I’m in love. I’ve known it for some time and it has taken some getting used to. I don’t do the dance of intimacy easily. The steps are not familiar to me. At 48, I have never been married and I carefully navigate friends, acquaintances and lovers with artful dexterity, never getting too close so as to manage the dialogue of actual relationships.
Past experiences have taught me to protect myself, to hold people at arms’ length. I recognize that it is a control mechanism. I do have some insight; I realize that the bullying I experienced in my adolescence has a lot to do with this.
For years, I was unaware that I distanced myself from people. I had been told that I was standoffish in college, that boys were intimidated by me. But I had a lot of “friends”, had been very popular. So I blew off the comments. But this behavior really manifested itself during my illness when I almost completely withdrew from all but a few close family and friends.
In the past few years, I’ve consciously worked on breaking down my barriers, letting people in. It’s been met with mixed success. I can count on one hand the genuinely intimate relationships I have—the people that know me inside and out, my sister, Kathy; girlfriends, Libby, Linda, and Coletta; Alexanndra, my intrepid counselor; and finally, P., the love of my life. It is my relationship with P. that in turn astonishes, terrifies, excites, stimulates, and soothes me.
Ours is an unconventional relationship. We have known each other for over 25 years; we were lovers in our twenties, parted ways only to reconnect via social media years later. We have yet to meet again; instead we have been communicating via phone, email and text, reconnecting and rekindling our relationship through cyberspace and the sound of our voices over the past almost three years.
The question begs to be asked, why haven’t we met in person in these past three years? P’s life is…complicated, complicated in a way that I don’t need or want. He has some decisions to make and I don’t think he is remotely ready to make those decisions. That alone scares and cautions me. It gives me pause.
But I don’t think I ever fell out of love with P., all those years ago. He was my soul mate then; now he has evolved into something much deeper. I can tell him anything and everything. I can imagine what it was like to make love to him as if it was yesterday. The touch of him, the smell of him, his taste. I simply cannot imagine him not being in my life.
And yet I stumble. What would it be like to really be with someone? To share your heart and soul, willingly, with that other person? I know P. would give me my space, would respect my spirit and individuality, my independence. It’s the intimacy that is scary and lovely, all at the same time.
He’s such a strong, charismatic, yet patient man. I said his life is complicated right now, even as I wrestle with moving forward. He is wrestling with his own thoughts: is what we have real? Or is it rooted in some long ago passion? I wonder if those are the real objections and if it is more a fear of breaking away from what is known and familiar. Like me, he is not a risk-taker when it comes to his emotions and I think the virtual relationship we have is safe and comfortable for him. It doesn’t rock the boat or change the status quo.
But at some point too much time passes and you’ve lost your opportunity. I’m so very conscious of passing time, time I want to spend with P.
Even as I write this, I can mentally see me dancing from one foot to the other, indecisive. Am I ready?
I think we both need a bit more time.
P. is one of the most driven people I know and he excels at his career, athletics, and academics. You’d think that would make him insufferable. Instead, he is one of the most down-to-earth, modest, astute, and kind people I’ve ever met. And he makes me laugh, completely disarms me. I am myself with him, no barriers, no guard. I forget myself with him and am totally at ease.
And that is foreign to me. I’m used to being completely in charge, alert, in control. I know I should think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread but, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Is he for real?
What am I so afraid of? To fall in love? To take a chance on maybe getting hurt? Perhaps it’s time to parlay my ability to take risks in other parts of my life to love and intimacy.
P. always teases me about over-analyzing things. I can’t approach a situation without sizing it up from every direction. Sometimes I need to mentally shake myself.
And perhaps I need to stop trying to choreograph every step of my future. Just let it happen. Loosening the reins of control, ah, that is indeed scary. But a little improvisation, a few daring high-kicks, could push me out of this solitary rut.
What possibilities could the future hold? A committed relationship? Marriage? Friendship? They all have their precious and priceless benefits. I realize that with P., we already have a deep and abiding friendship.
So maybe the steps toward intimacy aren’t so hard to learn. I’ve always shortened the learning curve with every new skill set.
I’m not naïve, I know there is give and take with every relationship. I know that you have to want to make it a priority, make what you have together important over your careers and other life distractions. I get that. But when I imagine what my life with P. could be like, it feels like it would be…effortless. I have to trust that and take my first step.
Late at night, as my body relaxes and I begin to ease into sleep, the image of P’s face drifts into my mind. And I imagine falling into his arms and murmuring softly, “Come dance with me…”
I remember when I first met my lover. I was an earnest 23, barely a year out of university, and Alex was a young man of 27. We both worked for a large Fortune 500 company.
I was flown to company headquarters to take part in a sales training course. There was a couple dozen fresh-faced twenty-something’s, eager to demonstrate our sales expertise and network with upper management at the hallowed halls of corporate.
Our instructors for the course were up and coming managers, expressly picked for the assignment for their sales acumen, charisma, and corporate vision.
Alex, with his broad shoulders, athletic grace, and easy smile, readily stood out from the other moderators. He was blond, with twinkling, inquisitive eyes, and he surveyed us with a friendly, open gaze. I liked him immediately and my sales radar registered, “sharp guy.”
The next few days were busy with sales and role-playing exercises, how to work with prospects and clients, how to close the deal. Rigorous, methodical sales training but the moderators kept it light and moving along.
On the last day, I woke up in agony. Several years earlier, I had been diagnosed with endometriosis and occasionally suffered bouts of debilitating cramping. Knowing that calling out sick was not an option, I pulled on my suit and stumbled in my heels into training. I knew I was pale but I maintained my composure and applied myself to the tasks at hand. I looked up to see Alex eyeing me curiously. Embarrassed, I looked away and started a conversation with a teammate. Suddenly I heard a quiet voice say, “Put your feet up on this, you might feel better.” It was Alex, and he had moved a chair toward my legs. I was speechless and completely moved by his sensitivity. I muttered, thanks, and dutifully swung my feet onto the chair. He was quietly kind to me throughout the day, without calling attention to me.
At the time, I simply thought he just being thoughtful, looking out for his “flock”, so to speak, and really didn’t think I’d run into him again. He lived in Boston, I lived in Pittsburgh, and worked in different districts so no reason to interact. So I thought.
A few months later, Jenny, one of the other reps in Pittsburgh, came back from the same training very excited and all atwitter. She had met this “fabulous” guy at training, he was one of the moderators, and he was coming to Pittsburgh as he had an account here that he had to call on every month. We would be taking him out for a night on the town. Since I lived near the airport, I was going to be picking him up and meeting up with everyone. I said, no problem, who is this wonderful person? With the exaggerated infatuation that only a 23 year old can have, Julie nearly swooned when she said his name, “Alex!”
“Amalie, you had him too, when you went through training. He remembers you!” I was taken aback. “Really?” I was surprised, I was one of so many young sales people at the training and he was an up and coming manager with the company. It seemed extraordinary that I would stand out. I was flattered.
As scheduled, I picked up Alex at the airport. Conversation was lively and friendly and he was exactly as I remembered. A bit taller and still as good looking. When we met up with the other girls, the games began. I have never seen such fawning and flirting in all of my life. Alex was the center of such attention! I almost felt sorry for him. My friends were jockeying to sit next to him, to buy him drinks, it was amazing. It was as if someone had cast a spell over them and I watched in amusement as they all tried to one-up each other for his charms. Alex handled it all with aplomb and didn’t become cocky or even seem to notice.
But I did, and my interest grew. So I stayed cool. I remembered some background on Alex that I had gleaned at training, that he was an English major in college. I had a strong English background, having been in AP English in high school, and almost majoring in English myself. So I casually dropped a few literary allusions in the conversation. Bingo! Attention successfully caught! Soon, Alex sidled up to my side and we were deeply ensconced in conversation. Woebegone faces soon surrounded us. But we were too entranced to notice.
The evening ended with me driving Alex back to his hotel. We sat in my luxury Aries company car with the vinyl bench seat and chatted for what seemed like hours. As he prepared to leave, we paused and looked at each other. The kiss was inevitable.
As our lips met, mighty Zeus looked down from Mount Olympus, carefully aimed his lightning bolt and struck home. My Aries car shook, we trembled, and everything shimmered with the impact of that lightning strike. Pause now for the operatic aria.
So, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, but that is what it felt like. I’d been kissed before but never like this. It was gentle, passionate, searching, loving and possessive, all at the same time. Every inch of my body was on fire and tingling. The last thing I wanted to do was try to drive home. I had this sudden clarity of “this is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with”—I just felt it with such assuredness. This from a girl who was fiercely independent, wasn’t going to get married until she was at least 35, was defined by her career, blah, blah, blah, and more BLAH.
I don’t know how long the kiss lasted, (a moment? Forever?) but the repercussions were felt to this day. No one has loved me, devastated me, supported me, understood me, more than Alex. He is the love of my life. It has been an unconventional relationship, one I don’t think many people would understand. But it is not for others to judge or approve.
That kiss, ah, I can still taste it, feel it, even today. The hair on my arms stands up at the memory of it. It still has that power to thrill me. And so does the man.