I’ve made a mistake with the photojournalist that I can’t begin to understand. And after I leave his house this morning I call my brother, who doesn’t answer, then my ex, and almost start to cry.
In calling, I think I just want to hear the voice of someone who knows me, who will help me locate my presence, remind me who I am.
Because I’m thinking that my upset revolves around losing myself in the intimacy the photojournalist and I are forging. Which is in part accurate.
But only in part.
“Did I wake you?” I ask the man I loved for thirteen horrible years.
“No, I’m driving to work.”
“Stay on the phone with me until you get there?” I ask.
There’s no relationship pressure between us anymore. He knows when he gets to his destination he’s allowed off the phone. So he generously agrees, and I start talking in the circles it takes me to figure out anything about myself. Navigating closer to a revelation I’m stupidly reluctant to have.
I start off by proposing that my love for the photojournalist is so consuming that I have to shut it down. But I can tell by how inauthentic it sounds when I say it out loud that I’m wrong.
First of all, why does it take my narrating my life like a story to recognize anything at all?
And secondly, why am I so afraid of the truth?
The photojournalist disappointed me last night. And when I say that, I don’t mean because of his actions or words or behavior, exactly. I mean, unfortunately, his entire essence.
The photojournalist wants to be adored and worshipped by me. And because we’ve done such a fabulous job of not being too fixed, I’ve been able to do just that.
But then last night he went and wanted to be known, not in the way we’ve been knowing each other, which has been so airy and cold and free. He wanted to open up to me in this forcibly claustrophobic way, and told me all sorts of ordinary things about his life that he thought would bring us closer.
And it was devastating, because I was not the least interested.
He told me about old lovers as though they were stories rife with complexity, and all I kept thinking was, “He’s got nothing on me.”
I expected so much more from him.
And then it was made a thousand times worse by the fact that he so grossly misinterpreted my boredom as to call it jealousy.
I don’t like being told by others what my experience is.
No, I actually really do. But only when they’re right.
And he’s wasn’t. Which meant he wasn’t seeing me at all.
And somehow, I found that disgusting.
I stayed awake the entire night trying to figure out how to clean up the mess he’d created. He slept, and I was able to find him beautiful in that repose, which helped. But then he woke up and started confidently talking as though he knew me again and it was worse than ever.
“He took it for granted that I’d be fascinated by him,” I tell my ex. “And I wasn’t.”
When we hit upon this truth my voice actually breaks. It’s the worst thing I can possibly imagine.
To my surprise, my ex actually begins laughing. It starts out small and stifled, but soon he can’t hold back.
“You’re so funny,” he chortles.
Which is an unusual blessing, in that it enables me to step outside of my tiny experience.
And before I know it I join him in laughing at the absurdity of who I am.
I feel my face loosen, my eyes, my heart, my whole being. Notice for the first time I am sitting in a parking lot downtown in an evening dress from the night before with just-been-fucked hair, bemoaning a problem that’s actually pretty insignificant.
“You don’t have intimacy issues, you just don’t like people,” my ex tells me, when our laughter settles.
“They disappoint me,” I correct him.
“Because you build them up too high. Admit it. You do this. You want everyone to be more than they actually are, and no one can meet your expectations.”
Maybe yes. Maybe no.
Maybe if I were to map my expectations out more clearly, someone could meet them.
My ex surely has this morning, the effortless result of my asking him to stay on the phone.
I’m a very fortunate woman, and losing myself isn’t nearly what I thought it was.
It doesn’t happen when I fall in love.
It happens when I go along with an inaccurate story that’s being written about me. When what I might ought do, in this case at least, is simply take the pencil and erase the parts the photojournalist has got wrong.
“Give it another go,” I could say.
And if he’s willing to stretch his imagination enough to make that attempt, there might be something there.
I’ve never nakedly admitted to myself after I’ve fallen in love with a man that maybe his perception of me is just too narrow. And I’m surprised by how heartbreaking that felt for a moment.
Yet, just like that, it passed. I’m very nearly back to feeling airy and cold and free, so I walk to a nearby cafe and buy myself an iced coffee with my sunglasses on, joyful in feigning ignorance about my appearance.
“Next time,” I offer to the photojournalist by text, just to try it on, “let’s make better mistakes.”
“Deal,” he texts back.