Identity and purpose

Sunday afternoon, 1:00 PM, the game is about to start when my phone rings. I see the name that comes up, and consider letting it go to voicemail. It’s been over a week since we’ve spoken, and the way the last conversation went I really thought it may have been the last time we’d ever speak.

I pick it up. “Hey, how are you doing?”, I ask guardedly. I wasn’t sure of the mood I would be encountering from the other end of the line. I had said some things at the tail end of our last conversation, truth that needed to be said but things she didn’t want to hear or consider.

“I’m okay. I’ve been thinking, and I have some questions for you if you don’t mind and you have the time.” Never one to beat around the bush. Just then the ball is kicked off, and I look at my two daughters. I tell my oldest that I need to take the call and I go upstairs.

“Alright, I have time. Go for it.”. I’m not so sure I really want to answer whatever queries she has nor do I have any idea what it is she is wanting to know, but it sounds as if it is important to her. Her voice is calm and reasonable.

“I want to know what your thoughts are on different relationship dynamics.”. Part of this unusual friendship of ours has been absolute honesty from the getgo. Initially we were perfect strangers, and within each other we had found a safe place to discuss things that we wouldn’t normally talk about with other people. She knows details about my life that only perhaps one other knows, and some that no one knows save Marie. As it turns out, she had made some assumptions and assigned terminologies that were not really reflective of how I felt about my relationship with Marie. So I set about the task of trying to explain the differences between what she assumed and what was fact.

“Okay. I guess I understand a bit better. The way you described certain things I just thought it was…different. You do realize in those regards her and I are very much the same, correct?”.

“Yes, Sarah, I do. I’ll admit that once you and I started talking the similarities between the two of you started to become obvious. I’ve already said as much, and it was likely a major reason why I was drawn to you in the first place and vice versa. When you opened up to me about your relationship with Mark you only confirmed my suspicions. That being said I have never once lied to you or led you on. You know precisely how I feel about her, and you know that hasn’t changed at all, regardless of how much I try to lie to myself.”.

“Yeah, I know. You’ve said it multiple times. But why her, specifically why her over me? I’m right here and I know you. You’ve told me all of these negative things about yourself, how you were, but I don’t see any of that. Half the time I wonder if you are lying to me about it. Why I don’t know. All I see a guy killing himself chasing after something that isn’t meant to be caught. I mean, you guys haven’t really had a conversation in months, and the way you’ve stated it it seems like she hates you. Why waste your time and emotions on someone who gives you little reason to believe things will ever be different than what they are?”.

“Do you really want me to answer these questions?”, I ask pointedly. “Because if I am going to give you a complete answer, I’m going to have to start at the beginning. I know I’ve discussed bits and pieces, but never the full picture. Given the last conversation we had I’m not so sure you really want me to open up on this subject. I will do as you ask, but I really believe you are not going to like what I have to say. I don’t want you getting upset with me about it afterwards. Are you sure?”.

“Yeah, I’m sure.”. I can hear her voice deflate a bit with that confirmation. “This has been on my mind all week. If I stop you now I’ll only be left to let my imagination run with it, and I’d rather know for certain than make assumptions.”.

“Alright then — from the beginning.”…

We met online, as seems to be an increasingly normal thing these days. Two single parents trying to find our compliment in the harsh world of dating. It was I who found her first, reading her profile and looking at her photos, thinking to myself how she was cute as a button but never bothering to leave a message. After all, I was 12 years older than her, and that age gap kinda weirds out some women. She is the one who took the initiative and sent me a message with a slightly sarcastic tone — something about not bothering to say hello. It was warm and genuine. Of course I replied back to such an inviting response, and the whirlwind ensued…

A couple of days of messages back and forth led to an exchange of phone numbers, which led to an unending string of daily text messaging and nightly phone calls. We talked about everything as we filled each other in on the lives we had led up until that point. The conversations covered everything from growing up to past relationships, and in these conversations I discovered something about her, that led me to the conclusion that she was a submissive, even is she was acutely unaware of it herself. How that subject was broached I do not recall but I do remember an intense conversation the Tuesday night before we met in person. I remember saying into the phone in a certain tone of voice ‘You need me’. I remember the sound of her breathing, hearing her whimper ever so slightly as the reality washed over her and she knew I was right. That one conversation set the tone for a lot of things to come.

I distinctly remember the night we finally met face to face. I remember what I was wearing, what she was wearing. I arrived first, as I planned, and chose a seat at the bar that kept me separate from the other patrons and would allow for me to place myself between her and anyone else to limit interruptions. I recall the moment she walked in and we locked eyes. She was so cute — the most beautiful woman I had ever laid eyes on. She had a twinkle in her eyes that you just couldn’t help but notice. I couldn’t stop staring at her even though I was trying so hard not to. We shook hands and she took the seat next to me that I wanted her to take. She nervously tugged at her sleeve and kept readjusting her glasses as she ran her fingers through her hair. The conversation was light but the body language was intense. We only stuck around for one drink before we left to go to a second establishment to play some pool.

She said she sucked, but I didn’t care. It wasn’t about the game, it was about having a chance to talk in a quieter environment, but for all the talking we had done up until that point, there was little in the way of meaningful discourse between us. She was flirting with me, using every trick in her arsenal, and I was eating up every bit of it as I did my best to drag the game out as long as possible without making it look like I was doing so. She saw through it and knew what I was doing, but didn’t exactly complain.

We left there after about an hour, made a stop at a convenience store where she bought one of those Blu E-cigs. “Trying to quit.”, she said, and she encouraged me to do the same. Our next and final stop was at a place hosting karaoke that night. I knew she was keen to it, and I wanted to impress her with my voice, though by that point I probably didn’t have to do anything to impress her. I picked out a song I knew by heart so that I could stare into her eyes as I sang. I don’t know if either of us even blinked for those few minutes We didn’t stick around for very long after that. She was squirming in her seat and wanted to get out of there. She made little attempt to try to hide what she wanted, and I was only happy to get the hell out of there myself ASAP. There wasn’t a single person in the place who didn’t see what was going on between us, and I was tired of the prying eyes.

What happened next was just straight sex, no D/s type of activities of any sort, but it was pure magic. We took time to build the trust that led to those other activities. She started coming over one night a week to spend the night, and I would sneak over to her place as often as I could after her son went to sleep. We just couldn’t get enough of one another. All day texts, maybe phone calls at night when we weren’t together. One night a week at my place became two, and eventually she just moved in. I don’t even remember exactly when, it just kinda happened, but I knew it was right, and I prepped my daughter’s for the occasion.

I had never been happier than when she came into our lives. The depth of our relationship grew by leaps and bounds…we shared details with each other that no one else knew. I was unafraid to show my emotions to her. I remember the first time she saw me cry, the look of concern on her face perhaps because she hadn’t been with someone who could or would do that, but I was unashamed. I wanted her to see me, and she did, as I saw her. I listened to her complain about her work and her life. I was determined to help her in any and all ways. She started calling me Daddy, and I was. I wanted to protect her, help her grow, be everything I could. When her boss at work made a veiled threat about employees having to donate money to their charitable funds I found someone on the internet who was an expert in these sorts of charities who had a newsletter. I wrote him, received a response, and I was proud to show her that the story had made the front page of said newsletter. I offered to help her with her work. She had this display she had to design and build that involved making a model bamboo hut. She had no clue how to do it, neither did I, but I went to the internet to learn how to do so. What came as a result was a bit of a compromise, because I just wasn’t gonna learn how to do it the right way in time, but it was good enough I suppose. When she started going to school she had multiple papers to write each week, and I assumed the task of proofreader. Not saying she can’t write, but she was under a lot of pressure to crank them out, and the extra set of eyes helped catch her mistakes and jazz them up to make them sound a bit better. And she was so good to me in return. She loved me, adored me even, and I have no complaints at all about the reciprocal ways she showed her appreciation.

But then the wheels started to fall off, and it’s all my fault. I could have spoke up about the things I was going though, but held it in. I became depressed, moody, I started drinking a lot. I stopped being the man she loved, the man I promised her I was, and devolved into something I am absolutely not proud of. I’d get angry at times over the dumbest shit for no good reason at all. I lost just about all of my motivation to do anything at all. She had to ask me multiple times to do things. Maybe I got to them, maybe I didn’t. I distanced and separated myself from everyone. I think she knew I was struggling with something, but she never directly asked me. She asked me many times to change my behaviors, but it never registered. She hung on as long as she could, and then I shattered her heart in February when I yelled at her and told her I needed to see if I could live on my own for a while. That pained look on her face, the tears in her eyes, her breath hitching as she sobbed is something I can’t forget or forgive myself for. It was so wrong. She stayed a little while longer, until I fucked up one more time a week prior to having to leave for a 3 week job in South Jersey. She basically moved out on a Monday morning, and I was less than gracious about it. I could have stopped her, could have tried anyway. Instead I told her to leave her key. I’m still kicking myself over that. Why the fuck did I respond like that?

I spent the next month as a zombie. I stopped drinking, but I also stopped eating and sleeping. I would come home and pace my house for hours trying to make sense of it all and come up with plans to fix the situation. I still don’t know how the hell I nailed the entrance exam and the interview for the job, but I managed. It wasn’t until I literally had a physical collapse that I knew I needed to do some drastic, uncomfortable things if I was gonna ever have a chance of climbing back out of the hole I had dug and winning her back…

“…and you pretty know everything from that point forward. You know what though, it’s not the sex or the D/s aspects of our relationship that I miss the most. That’s so far back on the list that it hardly even registers. I miss being the man she looked up to, the guy she could count on. I miss hearing her complain about that bitch Kati from work. I miss listening to her sing in the shower, even if the truth is she’s not that all that great, but I still miss hearing it. I miss the way her eyes would smile at me when I did and said stupid stuff just to make her laugh. God, do I miss that. Being a goof just to get a laugh out of her, and I so miss her laughter. It’s unmistakable — I could pick her out in a crowd. I miss making her happy, because when she was happy I was happy. Hell, I even miss her son. Any time I needed to say the word ‘no’ instead I would say ‘negative’, only I’d change my voice to make it sound all pompous, and he would laugh his ass off. He’d mimic me repeatedly and crack himself up over and over. Maybe that sounds stupid to you, and maybe I didn’t appreciate it then, but I fucking miss it now. I said it perhaps for the first time since she left the other day, and immediately I recalled that of him. It brought a smile to my face, followed by a tear. When things were good, we were a family, an honest to goodness family. It was a home, something I had never had before in my life, ever. Not with my own blood family, certainly not with Beth. Never, and I fucked it all up. You see, it doesn’t matter how long it takes or how long the odds are, I want that back. I want my home, I want my family, I want to see that glint in her eye, I want to hear her laugh, I want to make her happy, and I’ll do anything I have to for as long as it takes as long as there’s the slightest chance of it ever happening again.”

I’ve cried a lot of tears since she’s been gone, more this year then in my entire life I am certain. I can feel them starting to well up and try to blink them back. Needing a moment to compose myself she obliges me with a few seconds of silence as she ponders her own thoughts.

“But, she’s still angry with you. You said it yourself that she has said some pretty nasty things to you.”. The exasperation was evident in her voice.

“Let me ask you this,” I said in a matter of fact tone…”If you could theoretically reverse time, go back and change it all, fix all of the obstacles that kept you and Mark apart would you and I even be talking right now?”.

A few more seconds of silence precede the dejected “No” that emanated from the other end of the line.

“Why is that?”, I ask pointedly.

“Because I loved him, I loved him more than life itself.”.

“And if it was remotely possible that somehow you could change that past or start over, make it so that you and him would be unencumbered to the happiness that you had together, would you stop at nothing to try and make it possible?”.

“Yeah, I guess you are right.”.

“I hope that this explanation helps you understand a bit more about our relationship and why she is so important to me. Without her I just feel empty, and I’ve been grasping at any straw I can in order to get it all back.”.

I can’t help but I feel as if I’ve gone too far, cut way to close to vest.

“I mean, it’s not really news. I already knew you were a caretaker, and I knew it meant a lot to you.”. All of a sudden, she lets out an exclamation. “Ohhhhhh. Oh my God, yes it really does! Boy, that’s rough.”.

“What?”, I ask suspiciously. This isn’t quite the reaction I expected.

“I yell at you all the time for not listening. I’ve been listening and not fully understanding, or maybe just not believing, because I was judging through my own veil. You’ve even said it so many times, your purpose. I don’t know why I never equated it to being like my mission and purpose, except that I was just being self focused, therefore an asshole, and I’m sorry.”.

“Don’t apologize, please. What veil are you talking about?”

“Good gravy. You lost your MSSM, your other, and your identity in one fell swoop.”.

“When you put it like that, you are right. Yes, I did.”.

“I mean, I knew it was bad for you, really really bad. But I wasn’t putting it together that losing this love of your life was a triple whammy because it was also a loss of central purpose and self. Your mission is not love, but romantic love, and the veil I was talking about was my own selfish judgment of that, that purpose makes me uncomfortable. Yours is not like other people who only think their purpose is romantic love, when actually they’re just yearning for adoration and self worship. Yours is selfless service in romantic love period. You don’t identify yourself by being loved, you identify yourself by what you do for the one you love. You define yourself that way. I’m the worst and I’m so sorry it took me so long to understand what you meant.”.

I can’t hold it back any longer now. The tears start streaming down my face in buckets and I can feel my chest starting to heave. To have someone finally hear me and fully understand why this is so important to me is a relief I can’t begin to describe. It’s not the exact person that I want understanding me, but right now at this very moment it doesn’t matter. This entire conversation is as much a revelation to me as it is to her.

“I feel dumb and humble and sheepish and I’m sorry”.

“Please, no apologies.”, I say to her. “To be fair, she doesn’t know or understand herself either, and as of this moment I have no real right to expect her to. I was a self absorbed asshole for a long time, too wrapped up in my own issues to realize I was burning everything down around me until it had been reduced to ashes. I understand why you have or had difficulty reconciling what otherwise seems like two very polar opposite sides of my personality.”.

“I understand that dichotomy, I just was letting my own pride blind me. Now I’m being cut down to size, which is something I absolutely need on a regular basis, otherwise my head gets too big to shove up my own ass, another major flaw of mine. When people say their purpose is romantic love, I react automatically. I judge to be perfect honest because I automatically put them in the box of moron Bridget Jones types who do not understand that love is service and sacrifice, not a squishy Hallmark Christmas movie, and that is me being an asshole. I never quite identified you with the Bridget Jones types, but I did let that unconscious bias blind me to what you were really saying. I had all the evidence in the world to show me that that judgment was perfectly wrong in your case, but I refused to look at it. I was being lazy and unfair and a jerk. So yes, I do owe you an apology, because I knew I was not fully understanding your insides in some ways, and I let myself stay blind. I was letting myself underestimate you because others have disappointed me. I am so sorry.”.

“No, do not apologize, please. Instead I should be thanking you. It doesn’t matter.”.

“I dunno, it kind of matters.”.

“What matters is you understand. Taking this long to bridge the gap only means you understand me that much more, because you’ve looked at it from many angles, including those of disbelief.”.

“You are too kind to me, and damnit, you’re wise to boot. Phooey!”.

“Seriously, I want to thank you for what you said and for the conversation. It was mutually enlightening.”.

“No, thank you for giving me more details.”, she says, and it seems as if she genuinely means it. “The more you tell me, the better I understand you. So what now?”.

“Well, the only option that I have at my disposal right now is to continue to write. It’s a one way conversation at this point, but I’m okay with that. After all, she herself went through a long period where she was talking and I wasn’t listening. At least in my case I’m fairly certain that she’s reading the links that I send her. I told her not to if she no longer cared about me or cared to hear what I had to say, but I see the tick on the counter go to one usually within 15–20 minutes of my emailing her. It’s sourced from an email link, and honestly no one really reads what I write, not that I care. It’s for me, and it’s for her. It allows me to collect my thoughts and present them to her. It’s only been the last couple of months that I’ve finally been able to breathe and think in a wholly rational manner. If she’s reading, I’ll keep writing and sending links, and hope that I’m able to communicate my readiness to reconcile. I kept saying over and over that I was previously, but really I wasn’t. I may not be yet to be honest, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is her readiness, if it ever comes to pass. I always told her she was the one in control, and she still is. If she decides at some point that she has seen enough to open a line of communication, then I’ll be ready for her. If she doesn’t, then I guess I’ll eventually just give up whether or not I want to.”.

“Back when this all started I would tell her that I was doing this all for her, and she really didn’t like that notion. I would tell her that love is the purest, most powerful motivator that there is in this world, and she really seemed to take offense to that. She was adamant that I needed to do it for myself, for my kids, and I honestly did not find fault with my motivations. I still don’t now really, but after this conversation I think maybe I really was doing it for both myself and my children all along. We all miss her so much, and this home was a much better place when she was with us. It hasn’t been the same since. I’ll keep trying to get through to her for as long as I can, as long as it takes. I know at some point I have to throw in the towel if she just doesn’t get the message. She loved me so intensely, and our lives were so much better when we were all bathed in her glow. I want that back in the worst possible way. I don’t know when it will be that I give up, but today is not that day. I can’t give up, not yet.”.

“I meant what about us, but it’s okay. You answered the question, even if it was indirectly.”. The pain is evident in her voice, and I feel guilty. I should have exercised more tact than I did, but I can’t take back what I said.

“Hey, you are important to me. You know that right? I mean Jesus, without having met you I have literally no idea where I’d be right now. You have been so instrumental in helping me get my feet back under me and I can’t thank you enough.”. The words are real. I mean every bit of what I’ve said and more. I do really care about her, but at some point this mutual friendship turned into something else for her despite my clarity, and the silence emanating from the phone tells me the sentiments are ringing just a bit hollow right now. Honesty can be a double edged bitch sometimes.

“Yeah, I know. We are friends. You can count on me, and I know I can count on you.”. The dejected tone says things her words cannot. Part of me feels guilty in a serious way, but I don’t think it’s wise to be anything but perfectly honest. “Look, I gotta go. I’m holding you up anyway, and I have things to do, so I’ll catch up with you a bit later.”.

She says goodbye, and just as quickly as the conversation started it is over. I pause for a moment as I look at the phone and absorb what just took place. Maybe I was too harsh with my honesty. Maybe I was right in establishing a clear line in the sand. Regardless, I know she’s hurting right now. I consider whether or not I should really think about it. This is a real conundrum — the age old adage of birds in hands and bushes. I’m still thinking about it now as I was when I settled back into the couch to watch the rest of the game with my kids. I don’t want to settle for something less than what I had, and I can’t envision anything more perfect than what I had with Maria. I’m gonna stick to my guns for now. I need to see this through to the end, wherever that end winds up being. It’s just too damn important to me and my kids to do anything less.

It’s been nearly a week since, and I haven’t had the heart to text her. Nothing but silence from her end. I wonder if I just pissed away a good friendship chasing a ghost.