Two years ago, at about this time of year, Paddy flew me down to meet his parents. I mostly ignored the implications, and when his father told me it was nice to meet his son’s girlfriend, I replied, “Oh, I wouldn’t say I’m his girlfriend, exactly.” And Paddy fervently backed me up on that one.
Still, on some level I suppose I knew we were on the verge of new territory.
So on the second night in his childhood room, I hung my head off the side of the bed and told him all the true things I could think of about my life.
He was quiet and listened, and when I was done talking, I sat up and looked at him for a response.
“You’re quite the storyteller,” he said.
I laughed, because laughing is what I do best.
I don’t know if I thought my honesty would make me feel closer to him, or him to me. I can only imagine that I hoped it would. But I also recognized that there was probably a reason, in our six months together, that the specific details of my history had never been revealed.
I crawled under the covers then, and I knew it was a bad sign that Paddy, who was always touching me, now wasn’t.
I felt a certain sickness creeping in.
I should have gone to sleep then, understood it was over. Woken up the next day to another new beginning.
I don’t remember what I did instead, but I must have prodded him in some way about what he was thinking, because he ended up saying to me, “It’s a wonder you’ve made it this long without sucking the barrel.”
Paddy had all sorts of stupid, macho phrases like that, the meaning of which were frequently lost on me.
“Sucking the barrel?” I asked.
“I would have killed myself, in your position,” he answered, frankly.
I remember blindly wishing that this was Paddy’s way of saying he thought I was strong.
But in my gut, I knew that my complicated past was way too much for him, and that the comment was more a judgement.
“Your life is fucked,” would have summed it up better.
It wasn’t exactly like Paddy and I were close before that. But there was something good about him, about us. He was the one man that most taught me how beautiful it can be to be a woman. And before that night, he brought out something delicate and soft in me that I hadn’t let myself feel before him.
We kind of knew our roles with each other, I suppose, and my disclosures blew a hole in that.
Whatever we had worked well according to Paddy’s definition of who I was.
I liked Paddy’s definition well enough, so I was fine with that for a long time.
But in the end, I guess it just wasn’t me.
Merikano was the first person I loved after Paddy, and I felt the differences starkly.
“Am I your boy?” he liked to ask.
And up until then, I would have thought I wanted a man.
But Merikano introduced me early to his world of pain, and without any of the hesitation I’d had with Paddy, I to mine. And it shook me. Not only to be accepted in this way, although there was that, but more to be understood.
It was easy to surrender to Merikano, because I found in him the sweetest familiarity.
So for as long as I could, I ignored the fact that, even with him, there was something amiss.
On what would be our final night together, he got angry and said something along the lines of “You only love me because I’m resilient.”
As though this were a bad thing.
At the time I didn’t understand.
But now I think I do.
And he was right.
I loved Merikano because his life had been shit.
I also loved him because he had such adorable innocence and was made vulnerable easily. And because he wore the cutest blue sweatpants that he proudly dropped whenever the mood struck him. And because he played me his music.
But really? Had he not lived the heartbroken life he had, I doubt he’d have been of any interest to me at all.
I’m still not convinced that there’s a good or bad in that. It does seem possible that Merikano was still actively battling his shame while I was using it to escape my own, and that this made us insensitive to each other.
Either way, it’s just part of what happened.
This brings me up to three or four months ago, when I fell in love with the photojournalist.
And I’m not even sure what to say about him yet, aside from that I felt he knew me better than anyone before him.
And with far fewer words.
Uncannily, his own experiences had given him a razor sharp precision about mine, and I never had to explain, much less disguise, anything.
I just had to keep showing up.
Which made me feel more alive than I’d ever felt in my life.
With time, I came to understand that the photojournalist didn’t just accept my pain, he wanted to make an amusement park out of it.
And by then, I was ready.
And I wanted that, too.
God, how I wanted that.
But even so, that didn’t mean that I always knew how to be well-behaved.
Perhaps nothing will ever mean that.
And perhaps nothing ever should.