Ten More Minutes
Anne Branigin

Thank you for this piece. It gives me the courage to write about something I’ve never told anyone, about an experience I had over 20 years ago, very similar to yours — spending a night with a man, knowing that as soon as the sun rose we would be finished. Our plan had been to get up in the morning and spend the day hiking in a nearby forest. But conversations that night led to what I now see as inevitable. After several months of simultaneous bliss and torment, he said something to me very similar to what your lover said to you: “I just can’t do this. I’m just not ready.” We spent the night very close and I felt like was just holding on to him to keep the night from ending. I just can’t explain the lump of dread and fear in my stomach, as the windows grew lighter. As I drove home, I couldn’t believe it was really over. It was a very short-lived relationship, of course, but still so intense that I just couldn’t accept that it was really ended. And that “ten minutes”….I am ashamed to admit that as soon as I got home, I called him and left a message on his machine, saying, “Can’t we at least just have this last day together, like we planned?” Yeah, you heard that right — left a message on his machine. Obviously he was home — we had both taken the day off work. But he avoided my call and I was pitiful enough to leave a message. Because instead of spending it joyfully hiking with this wonderful man I would have to spend it with myself and my cat, alone in my apartment. I could not face the prospect of the 24 empty hours ahead of me, before I could go back to work and at least have that distraction. I was disgusted by my own pathetic self. But of course that ten minutes wouldn’t have saved us, either, no more than it could have saved you. I can see now that we really weren’t right for each other. Now that I am happily married to a man I can’t imagine being without, I can see that not only weren’t we right for each other, there was no way we could have been because I wasn’t even letting him see me. “Having so little between you and another human being is exactly what love is” — I couldn’t say it better. There was so much fakery between us, there was no way he could love me, or I him, not really. He was a vegetarian, an incredible athlete, an advocate of simple living, and, if I’m honest, not all that bright. While I did learn from him to embrace a less consumption-oriented lifestyle, I am a devoted carnivore, a good slam dance is as close as I come to exercise, and (no false modesty here) I have a few brains. So I lift a glass to your essay! The only way to love, and be loved, is to truly strip down — to the ugly, true, beautiful, bare bones.