a bad case of reflectionitis.
30 July 2005
  Check, Please.
Hugging my sister feels really good sometimes. There are many hugs that we partake in. Sideways hugs for pictures. Quick hugs, executed with the daily kinds of greetings and salutations that we've learned to generically perform. Long, obnoxious hugs with 13 year old squeals and that rapid pendulum-like sway. Most of our hugs are like this. But not tonight.

After a conversation with Kent, my recently ex-online boyfriend, my morale was low and she knew what was going on. In the most appropriate way possible, she asked me if I was okay. I said yes. She told me I was lying. Then she wrapped her arms around me and really embraced the emotion I was feeling. For a second, without words or explanations, someone understood. Not me as much as my way of feeling things. Or my way of handling a break-up. Or terminating any type of relationship, really. I am glad she gave me that. Because now I accept how I feel and who I am in these situations. As long as someone understands, I am fine.

Kent is a beautiful creature whose life handed him a bushel of Golden Delicious apples then took them away and said "Hey, you were actually supposed to get this lemon zest. We ran out of actual lemons." We met through that wretchedly addictive MySpace place. In a bet, I had to give up my former online journal and reinvented my creative space in MySpace. Where my writing and my pictures met the challenge of adding friends and responding to messages. One came from Kent, a guy whose picture was far too good looking to pass up conversation. In it, he smiled into the camera obviously mid-drunken-party-mode, Milwaukee's Best in hand - blinging a freshly yellow Livestrong bracelet. Cliche in his own gorgeous looks and party boy photo, he of course intrigued me. It's the ones you'd never expect to be everything that are.

A democrat. A party boy. An athlete. A child-lover. A romantic. A comedian. Even at times, a devilish flirt. He quickly unravelled all of these things about himself in the kinds of conversations that we all want to have with people. They moved quickly and without hesitation. We agreed at the right times and disagreed harmoniously. We're both wordsmiths. We both like to use the wink smiley face. We saw in no time that our short spans of need-to-know entertainment would turn into something different. But we saw things turning out differently.

Kent's everything does not exceed the nothingness that he is at the end of the day. I am a realistic person by nature, and even though I participated in the flirting and conceptual attraction, I was not worried. I knew that I could leave my computer and the feelings that were evoked from our conversations would remain feelings that could not be jusitified by anything other than boredom. I refused to let my mind capacitate Kent as anything more than a text box and chat friend. I never missed him after leaving the computer, but once I was back in my room alone, he became suddenly appealing. A vice. He said the right things at the right times and could back up his beautiful conversation and personality with photographs of a ridiculously good-looking 23 year old from Texas floating around in the fast-moving metro of Washington DC.

Kent was not shy about approaching our attraction directly. Especially when he'd drunkenly return to his computer and profess his love to me then blurt out profanities in somewhat drunken, dyslexic speak. "Saar I vloe ouy! @! k! ? fcu k no wati i dint ment itt.!" He'd paint pretty pictures of what we could be and learned quickly the kinds of things to say to make my heat melt and turn into mush for his hands to hold. His joking manner of directly telling me that I was amounting to something to him was cute.

Then it became nauseating when our two levels could not meet. He wanted to be my someone. I wanted him to just be there when I got home sometimes so I could feel wanted and feel important to someone of the opposite sex. Even though I knew that I could not bridge the gap between his open-hearted banter and my attention-craving teasers, I strung along our attraction and friendship because deep down - I felt something there. But society's view of people meeting on the internet combined with my own fears about the consequences of embarking on a fictional relationship stopped me from pursuing new ideas with Kent.

I gave in eventually, though. All it took was one overly imaginative conversation about our sexual attractions to each other topped off by more intimate details about our own lives, and I suddenly felt closer, more attracted, and completely infatuated with the idea of being with him. I reached a level of feeling wanted that had never seemed possible to me. When he would tell me I was gorgeous and I'd tell him he was the first, he'd say "They were all thinking it, though." When I'd ask how his day was, he'd say "It was bad. Now it's better. ;-)" I'd warn him that I consider most people replacable and that my independence matters to me more than anything. He'd get the clue then refer to some rhetorical question that could be compared to a nine year old's: "But you still want to make out with me, right?" Sometimes Kent asks these kinds of questions. I am not good at answering them. Despite the fact that they're pure rhetoric, I always feel the need to dignify the obvious with an answer that was never actually requested. In these cases, I either charmed him and continued the conversation with some witty sexual comment or crashed and burned on some serious, unimaginative tangent. About how I didn't think talking about making out was a good idea because we were apart and how text boxes don't actually fulfill me.

Then we'd fight. About some issue I was tackling with. Like distance. Or his girlfriend that popped out of nowhere. Or really fun things like his need to push me into deciding how I felt about being with him in June of 2006. In the beginning, I would always be the one rolling off claims and sub-claims about how things were not going to work, why, and how I was going to solve those things. In the end, he'd apologize and restrain from showing emotion on the issue by claiming that he'd be around and that I knew where to find him. His need for coddling and my knack for the dramatic always shone in our arguments. He always thought he was losing me. I just needed him to stop being so clingy. So interested. So unrealistic. Even moreso, I needed him to be real in general. My mind would let itself run all the way to the other side of the planet with him and dream up a wonderful future for us once we got out of this prison of text. As if we were planning our escape from something. Then I'd try to really escape and let myself enjoy our plans, and I'd see the bars. Black. Unbreakable. Apparent in every way. Then I'd tell him I was going away and needed space.

Then I'd take it and forget about him during the day. I'd work, go workout, eat dinner, drink with friends, flirt with boys. When I'd come home at night, my Tylenol PM was nowhere to be found because I took him off of my buddy list and exterminated MySpace ties as well. I thought I'd be good without him; and I was, until I spent a night alone in my parents' house and needed someone to talk to. He and I had been emailing instead of IMing or MySpacing. These conversations were less intense. We talked about our daily. Things we never cared to know about each other. Told stories to fill the page during the time we'd be occupying each other's minds and filling each other's voids. He eventually let me know he was still thinking about me. And I reciprocated. It was no surprise that once I was completely alone, I'd start up our cycle again.

Of course we were on track to destruction. But before we got there again, we progressed slowly and discussed meeting each other in October. In DC. Then we talked about kids. And houses. And in our darkest hours, sex. We were far too attached before I could even realize that I was coming home to my computer on lunch breaks. Running to it after work. Sitting at it until three in the morning. I grew to reappreciate everything about him. Even his clingy, needy behavior. I let myself accept those things because in the scheme of it all, I started to believe that I wanted to go to Washington DC for sure and that I wanted to be with him. Despite the stigma about online dating and the imminent mysteries about Kent. I knew everything, but I did not know him. His pictures, his parents' death, the first time he kissed a girl, the ex-girlfriend roster. All of it. So I just let myself go with it. I put a deadline on our meaninglessness to October 20th. He grew more persistent in his ways of telling me how I much I meant. He stopped going out and getting drunk. His direct way of confessing his attraction became repetition and almost nauseatingly unbelievable. When my mind threw up the red flags, my heart started to tell it to sit down and relax. Suddenly my reasoning about him turned into unanticipated feelings. And wanting.

Then I told him that I loved him. In the way a white flag surrenders a team, I surrendered my heart in an almost comical way. Admitting that I had been caught but that I didn't want to accept defeat. Even though I gave up on trying to escape the strong emotions I was feeling and admittted to it, his malnourished heart and unfulfilling bachelor existence claimed it as a win. As if he'd actually won the game. Not realizing that my momentary courage was a forfeit. I wanted to say it. Somewhere between 6/7 and 7/8 meant it. Regretted it soon after the celebration and hoopla. Went to sleep knowing I'd have to beg for forgiveness eventually and that I was a cruel human being for pretending to be so accessible.

Things started to go really well. I thought about him constantly and played songs that reminded me of him on repeat. Sent him tauntingly flirtatious emails for him to read at work. I was seeing the upside of my actions for once. Instead of concealing my emotions, I confronted them and let things happen. So they started to. And I was happy. Sleep-deprived from late conversations and frustrated from my secret love, but I was happy. As I tend to be. Only in a more magnified way.

Then I called myself his girlfriend. He was so excited. In disbelief. Asked me exactly what time it was. Nearly threw a party. I felt elated by letting it happen. Then again, I went to bed feeling the break-up on the tip of my tongue. Knowing that when it took place, I'd be delivering the blows. And he'd again be victim to my flighty behavior. I felt like I was his, though. When I'd put on my make-up. When I'd pick out underwear. When I'd be in a crowd of couples. During our chats, it felt so right. I planned for him to come here in September. We talked about him meeting my family at Thanksgiving and how good I'd be at doing the dishes. He really saw me. In the most beautiful way. The way I see myself in the mirror on those days when I like myself so much I blush.

That was six days ago. I broke up with him tonight because I was in the middle of my family's annual summer pig roast party and avoided several male guests in my age range because of the idea of a boyfriend. The idea of love. The idea of something that only exists when I am sitting at my computer. And because I realized that I consider people disposable, I turned off my heart for a while tonight and let myself dissect our relationship. Analyze the things that I am sure of in comparison to those I do not. Think about how easy it would be to just Give Up. Measure our successes and then weigh them against our odds.

I lit a candle in my room and drank some wine while I broke up with him. I wanted to create an atmosphere like most couples break up in. For example, at dinner. I let our conversation move along until after we reached the point of ordering and eating. A few glasses of wine, a couple of awkward silences, and the right topic will move things along smoothly. I let a lingering anxiety he had about me being mad at him guide our break-up. Where I wanted to be eloquent, I was spastic. Where I wanted to be specific, I was vague and verbose. Where I wanted it to end, I kept going. Until I had said not only what I needed to say to get us to agree on a break-up, but also what I needed to say for the past three months. About everything. I detailed things that never should have been discussed without major precaution. I was hurtful and critical. And unsymptathetic. I just wanted to be free from how I felt. I gave little room for him to talk and was not concerned with how this was going to end up for him. My selfish meter was on 10. It all amounted to him feeling like a bomb had been dropped on him. Me feeling relieved.

Because he can't give me a hug when we break up. Only my 16 year old sister and other fleshy, real people can. He's not real. I let him be real temporarily, disregarding my mind's inability to process what my heart was mustering up. Even though what I feel is real, I cannot sit here and live what is not breathing.

And just like that, our dinner was up and I said "Check please." It's so easy to get up and walk away from things. I am learning this more every day.

I wish I was more accountable for this action. I'd never walk away from him. But he's not here. So I can walk away from his words.
 
Comments:
Sara-
Now you see my wishes for you. My challenge for you to quit those things was not some sort of personal exercise of machismo or a toss-up for dominance...it was a way of showing you how irreplaceable those "fleshy" real interactions are. Human emotion simply can't be accurately translated through the vacuum of cyberspace. That is why I don't AIM. It's not real. There's no accountability. And most of all, there is no hug at the end.

You write wonderfully.
 
Cyberspace has its function, and these blogs are a perfect example. Text is a wonderful medium for conveying and exchanging ideas. The keyboard allows one to gather one’s thoughts, pause, or edit at will, without a cumbersome interlocutor butting in, trying to break the silence with an awkward comment or wayward joke. Still, it’s a realm entirely of ideas – ideas without action. Without action, ideas are just talk, a pleasant fiction without the accountability of action. That’s not to say that a daydream doesn’t have its place; it’s simply important to remember what’s real and what’s constructed.

P.S. You write beautifully.
 
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