What healed you this year? Was it sudden, or a drip-by-drip evolution? How would you like to be healed in 2011? (Author: Leoni Allan)
And there it is. It’s the question that I’ve been waiting for/dreading since the beginning of this challenge. Listen, I’m Italian, I was raised Catholic and I’m a girl. These three things alone lead me to synthesize just about everything in my life with a larger than normal degree of guilt. I couldn’t, even with the promise of a million dollars or the threat of a bullet through my cranium, give you an example of the last moment I enjoyed without at least a small degree of guilt. It’s who I am. You see? Even here, I’m beginning with a manner of apology in advance.
That said, I want to write this post with guilt locked in a closet. I’ve told much of my past year’s story already, and I think I’ve made clear that I understand the “wrongness” of some of my actions. As such, I’m going to tell this part of the story without (further) apology. Mistake me not: this experience was RIDDLED with a guilty conscience, (and rightfully so!), but it is a story that merits its day in the sun. Everything in life is multi-faceted, complicated…bedeviled. But what follows is true; it was part of my year, it’s the answer to this prompt, and it deserves to be told.
What healed me this year were the attentions of a man who is not my husband.
He was taller than me, and dark; dark lashes closing over green eyes that were olive when they looked through me. He drank whiskey and looked like he should, dark tattoos extending over powerful forearms in macabre faces of black and grey. He was perhaps the hardest man I’d ever met, and I had trouble not staring in curiosity. I was unabashedly attracted by the way we looked standing next to one another; a wolf and a lamb. He was, without trying, everything that I fake–his hard edges were earned, while mine are finely crafted to have an artifice of tough. I immediately wanted to goad him–to see the flash of anger that surely resided in his workingman’s hands. I wanted to cut my teeth on him, to tempt fate. I wanted to look into that abyss, to lure it out.
We met innocently enough over drinks with mutual friends. I was in his town for a long weekend with a girlfriend, and enjoying a night out in belated celebration of my birthday. It was, of course, small talk at first: the weather, what I thought of Wilmington, when I’d gotten in and the like. But as the evening progressed, so did the conversation, running into books and politics and my job. That night stands out to me as the night that recalled an older, younger (it makes sense, I swear!) version of myself. I remembered, that evening, what it was like to meet new people, to have unforced, meaningful conversation, and to be engaged on intelligent topics, intelligently.
Over the next few months, and upon my return home, those conversations would continue. He and I became fast friends. I discovered in him, a rather kindred spirit. We had (loosely) similar experiences as children and struggled with the same sort of social anxieties. looking back on it, I can’t point to one specific thing that made me feel so connected to him, but connected I was. I was in the middle of one of the most stressful periods of my life, and my chats with him were little oases of relief where I found myself smiling at the considerably NOT small joy of relating to another human being.
As each of my days seemed to get significantly worse and the stress increasingly difficult to handle, I began to count on these conversations and the reprieve they provided. They helped me to breathe easier, and not choke on the unease and disquiet that was slowly smothering me. I was getting things in those hours that I’d forgotten I needed. Attention. Interest. Care. I was using my brain and having a fabulous time talking about things I’d read and what I thought about them. He was holding me together.
After a few weeks, the conversations drifted past simple friendship. He wrote me beautiful words that made my stomach leap in that way it does when you’ve met someone new. When he talked to me, it was poetry and my brain leapt along with my stomach. I furnished my dreams with his words, and decorated their walls with his images. “I think you are so beautiful” he said to me, and I blushed. Each exchange sent a thrill through the center of my body, and I was careful of what I said, lest my running mouth shattered the world he’d created with his image of me.
When I went back to Wilmington over the summer, I spent quite a bit of time with him. Our conversations continued, and the bond increased. Not touching was, admittedly, a Herculean effort. His proximity, at times, was nerve-racking, if our arms were placed too close together in a cab, or at a bar, the hair on mine would stand up, fairly screaming for that touch. There was no faking my way out of it with a smart remark or a raised eyebrow, I was attracted.
We spent a couple of full days together, and he introduced me to his life and friends, showing me what he termed, endearingly, “a large time.” I allowed myself to get lost in those feelings, and reveled in remembering what it was like to be paid attention to, heeded, laughed with and smiled at across a crowded room.
I left his city and continued my summer journey much mended from the cracking shell that I’d become. I left knowing what I had to do in order to repair my life. I left with a recharged battery. I left feeling appreciated, and knowing that I deserved it. We don’t talk much anymore and have since amended our relationship to a strictly platonic level, but there is no doubt that that experience healed me. It resuscitated my life at a time when I needed it most. It’s a plain truth, and unvarnished. It’s hard to admit to because it involved less than admirable actions on my part; but life is untidy, we make of it what we can and carry those lessons with us.