Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Victim of Uncertainty

He was walking late at night on a country road he didn’t know. The warm summer breeze gently caressed his face, calming his otherwise frayed nerves. He had a definitive purpose. He used to do this when he was much younger, unencumbered by what seemed in this moment to be a lifetime of disappointment.

There he was, somewhere among fields of barley and wheat, briskly making his way to the nearby water tower. He wasn’t sure what he would do when he got there, but he’d know when he arrived.

Earlier in the evening he was having a mild panic attack, reminded as he so often was these days, of heartbreak. He was walking in a haze with a noose tightening around his chest. Before long, if he wasn’t careful, he knew it would envelop his entire being, and he could do nothing but wait until it passed. He had been paralyzed with that clenching feeling for most of the past two years. It was entirely unpleasant. Instead of stewing with it though, lately he had taken to walking for hours on end. He had tried other strategies: meditation, running, playing the guitar. But none of these quite satisfied his urge to escape his mind at a leisurely, down-tempo pace. That’s why he was headed to the water tower.

The two of them had broken it off several years beforehand, for all intents and purposes quite mutually, but for reasons completely beyond him, they were still lingering, calling each other back at the first sign of retreat. On this night, he imagined a trite silent movie in which one of two main characters continuously cried as soon as the other left the room, only to be comforted time and time again. Back and forth, back and forth they both went for the entire film, laughing and then crying, laughing and then crying, waiting for that loving hand to reach out and care for them in their desperate time of need. That was it, he thought, my life feels like a room of tears. On the rare occasions, tonight being one of them, when he felt he had some perspective, he wanted nothing more but to escape his addiction, perhaps check himself into a rehabilitation unit, but he was quite unclear whether one could do that for an addiction to emotions, an individual, to turmoil. On this night he wanted to turn away from the car wreck that was his ultimate love, and to live, finally free of its hold on him.

That’s why he had had such high hopes for Sam. They had met in a downtown park only days beforehand, in a downpour not unlike most summer thunderstorms. The sky screeched a dire warning, clapped its hands with all its might, before unleashing the light show. They both ran for cover under the nearest picnic table. There they were, him in his oddly bedazzled pleather shoes and straight pants on his way to the library, Sam all decked out in the latest running gear, training for the upcoming 10k run.

They hit it off right away. He impressed with his wit and charm, while Sam reciprocated with an equal dose of humour. After ten minutes, the storm subsided, but they didn’t notice. After thirty minutes, they both commented on the drying conditions, but neither of them made a move to leave. In fact, they nearly cuddled under the table, smiling at each other’s marvelous weather perception.

So their day went, two hours in the park, over half of it ducked under a picnic table talking about weather patterns, the humidex and what exactly a barometre was. The next hour was spent in a trendy café in a gentrifying part of town, more Sam’s style than his, but the rich fair trade coffee did smell quite good. The last three hours were spent in Sam’s basement apartment, steamily getting acquainted with the most intimate details of their anatomy and sexual preferences.

While he was a decidedly good lover, on this day, he was outstanding. He dove in head first, regaling himself in Sam’s pleasure. Upon leaving, he was rather impressed with his proficiency. It was the first time he had ever had sex with a more or less complete stranger, and he felt alive. That night he walked home to his decidedly more humble abode, listening to his summer playlist on his walkman. James Brown and Parliament were serving up some classic funk.

A week later and he was out walking in the middle of the night, with the express purpose of figuring out what to do about Sam, and about love more generally. In the days following their original encounter, Sam grew increasingly obsessive, to the point where he was afraid of what might lie ahead.

The last time they spoke, Sam had a series of questions ready for him. The night before he had declined an invitation to come over for sex, preferring instead to spend time with his best friend. Apparently this didn’t sit well with Sam.

“Where exactly do you see this going?” There had barely been a hello on the end of the other line before the barrage of questions began.

“Well, to be honest, I hadn’t put much thought into it yet. I was just sort of going with it.” He was a bit stunned.

“Oh, I see.” Sam sounded hurt. “Well, I’m asking you to think about it, what are you looking for?”

“Ummmm. Well, if you insist. I suppose I’m still working through some difficult feelings from my last relationship, so I’d say I’m looking to keep things pretty chill.”

“What does chill mean?” Sam was clearly getting agitated.

“Chill means fun, light, not very heavy.”

“I see, so what you mean is casual and open to other people?”

He was getting a bit perturbed. “Well, I’m not sure I would’ve put it that way, but yeah. Nothing too serious.” Given the turn of events, he thought this might be the safest route.

“Ah, okay…” There was a long pause before Sam said anything else.

“Is everything ok?” He wasn’t sure what to think at this point, but was trying to beat back his urge to hang up before things got too heavy.

“Yeah. This just gives me a lot to think about. I’m used to these short, sexually intense flings that lead to nothing meaningful. In fact, that’s all I know. And I want to get away from that. And you’re irresistible to me. And, well, I just need to think about all of this some more.” Sam said the last sentence in what seemed to be tortured syntax.

“Ok.” He was now talking in his soft, caring voice. “I get that. Let’s not have sex anymore then. I’d be happy to be your friend…” He sort of trailed off, not really sure that’s exactly how he felt.

“Look, I’m going to think about this some more. I’ll keep you posted.”

“Ok, call me soon.” He was feeling an odd sense of sadness. He couldn’t place it, but he knew that this was coming to a rather premature end.

“Yeah. I’ll call.”

That was four days ago. He hadn’t heard back from Sam, and had a feeling that he wasn’t going to anytime soon. There was something in the way Sam’s voice quivered that night that told him it would be over.

What had begun as a hopeful encounter seemed to have ended in a decidedly anti-climactic manner. That was unfortunate in itself, but what made it even more complex was that it led him directly into the waiting arms of his always caring ex.

At least, it did have that quality to it. In the three years since their break-up, they had both failed miserably at re-igniting the passion they have for each other with another. They never said so outright, but both could tell that the late night or early morning phone calls were a sure sign of their longing. They also knew that these desperate attempts to pull each other back were at best unsettling. At worst, they were unhealthy to the core.

It was to this confusing uncertainty that he returned to over and over again in his mind. He was sitting in his house trying to fight off the reckless urge to call her one more time. The thoughts were assaulting his senses, and whipping up a frenzy of emotions. He was mildly panicking. Should he enter into the house of tears and ignite a fire? He knew all too well that he could do it. For reasons completely beyond him, only she has ever inspired such passion in him. He both loved and hated her for it.

That was when he headed for the door donning his thrift store-issued trucker cap, his long black hair neatly tucked underneath.

As he approached the water tower at the end of the dirt road nearly two hours after he originally set out, storm clouds began gathering menacingly over-head. The stars scurried for cover, and he stopped in the middle of the road. Looking up, the first raindrop brushed his chin, eventually dropping onto the front of his sweater.

And just so, the fire he had been feeling a few moments before went out. He knew instantly that there’d be no late-night phone call tonight. It was all he could do to move on, to feel fully human again. He knew it all too well in this calm, pre-storm atmosphere.

“Please let go. Please.” He heard himself whisper these words, just as the wind kicked up, signaling the arrival of the impending rainfall. He walked silently back down the road towards his country home, hoping that he’d be caught in a mighty downpour. This time, however, he wouldn’t cower beneath a table. He’d wait it out, absorbing the full force of every blow.