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This is my third of three entries this week for therealljidol. I invite you to read and vote for the many fine entries. This is in response to the topic "Re-do," where we can redo any topic from this season. I chose to re-do the topic "Three Little Words." If you like, you can read my original entry for that topic first.





I met him at a Millennium Party, where my geeky friends were celebrating 2001 as the true mathematical beginning of the millennium (there having been no year Zero). He was that rare bird, a geek of African-American heritage. He was tall and quasi-muscular, with adorable glasses, and we joked and flirted throughout the evening before absconding to a stairwell for a make-out session. By this time in the evening, he said, he'd usually have received a drink in his face. But he was funny, and I was recovering from some bad relationships, so I just laughed at his sometimes inappropriate jokes.

After our first real date, we began a relationship, of sorts. Living in cities three hours apart, we saw each other in person once a month, along with regular e-mailing and chatting. After a year of dating this way, I had introduced him to my family and all my friends but never even got to talk to his dad on the phone. It was understandable, I told myself; after all, the guy lived in California, and we were on the East Coast.

Gently, he tried to tell me. He told me that there were parts of himself that were just walled off, and that anyone who loved him would have to understand that. Once, he'd been married, and when that went sour, he'd sworn he would never marry again. The woman, he said, now had a child, and when he saw her around town, he was happy for her. She was better off.

In time, I began to wonder: Was he harboring a dark secret? Had he been abused as a child? Was he in a witness protection program (which would have been supported by his dislike of having any photo of him shared online)? Or was he simply incapable of love?

I had learned not to tell him "I love you" for fear of the pat response, "I know." Or worse, silence. My words, I thought, echoed down the hole into the oubliette he had built for himself. He could hear them, but he was incapable of returning them.

Once, while we were getting out of my truck, just as I was stepping outside, I thought I heard him say those three words I longed to hear. But when I came around and begged him to repeat it, he only smiled and said, "You know what I said."

But I didn't know. And I needed to hear it. It was tearing me apart. In many ways, he was my dream boyfriend: smart and caring, supportive of my efforts to rebuild my life. After an embarrassing drunk dialing session, where I kept calling him and calling him, trying to break through his walls, he had calmly told me that I needed to get counseling to get over my old issues of trust.

He was right: I was a survivor of emotional abuse, thanks to a longtime live-in boyfriend I've dubbed Leechboy. Between that and my first marriage, which had been a troubled one, as well, I was incapable of being in a healthy relationship. Perhaps that's why I latched onto a guy who should have been a friends-with-benefits only, demanding from him something he couldn't give.

And then, it happened. We were volunteering at an anime convention with some of my dearest friends, and exhausted from setting up on the first day, we were relaxing in the hotel lobby. My boyfriend had ordered pizza, and when it arrived, a grateful female friend exclaimed, "I love you!"

"I love you, too," he answered. With those words, my world exploded. I stomped out of the room in tears.

It took another six months for our relationship to end, and the day that it did was at a meeting for this same convention. That day, peculiarly, he was wearing a weight belt under his leather jacket, and when I tried to hug him, I felt only hard metal. It was over, he told me. But I'd already known that for six months. To me, he was and will remain Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man, showing multiple faces to the world but hiding his true self in a basement no one can reach.

Some words of wisdom, gained from hard experience: if the person you consider to be your "significant other" tells you the he or she is not right for you, believe it.




This is the story I should have written when I first read that prompt. I even thought about writing it. But it's funny, even 12 years later, how difficult it can be to face the truth.

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Comments

( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
notodette
Jul. 17th, 2012 03:48 am (UTC)
It's so hard to face things like this. You wish they could just be buried, or could just not have existed in the first place.

I'm glad you delved into this, though. <3
alycewilson
Jul. 17th, 2012 04:16 am (UTC)
Thank you. Really, at heart, I think he's a good guy, and we're still friends, which is clearly all we were meant to be. But yes, it definitely hurt at the time.
(Deleted comment)
alycewilson
Jul. 17th, 2012 06:10 am (UTC)
*nod* I confused the fact that he was better than my three previous relationships with being "right for me." Fortunately, the therapist I saw as a result helped me to get all those issues worked out, and I finally find a man who truly is right for me. I think that, otherwise, I would have continued to wind up with an endless progression of "Mr. Wrong."

And let me add that I'm sorry to hear that you endured emotional abuse. It's a hidden form of abuse and one that is still not recognized by many people. It's so easy to be in denial about it.

Edited at 2012-07-17 06:11 am (UTC)
myrna_bird
Jul. 17th, 2012 05:43 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you got out of that lop-sided relationship before you got hurt anymore. When he insisted it was "your problem" to work out, that was a big clue that he was not in it as a partner.
alycewilson
Jul. 19th, 2012 07:20 am (UTC)
For sure! Of course, I recognize that now, ironically, in part because I did receive counseling. I didn't mention it here, but I did try to convince him to go to counseling himself, after I started to work out my own issues, but he refused. No surprise, really.

halfshellvenus
Jul. 19th, 2012 05:07 am (UTC)
Things clearly have turned out for the better, in the long run, but what a disappointment-- especially given that he probably did love you, but it just would never have been enough.

What's even sadder is that he felt you needed counseling, but he surely needed it more! Trying to resist being fully involved in the relationship he was already in, and letting it die rather than make an effort to fully grow up? I'm sure that wasn't the last time he made that choice. Tragic. :(

if the person you consider to be your "significant other" tells you the he or she is not right for you, believe it.
I think that's very true. Even if the reality is that they're right for no one.

But hearts are rarely wise, and where love is involved, we always lead with hope.
alycewilson
Jul. 19th, 2012 07:23 am (UTC)
I think he did feel SOMETHING for me, but calling it love would have meant opening himself up to a relationship that he was apparently not prepared to have. And yes, he could have benefited from counseling, as many people could. I'm grateful that, if nothing else, this experience led me to seek help, which I really needed to get over issues from prior relationships.

Hope can lead to plenty of delusion, but on the other hand, I wouldn't want to live without it.
whipchick
Jul. 19th, 2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
How lonely he must be--and how good that you were able to move on.
alycewilson
Jul. 20th, 2012 12:01 am (UTC)
I think you're right. I'm still friends with him, and nothing has really changed for him in 12 years.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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