A song once told me that if I couldn’t be with the one I loved, then I must love the one I’m with. I’d always abhorred the idea. I didn’t understand how one could settle in a life experience that is so vital to our existence. I felt that if my love was strong enough for someone, that love would defy the odds and the universe would create a path for us to be with each other. But even love has its limits. The universe strings together events and circumstances that conflict with what we want and that are out of our control. Today, I devote myself not to the man who quakes the rhythm in my chest or whose memory haunts me with every step, but to the man who has loved me when no other man would.
I don’t remember when it started. But the dreams have followed me for months, every other minute, every other hour. Dreams of sitting across from him at the dinner table or beside him at the bar—our conversations filled with trivial, humorous exchanges and long, knowing glances. Dreams of adjusting his tie and kissing his dark, chiseled chin in stolen moments away from mutual friends. Dreams of lying on top of his body in a swirl of white Egyptian cotton, our chests rising and falling against each other after swift and lush throws under a muted Sunday sun. His image arrests me, and I’m angry and ashamed that I can’t shake him from my thoughts.
No, I don’t remember when the dreams first started. But I do remember when I first became cognizant of them.
I’ve already written about this in fact, about the mysterious morning in which Kalon* roused me out of my sleep to make love one early, lazy Saturday morning. I wrote about the miraculous, gratifying experience I had, hallucinating about having sex with two different men at once. Their bodies melded into one another like a trail of milk being poured into a cup of coffee. I saw a different face every time I blinked. Then, at the height of it all, I found myself looking into the eyes of a man that wasn’t actually in the bed with me, but was far off into another corner of the world I would never spot.
My logic told me that the hallucination had merely been a fluke. It was supposed to have been a bizarre side effect of becoming complacent in having sex with the partner I’d come to love and trust, the partner that had come to love and trust me. So I wrote about it, thinking I was freeing myself. I wrote in the effort to air out all of my shame and confusion at my own elaborate fantasies. I wrote it because my writing is my sacred space.
Yes, I see the irony here; publishing something in the digital world means it will be accessible to the public for virtually an eternity. Still, writing about the thoughts and experiences that trouble me makes way for new twists and turns, new revelations and conclusions, new characters, new beginnings. I thought that if I wrote about my demon, I would be able to leave him behind.
But I couldn’t leave him behind.
He was this enigmatic character I’d met over a year prior that I hadn’t seen nor hardly spoken to, since. He charmed me, made my stomach sick with excitement. I regret how I carried myself when I met him. I regret meeting him at all, really. I struggled to look at him in the face and I froze into a frail, ugly, rigid shell of myself. I recoiled when he reached out to embrace me. I turned the other cheek when he tried to strike up a conversation. It still puzzles me that his presence affected me so much. Our interactions were a cruel reminder of how timid and cynical I had become in relations with the opposite sex at the time that we met.
Ten months, five days, and 19 hours after we’d been introduced, I tried to go back and tell him everything I wanted to say. I wanted to say that I was sorry I had been so awkward when we met and that I didn’t mean to discourage him, if I did. I wanted to say that although the circumstances under which we met were a little unusual, I wasn’t trying to trap or pressure him into doing anything he didn’t want to do. I wanted to say that I had approached him in the way I did because I enjoyed his company. He reminded me of what it felt like to regard a man as my friend.
But I never did get a chance to say those words—at least not to him. Seasons changed and my efforts to reach him went unanswered. I became less guarded and distrustful, then grew more reflective and diligent in my writing. One blog post turned into a second, then a third, then a book chapter, then another blog post all over again. Writing about him gave me pleasure but it was ultimately a futile effort to turn back time. And in the midst of it all, I met Kalon.
Now that the summer has arrived, half of me dreads the prospect of bumping into this man again. We live in the same city and share friends, so it is possible. I’ve been wondering if my fantasies were just foreshadowing our next encounter; my stomach still hurts when I try to imagine it. What would I say? How would he look at me? Would I freeze again? Would we get to talk and catch up like I had always wanted? Or would we just politely avoid each other and keep ourselves entertained with other people? The other half of me desperately wants to see him again so that I can be disappointed, killing the dream all together.
I wracked my brain for a reason why I thought about this other man so obsessively. Maybe he was a player and I fell for his charm. Maybe I was bored in my relationship and that I needed to do something different. Maybe this man was the man that I was supposed to be with, and that it just didn’t come into fruition yet. Still, I could never find an answer that I was satisfied with. I feel silly entertaining the idea that I might love this person, but the fact that I’ve been so enrapt by him for so long makes me question myself.
My guilt of being so emotionally consumed by another person eventually led me to leave Kalon. He knew nothing about my infatuation; telling him would have been an insult and a violation of the love he’d reserved for me. Two weeks later, I regained my sanity, realized how happy I was being with him and asked him to take me back. He accepted me with open arms without so much as a challenge or a fight. The fact that he is so good to me makes my shame that much more intense and unbearable.
Women tell me that fantasizing about another man is normal for someone in a committed relationship, that I should treat it as such and that I should just move on. I do my best, but as of yet it has been to no avail. I wish that I could say what all of this means, that I could pull a lesson out of this story for myself and for you, my reader. I don’t know what any of this means. For the first time in all of the personal essays and thought pieces I’ve sit down to write, I really don’t have anything helpful or progressive to say.
What I can say, however, is that to all of the other women out there who have ever felt that irrational longing for someone—even when you’re happy with somebody else—I hear you. There is a subtle, distinct, bitter and hollow feeling that comes when you get everything ask for in a relationship, only for it to be with someone whom isn’t who you originally hoped it would be. I suppose all a woman can do is be grateful for the love that she has and to love her man back in all of the wonderful ways that he deserves. We all have temptations, but none of us ever get everything that we ask for.
*Not his real name.