He sleeps in bed as I stay up writing. I can feel my stomach churning over the familiarity of it. Wondering if curling up on the floor and sobbing is what’s next. This is too much like it used to be. But I can catch myself on the edge of it now. Talk myself back down gently. Coax back in the breathing. Anxiety that is bubbling purely out of habit. A reminder that I’ve been scared of showing myself for so long that I don’t remember what it’s like to be seen. Held. And he rubs my head and tells me he doesn’t want my feelings to be ignored for his comfort. He wants me to speak honestly. Radically. Tells me my hurt is never an inconvenience. He asks if I need him and I finally have the nerve to say, “Yes. Please.”
Nadine tells me it’s okay to not know how to be okay. That this, as with everything, takes practice. I learned how to be broken. Became exceptionally good at thinking I needed fixing. That I was secretly unlovable and it was only a matter of time before everyone figured that out. Before those I cared about truly saw me and exited my life accordingly. A lifetime devoted to perpetuating the idea that other people somehow know what they’re doing and that I am doing this all wrong.
Close to midnight a stranger from the Internet parks in front of my duplex. I usher her inside and give her the tour of my new apartment. Pour a glass of water for each of us and go sit on the patio. The warm night air clinging to our shoulders and shrinking the space between us. We live in different worlds. Separated by years and lives of doing it all different. But in this city, on this day we both just needed someone to sit and talk with. Human interaction. A hug. Someone to laugh with about how ridiculous it is that life is so hard to live. A reminder that none of us do this uniquely. That none of us do this alone.
At lunch days later a friend I managed to keep after the divorce asks me if he can tell me a secret. “None of us know what we’re doing. There is no right way to live.” And we talk about how we fumble along and find good people to share it with.
That night I whisper into Andrew’s chest that I’m afraid I’m going to make the same mistakes I made before. That I will get wrapped up in feeling like I’m not enough and eventually exhaust him. Tell him I’m afraid I’ll need more than he can give and he’ll start to feel helpless. I replay every relationship I’ve ever been in. I relive my entire marriage in an instant. But he does not flinch. Just pulls me close and says, “I’m not going to let that happen.” And bit by bit I start to believe him. And bit by bit I start to see myself as the people around me see me. And bit by bit life turns back into an adventure rather than only misery.