“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I remember the first time my mother told me this. I think it was when I was in tenth grade and had got broken up with for the very first time. My heart literally hurt for weeks. It was awful. At that time I believed my mother’s cliché because it was much better than the alternative. The alternative being that distance doesn’t make the heart grow fonder, that it just makes it forget. Eight years later I see that she lied. And I appreciate the lie. I appreciate it because I was much too young for the harsh reality. I appreciate the lie because the alternative means that the thing that I advocate most in relationships doesn’t really work. The alternative: love fades as distance grows.
I love long distance relationships. Correction: I loved long distance relationships. I believed in them the way children believe in Santa. I was aware of the challenges but confident the benefits far outweighed them. I saw it as an avenue that surprisingly strengthened relationships. It allowed couples creativity in keeping that spark ,which was losing its luminosity, alive. It switched things up. It added mystery, when both parties had become complacent. They were forced to actually, really, get to know each other. There was only conversation to fill the distance. No longer was physical presence a distraction. Instead of hugs, kisses, and sex there was an added element of innocence to their reintroduction. They were like children, finding out what his favorite color is and what she wants to be when she grows up. And when they were reunited both stupefied that this distance, in fact, brought them closer.
And then I grew up and I understood that there was no man coming down my chimney and that as soon as me and the person I care for part, it’s positively the beginning of the end. I was rudely awakened that unless I am in his face he will have selective memory, unable to remember who we were together, how good we were. But maybe I’m just forgettable because two attempts and two failures tell me so. And I would be alright with that. I would understand that there is something wrong with me or maybe even the men I choose. I could still believe in the distance, still find solace in it. I wish absence just didn’t make his heart grow fonder. I could accept that.
I want to believe in it so bad. I want to believe in it the way Southerners believe in God. I want to believe because even if marriages fall apart, and people die, and the world is corrupt there’s still hope in this basic level of goodness. The world can still offer this. There’s still hope in this basic level of dedication. There’s still hope that even in a generation where we are indulgent and accustom to luxury we will still go through hardship because the person we care about is worth it. We fight for the people we care about. I want to believe in distance because then I can believe in love.
And now I am hopeless. Now I don’t believe. Not because of my failed attempts. I mean, I pick complicated damaged men so I can’t really expect much. I am hopeless because she deserved so much more. My friend picked the right guy, grounded, upright, nice, political, intelligent, capable of love, and three weeks ago she tells me that yet again another long distance relationship has failed. The saga continues. It happens this way every time, just as I have completely lost faith in the distance I had formerly prayed to, a friend starts their own journey through it. I silently call them a fool to try. I wait for the inevitable day when they tell me it’s over. Weeks go by, then months. The relationship is still in tack. The relationship, stronger than ever? I stand corrected. I get a continuous stream of stories on travels across state lines. I listen and live vicariously through their glow. As my faith is building, however, their relationship is secretly waning.
This is a tragedy that is occurring every day. The tragedy? Couples are allowing something as flexible an inconsistent as distance and space dictate their hearts. Presence is only a figment of our imaginations. Instead of blaming the distance maybe we should become more imaginative. I cannot comprehend allowing someone that the universe has given me go because it becomes inconvenient. I cannot want someone in my life that cannot battle distance to have me in his. I want to go through distance with a man because then I know he loves me even when it’s inconvenient. And that’s the kind of man that I will love forever, a man strong enough to love me inconveniently. I am honored to go through this with him because there are so few men that resonate the joy in my spirit that makes distance a gift.
But for now, I guess I will just ebb and flow with everyone else. I will believe what they tell me. It doesn’t work. And when my friend, one of the best women I know tells me that she is going to move to Toronto Canada because that’s where her love is I instinctually want to tell her not to. I want to tell her that she is gorgeous and amazing and that the distance should only make them stronger and if not he isn’t the one. I don’t tell her that though. I’ve lost faith, so instead I ask when she’s leaving.
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5 years ago