His vulnerability made it easy to love him; he expressed his needs and desires, talked about his feelings. Not long after I met him, I saw him cry. I also saw him explode with laughter. His moods led him to bring me flowers, to drink heavily, and to take on the cloak of a chameleon. The more his social circle shifted, the more I saw him change his personality. He was usually fun to be around, but he would dip into different inks of dark humor.
A new friend would enter his life, and suddenly he would be wearing different clothes, going to different bars, listening to different music, changing the length of his hair. Yes, we were in our 20s, and yes, we both said and did things that we would later regret, but he seemed less formed than me; he was less stable, less real, less reliable. He wanted stability so badly that he ran around trying to find it, looking everywhere, not realizing that he just needed to stop moving, only needed to relax and let me love him.
When he started doing coke, staying out until sunrise, wearing bracelets that other girls had given him, throwing around names of people that I had never met, leaving me at home with a feeling that I was not enough for him, I shut down. I stopped understanding how to love him. When he was sober and had moments where he longed to connect with me, he would come to me and show himself, be vulnerable. Each time, the effect was less potent; the pattern emerged, and I didn’t want to experience the inevitable loss, the inevitable abandonment.
During one of his moods, he told me that I was not an artist, that I was a critic. That my energy was not geared toward creation, that my energy was focused on destruction, on tearing things apart. He was being defensive about his creativity, but I think he saw something that I had never understood about myself. He saw my rigid definition, my black and white mentality, my fear of unity, my need to separate myself. Because the closer I got to another person, the more likely we would merge, and I would be swallowed up, trapped inside them with no control, no ability to leave when I was no longer noticed, my opinion no longer considered.
To prevent myself from unwittingly merging with another person, I observed them and noticed their differences from me, how they were better at some things and worse at some things. Where they failed, I told myself, Remember this failure, remember not to let yourself submit to this person; they can’t be trusted to act for both of us. What’s interesting about him is that he can merge quickly, but he’s also not afraid to rip himself away. Fast in, fast out. Easy come, easy go. Except it’s not easy. His suffering was apparent, but he was easily distracted, easily amused.
For a while, I wondered if he had been right, that I’m not an artist. I never questioned my creativity. To me, creation is not about unity, as it was for him, my chameleon ex. Creation is originality. And there’s no doubt in my mind that I am original, that I express my uniqueness and that there’s nothing more important to me than honoring my originality.
When he told me that I was not an artist, it hurt me, and it made me realize that I wanted to be one. I had never identified with the word before. I had never dared to consider that I could be viewed as an artist. After all, I did not make art. As a teen, I played with watercolor and pastels and a little bit of oil. I wrote poems, somber poems.
It’s challenging to be watched while you’re trying to form yourself. The reason it was easy to blame my chameleon ex for the destruction of our relationship is that I had trouble understanding my involvement. To me, he was the performer, the actor, the one flailing about looking for love. I was the one sitting there, watching him, wondering why everything had to be so complicated. The reason I was not enough for him was that I was mostly inside myself. I was physically there, but I was mentally narrating the scene in front of me like his life was a movie, and I felt obligated to finish the story. If I walked away, I might wonder what happened to him. I might miss him.
As badly as my chameleon ex wanted to be a musician, he didn’t have the discipline to practice, to hunker down and learn guitar at a level that matched his lyrics, his vocals. I started to wonder if he was more interested in the rocker lifestyle than he was in making music. We stopped having sex, and he said he felt like we were roommates. We stopped having sex because he was always out drinking and doing drugs, and he became a lousy lover.
When we first started dating, he said he felt comfortable around me, that he could be himself. Many people have told me this — that I make them feel comfortable, that I make them feel calm. What’s strange is that no one has ever made me feel comfortable. I’m relieved when I’m alone, invisible. When I’m uncomfortable, I feel alive. Other people make me feel alive because they give me something to reflect, something to hold on to, something to reject, something to evaluate, something to decide.
There’s something masculine about the sensibility of my chameleon ex. Seeing creation as unity, it’s as if he was the archetypal Adam. In search of a missing rib, the piece that will make him whole. I am Eve, separate and defined. I walked away, talked to the snake, discovered the good and the evil, the black and the white. My body can give birth to new life, to undeniable creation.
My love for him never stopped. I don’t think love can be lost once it’s found. Our love slips along in the ether, shared memories traveling across space and time. I wasn’t enough for him. It hurt to be abandoned. Relationships are great teachers. Meeting him, spending time with him, bonding with him, fighting with him, detaching from him, I realized that I needed to be alone for a while.
With no one to blame but myself, I would finally be given a chance to make mistakes, to see my effect on the world. The ideas about who I thought I was could start to manifest, could be tested, could fail. It turned out, I was smarter and more capable than I suspected, but I was also less formed, less skillful.
We reunited a few times, had great sex, shared a lot of laughter, but we always ended up fighting; he was jealous and easily bored, I was eager to be alone again. I’m drawn to people with restless energy because I often feel stuck, trapped, stagnant. I’m drawn to them, and then I’m repulsed by them when that restless energy never ceases. Although other people make me feel alive, it’s the moments of deep reflection and contemplation that make me feel like myself.