The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

The Commitment-phobe

Greeting card by Adrienne E. Gusoff

Original greeting card by Adrienne E. Gusoff

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 When I lived, I loved women. I wasn’t a womanizer exactly but I really appreciated the opposite sex – their femininity, their softness, their eagerness to love, their emotional view of things. There was something about the way they existed in the world that comforted me.

I loved quite a few and more than a few loved me, but there was something missing in me. Or perhaps nothing missing at all, but rather too much of something else. Either way, I could never commit. In the penultimate moment, just before I was about to trust and make myself transparent, I would panic and behave in a way that would ruin things beyond repair.   The greatest sadness of my life was that I knew, down in my soul, that I would always ruin it like that.

I knew my fear was the reason I would never have what I wanted. Each time, I would fight the urge to self-sabotage, but always, it was stronger than me, stronger than whatever woman was trying to save me. I felt weak in the face of it. And I felt ashamed and guilty for the pain I caused her, because she was a woman after all, and women should be nurtured, not wounded. And mostly, they were good to me and did not deserve to be hurt. And that made me feel more guilty, still..

I started each new affair full of hope that maybe, somehow, this one would be different; that she could guide me though the maze of my black soul, out into the light. It would be wonderful for a few months, and then, the panic would start to set in. I would invent ways to push her away without actually ending the affair, because, of course, I still wanted the benefit of her affections, of her body. Some abandoned me after the first incident but others – the martyrs, the wannabe therapists, the amateur social workers – stuck around in the belief (which I did not dissuade) that if she was just sympathetic, understanding and patient enough, perhaps she, above all the others, would be the one to win the prize of my heart.

But soon they had to weigh how much pain were they willing to tolerate in order to prove they were worthy of my trust; how much emotion would they have to invest and how much self-esteem would they have to sacrifice, to be the last woman standing. And for all their time and labor and sacrifice, what would they get?

Just me.

Eventually, they all came to understand that I wasn’t much of a prize.

I was hardly worth suffering over, but my special talent was making them think I was. In the end, they all figured it out. They were always happy and relieved when they finally stopped caring about me. It’s a sad legacy.  For this, I felt, I feel shame and guilt.

This was my life, living in this purgatory, knowing what I wanted, seeing it, getting so close to it sometimes I could taste it, and then running away before I held it in my hand. Over and over and over again.

A tragic life is one where love is wasted.

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