Had you met me a few years back, the image that would accompany the thought of me would be that of a solitary man, sitting at a bar-top, tossing forlorn thoughts in to the hickory abyss of a whiskey glass. Slowly sipping. Onward to destination intemperance. A lot has changed in a year. Many things have stayed the same. The most notable change would likely be the fact that I have since retired that chipped whiskey glass and now choose to drown my wounded introspection among the carbonated sparkle of a soda water.
This of course, is a healthy change. One I am happy to have made. But the aching man still resides within my bones. A man pained by experience. I would say that the worst part about the feeling of inadequacy, is the fact that even though it may not be objectively true, each time you draw a breath in, it feels as though you are suffocating beneath the weight of it were.
I’ve spent many years of my life feeling inadequate. In fact, it’s been a rather pervasive theme. This is no truer, than when entering the realm of romance. For me, love and romance has been nothing short of a comedic tragedy of incredulous proportions. I asked a girl out once, when I was in junior high. She pulled on the sleeve of her friend, pointed at me and then laughed. I took that as a hard no. When I did ask out a girl that said “yes,” I was excited. So excited that I snuck into my older brother’s closet and stole a shirt, a good shirt. I stood outside of the burger place, flowers in hand. I stood there for several solitary hours. I had been stood up. The girl never came. I suppose those two examples are more tragic than funny, but I try to remember them light heartedly.
The idea of connection and closeness has always been a highly sought-after commodity for me. Growing up in an environment where everyone vanishes has that effect, I guess. I had a few friends that stuck around, sure. My best friend, Drew being the most noteworthy. But when high school ended and we went our separate ways because, well… that’s life, it felt like another loss, in a way. The loss of youth, and the way things were.
I went on to make new friends, brothers, really. The army has a way of giving birth to new families. Families that you may not necessarily share blood with, but you bleed together, no doubt. But even that family is not permanent; the war came… and it took three of my brothers away. Several more after it ended…
It appeared as though anyone I got close to, disappeared. Wiped off the face of the earth without a trace. I had my mum, that was one thing. But when I was young and through to my time as an adult, she was not always healthy, so the fear of her leaving was always present. Then I met a girl, a girl who said “yes.” And she actually meant it. For a time, anyway. 7 years. That’s how long I was with her. 2 weeks. That’s the period of time when the relationship was fun and enjoyable. The rest… a tragic comedy.
When that relationship ended, I found the bar. The whiskey found me. As time passed, like it does, more loss… more brothers lost to suicide and drink. Then my mum left… the one absence I feared the most had come to fruition.
So, in the current iteration of me, the conceptualized ideas of closeness and connection are no longer sought after, but rather revered as nice… in idea… not actualization. When it comes to romance, the idea is always better than the person. When it comes to loss, it’s easier to keep people at a distance. Safer. Healthier? Debatable, I suppose.
I met a girl recently. A nice girl, from what I know, anyway. She’s polite and pretty. Driven and motivated. She’s tough, the kind of tough that comes from pain. She has dangerous eyes… the kind of dangerous that if you don’t stop yourself, you become lost in them. She smells like the springtime, flowers in bloom, kissed by the sun.
Keeping my brief romantic resume in mind, it will likely come as no surprise to you that I was stricken with shock when it was she who asked me out! Blown away by her offer, I said yes. I didn’t laugh, and I had no intention of standing her up. I wouldn’t do that to someone.
We hung out a few times. Went down by the water, watched her puppy zealously prance through the fields. It was nice. A sprouting friendship if anything.
I began receiving “good morning” text messages on the daily. A pleasing juxtaposition to wake to as opposed to the cavernous void that has held residency on the other side of my mattress for many years now. We continued chatting and flirting, and things seemed to be progressing organically. Smoothly. She even tried to show me how to stream the hockey game so that I could watch it in the comfort of my place. Things wouldn’t work out. Not just with the game, but the girl, too. I saw her with another man. A tall, dark and dapper lad. She sent me an awkward text the next morning and to me, it revealed everything that I needed to know about her and her intentions for me. The whole thing felt familiar and deceitful. Weather it was or not is irrelevant. Because as I explained before: keep them at arms reach… easier to leave than to be left.
We don’t talk anymore…
But all of those things, the romantic failures, pale in comparison of what it’s like to stand in a room of the dead, knowing it was you who couldn’t bring them back. Wanna talk about the feeling of inadequacy… The young ones bother me the most, the young and dead. I still have a hard time coping with the reality of those images. Feeling a young boy’s ribs pop and break beneath your hand as you perform CPR is not an easily forgettable token of experience, either.
I guess what I am trying to say in all of this, is that no matter the objective truth of it all, the subjective belief seems to bear more heft.
I suppose one glimmer of positivity could be that at least I am able to observe the difference between objective and subjective… there was once a time that that would have been impossible. Likely due to a whiskey glass.
So, now that you know who you would have met a few years back, I wonder if you are curious about who it is that you would meet today, what this current iteration of me is like…? Well, I can tell you one thing; you’d only ever get to meet part of me… I won’t let you get close enough to meet the other. Subjective or objective, the walls are up. Sorry about that.
Now, if you’ll excuse me… I have to go toss some thoughts into an effervescent glass of soda water. Objectively speaking.