“What do you want to do with your life?”
“You want THAT story?” I don’t want to share. I have been inching away for a while now.
“Oh, God–it’s a story? Here we go.”
Yesterday, I asked friends how one goes about putting someone in the friend zone. I tell one friend–“It’s basically the Canadian all over again. I need to nip this now.”
We talk about my career aspirations, and as I tell him, he makes jokes. At my expense. He tells me he is picking on me. I ask how that’s working for him. He doesn’t notice the edge in my voice or the fact that I have stopped being vulnerable. He doesn’t notice it’s a laundry list of failures–of all the times I fell on my face. Or that it makes me feel ashamed. He doesn’t hear how tired I am because I was up at 4 am, hustling for people who pay me a third of what I’m worth.
At some point, I mention this. Mention my frustration. And I say–“It’s not about the money. It’s the disrespect.” And I tell him how it’s me working through old shit–being abused and neglected, like always. He doesn’t get it. Instead he reacts to my statement about not caring about money.
It makes me absurd. Because how could I possibly live here and not care about money? And I say, “Well, clearly, I’m not made for here.” He avoids the real thing in that statement and makes another joke at my expense. I remember how ludicrous he thought it was that I got my roommates Starbucks on my way back from the dentist on Monday. Because why would anyone do something nice for no real reason? I must have some motive, right?
I talk about all the real things in my head–things I’ve thought about for weeks now–and he continues to not get it. At some point, he makes a joke and asks why I didn’t figure this shit out in my mid-20s. By now, I am tired of his shit, so I level him. “I was too busy keeping my mother alive. And when she died, I was too busy trying to want to live.”
He doesn’t miss a beat. Teases me about cinnamon gummy bears and how I stress ate half a package worrying about healthcare.
I make up an excuse about needing to care for my cat and don’t respond to his texts later. Tomorrow, I will keep inching away.
Comfort. Ease. Twice now, it’s fooled me. That mistaken intimacy. Compatibility. Shorthand. Only to realize I’m comfortable with what I’m settling for–with what shames and diminishes me. I saw it early this time. Before it mattered too much.
These surface men who don’t want to talk about my broken heart. Mostly because they’ve tuned theirs out to suffering. When every day, I think about how she died. How I didn’t. And a bunch of white men decide who is worth saving.
I told him a few days ago, after a heated conversation about healthcare–when he asked why I cared so much–about how I watched my mother die. How I was lucky because I could still pay my rent that month. I only had to deal with the wreckage of a broken heart.
I just want to be with a man who recognizes that who I am is special. Who doesn’t mock me for caring too much. Who gets my loyalty and returns it. But mostly someone who wades in the deep end with me and doesn’t lie about who he was with last night. A guy who doesn’t tell me he’s mine when he intends to leave a month later. A man who lets me see who he is and doesn’t cover it up with humor or charm or some shared trauma.
He asked me what I would do if I became disabled in my old age. As if I hadn’t seen my mother live that life during my teens. What if I had to rely on some safety net? And I said, “There is no safety net for me. There hasn’t been in a long time.” It’s why I don’t fuck around with men like him anymore. And–oh–I wouldn’t. He didn’t understand what I meant by that either. Neither do you.
Be better humans tomorrow.