A Little About Love

I just saw Flight, and the entire time I was thinking about my relationship with Ilana.

I can’t believe I still tread that ground. It’s shocking to me, really. It shouldn’t be like this. I really wish it wasn’t like this. I want so badly to be able to move on elegantly, to carry myself with dignity, to face the future boldly. But I’m still trapped in those moments, those decisions, and I can’t seem to escape. Why?

I remember different things on different days. Some days I focus more on her, other days more on me. Some days I give more weight to situational factors, or to her personal issues, or to mine. I often wonder how much of the relationship that I remember ever actually happened. It’s been so long now, and I’ve thought about it so much, that I’m pretty sure most of the real memories of the relationship have been replaced with my various dramatizations. It’s doubly unfortunate, because it just means that the relationship has taken on an artificial gravitas that was never actually present, and I’ve developed the character of “Ilana” far beyond the girl I actually new. (Perhaps this is in part because she never really spoke to me after we broke up–I didn’t have any real interactions to sate me, so I had to have them all in my head).

I must sound ridiculous. I absolutely cannot believe a girl is having this effect on me. I’m embarrassed for myself for acting this way, for thinking these thoughts, when every indication (except for the ones I make up in my head) point to her never really thinking about me at all. It doesn’t really even seem like the relationship we had was particularly meaningful for her, which drives me even crazier.

Still here, Daniel? Two years later, almost? You were with this girl for what, four months and change? And let’s cross out the last three weeks, when you watched the relationship unravel in front of your eyes, and did nothing. Why are you here? What do you think will happen?

I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t want to be. And I don’t think anything will happen. I’m a prisoner inside my own head.

Let’s slow down for a second. And let’s not be so hard on ourselves. Care to theorize why this girl might still be on your mind?

Sure. I think what it is is that with this girl, I felt the beginnings of an intimacy and a dynamic that could transcend college and our immediate environment. I started to feel feelings that were starting to drive me to commit more to this girl, and to gladly pass up experiences that–up until then–I had thought were very important. I felt as if I had accidentally wound up near the finish line, the winner of a race I hadn’t even been really running. In the imaginary relationship that now exists in my head, I could’ve married that girl. I remember not thinking that at the time, however. And I still think that’s a bigger claim than I’ll ever really be able to really justify–most likely that wouldn’t have happened, no matter what I had done. And between the distorted memories and the endless dramatizations, I’ll never really know what it was that we were feeling, all those days ago.

I think she’s still haunting me because, for a few moments, I came into contact with the rest of my life, and it felt beautiful. And I think she’s still haunting me because I haven’t felt that since. All of the girls I’ve dated since, wonderful in their own ways, didn’t have the potential that Ilana did.

I get angry about half the time when I think about the breakup. It’s usually because those days I focus on the context, and on her, and it’s easy for me to assign responsibility to everyone else–for not being a good enough friend to me, for not being in my corner, for betraying me, for hitting on her (oh that guy, he deserves his own post), for being stupid, shallow, selfish. For being immature, careless. It’s easy for me, in my more self-pitying moments, to rotate slowly in a circle shouting “fucker,” “fucker,” “fucker,” to everyone involved. But I know–rationally, if not emotionally–that this is absolutely the wrong way to think. No one did this to me, I did this entirely to myself.

I think this is why Flight triggered all this today. It’s about a pilot, an alcoholic, who continuously sabotages himself and undermines his life with his excesses. I’m not an alcoholic, and I think I have my shit pretty well together as far as it goes. But I do have my excesses and my shortcomings, and not a week goes by where I don’t think about how I sabotaged that relationship, completely oblivious to what I was doing.

That poor girl. I think that she really did love me, or something like it. Of course, she was as much a part of the relationship as I was, and I would be doing her a disservice by taking away her agency by treating only my actions as instrumental. Her actions and inactions led to our breakup as much as mine. My actions responded to hers, and hers to mine. Yet, I see where I went wrong. Ilana–carefully–let me in to the chambers of her heart, and I savaged it. I had no idea–I thought I was being really great, really sensitive. I was very stupid. I caused her a lot of pain–I’ll never know for certain how much–and eventually she had had enough. I can’t really blame her in the end. I would’ve broken up with me.

It’s incredibly hard for me, not having any kind of relationship with her. I so badly want to know what she’s up to, what she’s thinking about, how she feels about things. I want to be a part of her life so badly. But she doesn’t show me anything, anymore. Since the day we broke up, her face has been silent to me. Nothing. She answers my invitations, and we had a few hesitant conversations over the months and years that followed, but she never showed me anything real of herself. She never shared real feelings with me. She answered all my questions, but never asked me any. It’s the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced, this distance.

I can’t figure out how to move on. I know I need to, I really do. I can fantasize about us together as much as I want, but the rational parts me are fairly certain that she’s wiped me from her mind. I just can’t figure out how. I’ve tried being with other girls, and I’ve tried being alone. I’ve tried working more, and I’ve tried working less. I even left the goddamn country. I’m still treading that same ground. It’s just as hard.

It’s very hard for me to talk about this. Very few of my relationships are equipped to handle it. Richard understands better than most, and is sympathetic, but I don’t think he can help me more than he has. I’ve thought about writing Shane and asking his opinion–I’m curious what I would get–but I’m afraid he would blab and/or not answer me honestly. Or maybe I’m afraid that he would. I probably won’t write him, so I’ll just stay here with my thoughts.

I think I might understand why I’m still here. It’s because I’m secretly afraid I’ll never find those feelings, or that relationship again. I’m afraid it was a once in a lifetime connection that I had and squandered. She had so much beauty–mental, emotional, physical. She was passionate and laid back, sweet and tough, sensitive and wild (in her modest way). Her feet were firm on the ground, and she saw things very clearly. I love her so much. It took us breaking up and endless personal torment to realize it, but I do.

I’m afraid I’ll never find that again, and I’ll end up with an ambitious and pretty girl without the depth, a girl attracted to me because of my status and what I represent, but not because of who I am. I’m terrified of ending up with the wrong woman, being the “stable guy” that some girl manages to catch after she gets tired of her youth and gets worried about her future stability and comfort. Or a woman without the sensitivity, the emotional depth–call me traditional, but I don’t necessarily want both of us to be working. I want a positive end of the magnet to my negative. (As an aside, I could potentially be a stay-at-home dad if my wife had a more important career than I did–I’m not saying that the woman needs to be more domestic, just that I’d like someone to be). How can I avoid such a fate? I’m worried that the world I’m entering will have many of those women. Or I end up with a woman who has the right emotional framework, but lacks the drive and social acuity to be my partner. Someone whose company I enjoy, but who isn’t up to the task. I’m worried about that also.

Given that I can’t see the future, I have no idea what is in store. It’s possible that Ilana was one of a kind, and that I blew my one shot, and that I’ll have to settle for whoever comes along. I pray that’s not the case, but I have to acknowledge it might be. It’s possible that I’ll find someone like Ilana, but better. This time I’ll be better. It’s also possible I’ll find someone completely unlike Ilana, but who I like even more, and revise my future life expectations to fit, and be fine with that. It’s also possible that Ilana and I end up back together. I had an amusing vision during the film of a friend setting me up on a blind date in New York, only to see Ilana walk into the restaurant. Imagining that made me really happy. But I’m not counting on it.

I guess Ilana has come to represent a period in my life where I felt surrounded by love and community, and I’ve come to associate those feelings with her, and the breakup with the disappearance of those feelings. I think that’s actually a very likely interpretation of what happened. I don’t know what the future has in store, but I can’t see how running my brain day in and out thinking about this girl is going to serve me. It’s not. I need to stop. Maybe writing this post will help. We’ll see…

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