Not Even Me

This morning as I was driving in to work, I listened to NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, in which they were discussing one of my favorite TV shows, Steven Universe. It is not a standalone cartoon, but a deep and winding mythology that crosses all kinds of lines, from gender to sexual orientation to alien to human. It makes me happy that in the modern world in which we live, there are cartoons with lesbian characters… when I look at them, I see me.

I also see Dana, and I cry. In fact, I cried on the way into work today, because the commentators were talking about how Ruby and Sapphire are a lesbian couple that fuse together to become Garnet (the aliens are called “Gems”), and they sing this song about how they are so much better together than they are apart, and I could not even.

That’s because I was reminded last night of one of our truly funny Facebook conversations in the “Memories” section.

Here’s my status update:

I had the best coffee yesterday- called the “Indivisible Blend” at Starbucks. It tastes like rich malt, maybe a Shiner Bock without the twang of alcohol? It is so good that it needs neither sugar nor cream. Just itself. I pledge allegiance to this coffee, and to the delicious flavor profile for which it stands.

Here is Dana’s response:

One coffee, under Howard, with Ventis and Grandes for all!

We used to have a running joke about starting a book called “Bleep My Wife Says,” and I am seriously sorry I never got around to it. For instance, there’s this hilarious story:

Leslie: I really love taking Willow with me when I go places, because I don’t feel alone (she was our foster dog for a while).
Dana: Plus, she’s also really fun to play “Slug Bug” with because she doesn’t hit back.
Leslie: Have you been beating our dog?
Dana: ………………….

I talk a big game in terms of dating, but I have to look at my words vs. my actions. Every time someone has wanted to meet up with me, I’ve said I wanted to meet them as a friend. That would last two or three outings before they’d want to start dating and I ran away. The drugs I’m taking coupled with enormous grief leave my libido in the toilet, so not only do I not want to date, I’m not sure I’m physically capable of it. Romance doesn’t occur to me at all, and I’ve had a grand total of two real dates since I got here, and then I freaked and realized I wasn’t ready. I don’t trust easily, especially myself. I really hurt both Dana and Argo, and I feel like I owe it to them to really get over what it was that made me capable of hurting them in the first place before I unleash myself on anyone else.

Again, it was irrelevant that Argo didn’t have feelings for me. I only cared what it was doing to me on the inside, the way I lashed out at her to get her to leave because I didn’t have the stomach to “man up” and say, “this is too much for me” a second time. I did the first time we “friend broke up,” just took a machete to my own heart and tried to live with it, and I just couldn’t. We were back in contact relatively quickly after that, because I couldn’t bear to see her hurt that I’d packed up my toys and gone home.

So I did everything in my power to help her make the decision to “friend break up” with me. It was shitty and childish and totally out-of-character for me, but at the time, I was barely holding on emotionally with Dana’s insistence that Argo was in love with me and couldn’t express it, and the ridiculousness that surrounded it. It was crazymaking, and all I wanted in the world was for Dana to see the absolute truth, that Argo has female friends that she treats like sisters, but would never cross a romance boundary with me, ever… it wouldn’t even occur to her to do so, and the idea that she was a threat to my relationship with Dana was completely laughable. We both wanted to shake Dana until she remembered what was real.

Crossing the romance boundary for me had nothing to do with thinking that Argo was any smarter, more beautiful, etc. than Dana. It came out of pure sapiosexuality, the part of my brain where smart, capable and confident creates attraction because she was sincerely overclocking my processor. I was thinking about bigger things than I ever had before, and Argo’s ability to make that happen for me reached inside my soul and extracted a piece that I thought I’d never find. It was absolutely the reason that I wanted the relationship to end, because at the time, I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror every morning. Feeling these excited feelings for two women at the same time created feelings in me that I wasn’t making bad decisions, I was a bad person, and there’s a big difference.

There was nothing in my history that modeled deep female friendship without that element of excitement, even with straight girls, because even though those wires would never physically cross, that didn’t mean that I didn’t have my own feelings about them… it’s just that with the others, I was single and therefore, doing all my processing without offending the one person in my life that should have gotten all my attention… the one I was married to, the one to which I’d pledged my allegiance and committment and a new family that differentiated us from our first families, as hard as that was to execute and enforce.

There are so many things I wish I’d done differently, but I can’t change the past. But that doesn’t erase regret that I carry with me in what seems like the proverbial “albatross around my neck.” I am slowly walking away from it, but a relationship that lasted over a decade doesn’t seem like something I can or should get over quickly… as if I can just put it in a box and walk away… because those feelings will keep resurfacing until I resolve them, and writing helps. I can wrap a lot of things in “Oh God, I never meant to hurt you the way I did,” but that doesn’t mean jack or shit in terms of the future. Argo’s words reverberate in my head every day… the first sentence being that the price of friendship with you is too high, and the second being that not a day goes by that I am not filled with regret at letting you into my life. I can only hope that she was just as angry as I was in the moment, and that those words are not gospel truth. If they are, it sickens me to an enormous degree because there have been so many good moments between us that I’d feel wrecked if they didn’t carry any weight. We are both verbally vicious to an enormous degree, and I can’t help but think that neither of us could have been nearly as awful to the other in person. But that is not for this lifetime unless a miracle occurs, one in which I cannot hope for or imagine because it hurts too much. What I can hope for is that as time goes by, she’ll be able to look back with different eyes, not to rekindle friendship, but to see that everything wasn’t all bad.

What I have begun to see is that the price of friendship with her is too high for me, because she gave me an open line to say whatever I wanted and, without telling me, began keeping a file on what she viewed as harassment… something I would have liked to have known because I didn’t realize I didn’t have that open line anymore and everything I said was taken as threat, when none of the things I said flowed from that place. It seemed like a short leash from “there’s nothing that you could say that would make me like/love you any less,” and if I’d known how uncomfortable she’d become, I would have changed my behavior to match, and in fact, did.

Of course, there’s also the possibility that she did, and I just missed it. I miss a lot when I’m not looking for it, especially since our relationship ran so hot and cold that I focused on the hot and ignored the cold altogether. In a lot of ways, I never knew which Argo was going to show up, and I am sure she would say the same about me. We were both these moving targets of emotion where neither of us knew how to find “home base,” the hallmark of a toxic relationship that was both of our faults and neither. We are both products of our environment, like all people. Because neither of us knew each other on the ground, it was easy to trip over childhood landmines because we didn’t know where they were… and even in the midst of all that, healing took place… and then we ripped it to shreds so that we were more fucked up than when we began. Over time, healthy reactions were beyond us, because it was easy to send both love and hate when you can’t see the other person’s face.

Dana and Argo were the faces I looked to for love, one on the ground, and one in the cloud. As I have said before, I chose the ground because I could see it. And then I’d read something I’d want to share with Argo and the confusion started all over again. I felt like I literally couldn’t walk away, and I didn’t want to, but it was necessary. It’s the only thing that would have given Dana peace, and if there’s anything I wish I could have given her, it’s that.

I hope that peace is being achieved by not communicating with Argo, not making things worse, but the awful part is not making anything better, either. My wires aren’t crossed anymore, and I miss her every day in the fullness of friendship and not the brokenness of being emotionally attached to something the relationship will never be able to sustain.

To paraphrase Emily Saliers, I wish I could bring her heart back to my island, but the sand beneath me has already slipped, and that just has to be all right. I don’t really have a choice. What is done is done. I for damn sure don’t want to fall back into old patterns over the internet, and the chance of her actually wanting to look at my face as we talked is a large negative integer.

So I focus on Danni, Traci, Kim, Sam, and all of the other friends I’ve met in real time that don’t have a history with me of taking things out of context and blowing up over them… on both sides of the equation. They are the faces I can literally look to for love, instead of just hoping that pictures become real.

I also wish that Dana could see me, really see me, but that is not for this lifetime, either. I can only take the lessons that I’ve learned from that relationship and try like hell not to be that person to anyone else. But again, I hope that with the passage of time, she’ll remember the good parts, too.

Nothing is ever all bad. Not even me.

Here’s the song I mentioned above…………….


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