Worst Roommate Ever

There is no boyfriend application. There is no way to screen the men we let into our lives without breaking a few laws. Dating will always be a “you live and you learn” experience. In retrospect, it looks like living with a complete stranger who may or may not murder me at any moment would have been the safer alternative than moving in with a boyfriend without a contractual agreement. Tenancy laws don’t apply to relationships. The only upside to a landlord-tenant relationship is that there is a due legal process. No such recourse exists for two people living with each other, out of economic necessity or love, whichever applies.

I did the smart thing by waiting to get to know the person I was dating before we decided to move in together. He paid his half of the bills, I did all the cooking and cleaning. I paid my half of the bills, and he worked. It was a team effort. I will never forget the butterflies he gave me when he told me he liked the way I folded his shirts, that he could never do work as good as me. I had a gift. Surprisingly, it was not money that ended our non-nuptial bliss. He paid me back every cent I let him borrow. He kept leaving town without telling me. Forget an invitation, I didn’t even know he was gone. Of course, we were not married, so I had no right to know his whereabouts. His half of the bills, afterall, were paid.

Worst roommate ever.

Seeing as the waiting period with the first one didn’t work out, I thought I’d try something a little different with the next applicant and skip the screening period altogether. It just so happened that his lease was expiring and I just so happened to already have my own place I could barely afford to keep paying. It didn’t make any sense fiscally to both pay for rent neither of us could realistically afford on our own. Of course, back then I was only paying half of what I pay now. You never know how good you got it. It also just so happened that my lease expired in six months, and I thought this would be a great trial period.

It worked like a dream. It didn’t make sense to go through the trouble of putting his name on anything if things went south. I divided everything up, and he handed me the money at the end of every month. This changed. I made the mistake of putting his name on the lease with mine, and what I didn’t have to allow before, I now had to learn how to live with. Somewhere in between and much too soon, he proposed, we had a baby, and five years after sharing our first apartment, we moved into the house on Kenton. The place still haunts me.

Here is where I make the biggest mistake of my life. I don’t sign. For anything. We’re about to get married. I’ll gain my rights that way. No big deal. I hand him trust. I am about to give him my name, so I just pass all the finances over to him in the same breath because why not? He has no record to speak of. He had no bank account when I met him, no credit report, no car, and he was living in someone’s basement,  but somehow in my twisted little mind, I thought that this is how things were supposed to go. What I did was hand him the keys to my kingdom, and he usurped me. 

To this day I still don’t know how this conniving bastard managed to play me for the long con (mind you, he cooked for me), but what I do know is that he was by far, by a mile, the worst roommate I’ve ever had in my entire life. I shall tell you why.

We purchased our little fiefdom a few months before the Great Pandemic of 2020 for practical reasons: easy commute, good school districts, resaleability. Alas! We were not nestled into a corner of the kingdom with snug banners encouraging us to stay home and be safe, an irony to be sure. No, we and all the people on the south side of Chicago were in full lockdown mode, not a rare occurrence for us, what with Cook County penitentiary and escaping inmates nearby. (More benign reasons include a simple shortage in staff.) The pandemic contributed to extending this saga long past its expiration date. We were, in every sense of the word, locked down together, almost never to part. Everything happened very slowly, gradually, like cooking a frog that doesn’t yet know it’s being boiled.

For reasons I shall not explain, the wedding was called off. We found ourselves in limbo, but the pandemic proved to be a worthy enough distraction, and it all started off very smoothly. Up until that point, the castle had been mine, and only mine, during daylight hours. He crept up on me. I had spent most of the spring cleaning, as people are wont to do, and throwing away shit he still doesn’t realize is missing. He did his thing and I was doing mine, his figuring out how to work from home and me trying to figure out how to be unemployed for the first time in my life. By summer, I had won the bedroom, he took my office, where I wrote and used to do teacherish things, and we slept peacefully apart for several months. He slept on the couch. It was working out just fine. We probably could have gone on like that forever. We didn’t though.

One night we had an epic battle. By “epic,” I mean he broke my nail. He didn’t chip my nail. He didn’t break off the acrylic. He broke the whole damn thing. He pushed me, I pushed him back, and we tussled. He took my phone and my keys, so I broke down his door. Plus, he got blood, my blood, on the wall I had just finished doing touch-ups to. It took me months to pick out the precise shade of gray I wanted. I had even done the painting myself, and I thought this is no way to treat a lady. Our feelings out of the way, we were now having it out over some territory. For months, he refused to let me paint the wall in what was now my bedroom. I had to be proactive. I bought some crayons that wrote like lipstick and I scribbled all over the walls. Finally, he gave in and let me paint the wall so as to cover the mess I had made. Talk about the writing on the wall. But I was fooled. It wasn’t to be my bedroom for much longer. I had left for a short time, and when I came back, he had painted over my entire wall with a new color as if I had never even been there. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him so motivated to finish a project.

Meanwhile, we went on, avoiding fights by avoiding each other. It was working out well, here and there. If we so much as looked at each other, all hell would break loose. He’d say something like “What the hell are you looking at?” and I’d say something like “Why don’t you want to marry me,” and he’d counter with “There you go bringing up the past again.” We were merciless. He managed to avoid me most of the time by simply locking me out of the house. Whenever I wasn’t around, he’d grab my keys off the wall, take off the house key, send me on my way, and I’d come home to yet another door locked in my face. I’m not sure you’re technically allowed to kick a tenant out. At this point, I wasn’t even sure that I was a tenant. We never had a talk about what we were after the wedding was called off. I figured it was probably none of my business. He yelled at me a good while for not paying him rent. I only found out later he wasn’t paying the mortgage, and where some of my money went, I could never tell you. What is no longer a mystery is how he managed to open up two more credit cards during a pandemic. I now see clearly where funds must have been transferred.

This wasn’t nearly as grand as the furniture war. He had an obsession with moving things after I had deliberately moved them somewhere. If I had the table centered under the light, he’d push it up against the wall. If I had made a play area behind the couch for our kid, he moved it against the wall. If I put the bed somewhere we could all get some feng shui, he pushed it up against the wall. One time he even pushed me up against the wall. By that point, I already knew better than to call the useless city cops. Believe me, I tried. He was aggressive over the barest matters, too. I bought a bag of potato chips and we had yet another epic battle about what food could and could not be brought into his house.

To be fair, it was his house, as the police so kindly reminded me each time they, like him, threw me out of there. Even though that’s where I lived. He was also smarter than he looked. I woke up one night to him standing over me. I had slept in his bed while he was out partying for the night and locked the door behind me, not that this did any good. I couldn’t even tell you what the fight was about. I wake up, and he’s standing over me with a Mike’s Black Cherry in his hand (it was not even 9am yet). What is he doing in the room when I’m not even dressed? He did this to me all the time. He would just walk in while I was taking a shower or doing my make-up. This roommate had no sense of personal boundaries. He was always in my face, locking me out, or on this occasion, he very literally threw me outside at 9am.

I don’t wear pajamas to sleep.

I called the cops that time. They asked me what he was wearing. I told them what he was wearing. When he walked outside, he was wearing something different. He is no stranger to the police. Of course, I’m the hysterical one; I wasn’t wearing anything. The police kindly offered to call me an ambulance, not because I was bleeding. They told me I had to leave. To pack up my shit and leave. I did this under the eye of a sleazy ass officer. I had no idea there is no due legal process where I live. After all of this goes down, I do what any sane person does. I call the one person you can always count on to be there for you when you need him.

I called my dad. Mistake number three coming up. After the wedding is called off, after we have been in physical fights, after he lights my credit report on fire, after I step down from teaching to stay at home with our daughter, after locking me out, throwing me out, after moving all my furniture, after every microagression he throws at me, my dad says:

“I think you need to work on your relationship.”

Personally speaking, I don’t feel like I should be forced to date a roommate, but here I was, considering that I was perhaps in the wrong after all. If you wouldn’t break down a door to get back your phone and your keys, then you wouldn’t understand.

I will never have another roommate again.

Happy Anniversary, Darlings

I don’t eat shrimp. I don’t eat shrimp, and therefore I do not know how to cook shrimp. Why one day I found myself overcome by the urge to learn how to cook shrimp is a mystery I’ll never unravel. It’s remarkable how much you learn about love by first learning what it is not. I had hatched a plan to keep my boyfriend occupied at work longer than he had to be. We worked at a bar together. The whole plan backfired.

I am cooking shrimp at home into a nice sautee while he is, presumably, occupied at work. It was a special occasion. It was our anniversary. Not only was I cooking shrimp, I was grilling some filets. I had a table set. The whole cheesy nine yards, with a tablecloth I didn’t own and had to go out to buy, and some candles. I saw this on some film or another. It seemed like a great idea at the time. Shrimp is disgusting. It feels funny and it smells terrible. Finally I let my person on the inside know to send him home.

“He’s finishing a drink,” they let me know. Okay. So I waited. I waited until the food got cold. And then I waited some more. I waited until he came home too obliterated to even notice there had been a table set in the first place. This was July 17th some time in my very early days of youth.

I’ll admit, men are notorious for forgetting important dates. This has clearly been my experience. So when some other real charmer tells me he asked me out on June 1st so as not to forget the date ever, I took this as a surely good sign. I can’t say I’ve forgotten that day once in my life. His manners now stand in contrast to some more unsavory characters I’ve had the displeasure to encounter. For the first time in my life, I’ve witnessed someone with the audacity to slide into my DM (which is a direct message, if you don’t know), at 4am and ask me if I’m still awake. At four. In the morning. When clearly, this is when people sleep. He had asked to follow me, I said fine. Did he ask for my phone number?

No, no he did not. He may as well have just walked into my back door. If you don’t have my number, what makes you think I am talking to you? It blew my mind. It’s bad enough nobody leaves a calling card with your valet anymore, or writes a freaking letter. This is a whole new level of discourteousness if I’ve ever seen an instance before. No manners whatsoever. Did he stop when I asked him to? Of course not. That’s why they invented a “block” button, and the pleasure to push it was all mine.

Women are notorious for making allowances for men all the time. Which I do. All the time. Like the guy who took me out on something like a first date to pet puppies. Yes, to pet puppies which is, in theory, a great idea. If you like petting puppies. Or if you like animals at all. I’m not saying lock your dog in the car on a hot day. I’m just saying keep that barking contraption away from me. Dogs make me nervous. Yes, even the small ones. That wasn’t even the first date. It might have been. That’s not when he, I mean we, decided to start counting. The whole relationship lasted approximately two months, the time it took me to figure out how to now back out of this relationship that started in yet another situation where I hadn’t yet learned how to say no. 

It was St. Patrick’s Day. Responsible kids that we were, we decided to book a hotel room with a bar downstairs in the lobby. While everyone else was busy jumping into the pool with clothes on, him and I were somewhere upstairs, not jumping into a pool (bummer), and I guess he probably expected something else, but it didn’t happen. Here’s what happened. He asks me out. In a hotel room. Maybe a few beers deep. I don’t drink. I am sober and wishing I was getting kicked out by security downstairs. After he asks, I say yes, obviously because I have to or else leave the party, which wasn’t the plan, he says:

“Do you mind if we tell everyone it’s tomorrow, so they don’t know I asked you out on St. Patrick’s Day?” Truly, I was flattered. Blew me away, this charming rake. Hence why I spent the next two months hatching an escape plan. Red flags and all, you know. To be fair, when I did finally break it off, he showed up at my house, unannounced and uninvited, with some flowers and some candy in a tin lunch box with a picture of Spongebob on the front. I threw away the flowers and took the candy. Saying no is one thing. Getting the point across is a cutthroat endeavor.

Speaking of bad timing, no day is better to propose to someone than a mere nine months after you’ve been dating, at the beginning of a career, on your birthday. No, not my birthday. It was his birthday. I didn’t even see it coming. I had planned a birthday party. I already had a guest list. That he added to. Behind my back. Which, not surprisingly, became a theme planning the wedding. How do you say no in front of 50 people you don’t know? We had just barely moved into our own place. We did not have a conversation about this. There was a cake and everything. Saying no meant dissolving the relationship, and I wasn’t ready to do that just yet, but here was down on one knee. One of the most embarrassing videos on the internet is the whole fiasco. Me in party gear. Him ready to propose. It was nothing like I dreamed or anything I could have imagined.

That’s how I get stuck with this guy. Do I advocate living with your boyfriend before the wedding night? Absolutely not. I get stuck with this thing, with this ring on my finger. That I picked out. That I thought, cutely, he might be saving for to surprise me with one day. “One day” came a lot sooner than I expected, let me tell you. He’s done all kinds of things to the word “forever.” For example, I had been engaged forever. Like all brides, I’m thinking we’ll be married before the year is out. This is exciting. I decide we shall run away, it shall be a beach, nobody will be there (PTSD), and it would be perfect.

No. He had an ever-growing guest list our wallets couldn’t accommodate. The whole thing was a mess, not to mention I had just started a career. I didn’t have time to plan anything, to be honest, and if I’m fair, he met me on the back end of all this other shit, so he already had a train wreck to deal with in the first place. I’m not sure I remembered any of our anniversaries. Most of my thoughts were preoccupied about setting a date, one he had imposed on me, without talking to me first, and this didn’t blow over so well for him.

Here’s how “forever” works. I was with him forever, I was engaged forever, and then, I’m an almost-bride. Forever. We have all these years of history. Seven, to be exact. He verified this for me. And now we are stuck together because in one planned, and yet passionate night, we bore a love child. Since the wedding was stalled, you see. I am now stuck with this amnesiac man forever. Because he doesn’t remember anything past the last week. All of our history, erased. Non-existent. Me? I remember every last detail.

Happy Anniversary, darlings. 

If You Leave a Lover Alone

If you leave a lover alone with her thoughts for twenty-four hours, here is what will happen: 

She will start by pining, consumed by her own sighs, and lost in the memory of her beloved. He occupies her thoughts day and night. She is in love to the point of distraction. Nothing holds her attention. She won’t take food or water. She will starve before she ever sees her beloved again. Her thoughts take a turn.

Her beloved is dead. His horse and carriage have turned over. He was killed in a duel. The victim of a political assassination. He jumped off the side of a cliff. The thought destroys her. There is no life after him. She goes through a list of things she has to live for, and nothing comes to mind. She doesn’t have time to mourn him. Her imagination is running away. She is coming up with fifty ways to die. She can live no more. Her life is already over. She throws herself into the abyss of despair. 

All feeling is gone. She is cold and calculating. All she needs is a plan. She thinks about flinging herself off a cliff, too. Maybe she’ll drown or drink cyanide. The possibilities are endless. She’s enraptured by her own imagination. How else could she do away with herself? A knife to the femoral arteries. Her father’s revolver he keeps in a drawer in the study. There’s some rope laying around. She could make a noose and tie herself to the willow tree outside. 

The willow tree. This is where her beloved first touched her hand. She wasn’t wearing any gloves, and he touched her! A reason for living springs to mind. Maybe he’s not dead. She has no proof. She has been locked in this room for far too long. Despair metamorphoses back into hope. Her heart begins to thaw. She decides to eat the first morsel of food she’s had in days. Clarity returns. Love reigns in her heart once more. 

Now she is flying. She takes no notice of the time. The sun rises and the sun sets. This is all she notices. She is optimistic. She finishes the duties she’s left neglected for the last fortnight. There is a tray of letters in the hall she hasn’t read yet. There is one from her beloved, and she really knows now that he is not dead. The letter is short. Her optimism fades to mortification.

He hates her. She has never been so absolutely certain of anything in her entire life. She couldn’t be sure he was dead. She’d rather him dead than hate her. She won’t give him the satisfaction of killing herself. He will have to hold on to his own hatred for her. She turns red. Her anger flares up. She has done nothing to deserve this. The burning inferno inside her turns cold. Her stomach drops.

What if she has done something to deserve his ill favor? She reads the letter over and over again. He has not said what she has done wrong. She makes a new list. The new list makes her want to die, too. It is everything she has done wrong ever in his presence.

She was too cold. She was too capricious. She was too bold. She was too honest. She had the audacity to approach him. Her manners were too affected. He hated her gowns. Her coiffure was too gaudy. Her curls too tight. She had no accomplishments. She was undomesticated. She showed her concern too soon. She preferred the tender charms of Petrarch to Baffo’s sonnets. Everything is wrong.

The willow tree. She should hang herself there. She has the memory all wrong. She has blown things wildly out of proportion. He didn’t touch her. He merely stumbled and grazed her arm. Her imagination has magnified the smallest detail. She has lost all sense. She can’t think straight. 

The next morning she doesn’t get out of bed. The maid comes and wakes her up. There is a gentleman caller in the drawing room. It all comes back to her. It is the fifteenth of the month. Her beloved is downstairs waiting for her. She wants to fall to pieces when she sees him.

She swoons. 

The Madness of Love

I went mad for a summer as if the pandemic wasn’t enough to drive anyone mad. Love hit me with all the force of a train and struck me dumb. My brains fell out. I lost my keys in the woods. The power lines went down and I lived without electricity for a week. I wrote notes on the mirror reminding me to eat. 

There’s a certain mad quality about love once the mysticism fades away. Love is mysterious and makes us curious before pulling us into its mad grip. The madness of love descends like clouds in a storm, making us act crazy and do things we wouldn’t ordinarily do. We are conditioned to accept acts of madness when love is involved. Crimes of passion carry a lighter sentence than crimes committed in cold blood. Madness can mean insanity, or it can mean getting carried away by enthusiasm. Love exists at both ends of the spectrum. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. There is a tendency to underestimate the power of love. 

I couldn’t stop writing. I couldn’t stop moving. I couldn’t sit still. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t hold a thought for more than a few seconds. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t breathe. There were a million needles stabbing my body all the time, like I was electrified. My heart was constantly racing. My hands were constantly shaking. The journal I kept is mostly just scribbles, fragments of a lost mind. There were a lot of fragments, pieces that have reappeared in later notebooks in a more legible hand. I jumped from one thought to the next without any clear connection. It is the diary of a mad woman with song lyrics copied down for good measure. None of this mattered to me in the moment. I was happy, I was writing, and I also thought I was dying.

There were a lot of times I thought I was dying and my doctor just didn’t tell me, and I thought I would go right on living up until that point. Nothing else mattered. It was madness. I walked around life like a visiting tourist. There was no sense of reality, none whatsoever. Looking back, it all looks a lot more simple to figure out than the experience had been. I had fallen in love and didn’t yet know it. Turns out you don’t have to allow yourself to fall in love, but you do have to accept it before reason returns.

It’s a really big pill to swallow. Or maybe it’s not, I don’t know. This has never happened to me before. I had to claw myself out of the madness. Madness is not necessarily a good thing, but some of the greatest blessings come from madness. It has taken me this long to make some kind of sense out of the experience. Love has no concept of time. It was like I had woken up for the first time in a long time only to go back to sleep and wake up again to realize I had woken up the first time. Every day I literally woke up, it was like the previous day had been entirely blacked out from my mind. My memories returned, but my memory at the time wasn’t working at all. I was Dory from Finding Nemo. 

I was Lucy Whitemore in 50 First Dates.

Madness is a constant state of uncertainty. The only source of uncertainty for me was in writing. This is where I’ve found most of my blessings. I’ve left traces everywhere. I couldn’t stop writing, even though I didn’t always know what or why I was writing. There was a part of me that could recognize what was happening without being fully able to acknowledge it. I had seen something I hadn’t yet experienced. I didn’t have the language I needed to properly describe what I was experiencing. It came to me in fragments and almost completely lost among so many other mundane topics. 

I dropped out of time and space altogether. The days blurred together, and there were two times in the day: awake when the sun was up, and asleep when the sun was down. There were so many other things going on in my life that needed my attention that fell neglected by the wayside. There was this constant pressure of something that needed to be done, but I had no deadlines. Ecstasy is a hard feeling to describe, but easily recognized. It’s a trance-like state. There was an intense longing for I didn’t know what. The only word on my mind was more. More of whatever it was I had been feeling. It felt like something irretrievable had been lost to me. I called it my “voice” in writing over and over again.

Voice is connected to identity; my identity collapsed in on itself. I had fallen fast, and I had fallen hard. I was madly in love. I had surrendered myself into the madness and gave no thought to anything in my life. Madness rules when desire cannot be controlled. You can never trust someone in love to act sane. There’s an ingrained idea that the heart, not the mind, should be followed in matters of love.

This should never be done. Madness will ensue. 

Love also has to have an object. When all of this madness started, I had no fixed object in mind. In retrospect, I can re-read my mad diary and see how the points connect, but I couldn’t in the moment. I had lost all sense. There was a continuous cycle of falling in love and not wanting to be in that state of mind. The sweet side of love is standing on top of a mountain. The dark side is standing at the edge of a precipice. You are living your best life and dying at the same time. I also have to point out that this is from the perspective of a woman and never I had experienced lust to such an astonishing degree. Once I had a fixed object in mind, there was nothing that was going to stop me from possessing him.

Nothing.

That’s right, I knew him by lust first. Moderation was not in my vocabulary. Like I said, love has no concept of time. I started at the wrong end and traveled backwards. And actually, I hated him more first, too. These things never make sense. Only time ever tells.

I harassed him endlessly. Picked fights for no reason.  Stalked him online shamelessly. Stole all of his stuff. Read all the books beside his bed. All of them.  There was no stopping me. Desire is an irresistible force.

Love is not madness, though. Love is temperate. Someone in love also has to be someone in control. It took a long time for me to cool down. I had completely lost it for him the way I lost control over this essay. Love has driven strong women mad.

I went mad for a summer.

Mr. Perfect

Girls are programmed to find Mr. Right, the man who will sweep her of her feet and take away her breath, before riding off into the sunset together and carrying her over the threshold of their new house. Mr. Right meets every item on the checklist: he is tall, dark, handsome, funny, charming, and romantic. He is everything she has dreamed about since she was young. He listens when you speak, loves the food you cook, and he even helps you wash the dishes after dinner. Plus, he’s always home from work on time and never misses a scheduled date night.

The lucky girls learn about Mr. Right because her mother has married him. The rest of the girls learn about Mr. Right from the ones who have found him out in the wild. He is right because he fits the picture of him she has been filling in her whole life. Then one day she wakes up and realizes she is not the same girl anymore, and Mr. Right no longer fits the picture in her head. She forgot to think about Mr. Perfect. She has been told Mr. Perfect doesn’t exist, so she settles for Mr. Right, who is now all wrong for her. She is not happy anymore. She starts to think that if anyone can make her happy, it’s Mr. Perfect. She starts to believe that he is out there somewhere for her holding onto the happiness she so desperately craves. She knows herself better now. She knows what will make her happy, not yet who, so she starts drawing a new picture of Mr. Perfect.

Nobody is perfect, or so the saying goes. Mr. Perfect comes from the stuff of mythology. He is made up out of folklore.There are only stories about Mr. Perfect. Nobody has actually seen him. Mr. Perfect is soulmate material. He is made up out of the same stuff as you. He is rarely right, which is how so many girls miss him in the first place. He doesn’t fit the picture in your head at all. He’s not a single item on the checklist. He is not anything that can be dreamed or imagined.

He lives beyond the wildest imagination. It is so impossible to imagine he exists at all that the mind cannot even grasp his appearance when he materializes in a girl’s life. This is not who she was expecting. He is unorthodox and rude and unsettling. He doesn’t give off the same warm ooey-gooey feelings as Mr. Right. Mr. Perfect doesn’t sweep you off your feet; he pulls the rug out from underneath you. He only takes away your breath because he knocks you on your ass when he shows up unexpected and unannounced.

I know none of this sounds ideal. It’s a far cry from the idea of perfect we are all conditioned to have. The thing about falling in love is that it highlights all of our imperfections. This is what makes us so uncomfortable when he’s around. The last thing anyone wants is someone around who is constantly making us so aware of how we fall short in every way because that is how perfect they are. So perfect, it’s annoying and maddening. Humans are not programmed to spend time in front of things that make them uncomfortable, or next to someone who is flaunting their perfectness in your face.

This is why Mr. Right fits so much better. He says all the right things. He makes you feel all the right ways. You see him doing all the right stuff. He pushes you to be a better version of yourself. Mr. Perfect is so annoying because he’s content to just let you be. He lets you wallow in all your flaws and imperfections. He says nothing, just sits there modeling off his perfection.

What makes him so perfect, then? He is a reflection. Our reflection can only show us our imperfections. Only narcissists are in love with their own reflections. Mr. Perfect makes you run because you don’t want to have to stare at your reflection any longer than you have to. If Mr. Perfect was also Mr. Right, that would make him ideal.

Only Plato believes in ideal forms. The ideal man doesn’t exist. If he did, your brains would fall out. It would be from sheer awe that all this man is standing right before you. You’d lose your keys all the time because you don’t have any brains left to use. Instead of drawing a picture, you just want to scribble everywhere.

Mr. Right comes in like a knight in shining armor holding a sword. Mr. Perfect is armed with nothing but a glue stick so you can glue all your imperfect broken pieces back together yourself because he’ll never do this for you. Mr. Perfect lets you figure it out for yourself. The main difference is that Mr. Right knows who he is. He knows who you found. Mr. Perfect, on the other hand, has no idea who he is. He doesn’t understand who you’ve just found.

That’s why he is perfect.

But I Said I’m Sorry

I treat emotional wounds like the breadcrumbs you sweep under the refrigerator when no one else is looking. Eventually, though, the fridge has to be moved for cleaning and there’s an even bigger mess to clean up that makes you wonder why you couldn’t have take a few extra moments to sweep up the rest of the crumbs and put them in the trash.

It’s like waiting for a wound to get infected before finally deciding to put a band-aid over it.

Time is supposed to heal all wounds. Time has not healed all my wounds, only lessened the pain, but it hasn’t dulled the memories. Pain is a memory. I might not forgive, I don’t hold a grudge, but I never forget. I don’t forget the feeling of betrayal, I don’t forget a forgotten birthday, and I will never forget the feeling of shock I felt after making plans with a significant other only to discover he had gone out of town without me. So many fights have ended with me crawling into bed crying my eyes out and begging him to tell me he’s sorry for hurting me.

But I never said those words. My mom used to say being sorry meant never doing the same thing over. I think that’s unrealistic. Humans are always going to hurt you. The problem is an unwillingness to admit to hurting. The number of relationships I’ve had has taught me less about love and more about what love is not.

Love is not guarded. I don’t believe love acts foolishly and takes unnecessary risks, either. When we hurt someone and refuse to acknowledge their pain, we risk losing someone forever. Love isn’t careless, and I have handled too many relationships carelessly. Saying sorry doesn’t let the other person know you’ve caused them pain. It’s a way of owning up to your actions. Vulnerability is implicit when loving another person. Love involves a certain kind of defenselessness. It’s opening up wounds to another person to let them know, Hey, you’re not alone.

This kind of thing is usually done in support groups, or between strangers. For some inexplicable reason, it’s somehow easier to pour your heart out to strangers. Maybe this goes to show how much we fear being judged, or losing someone else’s esteem all together. There’s nothing at stake with a stranger. The worst a stranger can do is walk away, and you’ll never see them again.

But you feel better for having told them.

Hurt hides in the deepest places. When someone says you’ve hurt them, they take the defensive. The opposite is letting down the walls long enough and becoming defenseless in front of them. There’s no guarantee the other person will care. My own experience has taught me that the other person has rarely, if ever, cared. It’s no wonder none of them have worked out. For me, it’s not really about how I think I deserve to be treated. It’s about how I can keep living with myself at the end of the day.

I’m the last person who wants to look back and see myself as broken. I don’t feel empowered by the number of times I’ve had to leave a relationship and start my life over again. I feel drained, used, and washed out. I fall into hopelessness. I get angry about how much time I’ve invested in doomed relationships. There’s nothing about any of them that makes me want them back, but there’s a part of me that mourns my old self, that wishes I would have cherished the innocence of never having been hurt in the first place. Nothing short of a miracle or a lobotomy would have changed the outcome. I don’t wonder if one thing would have been different, would it all be different. The truth I’ve had to accept is that most people, myself included, can’t or won’t be defenseless around the people they love the most out of fear of losing them or a part of ourselves forever.

There is not much about a person’s real self that makes them lovable. I’m not talking about flaws or shortcomings. I’m talking about the unchangeable aspects of a person’s soul, their scars and their stories, the things we will always remember them by. It’s one thing to know someone is proud or arrogant, and it’s another to understand where the arrogance comes from, and whether or not we think it’s justified. Love is incredibly evaluative.

There’s no chance of ever judging whether or not we love someone, until we know, exactly, what it is about them we are choosing to love.

All Things Love

This blog is about love. I mean that in the strictest sense of the word, but maybe not anymore. I started this blog in pursuit of learning more about love, about its nature and its essence.

I always come back to the same thing. The more I read about love, the less there is for me to say anything else on the topic, even though I’m more certain than ever I know what love is because it keeps manifesting itself for me in the same ways over again.

A blog is one of them. It’s the writing part I love, which I can’t do without an insane amount of reading. I still haven’t decided whether reading or writing is my true first love. What I have decided is that a blog is the best medium for my thoughts.

I never thought about what purpose my blog would serve. It was never a means to an end. Then I realized that’s what I meant when I chose love as the singular focus of everything I write. Love as a philosophy, love as a way of life, and love as something I find worth investing my time in.

I haven’t come close to exhausting love as a topic, yet I’m feeling stifled by the invisible constraints I’ve imposed on myself with this blog. I promised to only write on the subject of love, or poetry about love, when it’s far easier to show my work by pointing to the things I love.

This isn’t the first blog I’ve started. It is the most different. Poetry is not something I ever intended to write, and all the leftover white space makes me sad, no matter how much I like, love, or hate what I’ve written. I’m used to taking up a whole page and letting my thoughts take shape, preferably in a coherent manner.

No matter how many times I remind or reassure myself that writing is first and foremost for myself, there’s still an external pressure telling me to write differently, talk about something else, be someone else, and I usually end up getting myself stuck. I think a lot of writers end up in a familiar place.

One of the reason I chose a specific subject for my blog is because I didn’t want to fall into the trap of writing what anyone else likes more than I like something myself. I really love writing about love. I really miss writing about the things I love, the things that remind me that love is real, that it exists, and that love is a daily presence in my life because of what I do and how I choose to do it. Love is the motivating force for me behind ever word I write.

I don’t endorse purposelessness. I don’t want to wander through life aimlessly and I don’t want to scream words into empty air. There’s no escaping or denying the fact that humans respond to emotion in writing. I’ve done everything in my power to write about love detached from feeling and I can congratulate myself for being successful, or I can consider how pointless it is to write about love without the passion it requires. Words can make writers transparent or they can be constructed to obscure the truth. Writers keep a lot of tricks up their sleeves.

Love is confession and confession means telling the truth, and the truth is that love shouldn’t be separated from feelings because it’s feelings that make us human, that show our humanity from a place of total vulnerability. If there’s any purpose to this blog, it’s to show love by the work I do. I have a day job; this blog occupies a separate place in my life, the most special kind of place I call my private life, the one I don’t share with anyone else, except for the ones who are reading, who are virtually strangers and will only ever know me by the words I write.

So they have to mean something. If all things love means all things love, then love for me comes right here when I’m at the page, and what comes out is an extension of that, it’s an extension of me and who I am. Writing has never meant anything else to me. At best, this is me giving myself permission to write about the things I love fearlessly.

Writers have to do that a lot, give themselves permission, otherwise it becomes a practice in how to please, instead of how to pursue pleasure. What it is is writing for my own sake.

Because I like it.

The Religion of Love

Religion is a loaded word. It is never a topic suitable for polite dinner conversation. When anyone does bring up the subject, everyone always has a strong reaction: either they believe in something, or they don’t. There is no right answer. At the foundation of any religion is faith, a belief in things unseen. Religion belongs to the realm of ideas where love is also found. Love, like religion, is a loaded word requiring faith to pronounce its existence. To do otherwise is to take love for granted. Love is the greatest intangible of all time. It can’t be measured, and when it is separated from feelings, nobody can agree on what love is, while simultaneously agreeing it’s an amazing, and even necessary aspect of life. Love tries our patience, and tests our faith. It changes our perception of the world.

Humans bear witness to love. The phenomenon of love is a centerfold in every culture and across human civilization. The appetite one has for love is influenced by a variety of factors, including religion, but it has been manifested over and over again throughout history, portrayed in literature, and it has been the subject of poetry. We are inextricably drawn to love as a deeply meaningful experience the way certain kinds of music pulls us in without ever truly knowing why. All kinds of moods color the word love from violent fits of passion and jealousy to entrancing states of euphoria and ecstasy. It drives strong women mad and spurs men to war. Crusades have been enacted in the name of love; it is a cause in and of itself, described as a battlefield and arena. Love is many things at once.

Love also has the ability to transform and change the way we see ourselves. Eat, Pray, Love combines these themes of love and spiritual transformation together in a memoir. Progress is hailed as a hallmark of our humanity, and humans are obsessed with attaining perfection being so inherently unhappy. Love alters perception and the world is seen anew. The promise of self-improvement becomes addictive and a way of life. Poetry offers models of love, while mythology and religion offer deities for worship. Love is expressed in poetry as a ruling emotion: “…there reigns Love and all Love’s loving parts” in Shakespeare’s sonnet 31, and “Love, that liveth and reigneth in my thought” in “Complaint of a Lover Rebuked” by Henry Howard. Love takes the place of a god in religion and is used to explain how someone could act the way they do in love. 

Falling in love becomes a practice in idolatry. Nothing else comes first when new love begins. It is the only thing on your mind keeping you awake at night. We kneel in worship at the altar of love, believing there is nothing better in life. Falling in love represents the culmination of human experience, ending in an eternity, or nothing at all. Dying in the name of love is used as a mode of expression to convey the depth of feeling. The idea of death is preferable to the thought of losing the one person we love the most. Love is fragile and we do everything in our power to make sure it doesn’t break. Nobody wants to stop falling in love, though very little is done to prolong the honeymoon phase that marks the beginning of a relationship.

Love takes faith, undivided attention, and commitment the way following a religion does. There are certain beliefs, practices, and rituals that keep love in a never-ending, flowing state. It is a source of life that stays in motion. True love is never inert; it is constant. Love is exhausting because it takes an unconscionable amount of energy to sustain. The process of love is similar to the way faith is described as being tested. It never only happens once. Faith is tested repeatedly. When grounded in anger, religion transforms into rabble-rousing, an energy that is only sustainable by the sheer number of followers. Love is a religion for one; it offers a land to inhabit when there is not a refuge anywhere else. This is how the poetry of love is inspired in solitude. It is created out of the same matter which maintains religion. It is a relationship, not love, that takes two, though love cannot exist without an object. Love without an object is the desire for possession. The expression “money makes the world go round” first started out with the idea of love. It is the insane desire to possess money, or something else, which tears people apart, with or without remorse. Love exists for its own sake whereas money is used as a means to achieve an end with other objects in mind. Love, above all things, is not made; it is created.

If love can be compared to a flame, then it requires kindling and stoking to keep it burning the way going to church reinforces faith, or attending a recovery program reinforces sobriety. In all cases, there are things that inevitably cause us to lose faith or stop going. The premature death of a loved one can cause someone to stop going to church as much as it can cause the next person to start going. In the same way, honoring the death of a loved one by staying in recovery can cause the next person to relapse. Love is born out of paradox, while faith is found somewhere in between yes and no. 

The principle of eternity plays a role in religion with aspects of reincarnation included. Love can be thought of as eternal in that it is reincarnated time and time again. Though details change, the underlying structure is the same. The permanent couple, bound by love, is rare, even and especially in the animal kingdom. Humans fall in an altogether different category. Monogamy is institutionalized whereas love is a free-floating concept bound by very little to hold it back as a force of nature. For once, love makes a departure from religion, another institution, and evokes godlessness, nonetheless still requiring faith. Love can only be eternal if it does not strictly belong to two people, whether an eternity represents a lifetime, or continues on afterward. If the sole aim of life is the continuation of life, then love plays no role at all in human affairs, and the meaning of human experience is reduced to sexual reproduction. On the other hand, love is simply reproduced, seemingly for no reason at all, except to prove that it exists at all.

There is no institution of love making it nearly impossible to believe love is something other than a force of nature left, for the most part, unharnessed. That love is a force of nature can be seen in the way people act with reckless abandon when in love. We are more inhibited to talk about love than we are to act, and to live is to act, even if the choice is to do nothing at all. To live a life of love is to walk a life in faith. Believing in love takes as much strength of will as it does to believe in a higher power, whether there was a Big Bang or divine creation. Love only holds us more accountable; religion, at least, offers the possibility of salvation and forgiveness. There is a lot about love that will always be unknowable, but it’s this nature of love that keeps its song alive long after we’re gone. 

On Love

Everyone wants to know what is meant by the word love. Curiosity is a part of human nature. It is an insatiable urge buried deep within the very marrow of our bones. Nobody is born knowing how to love. Most people discover their own definition of love by first learning what it is not. Curiosity about love usually comes from a place of lack and is taken for granted the most where it exists in abundance.

The risk involved with knowing what is love and what it is to love is to understand when what you are receiving is not love. To love is a choice and not an easy one to make. Too much attention is given on how to be loved. It is attached as a caveat after “how to love” each time. Self-interest doesn’t play a role in love. Love is selfless; love is other-oriented. Thought of as a gift, love is an act of kindness, intentional, not random.

Contemporary conversations about love use the word to mean “don’t judge.” Self-love is becoming more about embracing flaws and shortcomings, instead of encouraging growth. Coupled with self-care, ideas about love keep the emphasis on the self with dreaded phrases like “me” time cropping up.

The subject of love cannot be continued without first understanding what is meant when that word is used. Love has become entangled in so many other contradictory notions, it now lives on the fringes of collective consciousness in esoteric obscurity, in danger of being lost forever if not revived, and in some cases, revised.

The word love has been displaced by seemingly near synonyms that fail to capture the essence and nature of love: happiness, contentment, fulfillment, satisfaction. Love is treated as a commodity, a means to an end. Love, like medicine, is a practice, as much religion as it is philosophy, and in rare cases, an absolute miracle.

The truth is that love is a delicate subject. The word itself has lost its vigor and potency the way it is used so casually and so carelessly. When love is brought up, it’s attached to relationships, marriage, sex, or politics. For some reason, love always comes with strings attached.

Examining love in isolation, detached from context, and cutting those strings, which have so far held together a working definition of love, is what makes the subject so incredibly complicated, yet still worthy of contemplation. Maybe even more so.

Love, if mentioned at all, is talked about in whispers and conveyed through hushed tones reserved for church corridors. It is borderline taboo, another forbidding aspect which makes the subject endlessly fascinating. It is no wonder, then, that love is found in proximity beside destructiveness. The desire to love and the desire to destroy are equally strong in human nature. Taboos imply silence, and if not broken, compliance. To bring up the subject of love is to destroy the barriers of silence surrounding it, to transgress against the taboo, while others still remain inhibited by how to talk about love.

Love is growth, it never destroys. Hatred is fueled by anger; love is fueled by desire: a desire to love without expectation of receiving anything back. Love, like religion, is best when not forced on anyone. The message of religion should never be conversion. Love exists as an intangible structure, an invisible framework for living. Love is also life. It is the opposite of death and decay.

This is a departure from the idea that humanity’s deepest desire is to love and be loved in return. There is never a guarantee you’ll be loved, or even liked, no matter what you do, even if you conform in the strictest sense of the word. Love as a mindset promises renewed satisfaction, not a permanent state. It must be reached over and over again.

Love is not only about the capacity, the will and desire to love, but also the ability to express that love as a need, meaning more than to gain a sense of belonging, and then to do whatever it takes to continue satisfying that need. Love this deep touches closely with fanaticism and cultivating a life of love is tantamount to obsession, addiction. It is love detached from feeling, as a mindset and a way of life singularly-focused on a continuously renewing process, an end in and of itself.

It is love for love’s sake.

Love by Another Name

Two people you love are hanging off the side of a cliff. Who do you save?

Easy: I let go.

Not Clamence! This man is close enough to see the “cool and damp” neck of a woman dressed all in black staring at the river, hears the sound of a body striking water, and keeps walking.

It’s a metaphor for love, of course; it’s remarkable how often love and death coincide. I’m reading The Fall by Albert Camus and he’s drawing the boundaries around a definition of love from his perspective and experience.

Nobody is born knowing how to love. Growing up, my parents showed love by feeding me, clothing me, and keeping a roof over my head. When my ex-fiance kicked me out and I showed up at their door, they closed it in my face. I was forced to rearrange my own definition of love and face a truth I wasn’t ready to accept.

While heartbreak is universal, not all love is created equal. Camus (as Clamence) says:

“Some cry: ‘Love me!’ Others: ‘Don’t love me!’ But a certain genus, the worst and most unhappy, cries: ‘Don’t love me and be faithful to me!’ Except that the proof is never definitive, after all; one has to begin again with each new person. As a result of beginning over and over again, one gets in the habit. Soon the speech comes without thinking and the reflex follows; and one day you find yourself taking without really desiring…not taking what one doesn’t desire is the hardest thing in the world.”

Love is an ever-evolving concept. The only way I’ve learned how to show love is the same way as my parents showed me: feeding, clothing, and keeping a roof over somebody else’s head. It’s no mystery how three of my own relationships have collapsed. My concept of love dissolved the day a door closed in my face when I needed nothing more than life’s bare minimum to survive.

The only thing I’ve learned about starting over and over again is more about the way I desire myself to be loved, the only kind I’ve read about in books, and not the kind I can give myself. Self-love, for me, is empty and unreciprocated: it is a one-way street, a dead end.

Clamence is a “judge-penitent,” someone who has known love, but only in retrospect. Death is the deepest form of separation to express and properly convey the level of remorse he feels about whatever happened. The details are hardly relevant, not that he did, in fact, check the papers to see if the woman is still alive.

What he attempts to convey is the sense of an irreversible loss, something a better person would learn how to do the next time they are beginning over with someone new. He overcomes the false belief that a “woman who had once been mine could ever belong to another” and learns what belonging really means, that the love he received was taken for granted, not cherished as it should have been.

Now it’s too late because the woman is dead: she will never belong to anyone else ever again.

There’s a tendency to conquer heartbreak by loving the next person harder, instead of differently. Communicating love is an individual act. Heartbreak can become an all-consuming fire in life destroying everything in its path, or it can be a catalyst to do better the next time.

In other words, remorse. Love by another name. As a woman, a series of relationships is a mark against her. For a man, it’s experience. Without starting over, how does anyone learn?

Shakespeare says that a woman may fall when there is no strength in men. Camus shows what strength looks like through his character Clamence by looking back at the life he lived and returning as a judge-penitent, leaving a shining example for someone else to follow.

If there is one thing I’ve never had from a relationship, it’s closure, a definitive reason for why things went wrong. Now the answer to that question is clear as day: they simply don’t know how.