Saudade

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As I lay here in bed, daydreaming like I’m Alice in Wonderland, listening to the Dave Matthews Band’s song, The Space Between, the lyrics of that song hit a nerve in an omnipotent way…

“The Space Between
What’s wrong and right-
Is where you’ll find me hiding, waiting for you.
The Space Between,
Your heart and mine-
Is the space we’ll fill with time.”

For some unexplainable reason, I’m laying here staring at the ceiling with tears trickling down my face… It’s tears that symbolise yearning, tears that cry out helplessness, tears of knowing that as much as I want something, I will never ever be able to attain it. Now let me give tell you about myself: I am an over-achiever. I set goals, believing that hard work and dedication is pivotal in helping me achieve each and every goal that I’ve set for myself. I guess that it’s best that I rephrase what I have already said, I will never ever be able to attain HIM.

“Who is this elusive ‘him’?”, you may be asking yourself. Well, thanks to the advent of technology, the universe conspired for me to cross paths with perhaps, the most wonderful man I’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing. A few simple tweets on Twitter (on my part) about my fondness for Jack White’s music, brought ‘him’ under the spotlight. I’m one of those people who loves to interact with like-minded people, particularly when it comes to music. From there, we started chatting more frequently about anything and everything. If I could describe how well our personalities complemented each other, in scientific terms, we were perfect covalent bonds. Keep in mind that from the onset, he did tell me that he was in a ‘complicated mess’ with his ex-wife with whom he was trying to reconcile with for the sake of his two young sons. In a nutshell, his ex-wife was now his girlfriend and I unknowingly caught him head-on at the start of the ‘train wreck’ phase of his life. Let me tell you about him, Nick; a sweet, southern gentleman who could easily pass for a lumberjack with that bad ass beard of his and Bear Grylls-like demeanour. He always jokes about wrestling Grizzly Bears and I’m  pretty sure that he can do that with ease too. He is flawed, he has imperfections, he doesn’t think before he speaks, and he is everything wonderfully weird about the world that there is to love. With his little rough, ‘crazy white boy’ persona came a colourful and troubled history. We shared more in common than just alcoholics for fathers, broken hearts, our love for Jack White, Nikola Tesla or Hunter S. Thompson. He expressed a lot of the same disillusionment that I felt with regards to the current state of my life. We both felt like caged birds, trapped, wanting to fly away to some paradise. The craving was there, to just be free, away from our troubles, away from the people who’ve hurt us, to just live in a utopian, idealistic-like state.

Here’s a timeline, late last year we started chatting. Every time that he chatted to me or skyped me, I had butterflies in my tummy. As much as I had felt a feeling of euphoria by simply hearing that Southern drawl, it felt like I wanted a taste of forbidden fruit. Forbidden in many ways! He was already taken (and by his ex-wife of all people with whom he had two beautiful sons with); he was in the States and I was in South Africa; and for some unfathomable reason, internet dating seems to be more despised these days because it is considered ‘casual’. A while after chatting, he said that he was ‘pretty sure’ that he was in love with me, I was pretty sure too but, I was just too afraid to say it all along fearing rejection. Then we came up with this outlandish plan to save up, meet each other, be together and live our happily ever after fairytale. Neither of us are wealthy, nor could at the drop of a hat, just jump onto a plane to test the waters (so to speak).

The first blow came in December. He said that he will end things with his girlfriend to be with me but, he needs to have ‘the talk’ with her first. He stated that I should not hold him to that and leave him to do what he needs to do. Thinking back now, was I that consumed by him that I could not see which way that pendulum was going to swing? I choose to believe that he did love me at one stage. More often than not, we are all guilty of making less complicated decisions and taking the easy route out of pure convenience. Well, on his way there to have ‘the talk’, he said that two thoughts floated through his mind. One involved his grandfather and the other involved his own father and the manner in which they treated their respective life partners (his grandmother and mother). I remember being out at a party that night when he first broke the news to me.  He said that he will try and make amends with his girlfriend because she promised that she would change. Again, it’s not my place to talk about his relationship issues, but I did feel betrayed because I sincerely believed he wanted better, he wanted me. He wanted an independent woman, and I was gearing myself up for that uphill battle to be with him. My entire mood for the night changed. I sat in a corner like a sour puss not wanting to even talk to anyone, like the poster child for party poopers. 

Rejection, one of my worst foes had won this battle by jabbing a sword through my heart. I was the stock standard, scorned, hateful female for a bit but I decided that we could be friends. As I am relaying these events, I want one thing to be clarified; I was never the ‘other woman’. I always made a point of telling him to do what’s best for his sons. I think that the guilt alone would have drowned me to have two little boys resent and despise me for breaking up their nuclear household. That being said, I did mention that his girlfriend was in fact his ex wife, why did that divorce happen? That’s his story to tell not mine! 

By January, the romantic feelings cropped up again and he committed one single act of compassion that I will never forget for a lifetime. I have close friends in SA who I see or chat to me all the time. January was my birthday month and hardly any of them gave a rat’s ass about it. Then there was Nick, a continent away, working as hard as a Trojan from Monday to Saturday, seeing to his kids’ needs, seeing to his brother’s needs, seeing to his girlfriend’s needs, and he still had the kindness in his heart to give me the time of day. A few weeks after my birthday, I received a kick-ass birthday card from him in the mail and a box of Russell Stover chocolate. I don’t think that he’ll ever know how much that single gesture touched my heart and has influenced how I judge his character. That’s what you call a real man! 

I’ve been writing this piece over a couple of days and I can’t help but sob uncontrollably over how everything transpired in February, otherwise known as the month of love. I pre-warned him that I was sending a Valentine’s card with a very heartfelt message. His inquisitive girlfriend just so happened to read it before he did and things went all awry… all hell broke loose. At that stage, Nick told me that there was no romance between him and his girlfriend and they simply put on a front to make the kids happy. He described his girlfriend as more of a buddy-type of roommate. After his girlfriend went crazy reading the card that had I sent to him, I questioned him. Why was she so irate? He then admitted that he had slept with her a week before he received the card. I understand that men are different than women. He was craving physical intimacy and she just so happened to put her best foot forward and… Voila! They were a ‘couple’ again. At that time, I was livid. I wanted to rip his head off. I defended myself the only way I knew best- by hurling rancid insults at him. He retaliated by saying some pretty nasty things to me as well. His words cut like a knife and I felt like a morose reject. He then stated (yet again) that he needs to focus on his girlfriend because she claimed that she was demotivated due to him not giving her attention. He told me that he cared for me but for now, he just needs to be content with what he has. I had to accept that fact. We both wanted guilt-free love but that was going to be a colossal task to achieve.

After Round two of rejection, I felt like a kid that just ran a 100m sprint race and came out second, always second. Mind you, by this point, I landed a good job which has a global office near him, so it was obvious that I had even centred my career objectives around him too. I was also saving up to make a trip State side to finally meet him in person. Another thing that hurt was that he told me that he needed to save $400 for a passport. In order to achieve his goal, I had to remind him to put aside $30 each Friday towards his passport. He eventually saved up, but when we had our falling out, he had the audacity to tell me that I made him save up and keep that money aside while his cupboards lay empty without food for his family. Yes, I made Nick save up but under his instructions! He then told me that I lead him on just to feel good about myself. These were not unwarranted statements, which, in hindsight were said in retaliation to everything I told him. I insulted him, his job, his lifestyle, his girlfriend and I probably called him every derogatory name under the sun … I was like a raging bull, I went straight for the jugular. The other event that sticks out like a sore thumb was when I was so low, almost at the bottom of a pit because my dad’s alcoholism had worsened. I was near suicidal. Fair enough, Nick tried his level-best to calm me down. He then called me selfish because a pretty harsh cold-front hit the Southern states and his neighbourhood experienced a power outage. I was apparently selfish because I needed to be stronger, when he was under severe stress trying to ensure that his family was safe and did not freeze to death. Knowing I was low, he did not contact me for a few days because according to him, he did not know what to say regarding the situation.

Our friendship or bond needed a time-out. I needed to build my inner strength and confidence to actually just be his friend. I needed to focus on myself. At that time, he said that he still cared about me, and I do believe that. As much as I have stated all of the pejorative things that he had said to hurt me, know that for every one nasty thing he said, I uttered five nasty things. To lay this to rest, out of the five hurtful things he did say and do listed above, I can think of 100 things that he said or did to bring a smile to my face. After being rejected again and breaking off contact for a while, Nick and I are closer than ever. It’s like we’ve been through every tumultuous, death ride in hell to know each other well enough. I can tolerate him talking about his girlfriend, as much as it hurts that he picked her over me, I have to support that decision. I consider him my best friend, I consider him my soul-mate. It’s interesting, as I’ve come to realise that though the connection may be there, soul mates co-exist better within the confines of a friendship. I still love him, he is the one that got away. However, I am grateful to have a friend who genuinely cares. I do often wonder if he really did fall in love with me? If he really did want to be with me? Curiosity gets the better of me sometimes. I try not to dwell but the cards of my life were dealt in this particular way. He’ll never admit it, nor openly say it now, but I know that he isn’t quite as content as he thought he’d be. And as his friend, my new role is to assure him that everything will work out for the better. I do have one problem with our friendship though. Like a typical female, the green-eyed monster gets the better of me sometimes. I still do get super agitated if he mentions other women that he is ‘close’ to. Don’t ask my why, I just do. I guess I’m one of those women who loves undivided attention.

I don’t think he’ll ever take cognizance of the profound impact that he has had on my life. I also think that to a certain extent, he underestimated my willpower and relentlessness to realise my dream…our dream. Perhaps a decade later, when he sees all of the fruits of my hard work, he’ll realise that it was actually possible, we could have been together and weathered the storm. All in all, he has invaded my life for the better. He made and still makes me feel good about myself in more ways than he made me feel bad about myself. Every few weeks he asks me the same question, ‘do you resent me Kerry?’, my answer is always, ‘no’. I don’t get close to people that I resent. Perhaps, he is consumed by guilt considering how dreadful everything played out at one stage. I am optimistic that one day, I will meet Nick, drink moonshine with him and enjoy a game of scrabble while listening to The White Stripes. 

 


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