The last time I saw him in person was seven years ago. I was visiting my hometown, and he came to see me. He arrived to my parent’s house as he had always done, smirking with entitlement. We went for a drive around my neighborhood, visiting the old school, the parks and the coffee shops in the vicinity. We would then recount some childhood story of when we used to spend countless hours just trying to figure out what adulthood was all about. Was adulthood about work? Was it about marriage? Was it about doing whatever you wanted to do?
Since we met at the age of 11 there was a sense that we would be in each other’s lives for a long time. I cannot really explain it, I do not think he can either… but he would always end with letters with “even when far away, always together.”
After the drive we got off the car and he stepped in front of me, “You know that I will always be here for you, right?” I giggled, “I am serious. You will probably finish school and get married and stuff… but I am here.”
Life happened after that meeting. I went back to Canada, while he went off to Europe to go to school. We would touch base once or twice a year and as the years went by, the contact faded away.
Nonetheless, when my partner passed away, he reappeared in my life. In some ways, he knew me pretty well. He could sense my pain; he himself had lost a family member just a few months back and could relate. Thus, he kept in touch with my family in hopes of getting updates. He checked on me constantly, and we started talking again. I get the sense that he wanted to be there as a friend, perhaps more, and he thought that if he could, for a few moments, take away my pain the friendship would be transformed into something else. So, one day, he asked me to drop everything, and go with him to South America.
When I tell the story, people look at me as if there was something wrong with me. “Why didn’t you go?” they often ask… Many even tell me that this is one of the most romantic stories they have ever heard… that I should have just “risked” it… that I cannot hope for a better relationship than a man telling me to go away with him somewhere and leave everything behind.
What people do not get, is that I am broken. I could perhaps say that it is because of my partner’s passing, but I am sure I was broken even before then. When you have seen divorce and dysfunction, when you have been witness to violence and pain, and when you have been the subject of sexism and racism (among others) it is hard not to be.
But what happened to me, losing my partner, is the piece of the puzzle that made me realize how broken I was. Being broken in my world has meant intense pain, turmoil, anxiety, self-doubt, identity crises and, above all, endless fear. I have never been particularly adventurous. I like structure, rules, certainty, clarity, and I like the world, my world, to make sense. All that was disturbed when I lost my partner and it was amplified when I realized that brokenness can only be truly understood by people who can see it in themselves.
After saying no to such an invitation, and seeing his surprise after I declined to jump on a plane, I started questioning myself; can I ever be in another relationship again? Can broken people like me have happy relationships? What about healthy or/and functional relationships?
I have pondered that a lot since I started seeing someone who is perhaps just as broken as I am. In fact, that is exactly how we met and how we bonded. When I talk about having a relationship with someone, people tend to think that things are “fine” because, according to them, I have managed to “put myself together” and “move on.”
But, have I? Have we, individually? Will we?
Two years into the epiphany of my brokenness, I can say with a lot of certainty that one does not ever completely move on. There are always pieces here and there… remnants of pain, memories and intense fear…
There are days when I lie down beside him trying to make sense of the swarm of feelings in my head… Trying to figure out if I am in a better place… and if he is even in a place where I can be as well. There are others where society manages to make me question my own adequacy. I often see friends sharing articles about the “perfect partner” that read like grocery lists… other friends share pieces about “perfect relationships” that read like childish wish lists. And in these cases my immediate reaction is not to focus on my partner, but instead on myself… what do I, in all my brokenness, have to offer? What do I bring along aside from several years of baggage and at least two years of heartbreak? Can I really offer a piece of happiness?
Lately, I think a lot about my wants and desires going forward… I want to step forward and leave some of the things that trigger my pain behind. I would like to think that I am able to build a happy relationship… perhaps a long-term one, commitment, and all… But it is all in the context of my brokenness. It has nothing to do with self-pity. But it has everything to do with realistic expectations. I have little to offer to those who do not see their own brokenness, but I hope that my experiences, with everything that they entail, will foster more than just a “happy” and “functional” relationship… maybe in brokenness is the key to a spiritual one.