Once upon a summer mid-morning, I met a guy at the retail store I was working at in between freshman and sophomore year of college. He wasn’t outlandishly beautiful – more like the Southern-traditional type with light-hair and light-eyes, and a little twang to make him a tad-bit sexy.
Being the go-getter gal I am, I approached him, and as he watched me casually drop subtle hints of my attraction – he responded by flirting in return. Within ten minutes, he had my name and my number, and a date was soon to follow. Let a few weeks pass by and Mr. Disappear and I became an item that was syndicated by Facebook and everything.
While we lived two hours away from one another, the fireworks bursting between us were too intense for us to ignore, so we vowed to just make it work. I made the first trek to his town and we enjoyed a weekend of snuggling, kissing, and going on mini-adventures to restaurants and amusement parks. All the while, he showered me with compliments and long lists of reasons why he adored me. In the weeks that followed, we spent countless hours on the phone, constantly exchanged text messages, and he did what he said he would do when he said he would do it.
I was a little afraid (alright, maybe a lot) of falling for him, but I allowed myself to because he gave me no other indication that I should do anything else. I accounted my fear of crashing to old emotional wrecks I’d barely lived through – and deemed that he deserved a fair chance.
So, we moved forward with the relationship – easily, forgivingly, and ever so openly. We never had sex and never took it too far, but I could feel the walls around my heart crumbling, and though my barricade was faltering – I felt protected by the promise he made to me in our intimate moments.
One weekend, he was supposed to come to my college town to spend a few days with me. My roommate was kind enough to go home Friday through Sunday so we could have the whole room to ourselves (remember dorm living?). Unknown to Mr. Disappear, I had planned on finally doing-the-deed with him because I felt comfortable enough to trust him and knew that giving that side of me to him, would feel right and feel wonderful with my newfound confidence in our union.
On the Friday he was to arrive, I had a class until 12:30 in the afternoon and we had planned on him being outside my residence hall around 1 p.m. As soon as my professor let us out, I sprinted towards my room, while my friends in the same lecture called out after me “Have fun!” I opened the door, automatically changed into sexy lingerie and put on a tight wrap sweater dress that showed off my every curve. I added some extra curl to my already-wavy hair, touched up my makeup, and dabbed a splash of my expensive, luxury perfume in selective places. A friend of mine who was over 21 at the time had supplied me with a six-pack of Mr. Disappear’s favorite beer, which I had stashed in my mini-fridge to surprise him with – so I checked on those to make sure they were getting cold.
I finally got around to looking at my phone and realized I hadn’t heard from Mr. Disappear yet – so I sent him a text making sure he was alright, while silently saying a prayer for his safety traveling up the mountain. Then, I sat down at my computer, checked my email, and then my Facebook. I noticed I had a new message, and never one to let any inbox get cluttered, I automatically opened it.
When I noticed it was from Mr. Disappear, I swear I could physically feel my heart break. I read through the message quickly, which was easy because it was simple and short, and read: “I’m not coming this weekend. I’m sorry, I can’t. Don’t hate me.”
My first reaction, of course, was to call him. Shaking and my heart running away from me, I dialed him and his phone was shut off. I called him again, and it went straight to voicemail. Then, I started to panic and my stomach turned into deeply embedded knots –and I called my mom. When I heard her voice on the other end, I completely fell apart and any sentence I tried to make was indiscernible. The only thing she managed to say other than “Breathe” and “Calm down” was “Come home.” In haste, I threw a random assortment of clothes, my cosmetic bag, and one pair of shoes together, and rushed out to my car, tears violently splashing down my cheeks.
I’m not sure how I made it home without crashing, but the minute I reached my driveway, I ran into my mother’s arms, felt my body collapse, and then headed to my room to sleep. And sleep is what I did all weekend. I also called him several times in the day and night throughout the weekend, and his phone never returned on. He also didn’t respond to a text or to any Facebook messages. When it was time for me to head back to school for a newspaper meeting on Sunday, I blocked him from my account before I drove, and with a sullen-stance and sweatpants on, I made it through deadline without crying.
That night, he called and gave me a range of excuses that included “I just wasn’t ready for a relationship” and “Things were moving too quickly” and “You’re just too wonderful for me” – all of which did nothing but make me more depressed and angrier. I replied by calling him a coward and to be honest, we haven’t spoken much since.
I wouldn’t include him on a list of men I’ve loved or men who have meant the world to me. But he did have an everlasting effect and it is one that this journey is attempting to rid of. I’m sure this issue is rooted from more than Mr. Disappear – but in my book, he’s the one who intensified it.
I’m afraid of being left. Of being abandoned. Of letting myself love without boundaries, without hesitation, and with the fruit of hope – and then having this person I trusted with so much…just walk away. And even worse than breaking up with me is completely disappearing to the point where it feels like I don’t matter, like anything we shared, or anything that was special and unique…was really just an illusion. Just a dream that turned into a cruel nightmare.
Ever since Mr. Disappear, I’ve had this irrational (but maybe rational?) fear every time I start liking someone new that they will just get-up-and-leave. That for whatever reason – that I will become not “good enough” or things are will be “just not right” or “I’m not worth staying around for” – and then, any investment I made into the relationship would become obsolete. The men who followed Mr. Disappear did everything in their power to reassure me that they would stick around through the thick-and-the-thin, the good and the bad – but to no avail, I haven’t been fully comfortable with a man ever since. Even if Mr. Disappear wasn’t a man who I loved, he was a man who left – and as great as love feels, when someone decides to leave, it hurts to the same degree.
Going through this journey, I’ve discovered how many people, men and women alike, have this fear of abandonment and I believe it’s due to the fact that to be in love, to feel magic, to explore relationship-territory, you have to be vulnerable. You have to let yourself take a risk and you have to trust in the unknown. But just like a child learns not to touch a hot stove after they’ve felt the initial sting – once you’ve been burned once, you’re hesitant to extend your hand out again.
I’ve also realized that no man, no blog, no woman – can make taking that dive any smoother. I’m still going to hold my breath, bite my tongue, and take a while to let someone in. I’m still going to have an alarm that goes off in the back of my head that begs, “Well what if you never hear from him again?”
However, this step process to gain self-love has taught me something about listening to my rational side instead of my emotional one. And when that fear of being left enters my mind, I think: “Alright, Lindsay – so what if you never hear from him again? Would your world come to an end? Would you go home crying to your parents? Would you put your life on hold?”
And now, at my age and in my city, the answer to all of those questions is no. Because I’m no longer that 19-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to be loved by a guy who she was smitten over. I no longer make a man the center of my world. I no longer depend on a guy to bring me fulfillment and happiness. While I would be upset if certain dudes disappeared – I know myself better and I surely know what I deserve in terms of love, and thus, while I may crack, I won’t be broken.
Because no matter what – even with a ring, even with a title, even with saying those damned three little words we all desire – nothing is guaranteed. A person can always leave. But if you’re lucky, and if you’re smart – you know that regardless of who comes and goes, who breaks promises and who keeps them, at the end of the day, at the end of the path, there is always one person who will never leave you. And that’s yourself. So, if you can depend on that constant, on that relentless love, then you can go forward to the next partner, the next fling or even The One – and know that if they do decide to disappear, you’re still never alone.