I’ve been trying to write this post for the past few days, but my feelings are tangled up in self-preservation. There’s this part of me that doesn’t want to seem like a heartless asshole. Then there’s this other part of me that is, in fact, a heartless asshole. So it’s hard, ya know.
I have a friend who I’ve known for about a year. We communicate via text most days and see one another occasionally. Also we slept together once. And a few months ago, I told him I was in love with him. If all of this is sounding familiar, it should. You know of this friend. Around here, he’s nicknamed The Voyeur.
As a general rule, my boundaries are pretty low. I trust people until they give me a reason not to. The Voyeur, though…he’s like a human fortress. We could not be more different.
In the year I’ve known him, The Voyeur’s occasionally felt safe (or drunk) enough to offer me a glimpse inside his walls. And what I saw was lovely and broken and vulnerable, beaten down by his choices, and immobilized by his cynicism. He’s a true romantic, albeit one who seems to be caught in a never-ending real-life tragedy. Seeing him at his most vulnerable pushed all the savior-complex-tinged parts of me that I can trace back as far as my childhood. My walls barely require you to lift your feet off the floor. I exude acceptance — therefore, I attract brokenness.
Last week, as suddenly as our friendship began, it ended. He pushed away from the table with a series of monosyllabic replies, repeated claims of “I’m fine.” Then silence.
My instinct is to check in, to push back against the rejection. But I’m not going to do that this time. There’s a part of me that wants him back in my life. There’s another part (the heartless part I mentioned earlier) that feels profound relief at no longer owning any responsibility for the well-being of someone who so clearly has no interest in pursuing his own emotional wellness. I’ve spent more time worrying about him than I care to admit. Letting it all go is a disarming mix of joy and fear.
This post took me 3 days, 5 drafts, and 2 poems to become what is now. The only part of the poems I liked are the following lines, written to describe our old dynamic:
Scraps tossed drunkenly over the walls
To the beggar waiting outside.
I’m tired of being the beggar, waiting timidly for the occasional scrap of authenticity. So in a sense, I’m reclaiming an identity that I had relinquished in order to be friends with The Voyeur. I’m not a beggar. I’m a peer and a friend, and a damn good friend when I’m allowed to be. There’s only so much shouting over the wall I can do before my voice and my heart need a rest.