by Jefferson Ellison. Published on February 01, 2021.
I must admit that I’m not the best at dating. Relationships are easier for me to navigate. I mean well, it just seems that more often than not, my intentions and the impact of my actions are not aligned. Most recently, I began spending time with someone who I believe I was tailor-made to love and to hurt. In every way possible our lives are opposites but our desires are the same. Both of us, two broken Earth signs seeking safety and validation in the arms of God’s only mistake, men.
We met at a bar, then again online, and quickly decided that we wanted to know each other. The first date was a success so we did it again. And again. One time, I even cooked. Each night space was held, stories were shared and laughter was had. We would end the night with a kiss and a plan to do it again. Throughout our brief encounter, I found myself getting more comfortable in their presence. I spent a little more time getting ready in the mirror because it seemed to matter just a little bit more. I was trying to showing intention and be vulnerable so that I knew that I was showing up for them the way I thought they were showing up for me. One cold night in January, as they laid on my couch, head on chest and my arms around them, I realized that I had found something I hadn’t found in a while: comfort. I enjoyed being around this person. I wanted to be around this person. I actually liked a person. This person. And for the first time in an even longer time, I was pretty sure that they liked me back. I knew it, because they told me so.
On the morning after our final date, I woke up to a text saying that they made it home, so I responded “have a good day”. The day went on, the night fell and I almost went to bed without hearing from them - and didn’t mind. That’s what comfort does. It protects you from anxiety. In my head, I found a million questions about why I hadn’t heard from someone I’d like to hear from. In my comfort, I found nothing but plausible answers. And then my phone lit up.
There on the screen of my iPhone was my greatest fear - a misunderstanding. Somewhere over the last few days, we had missed each other. They received things differently than I had intended and I failed at picking up on the fact that they were uncomfortable. And so, even though they found me worthy of their time, they didn’t want to continue to share it with me. There were a few things that stung more than others. The world of interracial dating is complicated so some moments felt more specific, sometimes cultural. Yes, the way they presented their issues with my communication style was littered with microaggressions and further proof that exposure leads to understanding. Sure.
I can let that go. In fact, I have. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that we are standing in the middle of a missed opportunity. From conversations with my mother and my therapist, I know that my communication style and how I live my life is rooted in generational trauma, and the product of being Black and Queer in a White Southern world. So I can’t make apologies about that. I do, however, think the way they received me is wrapped up in their own triggers, world view, dare I say ... trauma. And while everything about that feels normal and valid, it also makes me sad.
I never want to ever be the cause of someone else's hurt. To know that somewhere along the way I had disrespected, disregarded, or offended a stranger, let alone someone I’ve shared intimate space with, breaks me. Only a victim can truly appreciate the pain of another. Moreover, I hate that we weren’t able to discuss everything in a way that moved us forward. but instead created an alternate world where we avoid each other and stumble through “hello." But what shook me that night, is how natural and unassuming everything felt. What stays in my head is how normal being with this person had seemed. The fact that me in my comfort zone, without trying and without realizing it, could offend or hurt someone is a hard pill to swallow. It feels personal, because it is. I shouldn’t have to change who I am to be with people, but if who I am is the problem, then I’m not quite sure what to do. I know that they didn’t mean to push me off the ledge and I hope they know I didn’t mean to back them against the wall. It seems we’re just two hurt people who couldn’t heal together. And if that’s true, I can accept it. I just wonder...what if. What catastrophe is God preventing by making something so easy, so difficult? What pain would we have caused had this all worked out? What joy would we have found? And would it be worth it?
We are conditioned to think that personal growth is realizing that you are enough and that you’re perfect just the way you are. But we forget that personal relationships are designed to help us grow, even when the relationship itself ends. My first relationship taught me how to love. My next relationship taught me how to be loved. My relationships with family and friends shift me daily. Why is it only a problem when the person shifting is romantic? Isn't that the most intimate space? Isn’t that where we should be the most safe and have the most trust and freedom to grow? I am constantly climbing a hill of self-worth and boundaries, but every once in a while, I want to stop and remember that my path is forged by the influence of others.
It’s been two years since I found someone who made me comfortable. It’s been five years since I’ve been in love. And while we’ll never know what could have been and while it’s safer for us to assume that it’s better for it to end, I still wonder what could have been. Maybe we would’ve been infinite. Maybe we would have fizzled out. I just wish they would have talked to me.