"I've just felt like you've been making such a big deal about us not spending time together that I thought... well, I thought you'd choose to spend time rather than running off to do something else," she said.
His expression melted into pain. "But you said I could go," and the notes of his voice were desperate, pleading. "Please, please," his eyes said. "Don't tell me I'm doing it wrong, I can't handle it if I'm doing it wrong."
And her first instinct was to reach out to him, to pat him on the head and tell him everything was going to be OK. But how can you soothe someone who doesn't want you? She could walk away and then he would just leave. And maybe that was the kindest thing to do for him. But how to see him in pain, to have somehow caused it, and to be willing to walk away from it, unresolved? And then she remembered -- but I was the one in pain. I'm the one who's waiting to be soothed, waiting for someone to pat me and tell me it'll be OK. Tears welled up in her eyes.
"It just makes me feel like you don't care about me," she said.
"How can you say that to me?" he rasped.
Oh shit, she thought, as she watched the walls of fantasy fall down all around her. She had forgotten. But now she remembers. He's not thinking about him wanting to be with me or me wanting to be with him or my being in pain or any of it. He's just thinking he fucked up -- his only one and overwhelming thought -- and now he's going to have some kind of a panic attack and shut down. He left the room, walking like a man on death row: a prisoner, a victim. His reaction was, as always, mystifying, unfathomable. I should have expected it... I should have thought first. Accusing him of not loving you never ever ever illicits a loving response. Not even if you use neutral language and precede it with "I feel." You idiot. Never.
Anger flashed through then, sharpening the edges of her thoughts. The anger is at him? For an instant. Until she silently called him an emotional four-year-old and conceded to herself that he can't help it; it is what he is. And I'm the asshole who loves him. So. Much. She repeated the old litany to herself: It doesn't matter how he treats you, how you interact. It's just him that matters -- how he is, who he is when he's out in the world and whether or not you want to be near that. And how he was out in the world was fascinating and fun and entirely unique. So it doesn't matter how your ego feels about how he treats you. It's not zen anyway, to be so attached to feeling wanted, needed, desired, even loved, by someone else. You just give love. Give and give and give. And if you get some, that's nice, that's a bonus. Because real bliss comes from giving... Her mind trailed off. No. That perspective is not working today. Not today.
I feel unloved, she thought, by the person I love most in all the world. And the fact that I don't believe he loves me, or assume he loves me, makes him angry and distant and sad. What the fuck do you do with that? Not "No, honey, of course I love you and I will try so hard, forever, to prove it to you if that's what it takes. How devastating for you to live in that reality where you believe (and it's so hard to imagine, because my heart just bursts with love for you every moment!) that I don't care for you." Not that, ever.
It's like being in love with a celebrity. You watch them and you love them and you're so happy to see them and to see what they're up to. And sometimes it almost seems that they're looking through the lens of whatever medium you're viewing them through and see you and interact with you. And you have just that fleeting illusion of connection. And it carries you... it carries you away. It's enough, for a little while. But then you remember. And you die a little bit more. Because you've been to your celebrity's house and you've called out to them, "Why don't you ever call?" and they close their windows and doors on you and security comes out and shoos you away. But it's even worse than that. Because security says to you, before they point the guns at you, that if only you believed that he loved you, everything would be different. And the only dream you have left, besides the one impossible dream that keeps you around, that keeps you tethered, is the one where you walk away.
"Faith?" she screamed in the empty house. "You want me to have faith?" But no. That she couldn't find her way into. Not in the face of all this evidence to the contrary. The best she could do was forget. Because the illusion would reestablish itself. If she could pretend long enough that all she needed was the be near him, he would start to seem like he liked her presence again. If she listened to his stories and laughed at his jokes. If just kept touching him and didn't assess, didn't measure, didn't flinch when he touched her. If she resisted the urge to scream, "Liar! Coward!" when he came into the room. If she focused on ... whatever... focused away from, at least, the loneliness. The bitter, crippling ...
No. Focus on peace, compassion, meditation, equanimity. Right. Do that long enough and he'll start looking at you like he's not ... whatever... like he likes you. And you'll believe. The walls will go back up -- the shining, crystal, candy walls of maybe maybe this is real and then you'll go back, back, and stand outside his house and maybe maybe this time... maybe this next time. Maybe.