What I Know

I don’t know much about politics,  or American history, or history in general. But I know that when your face changes from a chuckle and a smile to complete terror when we’re driving, you’re about to slam on your breaks and I should brace myself. I don’t know half of the American presidents, or even a third of them (let’s be real), but I know the veins that run through your arms so well that I’m confident they’re more familiar to me than my own. I can’t tell you where Israel is on a map, or really even Nebraska, but I know your smile feels like summer – warm, easy, comforting. And when that smile evolves into a laughter, it sounds carefree, full of abandon.

I don’t know beers like you do. I have no idea what IPA stands for, or what it is exactly. But I do know the color of the sky, that specific pink and orange, that night we sat on the porch of our new house as we ate pizza and said hi to everyone walking their dogs. I remember that perfect shade of blue on my birthday when we went to the lake near your parents’ house. I may not always remember which type of beer you like, but I always remember the orange glow of the streetlamp at night outside my room as it peeks through my curtains, during those nights I would lie so close to you I couldn’t tell your heartbeat apart from mine.

I will l never master Chemistry, Biology, Medicine, or Nursing. But I know that your presence helps me breathe. I will never forget the way your hair feels between my fingers, the way your tongue dances with mine, the way you gently but firmly grab the back of my neck. I will never let myself forget that.

There are so many things I don’t know. And there are so many things I don’t know I don’t know.  But I know how happy it made me when you whispered in between REM cycles,  “You mean a lot to me.” I remember the fear that followed, the nervous, tongue-tied chuckle I gave you in return. I wanted to say it back but I couldn’t, not without crying and I didn’t want to worry you.

Science is about finding answers. Medicine is trying to put those answers into practice. I don’t have all the answers to all medical questions, but I have a lot of answers about you. I don’t even think I know one-hundredth of what happens in the human body, but I know what happens in yours and what happens in mine. I know all too well what happens when my fingertips too lightly brush against your arm. I know the rhythm of your breathing when you’re sleeping, like a lulling hum for me when I can’t sleep.

I also know that I have a very limited time with you. And that somewhere in Virginia, someone will be lucky to get to see you drink coffee in the morning and watch you leave work to go home at the end of the day. Someone will watch you write brilliant things with those hands that I know so well. I know that someone will talk to you every day and not know the colors of your eyes. I don’t either. I know thay they’re blue, or maybe green, sometimes gray… I could never really figure that out. And that’s something I’m willing to continue to figure out.

I know that waking up every morning will feel even more foreign in my new room because you won’t be there. What I don’t know is how much I’m going to miss you. I can’t even pretend to imagine how much I’m going to miss you lying next to me, doing nothing, doing everything. What I don’t know is how much I’m going to hurt – to physically hurt – to feel the burning in my skin, the aching in my bones from the simple desire of just wanting to hold you.

I can’t count the number of months or years I spent wanting to be and actually being alone. But it’s also impossible to count the days I have spent being happy with you. There is something satisfying about asking you about you, about your day, about your family, like quenching a thirst to know things about you. And these days of adventures and finding answers may be cut short, but the way you made me feel is unquantifiable. The happiness I have felt these past few months cannot be contained in days, not confined in 24 hours, in a sunrise and a sunset. It’s counted in the little moments when I felt like the room can catch fire and I wouldn’t notice. In those moments when the hours felt like minutes, and the end of the day seems merely seconds away. It’s reflected in the way I feel about you, and how I slowly and then all of a sudden wanted you in my life every day. After you leave, I know it’s going to be hard. I know it’s going to hurt. But it’s going to hurt because it matters. Because it’s important.  Because you are important.

I don’t know a lot of things, but I know these. I hope you know them, too.

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And in emails.

Me:
I don’t think I’m going to see you any time soon, so I guess we better talk now.

I try to be patient and understanding as much as I can, even when people are hurtful. But when I asked you what all the physical stuff we do meant to you, you quickly and with certainty said “Nothing.” Now I don’t remember the last time I was slapped in the face, but I vaguely remember it feeling that way. 

You managed to make me feel like I meant something to you, to making me feel cheap and used and disposable. For the first time since we started this, I’m thinking we’re not on the same page. Not just because being intimate means different things to us – that I can work with. But because I honestly don’t know what you think about us if the physical stuff has meant nothing to you. (And if that’s true, what’s going to happen when you’re 4 hours away and you really need to be with someone?)

I’m sorry I left abruptly. I waited until you fell asleep, but I had to get out of there.

Him:
I’m so sorry. That was a horrible thing to say, and not what I really meant. What I should have said was that the physical intimacy is special but that it isn’t what’s important to me. To me, physical acts can be performed by anyone and therefore overall/in general physicality isn’t an important or defining part of my relationships. What defines relationships to me is the bonds you share, the sacrifice you make for each other, how well you understand each other.

Physical intimacy can help convey or build those bonds, and I know that since you think about intimacy in a different way than me I’ve appreciated our intimacy. I haven’t always appreciated it enough, and last night was a stunning example of my incompetence to truly respect you like I should.

And I should have finished by saying I really wanted intimacy but that I was tired and in a bad mood. And when you asked me for a reason I was afraid of not having one so I made one up. I honestly am having trouble remembering the last things we said last night before falling asleep. Which means I should have listened to you (as usual) and gone to sleep.

The fact that the physical stuff isn’t as important to me is exactly why I think we could be ok. Because while i’d miss it, the most of important parts would still be in tact. Cuddling and spending time together would be sorely missed but we’d still have each other’s emotional support and shoulders to lean on

Me:
(After 15 minutes of silence)

Not really sure what to I can say anymore except that I just want to drive back to your house and fix this.

Maybe we were both just very tired last night and didn’t communicate very well. But I understand now. I’m sorry, too, that you’re dating a basket case.

Him:
I’d like that too, but I don’t think now is good time with your working tonight and my ading coming for career pep talk in an hour. But just being on that mindset is a big help from when I woke up and realized you were really gone Maybe we will be better off taking a break/calling it off until November. But we certainly can’t go out like this. Nah, I think you’re pretty sane.

Me:
Thank you for talking this out with me.

Him:
thanks for listening to me. And responding to make it a conversation. I think when something like this happens and someone wants to leave me, not talk, ect. What hurts even more is when I don’t get a chance to say i’m sorry

Me:
I’m sorry I bailed so quickly when I thought something was wrong. I don’t usually do that because I usually believe people (especially you) never mean to hurt me. But that just hurt so suddenly and quickly. And I guess I was tired too, because I was so quick to believe it despite the fact that I have reason to believe otherwise.

I don’t know, that feeling (cheap and disposable – that I now know was not at all what you meant) was so foreign to me that I didn’t really recognize it right away. And my first instinct was to get away from the cause of pain.

 Sorry.
 
Him:
That’s ok. But being THAT hurt I would have trouble sharing a bed too. I would have preferred you jarred me awake and asked me to explain myself or even “I hope you didn’t mean that, let’s talk in the morning we’re both tired”…but how many people in the world, in the heat of the moment, actually do that?
 
Me:

Ok, noted. Hopefully there won’t be a next time, but lesson learned. I will use my words. (And vice versa?)

Like I said, I was sure you didn’t mean to be hurtful so I tried to be understanding and even appreciative that you were honest. But after a few minutes, I just found myself crying when I couldn’t come up with an explanation for what you said.

It’s very hard for me to talk about stuff, especially on the spot. I’m learning a lot from you, but it’s still always a struggle. Every time we talk, all I want to do is.. not talk. I always have to force the words out and talk myself into saying how I feel and what I’m thinking. It’s a slow learning process. So I’m really sorry if that’s frustrating on your part. I’m trying, I swear.

Him:
We’re human, we’re learning.

The thing about pain, is that it demands to be felt.

12 hours ago, I didn’t think you could ever hurt me, not on purpose at least. Well, to be fair, I guess this isn’t on purpose.

You were hesitant to pick things back up as we usually do before falling asleep, and I asked why. You said you didn’t feel right doing things with me when you had… ‘unanswered questions’. You were afraid that what we’re doing may incline certain expectations that you will not be able to meet. You were worried that because we view physical stuff to mean different things, it would mislead me. So I asked what all this meant for you. And too quickly you responded, “Nothing.”

I don’t recall the last time I was slapped in the face, but I vaguely remembering it feeling this way. 

A pain that’s sudden, forceful, lingering. The kind that knocks the breath out of you. I slowly retracted my hand from across your chest. I was silent. Or at least I think I was silent. I can’t remember what you said or what I said next. All I could think of was the tingling in my fingers, the sudden weight in the pit of my stomach. You swiftly but sincerely apologized for ruining the moment. (Although at that moment I was afraid it was more than the moment that was ruined.) And after a few minutes, you fell asleep.

I tossed and turned beside you, not only because I was restless, but also because I did not want a part of me touching you. Not even an inch. I had an unsettling feeling of urgency. All I wanted to do was to get out of there, to be so far away from you. I had no idea what time it was, but it was obviously dark. I left your house after gathering my things. I think you were awake. I was wondering if I woke you up with my shuffling in the dark. But worse, I didn’t even care if you were watching me pack up my stuff.

After a near magical weekend of talking to each other, being lost in each other, it had to end with this. 

I don’t think I have ever been that honest with anyone I’ve ever dated. It took me a while to be as good as you when it comes to communicating. Or I guess as willing as you are to communicate. I meant every word I said last night. They were hard to spit out, and it was a constant struggle every time I said something, but I knew you appreciated it. I knew that you had a right to know what I was thinking, how I was feeling. So I shared them, all of them. And maybe that’s what pushed you away? Or made you realize how much I wanted to make this work? Because for the first time ever, or at least in a really long time, we were not on the same page.

I don’t just do these things with anyone. I do them with you, for you, to you, because I care about you and because you matter to me. It didn’t seem like that was reciprocated. “Nothing,” you said. This all meant nothing to you. It definitely meant something more than ‘nothing’ to me. And you saying it meant nothing made me feel cheap and used. And I didn’t want to touch you or even look at you. 

How did all this change in less than 12 hours? 

The world, indeed, is not a wish-granting factory.

Someone once told me that the best way to be with you is to be honest with you. So here it goes.

In a nutshell, I don’t want you to go. Of course I don’t want you to go.

You first asked what we are now, since we haven’t defined our relationship since February. I dodged the question because I still didn’t know. Or at least in that moment I didn’t know. I have been holding myself back from progressing, from moving this forward, because I knew you were going to leave, one way or another. And now you’re asking us to reevaluate our situation to see if this is worth our time and effort. I feel like we went on a full circle here. I didn’t want anything real because I knew this was going to end sooner rather than later. Now that it’s ending I wish this was something real. I’m pretty sure if you look up the word ‘infuriating’ in the dictionary, it’s going to show you this situation. Also look up: irony.

Then you asked me if we could keep this going when you leave. It broke my heart to say “I don’t know…” which we both know meant “No.” And at that moment, I hated myself. I hated that I was contributing to your pain. After a few more minutes, you asked again, “When I take this job, are we really over?” You asked that through your tears. You sobbing is one of the most heartbreaking things I have ever seen in my life. I buried myself in your pillow, looking away from you. I couldn’t stand to see your face as your heart continued to break. “Look at me,” you pleaded. “Let me see your face” I hesitantly lifted my face off the pillow without ever meeting your eyes. I didn’t feel like I deserved to look at you.

A few minutes later, I explained myself through whisper. “You understand, right? You understand why I’m hesitant about us?” I reminded you of PCN, of how much it sucked to not see you for 3 weeks. That was 2 months ago, when we were still kind of sort of dating (as opposed to now? I’m not really sure what our updated status is). If I couldn’t handle not seeing you for 3 weeks when I didn’t feel this strongly for you, what’s the next 5 months going to be like for me? Hell? I didn’t say that, though. All I said was, “Those 3 weeks sucked. I don’t think I can do that for 5 months.” Which was the truth; just not that whole truth, I guess. We both acknowledged the fact that our relationship’s strength lies in us being physically together, in holding hands, in laying in bed doing nothing, in falling asleep next to each other. Our best moments involve your arms around me, my fingers tangled in your hair, being so close to you I could feel my heartbeat against your chest and bounce back to me. 5 months of minimal physical time together will be detrimental to us – we knew that.

You started thanking me. “Thank you for everything. For being god to me. I learned so much from you.” You thanked me for things I don’t even remember doing, for things that I didn’t know meant a lot to you. “Thank you for driving to Wal-mart at 5 in the morning when I felt like I was dying… You did everything you could to make me feel better. No one has taken care of me like you have…. I’m never going to find that.” And I tried to be positive. “Yes. Yes you will. You’re going to find someone who’s going to take care of you and who will want to do the same things you want to do.” I don’t know why, but I felt like I was pushing you away. I continued, “I think we’re just trying to save the world in very different ways.”

My training has taught me to act composed and think logical in moments of crisis. So when we were having this conversation, I was being reasonable and almost clinical in my thinking.  New relationship + 4 hour distance = no good. It wasn’t until 24 hours later when I was home in Baltimore when the tears came. A friend texted me, “Is it sinking in now?” Yes, yes it was. It was sinking in, in a fetal position, crying so hard it was hard to breathe, 8/10 pain kind of way. Yes, it was sinking in that I’m going to wake up in the morning, knowing I will not see you in the near future. It was sinking in that I won’t be able to touch you for a long time once you leave. Yes, it was sinking in that we are ending this even before we actually start. And I didn’t know what to do. I knew that I didn’t want you to leave, but of course it wasn’t my place to ask you to stay. But at the very least, I wanted to keep this going. I wanted us to keep fighting for this. And then my friend texted, “I think deep down you already fell for him. You just don’t want to admit that to yourself yet.” And in that moment, I knew. I knew that I really liked you, that I cared about you more than anyone I’ve ever been with. I’m always the last one to figure out things like this, aren’t I?

You texted me goodnight, and as a Hail Mary pass, I replied, “Did you mean it? When you said you wanted to try to make this work?” I was ready to tell you that I want this to work. That I’m willing to try. I started to type up a message saying that everything in my experience and common sense, really, is telling me that we shouldn’t. But I want to, because I can’t imagine not having this – not having you, in one form or another – anymore. But it was your turn to break me. “Who knows, maybe you’ll meet a new dashing resident and I’ll meet a political event organizer who’s a total babe.” Like daggers. We agreed to meet and spend more time together to talk about this. But it seemed like you already had an answer.

I know it’s only 4 hours, that it won’t be impossible to make it work, but do we really have it in us to fight for this? Do we have a strong enough foundation to make it through this? What would be the smarter thing to do – to risk the budding relationship and power through, or try to be friends and wait 5 months from now and start over?

More importantly, what do you want to do?