Nine years ago I was falling in love with Jeff. He was shy and so very surprised that I wanted to spend time with him. I called him when the first snow fell and we talked on the phone watching the snow fall, thick and juicy flakes. There was something romantic and lovely about standing in the snow, his voice in my ear. We watched The Muppet Christmas Carol over the phone too, and then we started spending time together in person.
Eight years ago he proposed on New Year's Eve. His love for me was so very apparent to anyone who watched him watch me. I felt that love every day and I trusted it. I trusted that I would be loved by that man for the rest of my life. I trusted that I could love him and that he would never leave me. That I would always come first.
Five years ago we celebrated Christmas in our new home. It was a sad Christmas; his father died on the 14th and he was immersed in grief and working very hard to take care of his mother. I believed that we would make it through this time, that together we could get through anything. I believed our bond would be stronger for the journey.
Four years ago I realized my marriage was irrevocably damaged and a few months later I found out my husband was too .I did not come first. And he relied on Vodka to get him through. His relationship with alcohol was stronger than any relationship we ever could have had. And the alcohol took him from me on a rainy night in March.
Jeff was the last age appropriate single man I allowed myself to fall for and his death has damaged me in ways I can not deal with all at once. There are layers of damage as sticky and impossible as the ancient wallpaper we pried from the walls before we moved in. And I worry that the walls in my heart are as crumbly and delicate as the walls in the dining room. I no longer trust my heart to rebound. I no longer believe that I can sustain another break.
Every step I take away from the sadness feels more difficult than the last and I honestly don't know if the movie ends with me in a healthy relationship or not. I do not trust that anyone will love me the way he did and even he didn't love me enough to stay.
I know he was sick. Irrevocably and absolutely sick. Alcoholic, mentally ill and suffering so very quietly from pancreatitis. I know that love can not cure these things. I know that he was very sick even before I fell in love with him...
That's what scares me.
I know there are no guarantees, that anything can and will happen, but I find myself paralyzed by the thought that I could allow myself to be hurt in this way again. I don't love halfway. I love all the way or not at all. Beth used to say I didn't jump off the cliff, I fell backwards with a big smile on my face. Now I'm so afraid I don't even approach the cliff. I stand well away from the edge and develop crushes on boys who will never be interested in me. It's safer this way.
I want so much to stand on the edge. To look into the eyes of someone who thinks they will never hurt me. I want so much to believe them.
But not this year.