I’ve tried to write this at least seven times. I wasn’t ready. Jake lived with me for three years. I see him everywhere, still. I have loved three men in my life, and this ending is the hardest. I’ll tell y’all everything, kind readers. The breakup is eight months in the rearview and I’ve studied the relationship, trying to be honest with myself, trying to heal, needing to see the whole picture. I loved this man. I was content to spend my life with him, happier than I thought possible. Hindsight, gives you some gifts, and takes some flesh. For eight months, I’ve seen his ghost in my house, I’ve listened to his music, I’ve packed his things, I’ve felt his weight. I’ve worked to exorcize him. I carried his heart in mine, and letting go has been one of the hardest burdens of my life. But it’s time. There are five stages to grief. I’m accepting. I’m giving up the ghost.
I met Jake six months after the bitter end with Tim. Jake is a beautiful man, a manly man. He came on to me immediately after we met, and I thought, this is my reward. I’ve suffered for love, and the universe was giving me this beautiful man to play with. That first night was hot, and unforgettable, and fucking perfect. The universe indeed rewarded me, a couple times. That should have been it. One perfect night. But it was the beginning – a fun, easy, sexy beginning.
Jake is an Army Ranger, spent some time as a sniper, among other things, and was deployed more than several times. He is smart, funny, charismatic, a little broken, rugged and tender. He would say he was a civilized savage. We kept seeing each other. In my life, I’ve never been more attracted to a man. Physically or emotionally. This man got me. He got my twisted humor, he got my damage, I got his. We could talk about anything, and often stayed up late in the night doing so, laughing while we laid in bed. It was the first time I was comfortable in the quiet spaces, too. We could just be, and this was huge for me. I fell for him quick, and I fell hard. About four months in, he told me he loved me, and my whole world shifted in the most lovely way. I am 16 years older than Jake, we were aware of this, of course, but it rarely came up, especially later in our relationship. Before he moved in, I told him, “If I were younger, or you were older, we would have the most epic love story.” He told me, “We already do.” I had my hand on his chest, and he covered my hand with his, over his heart. A simple gesture, and with it every wall I had, every bit of my resistance, crumbled and shattered into a million pieces. It is important you understand that this is all true, real – it was like taking a big bite of air after being underwater a little too long. Jake brought me back to life. It’s important you understand what it was, so you can understand what it wasn’t. It’s taken me all these many months to see the deficiencies, ones that I was content to overlook, at peace to ignore – this isn’t a list of Jake’s faults, on the contrary, this is a list of mine – this is my realizing how far I went, again, to be loved.
I have to force myself to remember this right, to tell it authentically. I’m hard wired to smooth the rough edges, to make the truth more round, more gentle. But this is the hard truth – I gave Jake all of me, and he gave me half of him, and I gratefully accepted it. Jake lived in my house with me and my children, he became part of our family. He spent time with my parents. He became close with my friends. He was absorbed into my life by the people who love me, and seeing my bliss, and with Jake’s natural charm, they, very organically, came to love him, too. He was invited into my life, every part, all of it. Jake had been a nomad all his life, he never really grew roots anywhere, and he would get restless. After about two weeks at home, he would need to get away for a little bit, usually to his hometown, his mother’s house. I didn’t mind. I understood, because I could feel the restlessness in him, the energy coming off of him was gypsy, and it was who he was. He was domesticated as much as he could be with me, I would kiss him goodbye, and he would return calmer, better. I was not included, or invited, into this part of his life. I was not introduced to his family. I wasn’t a part of his plans with friends. I’m ashamed writing this, how much I rationalized this. Justified it. Accepted it. He gave me half of him, and there was something in me that could live with that, and that’s troubling. I’ve been looking at that since it ended. Turning it over, examining it, curious as to why I’m willing to settle for so much less than I give. This is the flesh ripped in hindsight.
We did this for years. He would come home and we would relax into something good, comfortable, and familiar. When he was here, I will tell you I had all of him, it was only when he disappeared that the knowledge of the exclusion would flicker into consciousness, and I would soothe it, sweep it away, and bury it. I wanted him, and if this unspoken devil’s bargain was the cost, I agreed to the terms, without realizing there could be a negotiation. He knew my history, knew the bone cutting betrayals of my past, and he said he would never, could never. We talked about this, and I believed him, he was a gypsy, but not a wanderer. He said he was faithful and I trusted him. I know what you’re thinking. It sounds like he was ashamed of me and every couple of weeks he left for some strange. If I read this about someone else, it’s exactly what I would think. It didn’t feel like that at the time, not at all, but now, this takes big strips of my flesh. During our three years together, I was sated, I felt loved, I wanted to spend my life with Jake. I look back now, and it looks so different, smaller, sadder. I was dancing to music only I could hear. I was happy even though pieces were missing, it felt like love more than it didn’t. I was content because Jake wasn’t a cruel man, and Tim was. It’s disquieting now to think how much I was willing to forfeit for kindness, the most basic boilerplate thing one should receive from the man you’re sharing your love, body, life, and thoughts with. I’ve heard you get the love you give. This isn’t true. You get the love you think you deserve – no more, no less. Even with the imperfections, Jake did teach me about being loved, and I’m forever grateful for that. I’m getting there. I’ve studied my past, my mistakes, my shameful dark corners, and I’m evolving, trying to. I’m trying to navigate love without losing myself. It’s the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega, the most significant part of giving yourself to another – you have to love the fuck out of yourself.
There is an end. Jake lied, and what I hope was the last time in my life, I struck a match and set fire again. Liars and Fires. Scorched earth. That’s a story for next week. Even so, learning to unlove Jake has been daunting, it’s taken all my will. I have missed him like it was my job. His ghost has been here, late, late at night, I allowed myself to look only at the smooth edges and I danced a little to music only I could hear. The good things, and there are many, I have tucked away, and the bad, I am laying to rest. Forgiving him and myself. Letting go. The sorrow of the past belongs behind you, and I’m taking these lessons and pointing true north. Life goes on, it always does. It’s time. I’m giving up the ghost.
Go forth and conquer.