She looked at the clock, again, and saw she still had a scant two hours until it would be time to go meet with him. Thankfully, or not, her work load today had been light giving her time to prepare, mentally at least, for this meeting tonight. Now that she had made her move and written that note, she was certain it was the right thing to do. She had no idea what to tell him or what to say to him, she couldn't feel more unequal to what lay ahead. It seemed far too much of a burden. She tried with all her heart not to shrink away from it.
She was afraid, too, of what he might tell her. She was afraid he wouldn't tell her anything. What could she do that would let him know that there was nothing he could possibly say, nothing that he could have done that would make her love him any less?
In a rare flash of insight it occurred to her that was the real issue here, or part of it anyway. He had become convinced that somehow he had done something that that would put him beyond the reach of her love, of anyone's love. She began to cry. Tears flowed down her cheeks as she reached for a tissue. She hid her face in her hands, trying her best to muffle the sound of her sobbing, so as not to attract any attention. "Oh my little Pooh Bars," she thought to herself, "How could you think I could ever stop loving you." She cried for him, for all he had suffered, even as she had no idea just how bad it was.
Just as she was having this thought, the phone on her desk rang. She glanced at the display and saw it was her boss. She tried to quickly compose herself but didn't trust herself to answer the call before it went to coverage. She quickly dried her eyes, checked herself in a mirror she took from her purse, judged herself as looking horrible with puffy eyes just as her boss walked into her cubicle.
They had walked into a secluded part of the gardens outside the restaurant and sat on a small seat just big enough for two that had been cut into the rock. There was still enough light to see some detail in the valley below but lamps were already beginning to light up the city streets. Dinner had been nice, spending time together, just the two of them had been nice. Now was the time. She could tell he was nervous and was afraid he might clam up, put up his defenses and disappear behind that pretense that everything was all right, and what could she be talking about. She had chosen this bench deliberately. She wanted to be touching him. She picked up his hand and held it in her lap stroking it and began to talk.
He had enjoyed the dinner even though he had been growing more nervous by the moment as it drew to a close. Spending time with her, just the two of them was something he had always enjoyed. Part of him felt cornered, though. She was too close to him. They were touching. It almost made him want to scream. How could he keep his walls up when she was this close? He wanted to run, to back away. He had tried to get up, suggesting they walk, but she had put her arm around him and smiled, asking if they could please sit here just for a minute or two. In truth, he was impressed with what she had done. He couldn't remember anyone taking this kind of interest in him, ever.
"Honey," she began, "I know this is going to be a sensitive conversation, but we're all alone here, no one is going to disturb us. I want you to know too, that I love you very much. Something has been going on in your life, something that I think you are very ashamed of. I think you have been trying to keep it a secret. You have been very good at covering your tracks. So good, in fact, that I have no idea what it might be and how long it might have been going on. I do know, though, that whenever we keep secrets about something we have done, we feel ashamed and that makes us feel even more alone. I wonder how alone you think you are. I wonder how badly you feel about yourself. I think this has been eating at you far too long. I am so very sorry that I didn't notice this earlier." She put her arm around him and lifted his chin up so they were looking into each others eyes. "Let me into your world, Pooh Bars, share your burden with me, tell me everything. I promise I won't hate you. There is nothing you could tell me that could possibly make me stop loving you." She leaned in and kissed him on the cheek. "Nothing. Tell me. Please." A tear came out of his eye and flowed down his cheek.
He was afraid, filled with terror actually. He would have run, but her touch stopped him. The act of being touched by another human being was overpowering. He had lived in his isolation for so long that the simple touch of her hand disarmed him. That and the fact that he could feel her love for him. It completely enveloped him. He trembled, and for the first time in a very long time felt vulnerable. He knew he would tell her, part of the whole story at least. She would get a glimpse of the horrible miserable person he had become. In getting this glimpse she would have access to the part of him that was most vulnerable. He was desperately afraid that he would get hurt. All it would take would be a glance of shock, or surprise, or disgust crossing her face and it would cause incredible pain. He heard her last words and felt a tear escape. It was too much. She had gotten past all his defenses. Oh why had he agreed to this. He spoke from his heart and whispered, "Yes there is."
"No, there isn't," she said softly, letting him look away from her for a moment. She kept her arm around him and rubbed his back as a sign of love and affection. "Tell me honey, please tell me everything. I want to come into your world, I want to share this burden with you."
Darkness gathered round him as he threatened "No you don't," with a sneer crossing his face. "If I tell you, you'll hate the miserable piece of shit I've become."
His words and the extreme depth of anger in his voice all directed inward at himself surprised and shocked her. She knew it was the first real glimpse she had of who he really was in a long, long time. It frightened her and she was glad he was looking down, because a look of shock and dismay crossed her face, threatening to overwhelm her. She bit her lip to control the trembling and was unsuccessful. She voiced a silent prayer, no longer sure she would be equal to what lie ahead. What could he possibly have gotten himself into that could cause him to hate himself this much? She felt lost, not certain where to even start to try and help him. She knew she had to keep him talking, that perhaps in this moment only, he was open and vulnerable and whether she was ready or not, now was the time. Her voice began to break as she spoke, "There is nothing, and I mean nothing you could have done that could possibly make me stop loving you."
He looked up into her eyes and saw she was crying. It touched him deeply because he had never felt this kind of love from her before, or from anyone. He hadn't known it existed. Where had she been back when this started? Why couldn't they have had this conversation then? Now though, he shook his head. It wasn't that he doubted her love, he just no longer thought it mattered. What could she possibly do that he hadn't thought of or tried before? He had told himself he was without hope and yet he began to talk to her anyway. He looked directly at her as he talked, dispassionately studying her face for any clue that would tell how she was reacting, for confirmation that she too would detest him as much as he did once she heard the story.
She watched him talk, knowing she must not look away, knowing that she must listen and make him feel safe in sharing this part of him that was obviously so very painful for him. As the story began to unfold, though, she became confused. She wasn't hearing anything that sounded so bad as to engender the depth of self-loathing that he so obviously felt. It wasn't until she heard him say the words, "I can't stop doing this, I have tried hundreds of times, thousands of times. I am surrounded by demons," that she knew. She stood there with him in his swamp of no hope, alone and afraid. She felt the darkness and evil all around them and it was overpowering. She voiced the thought in her head, afraid of the answer, "How long?" How long has this been going on.
He replied, "Over ten years," knowing he had cut some time off, afraid to tell her the real length. He studied her face to see how she would react.
The math flashed through her mind. If he was . . . , then that would mean. . . A completely unguarded look of shock and horror crossed her face that he had endured this horrible burden for all those years, since he was a mere child, "Oh my God," she whispered crying.
He saw the look of horror cross her face and knew he had hurt her deeply. This was worse and it was too much. He had never wanted to cause any pain to her and now look what he had done. This never should have happened. What had he been thinking? He mumbled, "I'm so sorry," almost to low for her to hear and began to quickly rise, twisting as he did so before she had a chance to react.
"What Was I Thinking"
He rose, twisting and launching with all the strength that was in him away from her. His only thought was to escape the extreme pain, the humiliation of having exposed himself so completely and seeing her pain and disappointment and horror at what he had become. It was more than he could bear. He had learned to live with the Hell that came with living with himself, but this was too much. He had loved and respected her and now to have let her down so completely. It was more than he could bear. He ran with all the strength he had, he sprinted towards his car, wishing in this moment his life could just end, the pain could end. He was faster than she was. He knew he would make it. Perfect, it would be the only thing in this evening that would have gone his way.
She grabbed for him and he was too quick. She called for him, forgetting for the moment anyone that could hear them, "No honey, please, you don't understand, I love you, my shock was in letting you down in not being there when you needed me." She was in danger of being overcome with the pain within her, the pain she was feeling for him. She ran after him knowing she wouldn't make it, that he was faster than she was, knowing she would not give up trying. She saw him reach the car and jump in closing and locking the door behind him. She reached it as he was pulling away, trying to reach for the door and grab it before he could get away. She missed.
He was crying, screaming at himself. "How could I have been so fucking stupid as to have thought she would have understood any of this. Now look what I have done. I have ruined everything. How can I ever face her again? How can I go on with this pathetic life I'm pretending to live?" He didn't know where he was driving, but ended up on the beach at the park. He walked without thinking, trying to block out the pain of the present moment by listening to the sound of the waves hitting the beach. He lay down on one of the dunes and wished away his existence.
She collapsed in the parking lot and cried. No one was there to see her and she wouldn't have cared. She cried over his pain, and that she wasn't there to help him, for all those years. She cried that he had endured it all alone, thinking that no one cared. She cried that in her moment of extreme grief over discovering the depth of his sorrow that he had somehow misinterpreted it into thinking it was directed against him and not her. She wept, knowing the moment when she could have touched him and helped him was ripped from her grasp and was gone. Would it ever come back? She knew she had to try.
She picked herself up and walked slowly to her car, trying to think of where he might have gone. She thought about calling his friends and discounted that. She had no shame of doing it, she just didn't think it would lead to anywhere, they wouldn't tell her anything. She started her car up and began to drive, thinking of all the places he would have gone. One by one she went to them and did not find any evidence of him. Tears ran out, and she became desperate, worrying about what he might do.
He listened to the sound of the ocean, trying to let some feeling of reality come to him and not being completely successful. He was comfortable spending the night here and it felt like the right thing to do. He just wanted to be alone. How could he face her again? Another wall. Another depth of pain, one he hadn't realized existed. Acknowledging his pain and weakness before her and living with the shame. He nodded his head up and down, understanding that things would continue to get worse and worse and the pain would be ever increasing. Maybe now he would have the strength to do it.