Hi all. I may elaborate on this story later, but for now, this is what I’ve got. Hope you enjoy.
I was twenty. Twenty-and-a-half to be exact. I was in between jobs and was trying to start up a sports and athlete news blog. It was August. The 15th. I spent days drawing out what I wanted my website to look like. I dreamed of waking up at 5am like all the big corporate people and starting my day with a good paragraph of convincing words. I wanted to wear my merch and sell it, I wanted to sip tea in the mornings and never have to go so far as my office…or my bed.
Simultaneously, I was writing product descriptions for a small independent company. I would photograph their items and write compelling sales pitches. When I wasn’t writing or planning for my blog, this is what I did. Sat in my library room and took photos of mugs and doo-dads and books and other kinds of random collectibles or “antiques”.
I got a portion of the cut of sales, but I didn’t make very much. And, around this time, I picked up a third hobby of model-home building. My grandmother visited around the time I started my blog and, of course, my family went with her to the local Hobby Lobby and strolled down the aisles. Miniatures were always my thing, and I’ve enjoyed dabbling in the wooden arts. When I was a child, I made tiny modular homes out of cardboard and my mom’s scrap fabric.
When we’d gotten to the very last aisle, there they were; all the miniatures. We both oohed and ahhed at the little furnitures and dinnerwares and people before proceeding to buy a beautiful little beach house for a few hundred dollars. This was one you had to build and paint yourself. I then spent the next few months gathering paints and primers and glues and whatnot to build my tiny house. Alas, three years later, and it still is in the same condition it was only a few more months later.
Nonetheless, during all of this, I had also decided I was feeling lonely in the toxic more-or-less-relationship I had been in for several years, with someone who gave zero shits about me, and I hopped onto a dating site. Many different ones, actually. And, on September 02, I remember it, I met a beautiful woman. We’ll call her Hope, because she was the reason I ever believed in love. Well, it was her and the love within myself that convinced me love had to be a real thing, and not just a thing you dream of hopelessly until the lonely day you die.
Hope was younger than me. One-and-a-half years younger, to be exact. I remember the very day I met her. I even remember the very week. She was a very significant person to me from the very beginning, and I wasn’t quite sure why. She was beautiful, of course, but that wasn’t it; that wasn’t the reason.
I remember I would sit on the couch in my parents’ living room and pull up her profile and stare at her photos and read her short biography piece every day for the next two weeks. I remember thinking to myself, only about this particular girl, “she could be my wife one day.” And for some reason, I always heard a future part of myself ring back, “Oh, you have no idea.” And I always took that to be a good sign. But future me was very vague.
Nonetheless, I messaged her and we talked all that week. On the 3rd, I’d connected with her on a whole separate dating site, even. We talked about her beloved horse and the changes she was making to the barn. She sent me a photo, I remember, of the inside of her barn toward one of the stall walls. She had said, “I spent all of yesterday tearing this wall down.” And she had circled where she had precisely cut the timbers between two stalls to make a half-wall.
On the fifth, she got my number and asked me if I wanted to Facetime that night. I remember it. She asked me and I sat there, my first answer was “yes! I’d love to.” But for some reason, I turned it down, knowing—even knowing—I’d regret it for years down the road; even for the rest of my life. And I do still regret it. It was the first mistake I made between us. It was the first time I turned her down. My first rejection of her advances of a connection for love. I really should listen to my intuition more often…
It was the eighth when we swapped social profiles. She’d asked me if I had one and I told her what it was.
For months down the road, she would ask me, every now and again, if I wanted to Facetime, and each and every time, I said “no.” To this day, I don’t really understand why. Maybe I saw in her a piece of me that desired love and never received it. Maybe that is what it was, but to this day, I do not understand. It would have changed everything, though, I’m convinced.
Nonetheless, we talked back and forth through text and chat. I discovered, through our conversations, that she worked the night shift at a little motel. I pictured a typical lobby with a little pulpit on the side and desks down it’s side. Her at the front with a maroon-red collared shirt. Every now and again, while we would chat, she’d not reply for a few minutes and then come back and say, “sorry, a customer walked in.” I always thought she was the sweetest.
But all of this only lasted until the 14th of the same month of September. I know this, because I logged it in my online journal on the 16th. I was heartbroken that “this one had left, too.” But, I believe we were talking again within a week or two, because I remember we had extensive conversations in October. Her family was…not the kindest to her and she’d often text me and tell me that “shit went down again.”
One of these times, she’d had a few shots of something strong and, near the end of our conversation, she said, “I better let you get to bed before I say something dumb and mess up my shot.”
I thought she’d meant her chance at a job interview the next day, or something, so I asked, “your shot at what?” and she answered simply, “you”. My heart had melted. I remember it. I went numb, too. The world started spinning and I felt like my limbs were slightly shaking. She wanted a chance with me. And all I was is probably the biggest dick I’d ever been. She was the first person I’d ever turned down; maybe because I was being more careful and was tired of being used and being made a fool, but, to this day, I will not understand why it was to her that I all of a sudden hardened my heart.
I also remember, one of the reasons I think I was such a dick is, not only because I turned down her offers to call (I wish I’d taken the first one), but because we both were ones to stay up late, well into ungodly hours of night…er, morning, before falling asleep. Both of us were lonely, in need of company, and still, I would not talk to her.
I know I was still hung up on someone else who was less than bad for me, but I feel this was no excuse to turn down someone so wonderful. I wish I’d let myself write about her in my notebook journal those first months. I didn’t and this is one of the reasons I believe I kept turning her down for my sanity’s sake because, I remember, I was going to write about her one night (several, but one I particularly remember). I was going to write, “I like Hope, I think she is really cool. She’s strong and sweet. I’m just afraid that I like her for all the wrong reasons.” But, as I put pen to paper, I told myself, “Don’t write about her. If you do, you’ll become obsessed and she’ll leave you. And then you’ll look a fool when you look back on this entry. You always get attached to the things you write about. And you always ruin the things you get attached to.” So, I lifted my pen and thought of something else to write about. Keeping her once again far enough away that not even a ten-foot-pole could reach her from where I was.
But, I forever wish I hadn’t been so afraid to be a fool because, even though I do look a fool now, I’d do it all over again for another day with her… another chance to call. And I wish I could remember more of the things we said and more of the things we did while I had her in my life and could, but I didn’t write it down and my memory has never been what it ought to; this is one reason I write about the things I love. And maybe one of the reasons I never wrote about my pain.
Nonetheless, Hope was a nightly topic between me and my imaginary audience. I spoke about her to myself, even if I never let pen hit paper with the words in my heart. I kept her and my love for her locked away and tucked in a special corner of my heart and soul and mind. I don’t think there was ever a time, even to this day, that she’d ever left my mind. Not even one, not even once. She arrived and never left. She was, and now she is. She has always been an unbroken thought within me.
I’d stay awake and think about her. I even prayed to God about her. I even spoke to him outside of “prayer” about her. I remember I listed the reasons I couldn’t be with her. As an excuse or defense or trying to convince myself not to, I’m not sure. I’m really not sure at all.
But me and Hope would talk. We’d talk and cry and she’d share her pain with me.
Often, though, I ignored Hope. I felt the craving for attention she had; it was something I’d felt before too, to which I was always met with ignorance from others. I don’t know if I was giving myself the silent treatment (my self that I saw in her—in some kind of familiar mirror.) as I felt I clearly did not deserve love. But I had never hurt another with my pain before,… until Hope. And then I hurt her with all the pain I’d been given. It was odd that she was special in many ways, like in the way that this was an out of ordinary reaction for me.
Or, maybe it’s that I wasn’t used to being chased. I wasn’t used to being wanted and didn’t believe it; wanted to test it. I’m not sure. I may never really know. But I still regret each and every time I met her with resistance rather than the acceptance she sought and deserved and which I understood. I took her pain and gave her more. And for this, I am eternally indebted. Indeed, I’ve not stopped punishing myself for it. To continue on, however, me and Hope spoke for several months and, once again, I turned her down in November.
It was December. December ninth when I decided to cut off all chances at a connection with Hope and told her, “I am not sure where this is going, (that was a lie) but my life is changing direction. I’d like to still be friends, though.” And that day, the already longer than ten-foot-pole became a mile or more. Maybe a whole world. Country at least. But I guess that’s how I protect myself. Protecting everyone else.
I remember she addressed this months later when she told me, “When you told me that you just wanted to be friends that day, I kind of went, ‘Oh… Okay.’” I’d broken her heart. And this was the first time. The first time I’d broken her heart. For this, I am eternally regretful. She’d really wanted something with me. And I really had fucked it up. But this is what I am good at: self sabotage. I have always ruined the things I love the very most. And this, subconsciously on purpose.
It was January. New Years, and then the 7th when I wanted to make connection, but instead met her with ignorance once again. January 17 when I finally first accepted her offer to call.
I remember she was in the drive-thru of a Bojangles, waiting on her steak biscuit. I remember the moment I saw her face, I can picture it. Even still, I can see the way the evening light shone in her face through the window. I can still hear her say that first, “Hi!” in her beautiful, jaw-dropping, Tennessee-mountain accent. And I loved her. I hopelessly loved her.
I could not believe that this woman still wanted me, after everything I put her through, I could not believe she wanted to see my face and hear my voice and connect with me at all. During that call she told me, “I get the steak biscuit for the steak in it. I hate the biscuit part; I never eat it.” And I’ve always been a biscuit guy. I’m not sure if she ever went to Bojangles even once after that day but, a year ago, I did, just to order the steak biscuit in memory of our first call two years prior.
That was on the day before the second anniversary of the November day that she’d asked me to Facetime with her. I drove down the backroads and thought of her, too. I thought of everything she was, everything I was, everything we were, and I stared numbly out my dash the whole drive, letting the pepper of the steak biscuit burn my tongue. I never liked pepper.
From the night of January 18th to February 10, we shared a whirlwind of love. She’d “take me to work” with her over Facetime and we’d do word searches and stare at each other and make jokes and share stories and say I love you more times than we could count. I dreamed of the day when I’d hold this woman in my arms and make her lunch for work in the mornings and kiss her goodnight. I was scared of losing this, because I was scared of it to begin with. The thoughts creeped in, “She’ll find someone else. Everyone always does, remember?” And there were several times that I wanted to run. To run and not look back. But I knew I’d never be able to find another like this woman nor forget her, so I stayed and I forced myself to believe and trust and choose.
But I think she had the same worries I did. I remember her telling me, once, “You had no interest in me until I showed you what I could do.” And I’m not quite sure what she’d meant by that. I’d never met her in person, and I was a virgin, and I’d always tried to show her that I loved her for much more than her body. I loved her for more than anything she’d do for me no matter if that be making soup or any other thing. I tried to show her that. But I think the first few months is what screwed this up for me and called me a liar.
Eventually, she dipped ship (and I understand the inner struggle of why; I do not blame her). It was April 15. We’d barely spoken the past two or three weeks and I was getting scared of this being a repeat of everything I’d been through before. I reached out with a final attempt at a conversation to communicate and she told me she needed to work things out alone. She appeared again in less than a month with a new lover on her arm.
I was torn and shaken and, over the next year, destroyed. But I felt I deserved it. I deserved it all for everything I’d put her through—all my ignorance—those first five months. I suppose I thought I’d never lose someone with love as true and sure as hers; I suppose I thought I’d never lose a girl like her with a love like hers because I’d loved with that kind of love before and she’d done a thorough job of showing me that she really loved me the way I’d loved all the people who hurt me.
I was right about one thing. I’d never find anyone like her, again. No one compares, the whole world is paled beside her. But this is what I do to myself. I ruin myself. I ruin good things.
Thanks for reading,
One reply on “Switched Up Love”
Thanks for sharing, Jack! 🙂