Long, dark drives when cell phones have passed out of batteries and the roads are just clear enough that attention to being able to stop-and-go in a stick shift isn’t necessary are moments ripe for falling into conversation about that which you should talk about, but don’t want to. As it was for A-Ron and me.
We were returning to our fair part of the bay from a wedding, and though we’d been jovial just after a dinner of puff-pasty encrusted tomato soup and sole, the mood had shifted to bittersweet as we talked about us.
“I’ve just never casually dated someone for this long,” he said.
“Well, that makes this new ground for two of us,” I replied. There was silence, and though he hadn’t asked, I felt like I should fill it. “I don’t like this,” I said. “I just can’t seem to not hold anyone at arm’s length.”
“I can tell,” he said. “There’s something really strong blocking…well, I’m not sure if it’s just me. But it’s blocking me out.”
“It’s not just you.”
More silence. I wanted to tell him when this would change. When I would be able to open myself up and give him – or anyone – what they deserved. I’ve accepted what has been offered, but I have not help up my hands and given anything back. But I didn’t have that information.
“I want to be over all this,” I said. “I’ve spent this entire year working on it.”
“You know,” A-Ron said. “It’s okay. I’ve been there. God, haven’t we all? We’ve all been there. I know you’re working on it. I know you’re trying. And I appreciate your honesty. And hell, I appreciate that you’re still here.”
“I just…” I had to stop as tears welled up. Eff it, I thought. Let ’em come. I let myself begin to cry. “I just don’t feel like I love the way other people do. I can’t turn it on and off. Once it’s on, it’s just on. I still love everyone I’ve ever loved. Not in the same way, but probably closer than anyone who dates me wants to think about. And God. I wish I could turn it off. I wish it was a switch, a lever, a button. It would make my life so much easier. For whatever reason, knowing that it is a switch for other people actually makes it worse. It drags me back to the idea that it wasn’t love in the first place, and they just feel foolish for thinking it was so.”
A-Ron took my hand. “I know,” he said. “And I’m sorry.”
There are so many moments when what I don’t need is a date; what I really need is a friend.