This is the thing she could not do for me: be unafraid.
We could talk about the weather.
We could talk about travel. We could talk about books, clever articles, funny pictures, stupid videos, boredom at work— We could talk!
(We could talk about everything but the things that matter; and even those, we were sort of able to talk about, but we couldn’t really anchor it in time and space and people and place, because that would have required us to talk-talk, and that would have required her to do something that she had flirted with doing with me, once or twice, but had never really stood her ground and did).
She was always afraid.
And I couldn’t stand it. I had been, towards her, in no specific order: afraid, angry, infatuated, lustful, passionate, irritated, terrified, blank, thoughtful, considerate, sympathetic, adoring, soft, hard, spiteful, neutral, gray, happy, sad, brave, vulnerable, weak, strong, intimidated, intimidating, all the colors of the rainbow, all the shades of grey, all the flavors of salt and sugar, all the things that I could find the words for and all the things I could not—
And she had been afraid. She had been fearful. She had held back. She had drawn back. She had detached, disconnected, drawn away, tiptoed, slid on her belly, crawled away, away, and away—
I was so bloody tired of it.
Now, this is not to say that I was doing all of those things before (I didn’t) but…I rallied. And that anger faded into exhaustion. The reaching out, the attempts to bridge whatever it is (I don’t really know), and the playing this stupid game of keep away because more than once, not less than twice, she had come back. She had come close enough to say, even whisper and let it carry: “I’m still here.” And each time in response I had turned to face forward, fully so, all of me—
Again! Keep away. Do not enter. Do not approach the bench. Step back. Stay away!
Fear will choke everything that you are. It will steal your voice. It will rob your life of meaning. It will break to smithereens even concrete and mighty oaks and pure steel, granite, even diamond… Fear will crush it all, run it through the thresher, and leave it as fine powder and dust.
Fear will destroy everything it touches and I wish, with G-d as my witness, she would have stopped being so fucking afraid and just spoken what she felt (without the requirement of me pushing). It was ugly. It was full of shame and disgusting things and heat and anger; it was gross, vile and foul, painful, the epitome of an utter, fucking mess, and it was beautiful.
It was beautiful because, at least as far as I could divine, it was true.
[I say this not with anger or expectation, but with some knowledge, though not a perfect one. With great sympathy, even love. With great care, and full attention. But mostly, now, I say this with simple exhaustion because holding back takes more energy than letting go, keeping it buried is harder than letting it out, and not being sure of what this is, how it is, and even why it is anymore is a mentally taxing business, is a penalty that no soul need pay.]
The other night, my best friend was a terrible wreck and thankfully, due to events earlier in the day for me, I was for once capable of being open enough to be open with her. I was able to hold her and to tell her, this shaking, crying mess of a whippet girl whom I love more than words can convey: “We are in this life together.” And I meant it, completely, because we are.
And I am in it with all of my friends and some of my family. And I am in it with many of my coworkers, old and new. And I am even in it with random strangers at those times where we manage connect, even if for just a moment, when the barriers just drop and we are unafraid of what shines out.
I would have been in this life with her, too, in whatever capacity that sorted itself out to be, but it had required that she do that one thing which she has never done for me (for us):