Her: "You Matter." Him: "You Matter to me too." Her: "It's not the Same ..."

In all the realms of fantasy – from comic books to novels, cartoons to cinema, there are heroes and villains. Heroes are possessed of impeccable character – they save things, solve problems, get the girl and keep the girl happy. Villains on the other hand are the destroyers of worlds, they are hell-bent on making life miserable for those they encounter, they convince the girl of their redemptive character only to rip her heart out just as her faith begins to blossom. That’s all fantasy though in real life, things aren’t always so black and white. We’re all possessed with the ability to be both hero and villain. In the blogsphere, we men often like to present ourselves as proverbial unicorns; the dudes that are different from all the other dudes. While some of us might be, most of us aren’t. In today’s post I want to tell you about a time in my life where the opportunity to be a hero presented itself, but I instead made the conscious decision to go the other way.

One of the last relationships I had before I started dating the woman that would become my wife was with a young woman we’ll call Nicole. Now, Nicole was one of the most dynamic people I’d ever met. Most of you who have been reading me for a while now have probably gathered that I think I’m a pretty intelligent dude. It’s rare that I meet people who I consider to be peers, or, intellectual superiors. Nicole was that. She got all of my jokes, on every level the jokes could be “got,” she’d read every book I’d ever read (and a few I hadn’t), she was up on politics, music and culture, and she could match wits with the best.  Besides all that, she was really attractive. She had a pretty face, was kind of short, and a lil thick in all the right places. We met in winter’s dusk, while it was still cold enough to spend whole Saturdays snuggled up under the covers with candles burning, music playing, in deep, random conversation; and we dated through the start of summer, when the weather was perfect for long walks, ice cream cones and spontaneous stops at cafes with outdoor seating.

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But for everything wonderful about Nicole, and for all the wonderful times we’d had together, there was always this underlying issue that prevented me from fully letting myself go. She was damaged. She’d experienced the sort of emotional trauma that one only experiences when every love you’ve ever had, whether requited or unrequited, is ripped away for reasons you come to accept, but never really reconcile. One spring night, laying in bed, talking about nothing, she suddenly shifted the conversation, and made it about something. That conversation ended up forever altering our relationship.

Nicole: J …

Me: What’s up?

Nicole: You matter. (said flatly, with little emotion.)

Me: What do you mean?

Nicole: Don’t be dense, I know you know exactly what I’m saying.

Me: I know … I know what you’re saying. You matter to me too.

Nicole: I know I “matter” to you, but, it’s not the same.

Me: How?

Nicole: When we met, I didn’t know what box to put you in. I was just getting over (so&so) and was finally beginning to accept the fact that lasting love, for me, just wasn’t in the cards. I was beginning to be o.k. with that. But your hopeless naiveté when it comes to matters of the heart is just … f*cking contagious.

(She was speaking with an unreal amount of clarity and dispassionate precision of thought)

I’m not saying I love you, but … I just hate the fact that I know that I could love you because I know that, no matter how much you care, and no matter how much I matter to you, I know you’re never going to love me.

Me: You over thinking all of this. How can either of us say how we’ll feel about each other in the future. I know I’ve loved each moment I’ve spent with you so far – how do you know I won’t be enjoying these moments for another 6 months, a year, two years – forever. You don’t. So, why even talk about this. Let’s just enjoy now.

Nicole: I do know. And if I know you, you know too. I’m clear on where we’re going. And yeah, I too love the time we spend together.  I just wish I didn’t because when this is over, you’ll be fine … you’ll be absolutely fine and the modicum of hope I feel in fleeting moments we’re together will be gone – again. (she shook her head a little, and gave an accepting giggle)

Me: So why don’t we just stop here … go our separate ways now. (I said this kind of feigning annoyance)

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Nicole: You know why. Because …  part of me kinda hopes I’m wrong.

Me: You might be.

Nicole: I’m not.  Just promise me one thing though.

Me: What’s that?

Nicole: Whatever happens, let’s stay friends. Keep in touch with each other. I know this won’t work, but, if what we have is as at all special, that’s the least we can do.

Me: I promise.

I could feel it happening in the middle of that conversation. Every single word she said was absolutely true and now that all the cards were sitting on the table – face up – playing the game further seemed futile. Her ability to accurately perceive our future and the heart it took to be honest enough with herself and me to actually say it out loud was an endearing and repelling affront to our us. Over the next couple months, things just weren’t the same – for me. I could see her pushing forward, fighting to make it work, fighting against her own intelligence, instincts and prophecy. And I could see myself slowly but surely becoming disinterested and withdrawing.

By the time the end came, my phone calls to her were strangely obligatory and her phone calls to me were rarely answered and sometimes not returned. She sent me a card in the mail to wish me happy birthday and to tell me how much she’d enjoyed our time together, each verb in the short note carefully and purposely conjugated into its past tense. She called the next day to see if I’d gotten it. I missed the call. I called back the following day to tell her I had, but she missed the call and I didn’t bother leaving a message. A week or so later she called again, and of course, I didn’t answer. She left a message saying she just wanted to say hi and to see how I was doing. She was trying to sound nonchalant, but, I could tell she didn’t want to call, that she’d been hoping I would call her and was disappointed but not surprised that I hadn’t. That message was the last time I ever heard her voice. I never called back. I was given the opportunity to be her hero and instead, for reasons I still haven’t quite figured out, decided to just disappear.

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A few years later, I was holiday shopping in midtown; in one hand were bags filled with gifts all wrapped and ready to go under the tree and in the other was the hand of my then fiancé. Walking towards me, was Nicole. My heart jumped a little when I recognized her. As we got closer and were about to pass, I started to open my mouth to speak when she looked me dead in my eyes, recognized who I was and looked away. I wanted to say something, but that brief, almost imperceptible look she gave spoke volumes. Her eyes pleaded with me, implored me to just leave her be and let this moment pass as if it had never happened. She kept walking without breaking stride and without looking back. I remembered then the promise I’d made and broken, and I realized that my promise, to her, had mattered. I realized that no matter what I did with the rest of my life, no matter how many peoples lives I positively affected, no matter how much of a hero I am to my wife, for Nicole, I would be – forever and always – a villain.

SBM fam, do you all have people in your life who will always be villains? Or, maybe you’re the villain. Maybe you know that, for someone on this Earth, the thought of you will always inspire heartache. Share your stories. It’s Friday, vent it all now and then, the plan is, to drink tonight until pain’s over – we not even gonna worry about tomorrow’s hangover.

See yall in two Fridays – till then…

Stay Low and Keep Firing.

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