*Warning: adult language ahead!
“I’ve done it all, Mands,” she says, rather matter-of-factly.
“Define all,” I respond, dipping a cheese-smothered nacho chip into guacamole.
“I’ve been the desperate woman, the jealous woman, the controlling woman, the woman who tried to play ‘the man’s’ game of not feeling anything and just fucking whomever I wanted but never getting emotionally attached,” she answers and then pauses, looking me dead in the eye.
She continues and asks, “Your last situationship, the one you were telling me about, the one that has spurred you into giving up on dating for a while, which woman were you?”
I am a little taken aback, I won’t lie. This woman is a new friend, and although I have always considered myself raw in my honesty, she floors me a little with hers—and I fucking love it. I’ve become too accustomed to the sugar-coating dialogues of misaligned connections.
“Honestly, the desperate woman and the jealous woman. He had no intention of ever really being with me. The sex was good, but the more he made it clear that he didn’t feel the same way, the harder I tried,” I say somewhat defeated and pitiful, but with a twinge of relief having said it out loud.
“You feel shame, and that’s fucking okay. Yes, you probably bent over backward for this man, you probably lost sleep hoping that things would be different, you probably ended up hating yourself for the way you were acting, but you know what?”
“Please tell me there is a redeeming comment that is going to make me feel much better about my shitty choices,” I say, and then laugh.
She giggles while taking a sip of her cocktail, “We have all been there, and anyone who tells you differently is a fucking liar. Desperation, although not the most flattering of human emotions, is a human emotion, and instead of fighting it, accept it and learn from it.”
“Desperation is a powerful messenger; it’s so intrinsically linked to self-love,” I muse aloud.
“And there is your answer. You’re a smart cookie, Mands; you just lost yourself for a little while, and you thought a relationship was the answer,” she reassuringly coos.
“I think I’ve thought that pretty much my whole life,” I joke.
As we are talking, a man walks in and scans the room, I notice him immediately because he has the longest, majestic-looking black hair that flows down his back. It’s her boyfriend (although she says calling him boyfriend is juvenile and she prefers the term partner).
He spots us, walks over, and kisses her on the head. She lights up with a grin that I can only describe as contagious.
“Looks like I might have interrupted a very deep conversation,” he surmises. I already like him, as much as I like her—his energy matches hers in warmth and openness.
The three of us talk for hours; we talk politics; we talk religion; we talk childhoods; we talk parenting; we talk belief systems; we talk languages; we talk work; we talk books—we talk, we debate, we laugh, we connect.
As the night wears on, I’m invited for tea at their place before I head home. I walk into a space that I can honestly say is one of the most beautiful homes I have ever seen. Plants are everywhere, hanging from wooden beams above our heads, photographs of the two of them adorn the bookshelves stacked with every genre, and quirky travel ornaments catch my eye, collected from their travels together. It’s a home drenched in love.
He puts on the soulful sounds of Rodriquez, and while she’s making me tea in the kitchen, he saunters over to her, a proud look on his face, and tells her about how he fixed the kitchen table and was finally getting somewhere with the list she had provided of his “fix-it jobs.”
There is a tenderness to them that I can only watch with admiration and a positive kind of envy. (Yes, you can positively envy something and appreciate it at the same time.)
As I’m leaving, he says, “I’m so glad to have met you, and I am so glad that my love has a new friend she connects with so well.”
The comment is sweet and innocent, and I feel joy—the kind you feel when you have spent time with people with whom you genuinely connect.
She walks me to my car, and we stop and just smile at each other.
“I can’t tell you how much I needed this evening,” I say to her.
“The feeling is mutual, my friend,” she replies.
“He’s wonderful, and you’re wonderful. You know, it’s so strange, I was pondering healthy relationships the other day and wondering if they even exist, and I think the universe sent me a very clear message tonight,” I tell her.
“Mands, I was single for five years; it took me five years to work on myself, to love myself, to know myself. It took me all that time to heal from the way I had been hurting myself, and when I did, he came into my life. I am not half of a whole—I fucking hate it when people say that—I am whole, and I love him wholeheartedly because of it.”
As I drive home, the moon reflecting its beams off a dark ocean, I am sated emotionally and intellectually, and there is a strange, new feeling—something I haven’t felt for years: hope.