We weren't a couple. Every night we spoke on the phone for at least four hours, during the day for at least one, but we weren't a couple. We lived in two different states, yet we continued to entertain each other as though we were distant neighbors.
I must admit, it felt good to confide in someone who shared similar goals and fears as I did.
He was just as scared yet willing as I was to venture into the great unknown that is the artist's life. He already tried his hand at it — the artist's life that is — and for this, I found him endearing.
He was mysterious yet simultaneously an open book. I couldn't figure that out, how one could be both, yet he was. We got through his entire life story in one month. He eagerly divulged every breakup, misstep, career failure and triumph. I waded through this waist-deep information devouring his every word with the enthusiasm of a three-year-old.
Likewise, I poured out my frustrations about unrequited love. I told him how I felt taken for granted in all my relationships. That I failed to see, anyone pouring into me the way I unreservedly poured into them. I went into great detail about how I shouldered responsibilities I didn't have to. It's as if my place in the world was to rescue everyone, all while clipping my own wings.
We went to dark places, sad places, tender places. It's almost as though we traced each other's scars while wrapped in each other's arms — even though we were hundreds of miles away. We became each other's confidant and comforter and I pondered but never asked when this would end.
By the end of month two, I thought there was mutual desire. There was absolutely mutual affection. Wasn't there? He picked up that I wanted more — and stopped me in my tracks.
We weren't going to be anything more than friends. We were just “talking.”
He was adamant this decision had nothing to do with me. However, in the same breath, he reminded me that I had just ended an emotionally trying three-year relationship with my ex. Convenient.
I needed to heal, he said, needed to "find myself." He explained that because he was trying to cultivate his gifts as an artist, he didn't see any space in his life for romance, which boggles my mind. He was the one who pursued daily conversations with me for 2 months. These conversations were intimate and pushed us to dig deep. We acknowledged our failures while forcing ourselves to face our demons. Why would he even take me to that place if he never intended to pursue commitment?
This remains a mystery to me.
He also told me that he couldn't afford a significant other. Part of me wondered if he meant he couldn't afford me as a person. I started to wonder if I came off as high maintenance and "uppity."
I surmise his ego and artist's wallet weren't on par with reality. Deep down, buried beneath my feminism and pride, I admire his admission but struggled to reconcile my worth with this revelation.
Or perhaps, this was just one of the many excuses he conjured because he no longer found me appealing.
The world will never know.
I wish I could say I was hurt, maybe I was. Okay, I definitely was. But I understood. We both had too much going on without having anything really going on. We were distractions even to ourselves.
I knew he would have been perfectly content to leave the conversation at, "well, see you around." Unfortunately for him, I'm a talker, inquisitive by nature and perpetually in need of answers. So, we dived headfirst into my feelings and my need to know why.
The conversation wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. We walked away without animosity. But amid that conversation, he asked something which still haunts me to this day.
I admitted that I cared about him and wanted to be with him. I took it a step further by saying I wanted him. He understood this wasn't solely or mainly sexual desire I was referring to. It was me recognizing him as a beautiful human being and stating that I would really like for that wonderful human being to stick around for the long run.
What I expected was for him to be turned off by my wanting him. Would he think I was objectifying him? That I desired him more than I cared about him? Perhaps there was a better way I could have phrased my desire. Instead, he asked, "do you want me or need me." I was stunned. I muttered, "want, need; same difference." He repeated, "But do you WANT me or NEED me." I sternly replied that no one ever really needs anyone. All we need is ourselves and a connection to a higher power, whatever it is we perceive that to be. He agreed, then dropped it.
I still don't know what he meant. I never pursued an answer. Did it matter anyway? We were both on different journeys, which happened to briefly intersect.
But this question has been permanently seared into my mind. Honestly, I've made it a habit not to need anyone. More for fear of abandonment than anything else. It's a part of my self-care routine that I'm profoundly proud of. Practicing putting the need of my healthy self above my need for anything or anyone.
I often wonder if men believe their partners need them. Do men feel useless if their partner doesn't seek their assistance for at least something of relative importance at some point in their day? Should we ask our significant others to open pickle jars, or reach the pot on the highest shelf when we are incapable of doing so without assistance?
Meanwhile, I try every day to forget this perfect stranger. I also try, yet fail to understand why he would initiate such a close "friendship" if it would all halt abruptly way past the line of being buddies or best mates.
I'll never know. I'll never know if he found someone better for him, or more permanent. That would be fine. That person needed him much more than I ever could anyway.