I was talking with my therapist the other day. She said, “It’s all imagination. You know how when you go to a place like an amusement park? There will be one of those wooden things, painted on one side, with a hole in it, and people stick their face through it, so someone else can take a picture?”
“Oh yeah, I know what you’re talking about,” I said.
“That’s like him,” she said. “He could stick his face through the board, and you could see him like that. But it couldn’t be maintained. After a while, the board falls over, and you see who he really is.”
“Ok,” I said. “Sounds accurate.”
“Yeah, for a few months, you could believe he was that person. It was what you wanted–it was all from your imagination.”
This was in reference to the idea that I had made you up. I told my therapist, I saw some amazing excellence and extrapolated a person who was not real. I took what I saw, the best of you, and spun straw into gold. My imagination is amazing!
“I think he really wanted to be the person I saw him as,” I told my therapist.
“Of course,” she said, in her calm way. “Who wouldn’t?”
“It reminds me of that prayer–Please God, help me be the person my dog thinks I am,” I said.
We laughed. “Do you know that one?” I asked.
“No, I never heard that. That’s good,” she said.
I was the loyal dog, eager to lick your hand and get food and love from you, wagging my tail when you glanced at me. But you had a lot of other things to do, than devote your life to me.
I have this strong feeling, the self you were when I texted with you was my favorite, and maybe the real you.
But no, the self you were in phone calls was probably much closer to the real you. Often I would get off the phone with you, feeling totally different from how I felt at the beginning of the call. You would school me in who you were, my illusions corrected.
Some nights, you were energetic and loud, doing tasks while listening to music. I would realize you had so much going on, and I was a small blip in your day.
Other nights, you were calm and so high, I felt we were not really communicating. Later, when you mentioned something I’d said from a call like that, I would be amazed. I thought you couldn’t even hear me, let alone know who you were talking to, or remember what I said.
The worst was saying I love you, during phone calls, and you not saying it back. That hurt me so bad. I would hang up and burn with pain, cry, hate myself, and decide to stop saying it to you. But the love was so real and powerful, sometimes I had to say it. I believed that if the love was this real inside of me, I must be correct–something important was happening, and you would admit it.
But again the next time, you would hear my I love you, and choose to reply with a different blessing. How confusing, that you mostly treated me like I mattered. But I was so wrong–I was not worth even that little phrase.
I hated myself for needing the language, and wrestled with very nature. “If I know he loves me, why do I need him to say it? I guess my needs are wrong.” I felt really stupid. What’s love, anyway? Those questions were an easy way to get folded in on myself, thinking of my mom, how we used language in my family of origin, and how those deep needs even come into existence.
Maybe I should have stopped being your friend then. I would try to pull back and give my energy to other people and places. But it was hard to do that well, because some of what you gave me was exactly what I needed, and no one else gave that to me.
There’s your self I saw in your art–a strange self I still don’t know what to think of. There’s the self in person I never met, your actual body. Your self in photos you sent me, selfies you shared almost daily; sometimes I asked for them. There’s the self you were in my dreams, those three important dreams I had about you.
In texts, you were so full of life. Your words were my joy. I saw you as the glimmer of light on water. That sparkling, gorgeous, golden movement, almost too much to look at. That glimmer is God, and you were God to me, just light, pouring through my phone.
Over text you would pray for me, sometimes comfort me, and we had such good word play. You asked how my appointment was. You praised the art I made. For a year, you were there for me more than most people, more than almost anyone, besides my spouse.
I’m crying here at my computer, wishing for one more time, you to share a graffiti pic or say something strange. I remember those months of you wishing love to my day. I thought we were keeping each other safe.
So valuable. But all in the imagination. Words are nothing, right? These words are like spirit, wispy and inconsequential. They can evoke a lot, but it’s all just imagination.
You intentionally have a lot of different selves, and the real you is Who Knows Who. I hope your girlfriends get that person. You actually are the solid, present man who kisses them, your stubble on their face, or the one holding their hand. Stuff I’m never going to get.
A year is a long time to be that focused on your well-being, and what do I have to show for it? The flowers you sent in January, I have a little portion of a petal. A few notes from you on my desk. Your handwriting is the only handwriting I ever wanted to come on.
It’s too much, to have lost my mom and lose you also. You’re still in the world, making mischief, but lost to me, like sweet Mama. How am I supposed to continue being a person?
So ironic, how our last phone call was the best, in a way–so tender. You were finally being real with me, in a way you had not, before. There were no jokes. It was less imagination–you on the beach, telling me truths you had withheld for so long.
You explained to me how you felt about me, kind of destroying me. Yeah, I would say my response was devastation. You said you wanted to give me appetizers, no big meals, and not reliably. No, you didn’t long to live with me. Ouch–truth hurts. But it would have been better to know that a while back.
To finally hear the reasons you didn’t say you loved me–wow, I was amazed by the childishness of it all. You felt vulnerable saying that, you didn’t know I needed it, and you didn’t want to lead me on. Oh God, as if I needed to be led. The path of the shimmering light on the water was what was leading me on, toward a future I one hundred percent believed in. There are multiple futures I dreamed of, me and you.
They don’t matter now, at all. I was so wrong. The imagination is where all relationships happen, but especially long distance ones.
I’m agonizing over losing you, sick with withdrawal. In my imagination, you’re having fun, keeping busy, and doing whatever the fuck you want, totally free. I still need you, but I’m working on it.