What is love? (Baby, don’t hurt me.)

The decision to share something deeply personal is never easy. Historically, I tend to lock away my feelings, hiding them from the world, fearful of how they may be used to hurt me. Snippets may be revealed, to friends, confidants, but the full truth never seems to seep completely out. I have so little trust in others. Also, feelings are just immensely difficult to process, to deal with, to understand. To talk to myself about them is hard enough. Sharing them with others? Well how does one even begin to do that?

Recently the sheer amount and intensity of my feelings has filled my hidden space to the brim and bubbled over in a mess similar to what I imagine the current volcano erupting in Chile might look like. Mess. Perhaps the most accurate word to describe things. So if I never share, why start now with something so apparently colossal? Because nothing else seems to be working. Because after trying so many other paths, maybe this could be the one that actually helps me purge the things that have left me a crippled, unrecognizable wreck. Or maybe not. You can’t know until you try.

These things that have left me so epically confused begin with a girl, as seems to be such a common starting point. Girls have always had the ability to put dents in my armor but never  has one been so thoroughly and easily able to crack straight through leaving me exposed and vulnerable. But then again, I’d never truly fallen in love. Until her. So of course she would be the exception.

To fall in love for the first time at 28 is an odd feeling. For years I believed I was just incapable of it. Sure, I had been in relationships and loved in a caring way, but never in the true sense of the word, of being “in” love. When this girl, someone that I wasn’t even completely sure about for a while, started to work her way into my robotic heart, I had no idea what to do. Like a foreign substance, my body tried to reject it. But that same body also betrayed me, had been betraying me for quite some time. She turned me into a klutz, someone who fumbled around and embarrassed herself on frequent occasions. She turned me into a fool, the kind of person who walks around in public smiling for no apparent reason. She made my heart flutter, replacing the stabbing, stress and anxiety induced pain my chest was so used to feeling with a beautiful calm. But she also made me fearful, fearful that my feelings would not be reciprocated, and so I never truly revealed those feelings.

Then the day came when she met someone else, someone who straight away woke up every feeling inside of her. When she finally told me, I was crushed. I was shattered. I was regretful. I felt like I’d missed some kind of opportunity. In that moment I knew I needed to begin the process of teaching myself to be more open and honest with how I feel. I never wanted to feel that regret again. So I gathered my thoughts, asked her to coffee, and spilled my guts over a tucked away corner table at one of the local Starbucks. I had nothing to lose, and I had no expectations. The ensuing conversation and reactions still leave me confused, even months later. She had no idea how this other girl felt about her. She only knew that she needed to move the seven hours north to be with this girl. And I loved her enough to let her go and to cheer her on. I only wanted what was best for her, and if this girl made her happy, then that’s what I wanted for her. Even if it left me in the cold. I vowed to always be there for her. This confused her, and she told me most girls would have walked away and said, “If it doesn’t work out with her, come find me.” I’m not most girls. She then said that this was something she had to figure out and explore, that she had to at least try and that in all likelihood she’d be back in a year. She said all this in a way that made it sound like if things didn’t work out with this girl, we had some sort of chance. And in that vague moment, a seed of hope was planted.

We still got together. We still hung out and had a good time. But something had changed. Something had shifted. I was more emotional. She was more standoffish. After a particularly rough day involving other life incidents, she came to my rescue and took me for Korean barbecue then let me weep all over her, expelling all of life’s troubles and finally revealing just how upset I was over her. It was obvious she really didn’t know what to do with me, so I told her she could take me home and asked that she take the helm of our friendship for a while because I knew I wasn’t capable of finding the balance between smothering her and avoiding her. And losing her as a friend was the last thing I wanted to do.

We saw each other and talked less and less, but we would still check in on each other from time to time. The fact that she cared enough to see how I was doing throughout this whole mess meant the absolute world to me. I hadn’t really expected it. But, after all, I did fall in love with her for a reason. She’s an amazing person.

When things for her situation took a turn for the worst, I tried to man up and be there for her. I decided I needed to stop being so sad and upset and letting things affect me as I had been. And for a while I was good. Or, at least mildly okay. Then more feelings bubbled up, and keeping with my earlier decision to be open and honest, I shared them. I told her that I wanted a chance at a real relationship with her, that I wanted to be the one who treats her the way she deserves to be treated. I told her that I knew what her situation was but if she ever wanted more than what she was getting, I was here. I told her that when she ended up moving, if there was something between us I was open to the possibility of moving eventually as well. To all this I received an, “I don’t know what to say.” I said she didn’t have to say anything right then, but the following day I asked that when she did have something to say she would share it with me. I haven’t gotten a response yet.

And therein lies the problem, the confusion, the lack of understanding. I have no idea where I truly stand in all of this. I have no idea how she really feels or felt about me, if I’m holding on to nothing. If ever there was a person worse at sharing feelings than me, it’s her. She’s vague. She’s unclear. She’s closed off. But, in her defense, at this moment she has her own mess she’s sorting out, and while I’ve had my moments of struggling to let her get past things, ultimately I have to let her do that in her own time. And in the meantime, that seed of hope planted so long ago has sprouted, become strong, and refuses to die. But the girl who had decided to stop being sad and upset has failed and left me back at a point of weakness and vulnerability. The lack of answers serves as my Kryptonite, and the more they mount up, the weaker I seem to become. Unfortunately I’ll never gain these answers on my own, despite wishing I could. Only she holds the answers. But I’m not sure if she’ll ever give them to me. And if she doesn’t, I have to find a way to move on without them.

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