Long Post: 1536 words.
She had an anxiety meltdown that week. Somehow convinced herself she’d fucked up again, had crossed his boundaries again, found herself apologizing again. Splashed her miserable guts on Twitter, again.
Part of her knew it was old stuff but still it felt new and raw and utterly wretched. Part of her knew that his distance was self protection and numbness while his depression wrapped it’s coils tighter around him. But still…
She’d texted him, trying for contact again, received minimal replies again. Told herself he was exhausted, he was unwell, he had not yet regained enough of his precarious mental stability. Yet somehow convinced herself he was sick of her bombarding him with information and concern again, ‘knew’ he was talking to other more important people – the inner circle of friends, again. Convinced herself that ‘companion’ was not, after all, such a special status.
She’d rung, he was on the phone again.
I’ll call you back, I’m not sure how long.
He called her back, sooner than she’d anticipated. The tone seemed impatient, but he said the other conversation wasn’t that important so he’d cut it short. She’d stumbled through an explanation for her interruption, they’d talked briefly. He showed no inclination to extend the conversation. She wondered where their two hour phone calls had gone. Felt like a fool (a silly old fool) bothering him, again.
Three days later, she awoke from a bad dream, crying. Rang him instinctively for comfort.
Encountered that impatient tone again.
Instantly felt like she was being compared to his problematic mother, checking up on him, invading his boundaries again, smothering him with her anxiety.
I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have called. I’ll leave you alone.
Then a spark of resistance.
I wasn’t calling to see how you were. I wasn’t bothering you with my anxiety about your safety. I’m not mothering you if that’s what you think!
Maddeningly, tears made her voice quiver.
I had a bad dream – about my mum. I needed to talk to someone…
More fucking tears. Hearing his voice soften. Shame forcing her to end the conversation in lies.
Sorry, sorry. I didn’t mean to bother you. Don’t worry about it. It’s ok.
She doesn’t get angry often, but the anger smashes through her all that afternoon. She slams around the house reveling in her ire, relieved to be free of sadness, anxiety, uncertainty.
Until later. A text.
Do you want to go for a walk tomorrow?
She convinces herself there is a subtext. He will use the time together to end their association. To tell her he cannot cope with her neediness, her imposition.
Anxiety howls through her brain. How many times can she apologise before he tells her that she’s run out of chances? She tweets frantically, seeking reassurance from her fellow bloggers. Reassurance he seems unwilling (unable?) to give.
Tomorrow. Another text.
Sorry I can’t do it today, try for tomorrow?
She hesitates. Feeling ill, needy, vengeful, irrelevant, hating herself. Her heart like a cold heavy stone in her chest. Those glorious coils of warm energy, of desire that arose in her body whenever they interacted, snuffed. Dead, dead, dead.
I can’t do tomorrow.
No – my turn for a day in bed.
Oh OK. *hugs*
Of course, no questions, he would give her space, doing for her what he needed for himself, not realising she needed – wanted, the opposite.
A new (but familiar) emotion. Despising herself for playing a dishonest game with him.
A brief inconsequential text late in the afternoon – letting her know he was checking up on her. It only served to ratchet up the paranoia, providing a ridiculous
confirmation: I mean nothing to him. It’s over. I’m just a nuisance. He can’t even be bothered to ask how I am, far less call me.
She recalls other endings, darkness descending for weeks beforehand. Feeling bowed down by a thick damp fog that muffles light and heat and hope. But those endings happened when she was younger. When time wasn’t applying added pressure. Why? Why! did she surrender to love again at this late stage. Take on this unexpected companionate relationship when what she’d originally sought had been a quick and dirty fuck?
She does the cards, they predict change, a shedding of what is not needed. Alone in the darkness of her bedroom she lets the tears out in short, staccato gasps.
Then, surprisingly, her crying gradually washes the gray weight in her chest away, she accepts the prediction written in the cards. A slow calm emerges, she sees a way forward… perhaps.
Reluctantly, accepting the need despite her nervousness, she texts him again.
Can we do tomorrow?
Something to do in the morning, how about the afternoon.
What are you having for dinner tonight?
Don’t know, had cheese and biscuits before.
Well, how about we go for a walk then get take away tomorrow night?
Next day. A text around 2.00. She steels herself for rejection, again.
I’ll be around in about half an hour.
Earlier than she thought. Still resolved to follow her intent.
OK, see you then.
Then she paces, scared, restless. Rehearsing what she intends to say. The dog becomes totally bewildered by her incessant movements, eventually lies down in the corner, eyeing her uncertainly.
He arrives. She scans his face, searching for signs, loving him, even while her resolve to settle this remains constant. When he opens his arms and gathers her in for what has become their traditional welcoming hug, she can’t help but sink in. Savoring the comfort of his thick jumper faintly redolent with the warm unique smell of his body, the side of his face touching hers, the firmness of his chest and arms pressing against her.
She feels him sinking in too – sighing deeply, once, twice. It sounds like a sigh of relief, of homecoming? Has she judged this wrongly?
But the energy remains absent.
Earlier she’d arranged the chairs carefully. Sits beside him instead of across. Removes her gloves, asks him for his hand. Surprised, he allows her touch. Looks at her face. Grips the hand tightly.
She stumbles through her loathing of repeatedly apologising for intruding on him, of feeling like she violates invisible boundaries, her fear of demanding too much of him. She voices her hatred of the inadequacy of yet another ‘sorry’, when she feels these trespasses. Mentions too her constant uncertainty over whether any of it is even warranted.
Then she offers him freedom from all the commitment – the… duty, that seems to have accumulated in their six months of interaction, even though nothing has ever been formalised, even though he has always exercised a right of refusal in their dealings. Knowing that several of these ‘obligations’ have been of his own making even while he repudiates the word ‘relationship’.
She feels in that moment her deep commitment, her submission (!) to somehow finding a way to continue this ‘thing’, that they have – whatever it is. Even if she must genuinely offer to give it up, in order to have the chance to keep it.
Awkwardly, her speech convoluted, she offers him back his agreement to be her kink mentor, relinquishes too their beautiful creative partnership, the path of companionship he asked of her only weeks ago, his recent promise to try not scare her again with being incommunicado while the depression has him on his knees, even their precious longstanding tradition to share hugs and non-sexual touch.
She glimpses how his face tracks bewilderment, becomes shadowed with concern, armours against rejection by her.
Not because she doesn’t want these things, she hastily adds. Her offer is a sign of sincerity. An apology which goes way beyond ‘I’m sorry’.
His to restore or not, at any time if he wishes.
Giving him renewed control.
Sees his relief, feels a flash of astonishment – could it be he feared that she was abandoning him? Sees too, understanding – of her vulnerability, her need, her offering? cross his face. Feels it in the firm, gentle squeeze of his hand still clasped in hers. Hears it in his voice – unexpectedly articulating his own words of apology, caring, guilt that he’d let her down again.
An exchange of glances. If this was the script for a romance they would have kissed.
Instead, he pulls her back into another hug.
They rest, quietly, against one another.
The energy coils slowly, delicately, up through her body, again.
Some of you may have seen my meltdown post on Twitter last week. And some of you kindly offered support while I was deep in my anxiety over what I mistook for rejection by CM. so soon after we began to explore our friendship in new ways.
This story is for you, with my heartfelt gratitude.
It was a complicated and very emotional experience, but it seems to have taken us both deeper and further on our companionate pathway. I (we) now have a greater understanding of ways in which CM’s chronic depression and my own anxiety plays out, separately and together, and with this awareness, a stronger appreciation of the need for us to communicate effectively. I also learned how deeply connected and submissive I feel toward this man and to our emerging ‘thing’ which is not formally designated ‘relationship’, but is most definitely, a ‘we’.