You know you’re lonely when you find yourself envious of the connections people make in AA. It’s a muggy Friday evening and I’m alone in a messy room watching the Netflix original Bloodline. I see the kindness in one character’s face, the denial in the other, and you know the arc of the story to come. I want that. Someone to look at me knowingly.
Last night I told him we couldn’t talk anymore. I knew I had no feelings for him, and no desire for anything beyond his daily distractions, and the cursory stroking of my ego that came with his attention. Plus it’s hard work rebuffing someone on the regular; finding new and creative ways to say no.
When I really didn’t want to try, I’d be silent. No response at all. He’d wait a little and then maybe send me a link to something. A conversation starter that brushed over the previous dismissal. I wondered why he did that. Why he kept holding space for the emptiness of our interactions. What stories he told himself about me and why I didn’t want to be with him. Could he even see that truth?
I could see myself. In him.
In his waning esteem and refusal to choose himself over me. Even when I said “take care of yourself” (a hollow and inconsequential remark), he messaged back, “if you ever just wanna talk I’m here”. He should have blocked me. I recall holding the door open in the same way with my last love: “my heart will always be open to you” I wrote in my third letter to him. Gosh, the whole thing was so earnest but I wish now that I hadn’t said it. Hadn’t described to him the weight and contour of my love. The way it has lingered. The way I can’t see or feel or taste anyone else when I touch myself. I wish what I had actually told him was how much I love me. I’m learning.
But back to anonymous. I really didn’t like playing ‘the disinterested bitch’, and I felt like it was sending the universe the wrong message about my readiness for love and companionship. So I shut it down. Decided to fully embrace this emotion I felt was compromising me; suffocating me in blankets of self-doubt and regret. I committed to being alone and hoped that God would reward my efforts.
Touching the folds of my forlornness I found my face wet and flushed. I took naked pictures of myself; aroused at the sight of my body, and overcome with a yearning to be touched. Later that night I looked at this single image of me bent over on all fours taken from behind. It was more revealing – quite literally – than anything I’d written in my journal in the past three months. I saw in my triangular crest of flesh and thighs exactly what God had been wanting to show me: That I didn’t know anything about male loving-kindness that wasn’t sex. That’s a hard thing to see when you consider yourself a smart, self-aware and successful Black woman with high emotional IQ. But it’s even harder to live through.
I sat there and thought back to a few years ago when I was seeking comfort with an old connection. I was in stifling pain that year, and just trying to feel my way through. It was my therapist who had suggested I hold this older lover accountable for the ways he had wilfully wounded me in my late teens. Apologies and regrets exchanged I started sleeping next to him again. I’d romanticised it in my head as a mature and mutual decision between us, but it was definitely more convoluted than that.
There was a revenge element in it for me, for sure. Making myself just available and desirable enough to be out of reach for him. I knew he had the kind of eye that could discern my beauty and my worth even better than I did, and in the unspoken moments I wanted him to feel that this adult version of me didn’t want him beyond the servicing of my needs. A counterbalancing objectification. But looking back on it now it was costing me too much. Under the anger and retaliation I just wanted to be seen and comforted. When I strip away all the pretence of those moments I was taking him on regular joy rides in exchange for hugs and hand holding. That’s the only part I really wanted, and it wasn’t freely given. Most the time he came quickly. But I shouldn’t have had to leave my furnished house and drive fifteen miles to lie on a mattress on the floor with him, just to find a little relief from my wounding. How was that high rise the only (somewhat) safe space I could find to feel and be free?
So what’s the anatomy of healing, because I definitely didn’t find it between his sheets? Your friends remind you not to make bad decisions, but sometimes it’s more than your day to day choices that need watching; it’s the bad bad girl you feel like on the inside who’s trying to catch your eye in the mirror when you’re getting ready in the morning.
Even on my worst day I’m fifty times better at life than I was back then. Let me tell you how and why… (more to come in part 2).