“Chasing a light in a locked door
And I do want it, want it for a peace of mind”
– The Paper Kites, “Revelator Eyes”
Josh and I hiked up to where Lila Lake lay still, nestled in a valley between mountains. We set up camp, ate our food, and when it grew dark we walked into the valley until we found a soft patch of ground to lie down and stare at the sky. The moon peeked over a distant mountain, full of so much light you could almost feel it on your skin like sunlight. We were still, talking, enamored with peace. This high up, there was less in the air to hide the stars; they covered the dome of the sky from end to end, each one like a person wearing a headlamp, all wandering around in the dark looking for each other.
I do feel that way, like a little gleam lost in something vast. Lonely as it may seem. I am desperate to peer into the light of another person, and then to share it. And when a person comes along, another lonely gleam, and we share something, even briefly, it overwhelms me. I am speaking of all my relationships, but I’m mostly speaking of love. It’s when I share something with someone I hope to love, or do love, that I’m left wondering if it has always been so dark here.
So it may come as no surprise to you that I fell very quickly for someone I met over Tinder. Love’s sewage system. I haven’t been interested in anyone new for years, but a well-written profile coupled with some careful, sincere pictures sank my heart. We went on a date, and I was struck with hope. Here is someone beautiful, quiet, and reflective. I liked the way she looked at me. I liked looking at her. I liked listening to her.
It’s always too fast when I fall. I know this about myself, but that doesn’t take away the frustration of falling, hard, again and again. To stop it would be as simple as dismantling my imagination, saying “no” to the images of that excited first kiss, images of our dating life. It’s all too much too soon, but those ideas feel so pleasant and good. I’ll keep my imagination in check one second, and in the next find myself resting in an vision of what it would be like to hold hands and talk. You don’t need to tell me how unreasonable it is to be taken ahold of like that so soon. It’s never my intention or desire to be overcome—it hits me as naturally as falling asleep on the shore while the tide laps over. By the time I wake up, I am already underwater. It’s a moment we all would prefer to avoid; it’s a moment I find myself in often.
The first date was last week. We had planned to meet again the day after, but when I offered a time and place, I got no response. So we agreed to meet on Monday, but again, she didn’t respond to any of my texts the day of. I’ve sent too many. The time our date would have happened came and went with no word from her, and I did what no one should ever do—I sent a Facebook message, a lengthy one, saying what I saw in her, what I saw in myself, expressing regret, and hoping she might still want a second date. I shouldn’t have sent it, but I was hopeful and embarrassed. I had sent the message as a way to smooth out the mistakes I had already made, but the tide quickly turned. Soon I was staring disgustedly at the computer screen. What have I done?
There is a command that I disregard very intentionally, which is “guard your heart.” I just don’t believe the fear of heartbrokenness to be a virtue. Honesty on the other hand, very plain, has a grip deep within me. Maybe it’s to my detriment to let others see me nakedly so soon, but it comes from a stubbornness I can’t shake. We are all going to die much sooner than we’d like, and I do not want to die dressed up in something fine. I want to die as bare as the honesty that grips me. More importantly, I want to live that way. There are so many people hiding as they wander in the dark. If I show them something of myself, maybe it will be less lonely. Maybe someone will wander over. Maybe you will.
So even with my Tinder date, it was all there: my earthy humor, my faith, my doubt, my friends, my family, my boldness, my shyness, my shame, my pained insecurity, my fear that you will see all of this and not love it—you, my Tinder date. You, my family. You, my reader. I’m as proud of my honesty as I am afraid of it. After all, it does often leave me naked beneath the waves. I’m growing so used to finding myself there; I expect it now, struggling for breath. At least now I know to look forward to that moment when my face finally breaks through the surface, even just to blink the salt from eyes.
So imagine being on the receiving end of all that honesty very soon upon meeting me. It isn’t a suave, dreamy, or calculated encounter. My loneliness is evident from the start, and I reveal it without hesitation, wishing adamantly it wasn’t there to begin with. And there is always, always that lingering thought: is this the end of my loneliness? There is always that hope. Someday, I know, someone will want to peer in.
I have a terrible fear that my understanding of myself is wrong, that I am pathetic. It’s a thought that never crosses my mind until I show someone my heart, once more, and they turn away. It’s the old pattern of my life—it’s been there since childhood. I am alone, still.
I’m sorry, she is still in my thoughts. Everyone who has turned away from me is, and I regard each of them with a heartbroken fondness. They are there each night when I look at the sky, they are there each night when I blink the salt from my eyes, they are there each night when I pray for strength, regarding the weakness of my heart and pleading for God to fill it. Something is hurt inside me, some gleam, lost in a sky with billions of others, and I am searching so desperately for it. It’s lonely now, but it won’t always be.