant. I kissed them. Dated them. And ate on their dollar. Relentlessly. I was unapologetic. And then I met Him. I’m going to call him Him because…I don’t want people to look at him differently. Him was a guy I’d met when I first came to college. He was a basketball player. Funny. Handsome. Alluring in all the ways that made him safe and dangerous all at once. But I was a faithful girlfriend, so for all of his allure he was just a friend. A chance meeting with him one night during my tyrant days changed all of my desires when it came to “belonging to someone.” I still don’t know what it was about him that made me want to give it all. And all I gave…I fought it for a while…but eventually, I gave it. I loved in that unconditional way. That way that wasn’t based on the receiver of the love. It was based on nothing else but the volcano of love I was willing to give. For a while he gloried in that. But soon after it seemed to drown him. There was a long spiraling out process that uncovered another woman, two other women…deceitful intentions, and a whole host of other things that put a cap on my volcano. I tried to push his hurt down, nustle it in between Brian and high school sweetheart and my father. I tried to put a little band-aid over my heart…something to stop the bleeding until I had long enough to make sense of it.
And then you came. You with all of your friendship and good intentions and baggage that I recognized. You and your capped volcano. You and your understanding. I resisted—adamantly. I am still resisting. There’s something about us—you—that feels like a movie. Like those movies that deeply affected me. The ones that I watch still and all of it just feels so safe in there, in that screen—those words, in the mouths of people who never really existed. "But you’ve already been in love!!" you may say. I know. I know.
The difference is all of that stuff that I pushed down deeply…it is all packed in there, really tight. I’ve made it all fit. It’s comfortable. I finally learned how to live with it all. I started shoveling out little pieces…the pieces that hurt too much to carry. And I found that the holes don’t close. They lie in wait. And you’re too precious for that place. It’s rough down there. I don’t want to see you down there with all of the stuff, you know? And I don’t always make it easy. I push, I run, I fight. I try to make sense of all the reasons why you could be the one to make it all worth shoveling away but then I’m sidetracked by the strength it takes to not give in to the fact that sometimes—I’m just way too fuckin’ scared to even love you. You with all of your promise. And all of your own piles of stuff. And all of your love for me.
You with all of your…you. I wish I’d met you first.