It’s been nearly a year since I told The Neighbor I loved him. A year of more lows between us than highs, honestly. Saying those three stupid words changed everything.
We went from exalted fuck buddies to a couple hammering out expectations and responsibilities basically overnight. And it’s been really ugly. He’s an island unto himself — a little squat cactus in my mind — and I am this ball of needs and changing moods, not temperamental, but in motion all the time — an orchid. We are an unlikely pairing.
I’ve suffered from massive attacks of doubt and suspicion; he’s wrestled with his apathy and worry; our sex life isn’t what I want; I don’t think he’s cum because of me once this year; I feel unimportant; I imagine he feels beleaguered; I’m fantasizing about other men, other lives I could have.
On the other hand we’ve also grown more intimate. I know him better and him me, he’s a bigger part of Peyton’s life.
And yet, we both agree we’re barely dating.
Last night marked the first time in 3 years that I asked to be alone, away from him. After a 12-hour day I was down to the bone. I didn’t have it in me.
He quickly came to my side in the kitchen where I was making us dinner and generously using the last of my bacon for him. “Hy,” he said, inches from my face and holding my hips, “why not?”
I looked him in the eye and replied, “Because it makes me anxious all night that you don’t really want to be here and sad that we haven’t fucked. I don’t like it when you drug yourself before even discussing it with me and you’re grumpy in the morning. I want to cuddle with the dog on the bed and with the kitty and have an easy morning.”
“I wasn’t grumpy this morning, was I?”
“No, but that’s rare. I’m just tired of it and don’t have it in me tonight.”
“You’d rather sleep with the dog than with me?”
I didn’t answer and went back to cooking. He was right.
His hands dropped to his sides and I felt like I heard the air escaping from his balloon. I don’t know what prompted me to be so honest with him other than I felt like it was the best thing for me to do.
I am sharing a relationship with a prickly cactus who might be giving his all, but to me feels like the bare minimum I can get by on. That’s why we’re barely dating.
And by that I mean there is no future. Not because I’ve decided there isn’t one, but because we don’t talk about it; he hasn’t committed even the next year to me. He seems mildly tortured with worry that he can’t give me what I need or want and in his mind that’s a lifelong commitment. He feels badly, awful, really. I get sad because I’ve done everything I can to get out of my own way and enjoy him in the moment, but the truth is: without a committed future working this hard seems like too much. Why am I doing this? Am I robbing Peyton of man who wants to be in our lives?
Which brings me to where I am at this very moment. I feel inept. Stupid. Unskilled. I should know how to do this better by now. But I feel as ignorant and blind as ever.
When I was much younger, I ended relationships after a year when I felt unimportant. With my exhusband I completely ignored all the lights flaring up inside of me and went ahead and married the guy. I never tried to change the course with us; I accepted the little he had to give and moved on. And today I’m accepting the little I get, but am unwilling to just move on. I want something more, but have absolutely no idea how to make that happen.
In moments such as these I like to think about all the wonderful things TN brings to the table which I’ve never had before: he’s a staunch supporter of mine, he loves helping me and needs it, he’s generous, he’s passionate, he’s damn sexy, he’s strong, he’s a wonderful listener, he genuinely likes me.
But I can’t just go all Pollyanna on myself whenever the darker, sadder, uncomfortable shit rears its ugly head, can I?? I have to face it. I have to state clearly what my needs are, own them, not be afraid of them and see what happens. It might be that he can’t or won’t meet them and then I have decisions to make, don’t I? I can’t do what I’ve done in the past and let this stasis creep up and ooze into the fibers of my relationship, an insidious mold growing larger spore by tiny spore. But I’m terrified.
I don’t want to lose him. I don’t want to be alone again; I do better in life when I have a stable partner. I don’t want to feel that stark, shattering pain.
It would be such a sad ending to our tale if this was it; it just fizzled out a year after we shared our hearts after all those long months of yearning.
I don’t know. Maybe this is how it ends. With him sealed away from me and me withering on the vine, desperate for a little more sunshine…
After he did all the dishes without me asking he left with an air of sadness. I fell into an exhausted heap on top of a pile of clean laundry on the couch and watched an episode of Louie C.K. The dog snoozed on the other end as Louie lamented the pain of divorce and the difficulty of attempted relationships post-marriage. I giggled through heavy lids, my heart sad, but laughing, because he’s right: it’s torture trying to connect when you have no hope and you know it all ends anyway.
And then the dog became rigid and barked at the back stairwell. TN filled the doorway and I couldn’t help but be lit up. He still has that effect on me.
“Hy,” he said with one hand behind his back, “I couldn’t stop thinking after you made that wonderful dinner and did all those wonderful things for me — I mean, I just couldn’t live with myself! How could I! — that you wouldn’t have any bacon for tomorrow!” He brought his hand around and held out a package of the special, humanely raised pork that I love, Niman Ranch bacon. He’d driven to a grocery store that was the furthest from our complex to get it.
I almost burst into tears. It was the most romantic sweet thing he’d ever done for me. Totally unexpected, totally unnecessary, totally out of love, totally what this little flower needed.
I patted a spot next to me and threw myself into his arms the second he sat down. “Thanks for everything, Hy,” he said into my hair. And then he kissed me long and firm and sweet. There was still sadness there, but there was also a little bit of hope. And a little bit of sunshine.