I could look at her face all day long. Sometimes I stare at her while she sleeps. Taking in every tiny detail.
The tiny lines at the corners of her eyes. The funny “dip” on the tip of her nose. The way the gray frames her face now. How she hasn’t got a single frown line in her brow.
Me? Well my face is now weather worn. Deep lines in my brow and forehead from years upon years of scowling. Scowling at people and scowling at life in general.
My body is riddled with scars. Tell tale signs from struggles that I’ve had to endure. The scar on my right bicep from when I was shot while in the Army. A perfect little “hole”. The large square scar on my left forearm that is almost unnoticeable now. I received it when I was younger.
The scars on my knee from surgery because I managed to tear this or that time and again playing softball or soldier.
The marks on my neck from standing too close to the welders as they secured the beams of this bridge or that.
And then there’s the gray hairs. Scattered throughout my head but most noticeable on my temples. Grays that I hide with the occasional trip to a stylist.
The sun damage from being outdoors, the unconscious way that I limp from fallen arches that I keep stuffed in work boots for too many hours.
Then there are the scars no one can see except Julie and I.
The way I tense up when she talks casually about is buying a house. They way I catch my breath when I notice her looking at rings. The subtle way I find ways to be close to her when I’d otherwise be content in my own space.
“I’ll cut that squash while you marinate the chicken.”
She tells me that my imperfections make me perfect to her. That I have less baggage than most who have endured the life I have.
I don’t see me in that light.
I’m aggressive and hard. I’m sarcastic and blunt. I’m struggling to be happy when inside I’m scared to allow this joy to take root.
My fears aren’t without merit. I’ve been hurt and abandoned. I’ve learned to only rely on myself and have become the rock that others lean on because of it.
Deep down inside, where no other person is allowed to venture, is this fear that cripples me. This fear that stops me dead in my tracks when I let my guard down long enough to feel overwhelming joy.
A picture in my mind.
Me. 41 years old. Standing in front of a selection of drinking glasses and silverware. Trying to decide what I need. Trying to wrap my head around the fact that I’m starting life over. Alone.
Trying to retrace my steps to discover where I strayed so far off path that I should be punished by losing my home and family.
A picture of me sitting at my office. Filling out a schedule that includes me working twice as many hours as usual so I don’t have to spend anymore time thinking about what is now behind me instead of looking at what’s ahead.
A thought. The thought that I will always be the person I am and that person had been told time and time again that she isn’t good enough for forever.
I love my Julie. Her beautiful smile, the way she will try to stifle a laugh by biting her bottom lip. The fact that life has never been so cruel to her that she is riddled with scars and lines across her face.
But, I always find myself wondering. Will she one day decide that I’m too hard to love? Will I settle into another life of happiness and peace only to come home one day and be told, “you need to leave.”
I’ve started over so many times that a part of me wonders if I could do it again if forced to. I’ve gotten so jaded that I wonder if living in my own world of self sufficient melancholy is better than temporary bliss.
This cancer scare woke up a lot of feelings inside me.
I remember once standing firm at my partners side when the world seemed to have turned it’s back on her. Giving her unconditional love and attention to help fill that void.
Then I remember being pushed away when the world decided she was worth being a part of it again.
How would I survive this type of betrayal again?
Rushing to Illinois. Putting my life and dreams on hold to care for and protect the love of my life. Then someday possibly finding that my devotion and attention was no longer desired?
I spent several hours last night talking to Julie about all this. All my fears and all of hers.
She too is afraid. What if I hadn’t been strong enough to stay if this had been cancer? What if I moved to a place where I had no friends, no family and only her and a job to look forward to. Would I grow to resent her? Would I loathe my new home?
These feelings, fears and demons still take up residence inside us both. They still try to guide and steer our decisions. They still try to make us remember that when everyone else left, they remained. Like a loyal friend.
I loved her when I was young. When I thought the world was at my feet and I was invincible. I thought the love I felt could easily be replaced. I was wrong.
Finding that she still holds my heart has made me even more afraid to lose her. Knowing that this is the type of love that I am only capable of sharing with her. No one else.
I don’t want to ever find myself without her by my side. But as hard as I try, I sometimes find myself wondering if I could survive losing her again even if the time we are together is perfect.
My Julie isn’t perfect. She too has doubts and fears. She assures me that this time we know what we have to lose so there will always be a way to fix what’s broken and mend what’s torn.
I love the fact that she is so sure that this time it’s forever. Because the knowledge that it might not be makes me so very afraid to give myself over to her completely..