I knew before we met that it wouldn’t last long.
I’d dreamt of him in symbols, with a clarity I find only in dreams which are forthcoming, soothsaying, psychic. I knew not his face but knew of his golden hair, his appearance from the north, and the vital creative impact we were destined to have upon one another.
Searching for more affirmation, I consulted a tarot reader. She began by drawing cards about my previous relationship, and accurately detailed the suffocation I’d felt and the loss of myself within its “golden cage”. I never fully knew who I was in the face of a partner, yet always tried to do the right thing — not knowing that the right thing isn’t always acting virtuously and selflessly. Sometimes doing the right thing is acting for yourself, staying true to yourself, and finding yourself… while still giving to a partner.
But I’d only once been good at that — when I was younger, with my first serious boyfriend, and only because our interests were so different our realities could only overlap to a limited degree. Beyond him, I had become accustomed to the dynamic of building myself up when I was single, only to lose that in the excitement of what I had long chased after and yearned for, which is love.
This burning desire may have been born into me, but even as such, was reinforced by a childhood of sadness, where I felt that true love was love that saved you. And though the exchanging and receiving of saving graces certainly has gone both ways in the relationships I’ve had, I wonder now if that desire to be saved still clings somewhere, so that even when I am giving I am in fact trying to reinforce some sort of idea that, if I act virtuously, my lover will stay and be my knight, even at the loss of myself.
The tarot reader explained that the blonde-haired dream boy was a soulmate, and that our relationship would be extremely intense despite its short duration. Water, it seemed, would be important, as would the concept of loving someone while remaining free. Such love, she said, was unconditional — where you could be with someone without labels or even a sense of ownership and still love their entire being.
This dream and reading happened towards the end of that summer. I waited all year in anticipation. When he still hadn’t showed by the beginning of the next year, I no longer believed I would meet him. I wrote off the dream, the reading, the desire. I completely forgot.
And then I moved to Los Angeles temporarily, for three months. I swore off dating and happily spent most of January alone, diving deep into my own projects.
Without desire or expectation, we found each other in February.
I was his temporary roommate for the month — and he, coincidentally, had just become single. During our first interaction, he was exceptionally strange and aloof, but in spite of myself, my curiosity was stirred. As was his.
One night, my freshly laundered sheets were wet and required another run through the dryer. My blonde-haired boy showed me how. And as I awkwardly searched for conversation fodder, I mentioned innocently that I had not yet seen his bedroom. He took this as a come-on. He led me to his room.
It was the beginning, but it wasn’t until weeks later that I realized he was the boy from my dreams.
In the morning, his plastic window panels refracted rainbow light across his walls. I brought them to his attention for the first time.
He warned me early on about his lack of desire for a girlfriend, but soon rescinded his words. We became exclusive. Thus began a time where our closeness was detailed by spending nearly every day together, embarking on consciousness-expanding adventures, and visiting the art sites which inspired him most. He tousled my hair and called me “perfect”. We looked endlessly into one another’s eyes, ingesting all with an innocence that felt free from human baggage — and over time, he expressed with awe that he could see a depth in my black eyes that he’d never noticed before.
As predicted, water — that eternal symbol for emotion — was central to our relationship. Some of our best times came from visits to his favorite spots up and down the coast, true to the wandering nature of us both.
Knowing it would never last, I never took a single day for granted.
During the last of our five months together, he officially became my boyfriend. He introduced me to his friends, who told me excitedly that they had heard much about me. I was happy. But what I did not know was that beneath our perceived bliss — and his assurances that he felt good about us — something was brewing. It had always been brewing. He had known from the start that his focus was his art career, and he had tried to warn me: he was damaged goods, not ready to fall in love again and not willing to.
How he could control this, I can’t say. How he wasn’t in love already, was beyond me.
We had just spent four incredible days on the California coast and have temporarily parted ways when I can feel him pulling away. I just want to know how to better understand his fluctuating moods. He doesn’t want to talk about them. He doesn’t want to explain anything to anyone — so he breaks up with me over a message full of “I don’t know”‘s.
After our weekend together, I am incredulous.
He apologizes over the phone. He was lying to himself that he was ready to be a relationship, he says. It has nothing to do with me, he says. But he has never learned to talk about his emotions, so his words come off as contradictory and rude.
I’m at a loss for understanding.
So I give him space.
Five days later, we drive down to Los Angeles from the Bay Area. We barely touch, and after some silence, finally attempt to talk. He can tell me nothing helpful — and tired of his inability to explain anything, I give up.
“You think about it and tell me what you want,” I say sternly, “because I’m fine with whatever.”
To this, he desperately wants me to know that his reaction is only a response to feeling like he has to answer to someone. He tells me that he didn’t even sleep with anyone at the multi-day concert he had just attended, although everyone had been trying to sleep with everyone.
Does he want me to be pleased?
Yet why be loyal if he doesn’t want to be with me?
Why doesn’t he want to be with me?
Starving, we stop at In-N-Out. We’ve done this many times before, but tonight, I can hardly look at him. I don’t buy for him; he doesn’t buy for me. He brings his phone to show me pictures, but I, who always cares about everything he does, cannot care less. We get back into his car and I speed home, hardly uttering a response to his humors the entire way.
He drops me off at my house, and, stubborn and confused as I feel, I can’t help but melt into his embrace. He initiates a kiss as he departs, and I want to look at him — to study the face I have come to love and his clear green eyes… but I’m incapable.
The duration I look is not the duration I want. What I want is eternal.
He leaves… and I am reminded that when the purity of being able to look into one another’s eyes is gone, so too goes the trust.
We see each other again days later. Fresh after a tropical downpour, the sky is red.
Atop the verdant hilltop where he lives, he’s found an iridescent golden-green beetle. Dead, but in pristine form, it’s covered with thick drops of rain, and recalls the scarab in a Carl Jung story I’ve just been reading about his discovery of synchronicity. And it just so happened that, when I awoke this morning, I had curiously noted an abundance of flying beetles, their wings flapping so hard that their volume transcended the music in my headphones.
These are reminders that we are something deeper than us, even if he can’t say it now.
We make love, slowly and methodically, savoring every moment. But I wish I would have savored it more. This may be the last time I marvel at how immaculately our bodies fit together.
We are naked in bed when he asks me if I need a ride home. No… can’t I stay…?, I ask. I need to know more.
So, for the first semi-successful time, I corner him into speaking the unspeakable. And he is the most clear he has ever been. He tells me that our five months together were partly characterized by him deciding if he wanted to be my boyfriend and partly by his Libra tendency of saying yes to everything. He enjoys the times we spent together, but takes only partial responsibility, citing our many adventures and road trips as reasons our relationship was cemented for so long.
He tells me he is a coward. He could never have broken up with me in person. He’s never learned how to navigate something as pleasant as “us”. He is only a boy, he says, who has only known of fighting to the death, of ending by screaming and ignoring one another for months… and sometimes forever.
But then comes the real clincher…
… he simply doesn’t like me enough.
All the talk about his career was true, yes, but he had learned to make work around me, and had even called me his muse when I emerged and shook him out of his longstanding creative slumber. Still, he doesn’t love me. He had thought he might and that he could, but then decided he couldn’t. Is it me or is it him? Or is it the many lies he tells himself? He downplays how much he cared for me, while messages I’ve saved and things he’s told his friends denote otherwise. In circumstances where he chose to be exuberant and faithful, he claims that I pressured him. He cowers even at my hope that we remain close friends. Sure, he too had expressed the desire, but when spoken from my mouth, he somehow feels cornered.
And yet I love him — and to show this, I’d tried to support him — but what I thought I knew about his anxieties barely scratch the surface.
As we lie sideways in bed and look each other in the eyes, I tell him I will miss this, and he almost cries as he says he says that he will too. He says that, unlike me, he’s incapable of using words to show his care. So I have to look into his eyes. Those eyes, which lead me to beliefs that his words contradict. Who is he.
After our talk, he is hungry, and we take an uncharacteristic late-night trip to McDonald’s for chicken nuggets: something foolish to bring levity to the night’s end. The wind and rain show their power as we leave, whipping tree branches against his tiny home.
Everything is alive with electricity, reminding us both of the Pacific Northwest we grew up in. My blonde-haired boy from the North. My Nordic beauty. Everything about the night is idiotic and funny and brilliantly sad, and in its contrasts, the most beautiful goodbye I’ve ever had.
In the morning, I crawl into his lap. Like a lover. Like a child. Like coming home only to leave it. We hug and kiss and cry, smiling sad smiles of departure.
Our love seems made for movies. And somehow, it is ending.
What can I say except that I truly don’t know this boy of my dreams. Yet, in separation, I realize what I had been suppressing for some time: the truth that I don’t know who I am right now, either.
In these later months, it has been too much about him; not enough about me. I allowed his incredible world to supersede my own. In a new city and with new artistic goals, I am only half-whole. And it took him choosing to love himself — for him choosing to choose himself — that I realize that I haven’t been choosing to love myself, either.
But we will.