You think I don’t want, all of what you offer me and you couldn’t be more wrong.
That is what I should have said.
But I froze and began to shake. I don’t mean like a light tremble. I mean, like boyfriend freaks out and feeds u scotch, wraps u like a mummy and puts on David Attenborough documentaries of monkeys hugging, then lets in the ancient borrowed dog and they both proceed to crowd u into a tiny space on the bed and watch for signs of entities leaving your body. Your garden variety emotional breakdown.
The bed is big, and hotel lush. He keeps the room cool and dark at night. He holds me to him or lets me lay on his rangy body. The ceiling fan chain knobs make a very slight click sometimes, that is comforting. He has hard wood floors that give the room an acoustic feel and a lack of a rug that keeps causing knee injuries, when you both forget that you are in your 40s and mistake the floor for a fuckable surface.
His bedroom is tidy. But most endearing, is that he is very sentimental. He has little pieces of his life’s treasures about… Photos and forget me nots. He keeps the last postcard his sister ever sent him prominently displayed. Sometimes I find him looking at it, a pinched expression on his face, and it makes me think about the things left behind for people to remember us by. He is fiercely loyal and protective. Very quiet and calm, unless you go out of your way to needle him, like I do. Daily. He hates being cursed at, believes vulgarity has its place and time. Its truly a southern thing. Where we are from, you call the women you love a bitch in a heated argument, they take your man card. While my sailors mouth makes him laugh, nothing brings out the hulk in him like me not using my extensive vocabulary to explain the ills or wrongs he has done..
Me…simply telling him to fuck off or calling him a son of a bitch.. (after all, he loves his mama).. is the fastest way to push his buttons. Lest you think he is some paragon of virtue and grace… I assure you he dirty talks like a whore on rent day. He is the most spectacular lover I have ever had, filthy and honey sweet in the same moment. He never fails to touch or caress. He never complains about endless snuggles or kisses. He knows the life we’ve lived. The moments we survived with bleeding souls and white knuckled, because we always had each other and the crew. The Lie and Die crew, where touch is as ingrained in us as love.
He rarely forgets details. He obsessively covers me if I fall asleep but leaves the tips of my toes uncovered. He peels apples, the skin in long spirals, because he knows my granddaddy did so. He sprinkles cinnamon on my ice coffee and puts his socks in my drawer so I wont feel uncomfortable about stealing them. He knows my bra size, shoe size and three favorite colors. What books I read when I am sad and what movies make me cry… He knows which words make me hot, what voice makes me safe, and what nicknames of mine he refuses to give up. He has never forgotten my birthday in 18 years. He wears blue and keeps a light beard for me. He gives orders but is the first to take them. He is what we call, the ultimate team player. Above his desk is a tacked up weary old note that I wrote 8 years ago “Teamwork makes the dream work” – He believes in me, he never stops reciting my deeds of loyalty to him and our crew. Maybe most importantly, he pulls me tight sometimes in the night and pets swishy circles on my back & bottom, no matter how tired he is. Because he knows the night terror’s origins. He was there and he unsee, though he’d like to.
So he doesn’t understand why everything is a fight, why the simplest of misunderstandings fills me with the kind of fear that makes my walls go up. That makes me a stranger living in his girlfriend’s skin. That a disagreement over a night out will render me mute and stuttering or filled with rage and limited biting words…. He knows I don’t brat purposefully for his attention, because I don’t like the kind of attention I get. So he is concerned when I am snappy and ugly to push him away. If anything brings out the dominant side of him, it is my inability to communicate, sleep or eat when upset. He doesn’t question my love. He knows I am his. And he is baffled at the lengths I will go to, to stir his lust and secure his love. He tells me that he is a sure thing. And I tell him that is foolish statement. We move forward ten steps and I fall down a spiraling deep rabbit hole of fear. Rinse and repeat. I have been told by everyone but him, I am exhausting. I know I am. No one need hate me or mock me or be frustrated with me. I do that enough to my own self.. He knew I would not willing lay down my sword in life. Rather than take over my fight, he has chosen to stand beside me, if just so ever slightly before me. Because the dragons in my life are old as fairy tales and burn twice as deep.
It is nearly dawn as I write this, and my heart is constricted with tears. I have lived the most startlingly brilliant, adventurous, magnificent life. Blessed with friends I kept for decades, lovers and a true calling. But Vedder almighty, the other side of that coin was hell of equal value. And the older I have grown, the less I can shine it up and survive it.
The losses in my life outweigh the gains. And now I have very little and it has become almost a point of obsession. Its not material things, its not bragging rights or pride. I just need to know if he ever doesn’t love me or want me…. that I will be safe. That is a difficult promise to make to someone. And I feel it has been made too breezily. When you come to them with so little and they have the important things, the grownup needs… The balance of the scales wobbles. It is the source of all of my fears with him.
This relationship is a whole new road for me. I have come to an age where things get taken off the table. The dreams I secretly carried since childhood get buried, as has so much of whom and what I have loved. That is deeply sobering. And I have done the silliest of all things. I let myself fall in love with an aide worker. a man with a priest-like calling to his chosen career and he is at the pinnacle of his. The long separations are not conducive to a relationship with a commitment phobic squirrel like me. Its not him I fear. Its everything that comes with love.. Because pardon the pun, but love hurts.
This where I stopped at 4am, got up and readied for work. I put my head down and shredded thru all of my tasks. Billy, my boss called me into his office and praised me for my work the week before. Embarrassingly, I went mute and my eyes filled with tears. He leaned forward. Taking in the curls escaping from my frantic up do, the pen tapping in my hand. The deep shadows under my eyes. He pointed this all out, told me to call Sully for a ride, go home and get some sleep and he didn’t want to see me in the office before ten the next day. Sully seemed to make record time picking me up. I climbed up into his truck and his kiss seemed lingering… I waited for his aggravation with me, his anger at how difficult I am. Instead he turned the radio up and rolled down the windows. He drove with one hand, the other sneaking to caress my knee or cup my neck. Once home he pulled the pins from my hair and kissed the top of my head. Told me to change and get comfortable in bed. He came in not long after, Murphy our giant and old borrowed dog snurffling behind him. When he drew off his teeshirt and unbuttoned his jeans… I perked up, why talk or sleep, when that joy was on offer. He caught me peeking and laughed in his rich baritone. He has the best laugh lines around his eyes. He patted the end of the bed and Murphy didnt need to be asked twice. Belly inching to me.. Murphy not Sully, he licked my leg twice and made a ur-ur noise of love.
Sully’s big warm body enveloped me, arm sliding under me until as a lil spoon I was tucked into the exact curve of his body. And he began.
“No matter what you say or do..rob a Starbucks…fuck another man, crash my truck, empty my bank account, become some horrific psychotic bitch, I will never harm you. I will never beat you. I will never steal from you. There is nothing you can every do to me, to cause me to become anyone else other than a man who not only loves you, but is your friend… I wont deny the utter mental health aspects of sheer relief in slapping your ass when you drive me around the bend. Or the submissive lil girl I get from being the bad guy… But I sure as hell will never give you cause to cower from me, and you should know that after all of these years.” He chided.
There were a thousand replies to what he said, But all I asked… “What if you stop loving me?”
His voice broke a bit, which is always hard for me to hear, as he fiercely brushed the tears and curls from eyes. ” I have loved you since the first week I met you and if after nearly 20 years I can’t hold us together, than I will gently pick us apart. Make sure you are safe and sound and hope to keep our long-lasting respect and friendship intact.”
If possible I scooted closer to him and he held me tightly. He took a deep breath and slipped his hand over my stomach, right over the deformed ridge I hate so deeply but that bounds us so closely. “I don’t take it lightly, how much you want another child. or the happiness and stability that would bring to you and also to me. But where you rely on gut feelings and hope, I rely on facts. The fact is, if the pregnancy didn’t kill you, losing another child would. Not only am I to selfish to take that chance.. There isn’t a goddamn one of our friends who wouldn’t string me up and rightly so.”
I felt numb.
He moved us so that he was looking down at me from a crooked arm. He continued to pet as I imitated a statue. ” If you let me babygirl (that name again) there is a whole lot I can fix. I can get that bastard off your census information and see what trouble I can shake up for him. Instead of you watching video’s of your son’s marching band in tears, let me buy us plane tickets, we can go and cheer him on together. You want to take the cohabitation in small steps, then you show me a commitment about living with me. No waving it around like a threat. You either are or you not. And you’re going back to physical therapy for your neck, I am paying for it and that’s the end of that.”
The tears just leaked out and the words stayed bottled. I rolled onto my stomach, peeking out at him from my hair.. the dog scooched closer. Sully ran his thumb over my shaking lip and told me to shut my eyes and rest. I tried, experimenting with various positions of boneless Newt. He stroked me and shushed me. He covered me and I kicked them off. I gave up and angrily attempted to get up. I pushed the nice man to far.. one arm caught me at my waist as his big hand fell in three hard as hell warning slaps on my barely covered bottom. The dog looked smug. I laid my head back down, to exhausted and weary to fight anymore. He covered us with a throw, flicked the TV on, hit the well traveled route to Netflix & David Attenborough. The narrative began, Murphy moved his head to lay smack on my legs as if pining me down. And Sully’s hand moved the soft brief shorts I was wearing up as he carressed the spanked cheek. I was trapped. My breathing slowed, my muscles relaxed. I giggled at the hugging monkeys for the 50th watching. He kissed my brow gently from time to time, told me he loved me. Told me I was his sweet sugarboots. Told me he would speak until I had the words to answer . He told me to sleep.
SO I slept an hour and half and when I woke, I finished this. There is no magic ending.. no cure-all. No wrap it neatly bow. But what there is.. is this.
This man is a former Navy Seal who saw combat for his country. After experiencing refugee children killed during this, instead of reenlisting he joined one of the largest international aide orgs in the world and came directly front and center into my world. I initially wanted to hate him. Musclebound, mid twenties, crewcut, quietly cocky, badass navy seal… who kept to himself and charmed the crew from jumpstreet… Not my style….
Instead he proved bravery that he wont discuss, love that knows not ifs or whys. No fear of dirt or pest or slime. No end to his motivational speeches. Can drive anything and find water anywhere. Dresses like a jock and cleans up like a Bible salesman. Always the guy who breaks up the fight, but the first to defend a woman’s honor. My hometown hero, he held us all at one time or another, with no care for his own internal wounds.. Stuck his hand in my gut to keep me alive, while Nick, LB and Kiki stopped the rest of the bleeding. Leaked silent tear that splashed on my face as they my ran my stretcher to the chopper. He is haunted by all we couldn’t do. He is damaged by all of whom we loved and lost.
Within a year of his joining, we became the lie and die team and 18 years later, I am his girl. His sugarboots. His lover. His mate in all senses of the word. And despite my fantastic ability to fuck shit up, he never lets go. He confidently stole another man’s song and made it his. Just as he so neatly and cleverly stole my heart. I just want him to know, I am sorry I appear weak and broken. If I make him pause in our planning. If I made him feel unloved or wasted important time with silence.. It is my monster under the bed that I stuck there and now need to find a way to let go of.. That no matter what happens, I am there to shelter his heart..
And no matter what, I will lie for him and I will die for him for the rest of my life..