I have said before that me moving to DC just because Argo is in the area is an Elastigirl type stretch. I have a bigger life here than that, and I knew I would before I got here. It isn’t like there’s no connection at all, though. Because we’d only met each other online, and the wall inherent with that, I thought that meeting in person would take care of the problem. That she would be able to see the woman behind the mask, the one that I really am instead of the personality I created for myself… which was not all that charming, to be frank.
I angered easily, much more so than I do in person. I loved heartily, too, but that didn’t always show. It was better for Dana for Argo and me to be fighting, but only slightly, because I would mope and cry about it while spending time with her…. Present, but not there. When Argo and I would bring out the big guns, it was Dana and Aaron that picked up the pieces, begging me to just forget about her and cut off all contact. It wasn’t like I didn’t try. I pushed Argo away in every dimension you could possibly imagine, because I wasn’t vulnerable with her. I couldn’t just say how much her words affected me and that I couldn’t be married to someone else and continue a relationship that felt this heavy, this clandestine. I was manipulative to a fault, sending her WAY over the line flirts because it freaked her out and I knew it would work. She’d run from me, and that would be that.
In short, I was such a fucking asshole to her, and I thought if anything would prove that I wasn’t the “judgmental dickhead” (one of her pet names for me that was startlingly accurate) I’d been in the past, it would be the repetition of small things that friends do for each other. Like paying for ice cream because she left her wallet at the office. Bringing her a book I’d liked with all my notes in the margins. Showing up with a six-pack of cold beer and a hug when her eyebrows are about to go over her forehead with stress.
The kind of simple shit you do just to show you care. The kind of stuff you can’t do over the Internet, at least not easily. I used to kid her that because we’d met over the Internet, I couldn’t know that she was really telling me the truth about anything and she probably worked at a car wash or something. She said she accepted tips, so I Paypal-ed her two bucks with a note that said my car looked gorgeous. Just simple shit that I knew would make her laugh in the massive wake of all my destruction because I couldn’t see her. It wasn’t personal, this eruption of sorts. It was me rebelling against my entire life, and shit rolled downhill.
So if I regret anything, it’s that I’m not that friend to her anymore. That I caused her to pull away because I needed it. Wild horses couldn’t have dragged me away from her under normal circumstances, but these just weren’t. My wife thought I was already out the door, my best friend felt ignored, and I was isolating more and more not to have to think about any of it.
I couldn’t get Dana to understand that working through a crush on someone who couldn’t ever return it was quite a bit different than her interpretation… it was only a matter of time before Argo realized she was in love with me. My interpretation was that married people get crushes because they have eyes, but it’s their deal to get rid of those feelings. I couldn’t get her to understand that if Argo had been a lesbian, I wouldn’t have gotten close to her, anyway, because I would have seen the threat innately. I have said this over and over and over, but the words never really sunk in. I was not looking for anything but friendship, and as Argo’s words washed over me, I opened up to her in a way that I hadn’t with anyone else. My heart was a series of locked doors until Argo showed up with the right set of keys.
It was a Richard Gere white horse moment for me, and it tilted my vision her way. It didn’t matter that she couldn’t return my feelings- I couldn’t rightfully give them, anyway. I was married and she was straight. But that didn’t stop the emotion from pouring forth and the hours I spent feeling so guilty I was paralyzed with fear. It didn’t have to be that way, but it was.
Now that I am single and reflecting on everything that happened, I realize how bright and pure a presence Argo was for me, and if I had treated it as such, that light would have shined in me for a lifetime. I once asked Argo, “what does our friendship look like in five years? 20?” She said hopefully strong and comfortable. She was willing to meet me where I was, let me work out my shit on my own, and come out on the other side of it with open arms.
Dana added to my guilt and fear rather than helping ease it. I didn’t know if she was right, that Argo was hiding feelings from me because she knew I was married, or whether she was manipulating me to get what she wanted, which was me all to herself. Dana could not see that she was safe, that my intentions were pure in terms of keeping my fidelity to her and working out how I felt about Argo with a therapist who could shed some light on these repeating patterns I’d had since childhood. She would, in a sense, make room for Argo at the table, and consistently try to squeeze her out. It was an expanding and contracting problem that would not go away. I begged and plead with Dana to listen to me, that she could have as much of me as she needed but my boundary was please don’t take Argo away from me completely. She is not the problem here.
Dana’s intuition was that the relationship was not healthy, that I was giving love to someone who wouldn’t give it back, and I was astounded. The thing that I underestimated THE MOST in my relationship with Argo is how much she thought about me, cared about me, wanted me in her life but I couldn’t REST in it. I took the emotional temperature of that relationship so often that it made my head hurt, but it was like, “are you there?” “Are you still there?” I had to check, because I wasn’t sure. She was, though.
If I had just relaxed, there would have been more moments where she pinged me out of the blue. There would have been more moments where she saw something that made her think of me. I never gave her a chance to miss me, because I didn’t think she would.
Sitting alone in my room, I ponder all of these things in my heart, knowing that I could have resolved so many of these problems with patience. My eyes water at all the things I’ve done, and all the things I’ve left undone…. My perpetual connection to the Book of Common Prayer because it’s on repeat in my mind.
There will, quite sincerely, never be another Argo, because when I was willing and able to walk in her inner world without fear, she was able to walk in mine. It was healing and I could inhale bigger breaths. I could see farther down into my own emotions. My brain seemed to work at a higher function, because in thinking all of those huge thoughts, I had someone to catch me in all the right ways a friend should- calling me out when I was clearly wrong and supporting everything I wanted to do in this one “wild and precious life.” Everyone needs a friend like that, and I got her.
She was magnificent, and I wish I could say the same thing about me.
Dana’s continual line was that I fell in love with her brain, first…. And that if I could fall in love with her brain, I could fall in love with someone else’s. That much is true. But the choices behind the emotions were mine to make and I handled everything wrong. Just everything. Now I am sure they both want me to find new friends and leave them the hell alone. But my grief isn’t over, and I choose to experience it now so that it doesn’t dog me forever…. Because I am not grieving what they did to me. I am grieving how I behaved, and trying to prepare for a future in which this never happens again. I acted like a teenager because that’s what I knew to do. I wasn’t healthy, and in some cases, I wasn’t even sane.
Coming back into my body after a long absence has been a journey, not a destination. It is happening day by day as I reach out for jobs over the Internet, meet hiring managers at stores, and network at church with people who have their own businesses. It is meeting friends for lunch and knowing that I am safe in them. It is reaching out and up for more, because I value myself more than I ever have.
This web site has been part of that huge growth in self-esteem. My sermons get shared. I have no doubt that I am being ripped off in congregations all over the world, and it makes me happy. My words are what I have to offer, and they aren’t cheap. They’ve cost me almost everything I have.
The universe is paying it back, though, because the more I lay my pain to paper, the more people support me in my pain and laugh with me when the jokes are actually funny. Ups and downs in life are unavoidable, and in writing them down, I get a huge amount of satisfaction in knowing I can put my problems away afterward. They live in the ether, now. I don’t have to carry them around with me. It is freeing to an enormous degree, like when people say they’ve given their problems to God.
God works through this web site by introducing me to people who are also no strangers to pain. Have also caused unrest and lived to regret it. Can sympathize with where I am and root for where I’m going. I am finding my way in the world, one step at a time…. But luckily, the path is actually a stairway.