I wanted to believe that we could live somewhere above labels and the law. When I think of it now, it all seems so juvenile and silly, two adults with deepening feelings for one another and a refusal to put definition around them.
“We’re both adults; we know what we’re doing and not doing,” I told you on our second date. But by the eighth or ninth date, only one part of that sentence remained true. Yes, we were both adults, but I no longer had any idea what we were doing.
Somewhere in the realm of 1 a.m. Australia Central Time and 11:30 a.m. Eastern Time, my boyfriend and I dig through my jagged relationship history. I tell him about you. I mention you and the lawyer who lived in the basement and the guy who flew in for the weekend. It’s the end of my first week in Australia, and he and I are on one of our longer calls, not limited by the confines of one of us needing to go to work or go to bed. He doesn’t understand it, the way I’ve willingly subjected myself to emotional mazes, mixed signals, and dead end roads with most of the men I’ve dated. I don’t quite understand it anymore either.
“Why are people drawn to messy situations?” he asks.
I try to explain it, almost in the interest of defending myself, until I realize that there is not much more than a heaping pile of dirt and bullshit to defend.
And yet, there is something alluring about the mess. At least that’s what I once believed. I believed there was something beautiful and boundless about an obscure relationship that still contained all of the vivid emotions of a defined one. I don’t know if I lived in the grey by choice or by default; looking back on it, I’m sure it was some combination of the two. Either way, that amorphous spot became my home and fueled the narrative I wrote repeatedly for five years. The mess became the magnet of my writing over the years, a gravitational pull for all of the women who had fallen for someone among a field of red flags. There we were, united on common ground with the burned love letters of half-baked lovers shredded beneath our soles.
Maybe we stood on that ground because we so hopelessly believed in sparks, even after they subsided and turned to ash. Maybe it was because we were convinced we could change people and the way they were wired, firm in our belief that the connection we forged with them would compel them to commit to us. Maybe it’s because we fell in love with the idea of bad boys, even when they proved they were still years away from being good men. Maybe it’s because the emotions pulled us under and we didn’t know how to come up for air. Maybe waiting for texts and holding our breath became reflexes, and we couldn’t learn how to live any other way. Maybe it’s because we scoffed at monogamy, realizing how on trend it was, and still is, to remain detached while sifting through an endless assortment of options. Maybe we were scared to admit that the idea of one life with one person sounded beautiful or terrifying or some blend of both. Maybe we were afraid to let someone in and show them our scars; maybe we only ever knew how to be someone’s sweet escape. Maybe we were even more afraid that our one life with our one person would never come.
I’d like to believe I redeemed myself from the mess. I’d like to think I walked away and bid it farewell because I became a stronger woman, resolute in what I wanted and the kind of affection I was willing to wait for. This is the story I like to tell myself.
But, I never really escaped the mess. Something greater and more solid just found me first.