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  • It all seemed important to him. This has always been difficult for me to find. Someone to whom things seem to really matter. To him, I mattered, this mattered - a lot. For a time he wondered out loud if he could say that he was feeling love yet. He was a confused child with this stuff. Then something turned over in him and he claimed it. Proudly. Over time he named it the accomplishment that he was most proud of in his life and said that he wasn’t sure he had known what being alive felt like until now. While it was incredibly confusing at times, he said, this was the most important thing he had ever done.

    Maybe other people have heard things like this before, I hadn’t. I had never before looked into the tear stained face of a grown man explaining to me the radical disorientation that comes from loving for the first time and this etched something in me that I will not forget and cannot name. I can hardly make sense of that time now, and yet, I continue to know those to be some of the most palpable, urgent and revealing moments I have ever shared with another human being.

    Then, at some unlocatable point, there was a shift. I will never know exactly when or where. Not a gradual one or a growing one, but a tectonic one. And from that point onward I began to experience that first man I knew in short glimpses and more and more I began to know a different one. Elusive, moody, unkind and sinister. The things that he at one time pined to do, was ‘honored’ to do, little togetherness things, became a mockery to him. Coming to see me, returning a call. I had not become a burden to him. (I know that feeling well.) I had become a threat. When, how, for what reason, I am not entirely sure. I believe that at some silent, unnamed juncture he encountered the fact that I could be a disappointment as well as a desired thing. And something in that alloy was sullying and unforgivable.

    Not having milk in the house for his cup of tea was tantamount to spitting in his face. Losing my patience with him or getting my feelings hurt resulted in days of jarring, silent punishment. In his absence I would disappoint myself - only capable of languishing in a haze of terror, despair and longing that felt radical and wore on for long stretches. I was suddenly and newly dealing with a volatile substance that was reducing me to ash. A kind of mysterious someone with the power to cast me into hell for reasons I never understood. I was more and more frightened and I didn’t know why. To this day, I have not been able to fully name how deeply afraid and how sequestered in the fear I was. I couldn’t utter it somehow and so I had trouble knowing that it was there. I felt strange, more and more disturbed, a sickness was forming. And things occurred to me that I couldn’t connect with reality.

    I was on my way over to see him one night, and called to say, I don’t know, I’m running late, or looking for parking, and he didn’t respond. I always drove in front of his place on my way to park and saw him sitting out front looking at his phone when I did. He didn’t see me. When I arrived I asked about the call, Oh, he said, I was napping, I haven’t looked at my phone, I just woke up. A lie. A peculiar, small one, but a pure, simple lie. And wholly unnecessary. There were more and more of them. Oddly shaped, difficult to comprehend, but there.

    From time to time there would be a reprieve, an email apologizing for the distance, a re-iterating of all that I was to him and all that he wanted to be to me. A sweet surprise dinner at home or tickets to a show that we would sit through together so full of something tender and joyful that I couldn’t focus on the turmoil alone.
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