Less Than Butterflies, No. 27
Then I went on home to my skyscrapers,
neon lights, and waiting papers
that I call home.
The time since that night has been remarkably difficult. I’ve been in love before. Hell … I probably fall in love as often as other people fill up their gas tanks. But I’ve never been in a love like this; and certainly I’ve never been in love with someone for so long and not realized that I was in it, or at least not realized that I’d been taking a slow descent down a hillside ready to hit my head and knock me into the realization at the bottom like some fucked-up, gay version of Jack and Jill. When I did realize what was happening to me, though, I cried for days. I missed this man so much more than I had ever expected to; and I laid in bed at night clinging to a pillow recreating that euphoric moment I could never get out of my head. If I felt the urge to masturbate, I would forgo pornography and simply replay the events of that night in my head until I conjured orgasms I’d never had before. Only I had to stop myself from doing this, because at the moment of each climax, once the ejaculate had left my body, I’d fall back into a stream of tears. Every single time I’ve seen him since I’ve wanted to recreate that perfect night and that perfect day — the dancing and laughing and falling into bed and then just the two of us singing songs in the car, him telling me a story and me smiling gaily back at him as I nod along stupidly like some drunken teenager trying to convince their parents there was no alcohol at the party down the block.
Several times, there were days like it, but the nights of lying in his arms never again afforded themselves. We’d had long talks about boundaries, about how he was still in a relationship, about how it was important just to go back to normal and see what happened. We’d agreed. Still, those perfect days existed; only when I realized I wouldn’t get my perfect nights back, my mood would shift and I wouldn’t be able to completely enjoy them. We went to concerts, we went out drinking, we partied for Halloween, we went to the State Fair, and he even held my hand when I was freaking out halfway through a haunted house. We got to know one another through tarot card readings and stories about his late grandfather and my late grandmother, shared Chinese food in the car outside a restaurant that would only let us order takeaway, and fought like cats and dogs over meaningless, trivial matters that always made me laugh in the end. Every one of those days I spent with him was electrified by magic I’d never felt before.
But with the good came the bad.
Every time we parted ways, it got a little bit harder to leave him behind. Every single time that I found myself overjoyed just to be next to him, I had to remember something that was exquisitely important:
This was not my boyfriend.
Remembering that wasn’t difficult. In fact, I don’t think I ever forgot because I wanted it so badly. But not getting caught up in how we spent our time together and longing for that was much more difficult. When I would take his car to the dealership to get fixed and have to put a secondary phone number down in case he couldn’t be reached, I had to shove away the forethought of doing that for him for the rest of my life. When I met his family at functions for their clan, laughing with his niece and nephew and joking over cigarettes and boxed Cabernet with his sister, I had to stop myself from getting lost in thinking how much I would love to be an actual part of his family. Even cooking for him, watching him get up to get more food after he’d already had his first serving, I thought about what a joy it would be to get to see that every single night. It meant so much to me that someone I felt safe with actually wanted me around. I’d never had that before. Sure, I couldn’t say for sure whether the desire for company came from romance or not, but the requests to fly up to him two weekends in a row made me curious, as did the requests for extended stays once plans were already set.
And then there was the matter of how we handled our friendship. I’ll say this: he tried to be delicate. He was in a relationship with the aforementioned boyfriend still and we were just friends. And after my last trip to see him, I had gotten so angry with him when our time together was almost up and he’d gone home to nap before I left that I flew out of his car in a violent rage and screamed at him across the circle drive. This man I’d just led to a bathroom the night before so he did Molly-vomit all over the floor of the club, this man that leaned forward and tried to kiss me while I sat in a booth trying to respect the boundaries we’d set into place, this man who I’d bought Reese’s cups for and who had wiggled his chocolatey fingers in front of my face once he’d finished them and I had to fight back the urge to lick it off of them — he was leaving me after he’d asked to come that weekend; after he’d begun traipsed off after Chance now that they were friends again and nearly left me stranded more times than a few.
We fought it out later, after I’d flown back home, after I’d had time to let my serotonin readjust from the drugs. And it came up from him then that these feelings I was feeling were one-sided and that what he’d gotten out of that night — out of our friendship — was only just that. Friendship.
It hurt me in a way I’d never been hurt before. I wasn’t angry with him for it; I wasn’t even sure that I could have been if I’d wanted to be, because the reality of it was that if that’s what he said, I had to respect it. But I didn’t have to believe it — and I didn’t. I wasn’t a fool. I wasn’t making this little emotional affair up in my head — everyone else was watching it play out, too. Gwen, Jennifer, Chance, and every social media monger that followed either of us and paid attention. I hadn’t dreamt that that night in the hotel took place, I hadn’t made up that the next night on the phone he’d told me that he’d wanted to have sex, that he was obviously hard, even if he was relieved that we hadn’t done it. I wasn’t making up the requests for more of my time or the way he held my hand or tried to kiss me. That was all real. So, no, I didn’t believe; and on some level, I still don’t. Do I believe that maybe I came to this realization quicker than he did? Yes. Do I believe he’s afraid of what would happen or what the world would think if he did have them and were to accept that or let himself feel it? Yeah. But I don’t believe I made these feelings up. I don’t believe it, nor did I have to like it; but I did have to respect what he was saying and accept it at face value. If I couldn’t do that, I would’ve lost my best friend and the man that I loved altogether.
After that conversation, we certainly fought more; the fault of which was more so my inability to deal with my feelings more so than anything in particular he had done. I wasn’t an idiot. I knew that I was a mess. And I knew that if I couldn’t get it together soon, I was going to end up pushing him away forever. But it didn’t change the fact that my heart was still breaking inside of me and that its shards were scraping everything around it and causing me to bleed out helplessly.
I felt cheated. Not by Peter, but by whichever thing it was that might be real that all those people believe in and pray to and gloat about like children playing make-believe on the playground. Whether it was God or the Universe or the Fates, I neither knew nor cared about. I was mad at it for making me who I was — someone Peter said didn’t love. I was always a person who felt so deeply and who was so ruled by emotion that it leaked into the air around me and contaminated others — good and bad. I’d spent my whole life — not just my adulthood, but the entire span of it — searching for love that I hadn’t gotten anywhere else that I needed it. I didn’t get it from my father, and my mother’s version of loving came bedazzled in caveats and stipulations. I had spent years following around men who had fucked with my head, played, with my heart, and raped my body. Then finally I found the one man out of the thousands I’d surely met in my life whom I adored both inside and out — a man that gave me a feeling that was nothing less than butterflies — and I couldn’t have him.
What … was wrong … with me?
It almost made me ill to think about sometimes. It left me wondering if I’d ever find someone who was capable of loving me for who I was, crying over whether or not I would feel as good with someone else down the line as I did when I was with Peter.
And even through all that hurt, all the self-doubt, all of the misery I put myself through by loving someone so much, I couldn’t bear the thought of losing my friend. And that’s because that one night in the hotel room — as much of an oxymoron as it may be — I felt like I was at home. He’d baptized me in his arms and erased the chipping layer of paint that was the haunting of this terrible thing that had happened to me one night in a bar. With him, I’d never felt safer in my entire life and that was simply because I’d let his arms whisper to me how they’d never let anyone hurt me, and I’d felt the circles he’d traced on my shoulders and the lines his fingernails dug into my skin transfigure into letters spelling out poetry. It was because I’d gotten lost in those eyes like murals that I saw an entire future painted upon around me at the bottom of that well.
But none of it had been what I’d seen. At least … not according to Peter.
Do I believe that he wouldn’t let anyone hurt me? Of course I do. Just because the love he shares only extends to the lengths of our friendship doesn’t change that. That’s the kind of man he is. And the poetry — I can still hear it as clear as day like … like the sound a mermaids luring sailors to them on cliffsides. But it was fleeting; it was a one-night engagement in a tiny block box theatre where every other chair sat vacant; and as the world faded from view around me, every single light in the rafters landed on him as he looked me in the eyes and recited that poetry to me. And those paintings in his eyes showed me what could be if we were to spend our lives together — and that’s where I was, if it matters. I was at the point where he was the first and only man — including Parker, who I thought I would marry — that I ever realistically thought I was supposed to spend the rest of my life with. But those murals were just that: what could be … not what was meant to be. But the memory remains intact, as does that feeling of being where I belonged that night with him; and nothing can take that away from me. Not even the knowledge that there is something wrong with me that keeps him from loving me like I love him.
I call that home …