It’s been so long since I’ve written a blog post or a poem or a book review or even a journal entry. My life has been moving quickly and happily. But in certain ways, I feel like I’ve lost a bit of myself.
Here’s what’s happened in the last two months: I moved from the Midwest to the South- Ohio to Florida. A 14 hour car ride with my mother, my aunt, and my cat. There were stressors like anxiety and maintenance issues, a fear of the unknown, and the heat. I moved into a large apartment who’s maintenance staff leaves much to be desired. They stayed with me for two days before I drove them to the airport, two hours away from my new home, at 3AM. I remember parking in my new parking lot, alone for the first time, with the full moon still bright in the sky. I felt tired and nostalgic, yet somehow energized, a whirlwind of possibility everywhere I looked. I didn’t know what to expect.
That day I’d been talking to someone on Bumble. We’d messaged back and forth for a few days discussing Game of Thrones and my book collection. He was cute and witty, but who wasn’t in those early days of messaging? I tried containing my excitement, the embarrassing, all-encompassing thrill I still vividly experience whenever I meet someone that I can see myself feeling anything for. I’d catch myself smiling at his messages, tell myself not to, and forget my own warnings by the time the next text came through. I’m hopeless when it comes to new romance.
That week brought me to my new job, the start of my career. It was tiring, those first two days; my feet hurt and I longed for my air-conditioned, cat-cozy apartment. It was on the second day of work, a Tuesday, that he asked me to grab dinner. And it happened: the transition I always fear and loathe. Moving from what I am so tremendous at- the small, sly, witty banter that comes with the first two weeks of small talk- to what I sometimes cannot even bring myself to do- an actual date. Exposing myself in any kind of real way terrifies me, mostly because of the ways in which I’ve been conditioned by men of my past, the men who never allow me to get close enough, who never want to know the frail, sometimes insecure interior because of the smart, quick, lovely exterior. I’ve been manic-pixie-dreamgirled by every man I’ve thought I was close to for the past two years. Two years. Saying that aloud makes me want to weep and wallop with rage. The past 24 months have been sprinkled with men who I’ve seen the potential in, men who have started our small would-be relationship with a sort of obsession or disbelief in me only to end it weeks later when the realization comes that I am real and still healing.
Here’s the thing: I am so good at being alone. I fucking rule at the whole independent, badass, doesn’t need a man thing. I’m skilled at sitting at home alone on a Friday night and not feeling lonely. I’m an expert at posting my glass of wine and face mask onto Snapchat, at getting my exes and men who could’ve been but never were to text me afterwards saying ‘you’re so cool.’ I’m great at being distantly beautiful and admirable, quirky enough and nerdy enough to be lighthearted but with a depth that only a girl with a Virginia Woolf quote in her tinder bio can be. I know myself, finally, and I sort of love her too. But can being insanely familiar with yourself jeopardize your chances of forming relationships with others? Romantically, at least? What if I’m no longer meant to do anything with another person?
I went on the date. And I had a fantastic time. Tacos and mojitos followed by a game of mini golf. That Tuesday flowed into that Saturday, my first time in downtown Jacksonville, a second date full of food and beer and cornhole and connect 4. Then Sunday, Game of Thrones and a first kiss. The next week he at my house, us out together and in the same car together, a little more of ourselves revealed. That Friday, first time sleeping together. A weekend spent rosy-faced and sore, eager for more. Spontaneous trip to St Augustine, brunches, watching Wes Anderson movies in bed. And since then it’s become routine: the drive to his apartment, his door code I now have memorized, the drink order at SideCar for Trivia Night on Thursdays, the ‘nest’ in which we burrow into his or my bed for weekends at a time, coming out only for food or drinks or a spur of the moment drive. Video games and books and movies. Kissing and touching. It’s all still happening, with regularity and comfort and grace. The ease startles me: he feels like home.
The first night I cried in front of him happened too soon. I felt overwhelmed, anxious at nothing. He’d agreed, with enthusiasm, to come to Ohio with me in September for a friend’s wedding. By then I’d met his family, been to their home for Sunday dinners many times. But for some reason this particular night sent me into a frenzy of fear and trepidation- we did not grow up in the same house. In fact, it’s hard for me to believe that we grew up in the same planet. Sunday evenings were the ending of dad’s drinking binges, usually the ugliest night of the week; how can I adequately prepare this beautiful, perfect man for something like that? Especially when he’s used to Sundays in the kitchen, laughing jovially with his father? I can’t. And so I panicked.
Since then I’ve panicked two more times. Once was alone, after work on a Tuesday. Suffering from a panic attack that came from nowhere. A fear that this was ending, a premonition that now, since he’d seen the dark linings within me, he’d leave. Or that my worrying, my incessant anxiety that he would leave, would inevitably and tragically cause him to do just that. It’s a brutal cycle that does not make sense to any rational mind. But to a mind that is used to being alone, to knowing and trusting yourself, to being cautious of romance for the baggage and hurt it almost inevitably carries with it… it somehow feels like the only truth there is. He showed up that Tuesday and talked to me for hours, sharing values and morals, worrying together and fixing together. And when the same worries plagued me that Thursday we sat in his bed, me apologizing, him telling me it wasn’t my fault. Always understanding, always listening. The next day he showed up with flowers and wine, apologizing for making me scared or hurting me in any way. Lovely. Happiness.
But the fear is still here. The insecurity. The absolute impossibility of me to believe that he feels deeply for me as I do for him. And I don’t know why. I don’t know how to make it go away. I can no longer throw caution to the wind as I once did with my heart. And sadly, it’s this man that deserves my heart, free of any caution, most of all. His patience inspires me. I look at him and feel warmth, hope.
He’s taken me to his parents, his grandparents, his friends… he’s shown me his favorite views of the city, talked to me about his last relationship. He’s committed to me in every way. And yet still: the anxiety. The fear that he has not. A surprise date on Friday (I’ve never even had one of those) led us to different restaurants and bars, ending with us sitting on a transformer eating hotdogs and watching drunk people stumble around. He asked if I was okay. And I hated myself for feeling disappointed that he hadn’t ‘made it official.’ I mentioned that I thought we might have a conversation, to which he responded that he was already considering us official, that he thought of me as his girlfriend. ‘Erika, will you be my girlfriend?’ he asked with cheetohs in his mouth. Yes. Yes yes. But please, God, do not let me doubt the way he asked. Don’t let my brain doubt that he wanted this because it wasn’t done the way I imagined it.
Why am I still so terrified? Every drive home on Sunday I fear that it’ll be the last weekend I get to spend in bed with him, even when my rational mind knows the complete falsity of it. How do I get over this hurtle? How do I sink into a comfortable relationship, finally, after years of wanting it so desperately? How do I let it all go, the fears and the hurt? I guess I’ve still got some healing to do, but how?
Perhaps the solution is spending more time with myself. Reminding myself of my confidence and independence. Knowing that if it indeed does end, I’ll be okay. But perhaps the answer lies elsewhere as well. Perhaps it’s with him. Let go, Erika. Let yourself have this.