Solitude is fine, as long as you aren’t bothered by the fact that you’re alone with your mind. Perhaps tuesday I had too much of it. Regardless, like Carrie Bradshaw does in every episode of Sex and The City; I asked myself a question: Why are we drawn towards people that cause us SO much emotional distress that physical pain ensues?
Communication with this person always results in the same empty-yet-offended feeling; the emotion that cripples our confidence and fills us with resentment. Why can’t we quit these people? Why do we continuously try so hard to win them over, knowing in advance the outcome?
Every year since high school graduation, my friends and I have rented a house for a week in Martha’s Vineyard. While we always met guys out and would occasionally make out with a stranger or two, it wasn’t until our third summer there that I actually brought someone back to the house. His name was Mike (no it wasn’t, but I’m changing it for the story), and I met him out at a place called “Dive Bar” in Oak Bluff. He was a senior at UMASS Amherst, wore sweatpants to the bar, and drove taxi cabs during the summer in MV. He was tall, dark, and reasonably handsome. I took him back the first night we met, which resulted in us seeing each other every night for the remainder of my vacation.
Mike was intoxicatingly vague and chronically unhappy. He didn’t have a smart phone, he still doesn’t. Is it shallow that a materialistic concept like a certain kind of cell phone says something about a person? Perhaps. He hated those with money, but took pride in the fact he didn’t have much himself– almost like it made him less shallow (it didn’t.) I’ve never written about him because he makes me feel weak.
He didn’t have a filter, he didn’t abide by traditional social standards, but for unexplainable reasons he made me want to drop everything and stay in Martha’s Vineyard for the entire summer. Mike was the most distant person I had ever met, but all I wanted to do was get close to him. His idea of showing affection was to be present– even if it appeared his mind was elsewhere. My feelings for him were unreasonably strong and without any true foundation. He was hardened and introverted. He loved to read and wanted to teach history to urban high school students. Mike had only been on a plane once, to compete in an academic decathlon in Washington, D.C. There were few things I knew about him, but when he allowed me to see his weaknesses all I could think about was being his strength.
We’d talk everyday for the rest of the summer, I visited him on the island once and he couldn’t look me in the eyes. We sat and watched Sports Center with his friends. The whole way home I questioned what I saw in him. I thanked him for inviting me, said I had good time and agreed to see him again.
I didn’t love him and I didn’t miss him when he wasn’t around. To me he was like smoking. For our entire lives we’ve been told cigarettes are bad for us. Yet still when we’re drunk and someone offers us a drag of their cancer stick we accept. We may hate the after-taste of tar, we know the long-term risks, but we’re still going to do it– the momentary high we refuse to sacrifice. His toxins were no secret, everyone always asked “why?”, I claimed I could quit at anytime. Secretly, I wasn’t so sure. But the strange thing is, rarely are these guys the ones we picture ourselves with in the long run. We just stand at their beckon + call for reasons we’re not entirely aware of.
He didn’t spoil me with gifts, pickup the tab at dinner, or compliment me at all. He was the kind of guy that asked you for nude pictures, spiritually ignored your texts and made you question your worth. I’d still send a text knowing I’d get a one-word answer, and held on to the hope that someday he’d look back and realize he was looking for something he had all along. Maybe he’ll find happiness in someone else someday, and hopefully they have some left after he drains it out of them.
There are a million reasons to give up, but we still search for the qualities that keep us holding on. We let our hearts long for those who sparks our insecurities and engage us in less than stimulating conversation– but why do we stick around? We always hope we’ll be different, but we lose sight of WHY far too often. At the end of last summer he came to visit me in Marshfield. He didn’t stay over– but we spent the day doing nothing together and it was nice. He met my dogs, we laid around and watched the military history channel (so boring I could rip my eyeballs out.) I drove him back to the Woods Hole ferry at the end of the night and we said our goodbyes as I was leaving for Australia. Despite everything I was disappointed we wouldn’t see each other again.
He couldn’t look me in the eye, didn’t light up when he saw me, but when I was gone he’d assure me I was missed. I can’t figure out what made me wait around, imagine a future with a guy who clearly didn’t see one with me. I don’t know why I held on to the little hope he gave me, dreaming it would turn into more. I wasn’t sure what drew me to be with someone so blank, what I found so facinating about someone who was literally so dull.
He had bedding fit for a homeless person. One time I found pizza crust in his comforter. He wore 5 shirts in rotation and probably hadn’t gone shopping in a year. He had holes in his bedroom walls, but a stack of books on his bedside table. When I went to visit him again at UMASS Amherst after I returned from Australia, he brought me out with his friends and spent the entire time scanning the room; I assume to make sure certain people didn’t see us together. He had spent the past 9 months insisting he needed me in his life, but seemed completely indifferent about my existence by the end of it all.
Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe he truly didn’t care, I’m not so sure. I attempted to sneak out the next morning, but he insisted we go out to breakfast. I was exhausted and infuriated, but I wanted to believe that I didn’t make a mistake driving 2 hours to see him, so I went. He took me to an organic cafe on his campus and insisted I try a coffee milk that came from the area, he “needed someone else to know how good it is”, which was cute. He told me all about the teaching program he was accepted to and I wished more than anything that this was the Mike that would always be around.
We have all had someone who kept us holding on with no reason to believe they would catch us if we fell. We’ve all been left to reflect on why were were so god damn stupid, why we let someone toy with us that had no business playing with our heart stings in the first place. Even after all the time we’ve had to brainstorm your bad qualities in between strategically spaced-out texts, we still anxiously await your response– knowing in advance it will be a disappointment.
Just because you care about someone doesn’t mean you’re meant to be. Recognize the difference between being infatuated by someone amazing and consumed by someone toxic. The line is often grayer than you think. I always told this guy I wasn’t going to blog about him, I insisted it was because “our story” wasn’t interesting enough. I spent the entirety of our friendship trying to sustain us and I’m not sure why, the passion died after the first week. You can’t make someone happy if they don’t want to be. You can’t force someone to love you if they don’t. You can’t save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.
I wrote this post while visiting Martha’s Vineyard this past week, I asked a girl I had just met her opinion on the topic, she has one of these guys too. “His name is Simon” She said. I asked her to describe him, “not that cute, smart, funny or cool– I go over when he texts me late at night and I get offended when someone else is his best friend on Snapchat.” Why do we keep these guys around? It isn’t love, it isn’t passionate, it isn’t a particular fondness, and it drives us mad. Rarely are they anything special, but they force us to question our own worth. What do we have to prove? I don’t know– thats why I’m asking.