Monday, March 13, 2006

In a Lonely Place

Warning: This is another of my periodic posts in which I dwell on self-introspection. Those of you looking for something funny can come back in a day or two when I'm back to posting the drek that I try to pass off as humor. Otherwise, read on at your own risk. I'm just typing this all to try to clear my head.

Over the course of my life, there has probably been only one person that I've allowed to see me for who I truly am. A few others have gotten close to knowing me, but there were parts of me that I kept squirreled away, unbeknownst to anyone but myself. With everyone else, I tend to deflect attempts at intimacy by making jokes - usually at my own expense. I was talking to a friend last night who labeled conversations with me as "emotionally exhausting." She said that that our talks are so full of self-deprecating comments that it made it tiring to try to talk about anything meaningful. I have to admit that she had a point.

If I were to give this some thought, I'd probably say that the jokes are my way of beating the other person to the punch. That is, if I put myself down before they have a chance to do so, then I can either completely avoid or at least minimize the sting of rejection. While it may be true that there is someone out there who wouldn't abandon me - or at least would show me that I matter to them - I've yet to find that person.

Of the few people that I've opened up to, none remain in my life. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I'd imagine that it says a lot.

Later in the conversation, my friend asked me why I think people settle for less than what they deserve in relationships. I answered by saying that perhaps they think they expect too much from relationships. After further discussion, I added that it could also be that they simply grew tired of being lonely.

What I didn't say, but thought, was that in my case it's more that I've come to realize that perhaps I'm just not that deserving of a good relationship. If I were, I'd have one and if I were as good of a person - and as good a partner - as I've tried to be, I wouldn't be alone.

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It had been at least six months since he last called her. He decided to use her work number, because he wasn't sure if her home phone number had changed....or at least that's what he told himself. The truth was that he knew she wouldn't be at work at that hour and he feared that, if he heard her voice, he'd lose his nerve.

Sure enough, his heart began to race the minute her voice mail message began. His voice trembled slightly as began to speak.

"Hi. Its me..."

Me. He hoped she'd remember his voice, but she seemed to have forgotten about him moved on so quickly and easily that he wasn't sure.

"'Joe", he added, just to be on the safe side.

"I just called to say..."

Say what? That he still loved her? That he still thought about her every day? That he missed her so much it felt like someone had torn out his heart? That he needed her? That if he had the chance, he'd give up everything he owned all over again for just one more day with her? That he'd never screw up again?

"I just called to say hi." he finished.

He looked out his office window. It was dark by then, and he was surprised to see tears running down his cheeks in his reflection.

He held the phone to his chest for a moment before pulling it away, fearful
that she might hear his heart pounding nearly bursting through his chest. The phone was almost back in the cradle when he had thought better of it. He brought the receiver back to his ear, pressed the star key and waited until the generic female voice informed him that his message had been deleted.

After hanging up, he hesitantly opened his bottom desk drawer. Almost afraid he was doing something wrong, he quietly moved a stack of papers aside to reveal a picture taken a few years ago at his office holiday party. It was the only picture of them he'd kept. In fact, it had been all but forgotten until he came across it a week ago while searching for something else. He held the frame in both hands and gazed longingly at her. Somehow, after everything they had been through, her smile still made his knees go weak. Everything about her was still so captivating. They'd been so happy then. You could tell by the way they were pressed together, as if being even an inch apart was too much to bear.

His mind raced back over their time together. He recalled the softness of her lips as he kissed her; the way her body felt against his; how it felt to hold her in his arms; the first time they made love; they way they fit perfectly together in every way.

He allowed himself a small smile as he thought about the long nights spent talking on the phone; about how proud he felt to hold her hand they walked home at night; about waking up in the middle of the night and just watching her sleep; about his constant amazement that a woman who was so wonderful in so many ways had chosen him.

He considered throwing the picture away but as his hand hovered over the garbage can, he found himself unable to let go. Kissing his fingertips, he placed them gently against her cheek for a moment before returning the frame to its drawer and moving the papers back in place.

Wondering how he was going to make it through another night alone, he turned off the light and quietly left the empty office to face an evening of trying and failing to find meaning in a life that had once been so full of promise.