Banished Man

On loving the unavailable

 
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on UNSPLASH.
 

He remembers their early times together. How, at times, she would send him away with her terse instructions: Go work on yourself, and the classic if inscrutable, Get your shit together. What could he do? Banished, he did as she asked, he went away. He would make some token effort towards whatever it was he thought she wanted from him. Mostly he pined for her, self-medicated with whatever substances and behaviors until she would summon him again.

And she always called him back. Back to her bed, her arms, her welcoming, warm flesh. When she asked him to, he left. He was like a faithful, obedient, browbeaten dog.

A part of him knew these behaviors were erratic, unhealthy, unsustainable, but so was the atmosphere where he grew up. At home, there was frequent shouting, fighting, swearing. It was his template for navigating the tricky waters of love. His upbringing hadn’t included a lot of healthy messages about the overlapping terrains of love and sex. But he did what he could.

Days passed, then she would call, late in the night. Her words slurred from alcohol and desire. They were two broken people, but their brokenness felt compatible somehow. It felt fated. So he persevered through crazy upsets, irrational fights; he learned her flavor of crazy and tried to use them to guide himself back to her, time after time.

He would come to her in the night. If she had forgotten to unlock the second lock, he would have to pound on her door or call her again.

In bed, his hands, his hungry arms found her, pulled her close. His mouth found hers; he was home again, home, crazy home.


He learned who she was. Soon, behaviors he had ignored with a dismissive, well, that’s just her nature, became increasingly troubling to him. The thing he had always longed for was harmony: quiet, predictability, satisfaction, kindness.

He felt sure these had to be here, somewhere. If he could only do the right thing or say the right words, then she would be the woman he felt she must surely be. This relationship was fated after all. Fate never fucked up love, did it?

The things about herself that she explained as her passionate nature transformed into some hidden pathology. She carried a second face. That was the mask of madness, and he dreaded it when it came out.

One second, she was calm, rational, and then some offense, real or imagined (usually the latter), would nudge her into an elevated state of agitation and anger.

His heart broke the day the truth dawned on him.

She doesn’t know she is acting this way.

It was chemical with her.

And he had never been much of a man. Avoidant, fearful, dreading confrontations of any sort, he quietly made himself smaller in her eyes until she did the inevitable. She sent him away again. This time was different, however.

“Take your stuff with you, and leave my key,” she said from the couch where she was nursing whatever offense of his had wronged her this time.

This time felt final, so he went away. Quietly slid into a never-ending sequence of bourbon bottles, finally fulfilling the promise of his genetic, familial obligation to rise to alcoholism. He hated it, hated hurting himself with such base behaviors. That wasn’t who he was.

He had almost made it, but then, as it always had, there came a gradual summoning, a quiet series of messages at first. Just chatting, we are friends; we shouldn’t throw that away.

Then a few furtive fumbled and bumbled kisses that went nowhere.

She had called him back, but this time was different. This time he was even more fearful of being hurt. He had always been self-protective. Now he was impenetrable. He would not let her hurt him again.

They got together for little things. Meals. Errands. Some small hikes here and there in the hot summer sun.

The hours would slip away, and then so would he. He would make some excuse, claiming he was tired, would retire to his space.

Is she crying in there? He often wondered as he backed out of her driveway. She joked in a self-deprecating, not funny manner about being filled with self-loathing.


Too much time had passed. Whatever beautiful and sick thing that lived between them had expired. Starved of energy and love, the bond between them had weakened and died.

One last nap, while once they were inseparable as they slept, now their touches were filled with hesitation, doubt, and tentativeness. The love that held them together had died. They were both responsible for its demise.

Her anger, of which she remained blissfully unaware to the end, his cowardice to fight with her, to show her she needed help. In his mind, he imagined how that conversation would go.

“It is not your fault. It is your responsibility, but it isn’t your fault.”

After that, he imagined they would join forces and criticize him together.

She would offer some criticism, and he would wallow in his confessions of his shameful addictions. In truth, he felt like he was a true addict. If asked what he was addicted to, he would sadly reply, everything; he was an addict’s addict.

Some days he feels his happiness is all behind him. He had let too much life go unlived. He was, at his age, poorly equipped to make any grand gestures now. Love favored the young and the foolish. He told himself while he occupied himself with whatever little thing he could find.

Love is for the young. He feels cheated as the immeasurable sands of time continued to fall wherever it was they fell.

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