The last time I went ¨home¨ to California was in December. Winter in my hometown felt like fall in Paris, was no where near as cold as I remembered it. It was the day after Christmas and I was eager to see my family and my friends. Of all the things I have missed as an ex-pat, people are what I missed the most. You certainly fell into the category. I was impelled to take the long flight home with you at the top of my visit list. I had to see you; it had been so long.
I was afraid before boarding the plane that I would somehow be different, unrecognizable to everyone back home. The changes were not merely physical, but invisible, hidden inside my being. I was hesitant, afraid I wouldn't know you anymore, but when you showed up on my doorstep and crossed the threshold into my family's house and smiled at me, a full body smile evidenced by your posture, I recognized the you I'd known forever: the you I'd known as a child, as a teenager, in college. The you I knew I'd always loved and loved still. You disarmed me right then and there
When I answered the door, I felt as if I'd stepped out of Wonderland, out from behind the looking glass. You saw me and through me simultaneously, the transparent remainders of the pre-France Lindsay you had known mingled with this new Lindsay. You hugged me and I felt safe in a way few people make me feel safe, but I could not deny that you were and are an emotionally loaded gun for me, with your hand on the trigger and the muzzle pointed at my heart. You cocked the weapon silently when you entered my home, threatening to tear through me with your bullets at any moment.
The illusion, though, of thinking that I knew you still, was lovely. A beautiful drug, it is, the ability to deceive oneself. I should know. I did it for you for seven years. That night when you sat on my couch and talked to my mom and my stepdad and my brother, it was like I was seventeen all over again and wanting you to see what I was so convinced of: that we were it for one another, that we could work in the way I wanted to. I felt it so instinctually in my gut that I forced the illusion on myself until it became my reality. This is the power of an artist, to create stories where there are none and see patterns that don't exist, to create a fiction. My fiction was this: all I had to do was wait until you outgrew yourself and figured the puzzle out on your own while I stood right in front of you with the patience of a saint.
One day I gave up hope that you would unpuzzle it all. I forced you down to the place you always told me you wanted to be in my life: friends. But damn the doorway, because when you came to see me that night in December, I saw the shift in your eyes and the smile on your lips and knew I was living a lie. I'd flown 6000 miles and come 9 hours of time difference to have it confirmed in my foyer.
On the cusp of a new year, things got complicated. We were both tipsy and drunk men say what sober men think. I managed to hold my tongue. You did not. You asked to speak to me, alone. And you did. And you told me exactly everything I'd been wanting to hear. Spell broken. Puzzle undone. You'd woken up, or so I thought. You'd seen what I'd seen. You told me you wanted us to be more, that I was everything you'd ever wanted. Said you'd known all along what you were doing but had been too scared to ever admit anything. I had always forgiven you because I thought you were ignorant of your own actions, ignorant as ignorant can be and unaware as the only the best of fools can be. This was the first bullet sliding through my chest at 900 feet per second. I resisted the urge to cry in front of you. I let it lie in silence, tried to play it nonchalant. My heart ran figuratively bloody around my feet.
You still took me aback. I waited for you to run and retreat. I didn't say anything. You pursued, gun to my heart. You told me the next day you meant every word, when I tried to slip out cleanly and like nothing had happened. I told you we needed to talk. You were my emotional assassin.
My best friend told me I was going to break your heart. I truly believed her. I believed that this time, I was the one with the power in her hands, the power to inflict upon you every thing you'd ever put me through. I didn't want that for you. I didn't know what I wanted, to be honest, at least not right away. But I didn't want to hurt you.
Then you put me through the ringer again.
I returned to France. You could not decide. You wavered again. You did not know if you wanted me. I thought you'd seen with clarity, had finally seen what I'd seen in the looking glass. You couldn't decide, so I decided for us, because I finally realized after all this time that I had let you treat me the way you had. I had spun the illusion and made myself believe my own fiction. That could not excuse your behavior and still doesn't. I figured I could forgive you, though I would need time. Bullet number two to the heart, but I was still breathing.
Then you had to go and commit. To her. To a stranger I will never meet and do not ever want to meet. I had to find out in that way too? Bullets three and four in rapid succession, through the ribs and out the back, slicing through me as if I were a paper doll and my heart were nothing but flimsy canvas. The you I trusted, the you I thought was you, the you I thought existed....vanished. Every bit of you I thought I knew became my own lie. I had constructed you, you were my greatest fiction yet. I had made you so real I believed in the character I'd made of you. I'd managed to fool myself.
On nights like these, seventeen year old me lives in the depths of the many layers that, like thin flakes of filo dough, band together to form the person I am now. Seventeen year old me is innocent and just wants to love you. She is too naive to know any better, and her benevolence make her forgive you. She holds on to you for nearly a decade and never gives up hope on you, her one flaw is that she trusts too easily and is far too loyal to you because she believes in who she thinks you are. That character she thinks you are is a lie.
But what is not a lie is that you wrenched her through seven years of indecision and did not care to put her out of her misery. So she did what only she could: she took the gun you held to her heart and turned it on you. She cut you out of her life. She was pained to pull the trigger, but knew she had to do it: it was her or you, and for once she needed to be selfish.
The bullets are gone and my heart has stopped bleeding. But the scars are still there, and my fear is palpably real. I do not want to craft fictions in my head anymore about anyone else. I am scared I will wish something into existence so badly that my artist heart will craft a fiction that it will believe, make someone into something they are not because that is how I perceive them. You have made it difficult for me to trust my own instincts and gut feeling from this day forward. Perhaps this is why I am so afraid right now. I know what it's like to take a bullet to the heart.