I once knew a woman who thought she’d never love again. Somehow she’d managed to touch the hem of love’s garment again. Her first love after believing she’d never love again had healed her in some ways, but also swallowed her whole.
Loving men who never stayed had eaten her flesh, devoured her soul, and rendered her cripple. She had said goodbye to all that love stuff as she taught herself to walk again.
Three years post-rehab, love found its way back home. It was the kind of ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t live without each other love Carrie realized she didn’t have with the Russian. The kind of love the Vocal Bible and legends belt out in ballads. A love so palpable strangers caught its whiff from afar.
It was also the kind of love that brought her no peace. The kind of love doomed before the words were ever said.
This love was unfamiliar, unlike any other love she’d experienced with ghosts of lovers past. While the love felt real and mature and grown, she — and anyone who knew — could easily question its veracity. Their opinions caused her to doubt what she knew to be true in her heart. And it was perhaps this very thing that eventually drove her mad.
Loving him felt like breathing. But it was the details around their love that made her lose her hair and vomit and bleed and whither into bones with useless limbs. Her spirit was rejecting this kind of love despite the important lesson it had arrived to teach: She could love again.
One day over whiskey and ginger ale she described it to me as such:
It was the kind of love that keeps you waiting by the phone. Where goodnight texts are sent once everybody in the house are in bed, or right before he lays down in bed next to someone else. The kind where quality time always revolved around moments he could steal away. A love where you avoided certain questions because the answer would always have details omitted and info you don’t want to know. It was the kind of love that meant he could never spend the night even if he stayed until six in the morning. A love where birthdays and holidays were celebrated, just not with you. It was the kind of love that meant listening to him talk about having more children that would never be birthed by you. A love where your weekends were spent alone while his filled with kids’ birthday parties and weddings and family vacations. It was a somewhat hidden love. A love you can’t show the world but have a front row seat at witnessing. It was the kind of love where secrets were necessary. And lies par for the course. A kind of love where being sick meant nothing if he couldn’t come up with a good enough reason to slip away to see about you. A love where outsiders questioned your self-worth but never his. It was the kind of love that required knowing your role. The most devastating part of this kind of love, she said, was forcing yourself to be somebody you’re not by telling yourself you’re ok with things you were never going to be ok with.
Her voice shook as she explained this complicated, twisted, equal parts beautiful and dark, kind of love as she leaned on the window sill.
After I silently prayed the universe kept this kind of love away from me and my daughters and their daughters, I asked, “Why stay when this kind of love clearly is not enough?”
She looked away, blowing smoke out of the second floor window.
“Because I love him.”