Ha, I can hear half of you groaning and smacking your foreheads. It was time: just trust me when I say I wouldn't take back that decision or edit down the letter, making it either relatively pointless or masking certain realities for fear of misinterpretation.
About three weeks ago now, a few conversations and circumstances brought [him] into the forefront of my mind again, and I had an emotional relapse as I let go of some lingering hopes I hadn't realized I was holding on to. But I also felt like the unknown was now worse than knowing the truth. I was ready to clear the air and move on. I started writing the letter, but about a week later, I had stopped. About two weeks later, even though I no longer felt the need to finish it or hear from him, I also knew that it was probably time to say what I needed to, and to offer the opportunity to clear the air a bit and set up future boundaries just in case he, too, could use some closure. To assume he didn't would be as presumptuous as assuming he did.
The only (or maybe 'best'?) way to know is to ask, and I decided that if I was going to contact him at all, I was just going to lay it all out there and get it out of the way, so there was no regret over things not said, no hidden agenda, no hidden motives, and no endless back-and-forth to try to get out what I really wanted to say. It seemed too trite or transparent to just say, "I hope we can be friends someday." There was so much more to it than that, and I didn't want to hide behind a noble face and put on airs about having only the simplest, purest intentions. Better to show my hand than to play politics. I laid it all on the table. And it felt right when I clicked "Send". "It's in his hands now. Either he can hurt me one last time with a final blow, or he can offer some closure, or we can have a brief exchange to clear the air and push 'reset' and allow the possibility of future contact of some kind at some point, or there can be misunderstanding...but something is better than nothing, even if it ends it."
I opened the letter by acknowledging I didn't know how he'd receive it, that I hoped he was well and had heard he was. I mentioned a gift I'd left in a sealed yellow USPS envelope placed in a grocery sack on his porch in December and how I hoped he'd received it without trouble from roommates. It included a brief recorded message of an upbeat "goodbye" nature, telling him clearly that I did not expect a response but wanted to say I kept coming back to a place of peace about our relationship, and a copy of the song "I Wish You Love". I had thought that might be my last contact, but I knew I might hit a point where I'd be ready to say more and invite a response, but only when I was ready to hear the worst, or to hear nothing even after inviting a response. That time had come. I was ready.
I explained the difficulty I've had with coming to terms with his decision, with knowing I want him to be happy and wishing I knew how to share in his journey but recognizing that may not be possible. I explained my emotional journey in that regard, so as to not hide any possible underlying motives and to explain that my distance hasn't been out of hatred or disregard but out of self-preservation. I explained how hurt I was by his coldness when he broke things off, not to punish him but...well, part of it was for me, of course. Part of my healing was to let him know how his actions affected me and seeing if he would offer any clarity, even if painful to me.
Part of it, though, was so that he would have an idea, for the future, because I had been in his shoes, where I'd been emotionally detached and had hurt someone without realizing how deeply I'd done it or how it had affected her. Had I known, I would have done it differently, and I would have been more responsive to her. But we all learn these things at our own pace. At his age, I had never had my heart broken, and I had never been in the position I've now found myself in, so I didn't know how to respond to it. Now, I'm still far from perfect, but I at least have a better idea of what a couple of girls went through with me, and if I could now go back and handle it differently, I would. I would communicate less defensively (though I didn't have any idea how defensive I was being), I would be more clear about boundaries but also more clear about the reasons for them and my sincere appreciation for their friendship without the fear of them "misconstruing" it as a hope for more, and I wouldn't be so damned clinical...or maybe I would in the moment.
All I know is that I am so very grateful that a couple of girls in my life wrote me, at great emotional risk, to tell me how our relationship had affected them, how deeply they'd felt, and how hard it had been for them to cope with the emotions they were feeling. Looking back, I'm so grateful they gave me the opportunity to respond to that, to understand what I couldn't grasp firsthand, and to prepare for the day when I, too, would feel something similar, and I would see that these otherwise really great, level-headed girls weren't so crazy after all. I figured it's my turn to be in the vulnerable place.
I told him how confusing his turnaround was, and how I had wondered, briefly, if he had led me on all along but how I hoped I was correct to believe I knew him well enough to know he'd never intentionally do that. I expressed what my fears and insecurities had been, in possibly too much detail but not wanting to disguise anything, and I said that, in the end, I believed he had genuinely done the best with what was a very new and difficult situation for him, and we both probably handled the break-up the best we knew how. I said all of this so he'd know I saw past even my own emotional reactions to who I truly believed he was, to show that when all is said and done, despite the pain and anger and confusion, I've always come back to a place of peace and have no regrets about having taken the risk and gotten to know him because beyond all of the romance, our friendship was special to me and was clearly something good.
I explained that yes, we probably had to agree to disagree about certain philosophies and decisions. I thought maybe I should gloss over this, but then I decided that, no, if we were to have any kind of friendship, I didn't want it to be with masked disagreements, so I was very frank about it, but I also made a point of the fact that I knew he was probably determined, and I understood he has beliefs and contexts within which to make his decisions, and I ultimately hope for his happiness. I said this was not intended to sway him (I didn't believe he could be swayed anyway). I explained that I had refrained from sharing certain details and disagreements out of fear that he might one day accept the ideas and look back disdainfully at me, believing I tried to steer him away from truth. I explained that I also didn't want to be the enemy of the parents of someone I loved, so I couldn't position myself as one who convinced their beloved son to pursue a path to hell. I explained that I didn't want to lure him away for my own self interests. I left it at that and told him if he ever got curious--and I acknowledged he probably wouldn't--he could read my blog for my evolution of thoughts on certain therapies of homosexuality. I also invited him to let me know, if he ever did read my blog, if he was uncomfortable with anything I'd written, though I'd tried to be respectful. I wanted to make it clear my blog wasn't meant to be a gossip column at his expense. I still don't want that, even though my feelings for who he now is are very different from my feelings for who I thought he was last summer.
I talked about the things I appreciated about him and about our relationship/friendship. I wanted him to know that what I most loved about him wasn't the fluffy stuff but was his deeper traits and qualities. When I used the word "love", I meant it in the purest sense I know of, not just a romantic sense. But I did also tell him that I am now unafraid to tell him I was falling in love with him, that there wasn't any psychoanalysis that convinces me otherwise, and that I am also now unafraid to say, as pathetic as it may seem at my age, that I believe what we had was the best relationship I've had with anyone I was romantically interested in. I acknowledged that I may have better someday, but I appreciate what we had, and I hope we each individually find what works best for us and believe we will.
Yes, I said those things partially because I wanted to "testify" to him about what I believe to be true while I had the chance to do it and while I still felt it in my heart, before it was snuffed out completely. That may have been a mistake, but I'm not convinced it was, and I don't yet regret it. I also said those things to come clean as to where I'm coming from and to go on to explain that whatever disagreements we may now have, and even though 'partnership' or romance is clearly no longer an option, we had the foundations of a great friendship I don't think should be completely discarded, even if it must be on hold. Even if we don't know what to do with each other right now, or how to fit into each other's lives, I invited him to share his thoughts or feelings on it, and I would respect his desires. As I said,
"I value the connection we had too much to leave the door completely closed out of self defense, pain, ease, insecurity of belief, or fear that you no longer reciprocate even the desire for friendship. Even if I don’t know what to do with you, I care about you and wouldn't want my silence to communicate anything different."
I knew the frankness of my email, including my feelings and thoughts about the quality of our relationship and some specific memories which made me remember last summer more fondly than sadly even as I tucked those memories away and moved on, might be misinterpreted as a last-ditch effort to sway him, which I acknowledge may have played a small emotional part, but I consistently told my emotions that no, he was set in his path, and even if he did somehow change his mind, I knew I wouldn't have gotten back together with him. I couldn't trust his commitment, even though I wished I could trust it if it were, by some remote chance, offered. That's the thing: I acknowledged to myself that yes, even if I was almost emotionally tidied up, there were still some messy nooks and crannies, so I wasn't going to pretend there weren't. After thinking a lot about it, I decided I had reasons for writing it the way I did, and I couldn't have a clear conscience if I didn't say exactly what I felt and thought in case it would ever be of benefit. I figured I had little to lose in putting it out there and trusting that he'd understand my intent, knowing my heart pretty well (I hoped), even if it rubbed him the wrong way somehow.
I admitted that most of my fears and hang-ups about contacting him seem to be in the past now and that I feel good and am moving on but confessed (again, so as to not hide possible less-conscious motives) that some part of me might still feel like a regular friendship wasn't enough, so I wasn't talking about reconnecting in a personal way now, not for a while, and that I was just touching base. I told him I hoped he was taking care of the 'him' I loved even while becoming a better version and seeking out his goals. I told him that I was pretty sure he had good friends to rely on now, but if he ever found himself needing someone to talk to, I hoped he'd know he could contact me, and that I wouldn't read anything into it other than him needing to talk to someone (I only make such promises when I'm confident I can keep them).
I closed my thoughts by saying:
"Even though I may still, for now, see you through the eyes of someone who was in love, and who was hurt, the attachment and defensive detachment will pass in time and may have largely passed already. Time will tell. When all is said and done, whether or not we're in contact, I think it’s safe to say that I can’t imagine not always loving you as a brother and friend."
Then I ended with a light-hearted quip to let him know what I was feeling wasn't all heavy and somber and that I had to laugh a bit as I move on.
His response? One short paragraph: he doesn't want any contact with me. Don't contact him anymore. He won't respond to any future emails. He doesn't want to retain any form of friendship. He will not seek out any form of communication with me.
It was maybe the worst possible response. I had been ready to face the probability that he didn't want to--or needed not to--stay in touch, at least for now, but there was no way to fully prepare for his response. There was no way to stoically watch my faith in the kindness of someone I so strongly hoped would be responsive to the vulnerability I struggled to place in front of him be completely obliterated without so much as an, "I cared about you, but I'm moving on and can't look back." I hoped for too much, even though I told myself not to expect much, just in case. Even after having explained my reaction to the coldness last time, only more coldness in return. More daggers. No sensitivity. No willingness to discuss anything. No friendship whatsoever. Nothing personal in it. No value. No signs of [him] in it. Surely he's not still so fragile that he needed to be so cruel out of self defense. No, he has killed whatever true love, friendship or otherwise, there may have been, end of story. There's no way he could not know how wrong that response would be to someone you ever cared about. I mean nothing to him now, if I ever did. What I thought I saw in him was a mirage, or has been made into one. I was wrong. There's something more important to him than his own humanity. What a fool I was. I never knew him as I thought I did. But the truth is that whatever anger I've experienced, it's because this hurt so intensely.
I felt broken but relieved and oddly strong as I wrote, through sobs and blurry eyes, the last thing I will ever send him and would ever want to, since I felt like I was writing to some jerk I didn't know who had murdered [him]: a brief e-mail apologizing, clarifying that this response of his was the first time he ever defined any boundaries other than agreeing to the few months of no contact I had proposed during our last conversation, but that now that boundaries were defined, I would respect them. I told him I certainly never meant him any harm or confusion and will consider my friend to be completely gone. And I do.
A close friend confessed to me, last night, that he felt responsible for my pain for a while because the night before the unexpectedly sudden break-up, he told [him] that I, more than any other single person, have made him question his orientation and his testimony so much that it has forced him to really get to the heart of some issues and find out what he believes, and that it's been challenging. I knew our interaction had challenged him, as we'd discussed that, but I didn't know he had said it quite so bluntly to [him]. I also know that my own convictions have always developed and grown because I was challenged, and I think the greatest conviction comes from challenging and questioning to penetrate the fluffy stuff and get to the real core of matters, yet I don't consider it my role to go around challenging people's beliefs and have been careful to respect others' beliefs even while articulating my own when questioned or pressed. But suddenly, with this new information, [his] statement to me during our break-up conversation that he "can't question everything his whole life and wants conviction" seemed to make that much more sense, coupled with the strong airs of "conviction" you find at Evergreen Conferences. I thanked my friend for finally telling what he's been afraid to tell me, told him I clearly wasn't thrilled with the apparent presentation though I figure he was only telling [him] what he believed to be true, and said I didn't singly blame him for the break-up but that it might make some sense of a couple of things [he] had given me as reasons and might have played into his sudden apparent distrust of me which hurt so much.
Whatever the reasons for [his] curt response, I have never felt so disappointed by someone. I know now that I could never be with someone who could be so cold to someone they supposedly cared about so much. Even if we did ever have contact again, I couldn't entrust my feelings to him again or believe what he says he's feeling. Even if he was just following the guidance of a parent or some shit-for-brains counselor or mentor, I couldn't be with someone who follows that kind of loveless counsel, even for self preservation. Immaturity and confusion are understandable excuses, but I was once immature, and I was once confused, and I never did anything so devoid of heart, at the very least not to someone who had never really earned such distrust. Or have I? Shoot, we've all been confused and made decisions we either regret or would regret if we remembered them. I've been an ass, too. Right, deep breath, let it go, forgive.
In any case, I see that he never really knew me or truly cared as I thought he did, or nothing could have convinced him to so completely distrust and coldly shut me out. I see that so much of what he said to me while we were together is now made invalid, whether or not he thought he meant or believed it at the time, no more than a passing fancy and experimentation. It was so convincing, though, that I couldn't trust him on any level of vulnerability again. Ha, so his aim is accomplished: no friendship. And mine is accomplished: I don't wonder.
I'm not going to speculate on his reasons. The answer was heartless, almost cruelly cold, and I have to accept it at face value. The bridge is burned, and I'm walking away from the chasm, the charred remains of what I hoped. I know he may have had all kinds of reasons for protecting himself, for seeing warning signs in the email I sent, for not knowing how to respond, etc. The reasons don't matter to me. The friend I trusted with my emotions would have found a better way to cut it off than this. The guy I fell for is dead to me, even if for forgivable reasons, now possessed by some heartless, self-serving ass I don't want to know. The truth is I knew I was giving him one last opportunity to really, truly hurt me, and the truth now is that he can never hurt me any more than he has now, and I feel free because of it. It's nice to have the closure, painful though it was. I've always preferred to know that someone doesn't want to waste their time with me than wonder if they do. And once I know, I'm pretty good at letting it go and moving on. Communicate with me. It might hurt. It might destroy me for a day. But it's so much better in the long-run than withholding the truth.
After all is said and done, even though I've dealt with some pretty raw pain and hatred since yesterday, and I don't know how I'll trust anyone's supposed love again, I somehow think I will. I'm not ready to give up on that yet.