Pity the child, but not forever, not if he stays that way.
He can be all he ever wanted, if he’s prepared to pay.
Lyrics from the musical Chess.
I clip my wings
I have a name for it now. It’s called Avoidant Personality Disorder.
It doesn’t change who I am, it doesn’t make me any different than I was yesterday or the day before that, but it makes it clearer to me why I act the way I do. Or shall I say react the way I do.
My actions are automatic responses to actions being done to me -- not today, but in the past. Actions being done, not by those interacting with me today, but different people, different situations at a different time, but that has made me develop an efficient defense mechanism to survive.
It’s so efficient that I failed to see that it was doing more harm than good.
I failed to see that not only has the world changed around me, but I have changed as well.
I am no longer a child. I no longer need to defend myself behind a particular pattern of behavior, but can stand on my own now. A grown man that can hold his own. I need to break the pattern, because I am the one who pushes people away now.
Knowing this is like a double-edged sword. On the one hand I know now what I am dealing with and I know that what I fear is not as dangerous as I imagine. That is just my rational mind though; my emotions are still linked to my automatic reactions, so I still get scared. But knowing this empowers me to try anyway, and experience that it wasn’t, in fact, dangerous.
On the other hand though, I now see myself fail if I don’t have the courage to change my way. I can no longer blame it on being oblivious. By knowing, I have a responsibility to change, even though the journey is long and hard.
I have been given the tools; it’s up to me to put them to use.
The night is dark.
It’s not the void of light that makes it dark, but the lack of hope. Darkness is cold and empty.
I’m sitting on the cold tiles in my kitchen. They’re not the hardest tiles you can find, they are rather soft slate, but even slate feels hard when you spend an extended time sitting on it. My left buttock is numb after only a few minutes, and I choose to simply tilt over to my right to lay down on the floor. From this perspective I can see that there are a lot of bread crumbs still clinging to the board at the bottom of my kitchen counter, along the plastic trim I’ve installed to make a smooth transition from the counter to the floor. I vacuumed this floor today, but apparently the vacuum head doesn’t reach the last few millimeters closest to the counter.
I reach out my hand to wipe a finger over the crumbs and feel the sticky goo of old dust. I’m getting sick at the thought of how dirty it is, and wipe my hands on my pants knowing that it will need to be washed anyway after I have spent the better part of a night on the kitchen floor.
Come to think about it, I should be cleaned as well.
There will be plenty of time for that later.
I focus on the crumbs again, counting them, trying to empty my head of thoughts.
They have been confusing today, my thoughts. Rapid. Falling like marbles, hitting me in the gut. Burning holes in me and disappearing before I can catch them. Only one remains.
It won’t last.
“It won’t last.” Nothing will last. Never. Not. Ever.
It won’t last, because I’m in the equation. I’m the one who will screw up, so the only way to make it work is to eliminate me, and right now that is very tempting.
Just cease to exist. That would be good. Just poof. No more Jensen.
I think numb is what I’m going for. No feeling, no emotions. It must be better than this. Better than feeling so much and knowing that in a while, when he leaves you, you will be left longing for someone that is no longer there.
I did well for so long. I jumped. I tried, and I succeeded. I invited Jared home, I showed him I was interested, and I even initiated the first kiss. True, he had more or less told me he wanted to be kissed, but still, I was the one leaning in. I didn’t back up, even though my heart was pounding so hard in my chest that I could hear nothing but the blood pumping in my ears. Jared had to remind me to breathe, and I started laughing. I don’t know if it was nervousness or relief, but I think it was just me being so fucking glad I wasn’t punched in the face.
I’ve learned now that Jared won’t ever punch me in the face for kissing him. He might jump me though. He’s surprisingly fixated on my body. Seems to never get enough of it. He always has his hands on me, always touching and licking, and always wants to be connected somehow. Doesn’t matter if we’re asleep, he gravitates towards me and wraps his long limbs around me.
In the beginning I kept moving away, trying to find my own space, and ended up clinging to the edge of the mattress so I wouldn’t fall off. Now I am gravitating towards him as well.
And I think that’s what scares me the most. That I am getting dependent on him, getting used to him, expecting him to be here. It’s leaves me vulnerable for when he decides to leave.
Because he will leave.
You see, Jared has a future. He has a life, while I am just living in this vacuum of time where life stands still and everyone else’s life just swirls around me. Sometimes, their lives will touch mine, and we will interact for a while, but no one really stays. They always move on, to where they are supposed to be heading. And I am left in my little bubble, longing for what I had a taste of.
And I can’t join them on that journey.
I thought I had found it now, the life I was meant to have, when I found Jared. We’ve been together for about a year , and up until now, everything has been great. Sure, we have our disagreements, we fight, but never to the extent that I think we will break.
I thought he was it.
That was until last night.
~ * ~
“Chad’s moving out,” he said.
An innocent sentence, just a fact being thrown out. But it’s so much more than that.
We’ve talked about it so many times. How the apartment they have was too expensive, but it was the only one they’d found that allowed dogs. How Chad probably wanted to move in with Sophia, and how Jared wouldn’t be able to pay the rent alone. We know all of this, we’ve been over all of this, so I don’t even have to think it through before I know all the implications.
Chad’s moving out, so Jared needs to find another place to stay, some place he can afford alone, and that takes dogs.
And we know that’s impossible.
Jared doesn’t have that kind of money, and he doesn’t have the time to get yet another job or pick up more shifts at the coffee shop.
So I know I should offer him a place to stay. A place to live. An address that’s his.
I have a huge house, much bigger than I need. It’s mine, and it’s more than enough room for both Jared and me to roam around in. His dogs already feel at home here. I have already invested in dog beds for them that are placed under the stairs, and there’s a big bag of dry dog food locked into the downstairs closet behind the door that can be locked so Harley can’t break into the food stores.
But I just clam up.
I watchmy boyfriend go on and on about how he needs to find a place to stay, and I just nod like I am clueless about what to do.
And I guess I am. Because every time I come close to saying the words I know I should, I feel an iron claw tightening its grip around my heart. I cannot physically say the words.
And while my world stops, Jared is moving around, acting his normal chipper self, and I wonder how he does not feel the cold. I have to remind myself to breath, to smile, to nod and now and then say yes. I hear my voice a million miles away and it sounds strained.
He must notice something, because he stops and looks at me, asking me if I am okay. And I say yes. Or no. I say I have a migraine.
It’s a lie, but it can just as well become the truth very soon if I don’t get a grip.
“Poor baby,” he says and moves closer to give me a hug.
I want to move away, to ease out of the touch, not wanting to be comforted by the one I am about to betray.
I excuse myself as soon as I can, tell him I need to lay down. I lay in bed, wide awake, feeling the walls narrowing in on me. I want to cry, but I don’t want to draw attention to myself. I don’t want Jared to come in. I need my own space.
And that’s the thing.
I need my own space.
~ * ~
So how am I going to be able to live my life with Jared when I can’t even share my house with him? If there’s anyone that I should be able to share house with, it’s him. He’s here all the time, and I’ve even told him time and time again, and I mean it too, that it’s so comfortable having him here because I can be myself around him.
With anyone else, I walk on eggshells so I won’t do anything they don’t like. I make sure my house is spotless so they won’t have anything to judge me for, and I buy way too much food so I am sure there is something that they like.
With Jared, I leave my clutter as it is, and he adds to it. Sometimes I clean it up, sometimes he does, and the other one doesn’t feel obligated to help even if one is doing something, if one doesn’t have the energy to do so. It’s less stressful this way. I love it. I’ve never felt like this with anyone before.
That’s why I don’t understand why I can’t live with him.
Isn’t this why I should be able to live with him?
I love him….. I think.
But if I can’t live with him, maybe I don’t love him enough? Maybe I am too selfish to ever really love anyone?
And if that’s the case, then there’s no hope.
I can never have the life I want. The one with a husband and a white picket fence. Because if that’s the case, Jared will take the dogs and leave.
I cannot expect him to live on my conditions. Being put on hold and being tested to see if I love him enough. I cannot expect him to stay put even after his school is finished, when he has the opportunity to find a job wherever, and I am not still ready to let him in.
I cannot expect him to stay when I cannot give him my all.
So I freak.
And I hate myself for freaking, because I know I am doing this to myself. I know I am pushing him away when I know I should take the chance. Because if I don’t take the chance, I am guaranteed not to win. I can only lose.
And yet, that’s what I’m doing, because I’m telling myself that if I let him go now, it will be less painful than if I get more attached.
More attached than gravitating towards him in bed.
More attached than thinking about the easy chair as Jared’s chair, and thinking about his dogs as the kids.
More attached than expecting him home every day after school, even though he doesn’t officially live here. He hasn’t slept in his own apartment for weeks.
His dogs are even here every day, with me, when he is at school.
The only real change will be on paper. His shift of address, because he is here all the time anyway.
So what’s the big deal?
I think I need my sovereignty. I need to know that the house is mine. I need to know that I’m in charge. Now I can let clutter flow freely, and Jared can’t yell at me, because it’s not his house. If he moved in he would have a voice in it. And I can’t do that now. Not yet. Not until I have found who I am.
I haven’t really found myself yet.
Years of being scared of having my own voice has made me forget to look for who I am, and discovering that I am someone is something I enjoy. I need to taste that feeling and linger in it for a while still, before I start to compromise again. If I let Jared in now, I won’t be strong enough yet to keep myself. I will mold to his liking, and I don’t want that to happen.
Not that I won’t give and just take in a relationship. Not at all. But I need to be sure of who I am before I can know how to preserve myself.
So I am doomed to be alone now. For a while still, and Jared is now.
It’s not really my fault. I was just too late to start changing in time to be healed before meeting him. The timing is off, that’s all. It’s no one’s fault.
But it doesn’t make it any easier.
And it doesn’t make it more fair.
I am bitter.
Because Jared is it, I am sure of it.
He is it for me.
And yet, here I am, grieving the loss that will come.
I laid in my bed for an hour before Jared came in. He was careful not to wake me, and I was careful not to let on that I was still awake. He undressed, climbed into bed, and laid down close to me, close enough to feel his heat. I could sense his hand hovering above my hip, but he never touched. Probably considering what a light sleeper I am, and knowing I needed my sleep, with me feigning a migraine and all.
He started snoring shortly after, and for once I was happy he snores. This way I could be sure he was completely out, and I eased out of bed as carefully as I could. I found my jeans on the floor and an old tee on the chair next to the window. It wasn’t completely clean and smelled a bit stale, but it did its job keeping me warm.
I wandered into the living room, shushing the dogs when they lifted their heads, wondering what was going on, and walked over to the kitchen window. For a long time I stared out, looking at the streetlights reflecting in the wet asphalt, thinking it looked serene. Not a movement could be seen outside, and the world felt completely empty.
That was when I lost it.
The tears I’d kept in all evening broke loose, and there was a flood coming out. I sank to the floor where I ended up counting crumbs and waiting for the day to start.
My crying must have woken the dogs, for it doesn’t take long before Harley pads over to me. He lays down next to me, pushes his head under my left hand and rests his chin on my thigh. I start rubbing him in rhythmic motions and it doesn’t take long until Sadie follows as well. With two dogs and a grown man sprawled out on the kitchen floor, it’s rather crowded but it’s warm.
At least I’m not freezing anymore.
I don’t know how long it takes before Jared find us there. I must have fallen asleep, because when I’m woken by Harley kicking me in the ribs in his eagerness to get up to greet Jared, there’s already light falling in through the window. Sadie’s more careful and doesn’t stomp over me the way Harley does. But Jared barely notices them. He’s focused on me, and I can see that he’s worried.
“Jensen?” he asks in a hushed voice, like he’s afraid I will break if he talks too loudly. “Is everything alright?”
“No,” I say, deciding to be honest.
I lift my upper body up from the floor and notice how much I ache. My back pops as I stretch and Jared gives me a hand to get up on my feet.
I cast a glance out of the window and see that the sun has yet to fully be up. I guess it’s pretty early still.
“What are you doing up?” I say.
“Missed you in the bed,” he says and wraps his arms around me. He doesn’t even wrinkle his nose at the dust bunny I pluck out of my hair.
“Yeah, thought I’d try the floor with the dogs tonight,” I say, trying to play it off.
“Any reason for that?” he asks, and I know he’s looking for an answer.
“I freaked out,” I say.
It’s not like the first time, won’t be the last either. At least in the light I see that there might be a next time. Nothing’s really that scary in the light.
“About what?” he says, kissing me on the nose and rubbing my arms that are cold after spending the night on the floor.
“About you moving in,” I say, throwing it out there.
“I freaked out because I can’t ask you to move in with me.”
I force myself to meet his eyes, not wanting to wimp my way out of this one. Damnit, if Jared isn’t worth fighting for, then nothing is.
“Why would you ask me to move in?” He looks honestly shocked, and for the first time I start to think that maybe I was wrong. Maybe this wasn’t the implication of Chad moving out anyway.
“Because Chad’s moving out and you need a place to live?” I phrase it as a question.
“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I’ll move in with you. Did you…,” He scratches his head, looking at me like I’m a crazy person. Yeah, okay, maybe I am. “Did you think I wanted to move in?”
“Yeah?” It sounds more like a squeak than anything else.
“ Jeez, Jensen. Wow. No, I…” He looks at me and starts laughing, and I don’t know what to think. “That’s. No, Jensen. I mean, yes. Wow. I would love to move in with you, but not now.”
“I’m not ready. I can’t live with you. I love you and all, don’t misunderstand. I do. But wow, living together, that’s a big step, and I’m not near ready for that.”
“Jensen…” He grabs my hand and pulls me close again. “Jensen, darling. I love you. I want us to work. If I move in with you now, before we’re ready, we will end up hating each other. I want to know that when I move in with you, I can pay my own way, pay half of the bills and chip in just as much as you, so that I never feel I owe you anything. And please take this the right way, but I need you to find your own way first. I need to know that you tell me what you want, so that I don’t have to wonder whether or not I am pushing you. I love spending time with you, hell, I spend all my time here now, but I know this is your house, and that if we don’t work, I don’t owe you anything, because I can’t walk out with anything from here. That’s how I need it. That’s how it needs to be for a while still.”
“So you won’t leave me?”
“Not as long as you want me.”
I’m completely engulfed in his embrace now, and I melt into his kiss. I’m tired after not having a night of quality sleep, and I lay my head on his shoulder to rest. He holds me tight for a moment before he whispers in my ear. “Jensen?”
“Hmm…” I mumble.
“You’re not the only one freaking out, you know?”
“Just because you are avoidant doesn’t mean all freak outs are abnormal. Sometimes they are just normal reactions to big steps in life. Next time talk to me, okay?”
I have to smile at that. It’s so typical Jared, reminding me that sometimes I am just like everyone else.
“I’ll try.” That’s the best I can do, because I know when I fall, I’m not exactly rational. At least this time, darkness lasted only a night, and not three days as it often did before. I’ll take that as a victory.
“And Jensen. Try not to sleep in sticky stuff next time,” he says and pulls a lump of what looks like crumbs, dust and possibly some old soda from my tee.
“You’ve got that right,” I say before finally finding my way to the shower.