“Tis not the amount of stress one copes with, but the grace with which one handles it, that is the measure of a persons strength.”

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I said that!

“Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom before you even know you’re falling.”

I said that too!

I’m wicked fucking smart sometimes, but it’s a crying shame that I’m terrible at following my own advice.

I need a t-shirt made up with “I’m a hypocrite” on the front and “No I’m not” on the back.

In the last year I’ve felt some stress. I’ve been ripped off and lied to, manipulated and used. I’ve been broke and scared and confused and felt horribly violated. I’ve also felt loved and creative and proud and hopeful– but those are completely irrelevant and much too happy feelings at this point in the story. It’s the throbbing muck and boiling gore that we’re wallowing in here today, not fluffy bunny tails and creme caramel niceties. Today we focus on…. the shit.

Yay.

Lately I’ve been feeling stressed. Over the past few months my life somehow evolved, despite many truly beautiful things happening to me, into a threatening, malevolent entity, fangs bared, hairy arms extended, flailing and reaching for my throat.

The daunting experience of moving to a strange city with no emotional backup and no circle of friends made me feel small and frightened. Limited finances and a seemingly enormous set of insurmountable barriers made my soul shrink and my bravery vanish. Everything seemed so damn big, except for me, who became tiny and useless.

As a consequence I became vulnerable. Actually that’s a complete understatement. As a consequence I became PATHETIC. My coping mechanisms shut down and I turned into a needy, codependent, emotionally autistic, simpering twit. I turned into these things because, for the first time in ages, I could. Why? Because I had someone there to pick up my slack.

I had a lover to help carry my weight.

I had a boyfriend with broad shoulders.

I had a man to fall back on.

Sherpa

I tried to turn my Love into my Sherpa.

Sir Edmund Hillary would be appalled. So would Tenzing Norgay.

Actually Tenzing might think it was kinky in a twisted Nepalese way.

But I digress. What is it about people that makes us lean on each other when we are more than capable of leaning on ourselves?

Laziness? Luxury? Madness?

Whatever it is, it’s got to stop. The people we love the most should never get the worst of us. The people who love us the most deserve the sweetest sides and most gentle touches.

Receiving love is not an excuse to get weak, but a reason to feel stronger.

Why does this shit always seem easier in retrospect? Is Apple going to design us an iCrystalBall soon?

Personally I feel that a therapist, tender and passionate sex, lots of forgiveness, patience, talking, time and space can conquer anything if the love is great enough and the desire shared. But that’s just me. Not many people are as stupidly romantic and emotionally autistic as I am. Some people are more practical.

Zoeinthesun

Me? Not so much.

I tend to think that practicalities can be taught and learned, but that love cannot. To me love is the foundation of everything, practicalities are just a layer to keep the soft stuff from oozing out and staining the sheets.

It turns out that, while my lover had broad enough shoulders, he didn’t have the inclination to use them, and the weight of my load caused him to leave me on the mountain to carry my own shit. It was a good call on his behalf. That much weight isn’t good for anyone, and it wasn’t his job to carry it. In the end I decided to leave it all at base camp and carry on climbing with nothing but some extra oxygen, a warm pair of socks and this fucking flag thing that I aim to stick in the ground when I get to the top.

Climbing is fun. This mountain is huge and daunting but I’m determined. It’s sad that I have to keep climbing alone, for now…

Chinamteverest

… because, man, this view deserves to be shared.


Like most people my trajectory through life has been filled with tests and lessons. If school prepared me for anything it certainly wasn’t a career, but an ability to recognize when I was about to be graded.

Returning to LA was a test on both my relationship and my ability to be loved and reciprocate love. I failed.

The first week was blissful and sweet. We met each others friends and took each other to our favorite places. We nuzzled and fondled and pulled the car over to the side of the road to have panic-stricken emergency sex on the side of Santa Monica Boulevard.

Cole’s catch-phrase during those days was an awed “So THIS is how it would be.”

Apparently Cole was a changed man. His friends were amazed at his open declarations of love. I just thought it was normal. We talked a lot about each others pasts and I kept no secrets. Cole did. Dark things had happened to him that he wasn’t ready to divulge. I didn’t push, but I did wonder.

At the end of the week, just before I was to return to Fiji, as planned, I got an email.

The email was from my clients, telling me they’d run out of money for the project and would I mind delaying my return? Cole was ecstatic. I was scared. I had no money, no work-visa and no idea what I would do. The idea of relying on Cole, even for a few short weeks, weighed on me. I started to withdraw.

My body tensed.

The monster awoke.

My emotional synapses went haywire.

It was a simple fact that procuring a visa for me to return to the US was going to be really difficult. I had lived there for too long without applying for a Green Card. In order to move back it would take time and money that I didn’t have, and was not prepared to borrow. I was convinced that if by allowing Cole to help me he would lose respect for me. That I would lose respect for myself.

I’d had a relationship for five years that had deteriorated because of similar issues and I wasn’t going to risk it. So I flatly refused any assistance. Now I know that there’s a middle ground, that it’s possible to accept a hand with grace and fortitude when it is offered with love and candor.

Sometimes you have to learn the hard way.

Cole hired me a car and gave me some money. I don’t even know if I was
gracious about accepting it. We started to talk about the future and
things took a turn for the worse.

At one point Cole offered the biggest gift of all. He proposed that we get married.

I turned him down.

I cry as I write this, not because I still feel regret, but because by writing it I’m tapping into something I’ve buried for a couple of years. There are moments in life when everything changes and we alight on different paths. It’s sad. Sad to know that I will NEVER know the outcome of that other path.

The truth is that I’d never wanted to get married before. Cole was the first person who stirred those feelings in me. I wanted to say yes with all of my being, but I didn’t, and I will never know the outcome of our lives if I had said one single word differently.

“Yes.”

Once the multitude of difficulties ahead were revealed I became embittered and angry. The hopelessness of depression returned. Cole would go to work each day and I would sit on the bed and stare at the walls, ‘knowing’ there was nothing that I could do to change my life.

Cole kept on saying those words “So THIS is how it would be.” But now his tone had changed. There was apprehension in it. Fear. I sensed change and it made me act even worse.

We fought.

I said cruel things.

I sabotaged everything because it seemed obvious that one day it would all disappear anyway.

Perhaps if we’d had good times for longer there might have been a bigger foundation for Cole to lean on when the times got rough. But we hadn’t. He had no idea if this bitch I had evolved into was the REAL Zoë, he had no comparison.

It must have been very confusing and disappointing for him.

I’m sure I hurt him.

I know I scared him away.

I was in LA for a month. Three weeks longer than planned. I finally flew back to Fiji amid a haze of tears and heartache. We both felt so much love and loss, but so much fear and ugliness.

I called and apologized as soon as I landed. The obstacles had been so big, so seemingly insurmountable, and had turned me into a creature even I didn’t recognize.

It was too late.

He pulled the plug.

He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t cope with that level of sad, mad and bad.

Who could blame him?

It was over.

And I never saw him again.

It’s been two years now and my desperate phone calls and emails to Cole petered out from daily to weekly, to monthly… the last time we spoke was a year ago.

He’s here, in LA, somewhere.

My visa was finally approved, after two years of waiting.

He might be living around the corner from me, for all I know.

That last time we spoke he’d just met someone and sounded happy. He wasn’t thrilled to hear from me. The letters and phone calls had scared him away even more.

I used to wonder if, had I just left him alone for a while, we might have been able to build a bridge between us, but I didn’t leave him alone, of course.

In the throws of a returned depression I had no focus, no calm.

I was a shrew, a beggar, a mess.

I had no dignity.

Yuk.

I always imagined that we’d run into each other some place, some time, but to this day it hasn’t happened. I figured that fate would play as much a hand in a reunion as it did in our first meeting. I always thought we might meet for a coffee and a chat, perhaps rekindle something. I’m here now, but I haven’t called. For two years I dreamed about him nightly, and cried often. I missed his friendship and the inspiration I drew from him. I wondered if seeing him would give me the closure I needed. I wondered if I was still in love him or just in love with the IDEA of him… for clearly he was not the man I needed or knew, just as I was not the woman he expected.

Time passed.

I decided to write this story, to share it, and as the words left my brain and fingers something miraculous happened.

I gave Cole away.

He’s yours now.

He was a beautiful moment and a wonderful dream.

He existed to show me that men were wonderful and pure, after a lifetime of lies and deception and abuse, he showed me there was love and magic. He just didn’t have the stamina to keep it going, and I can’t say I blame him one tiny iota.

The last time we spoke he told me that he thought our brief time together was just a fantasy, something that never could have sustained itself. Those words broke my heart more than losing him ever did, but I knew that I too was capable of convincing myself of certain things in order to be protected. To heal. In any case, we were clearly both now remembering different lives and speaking different languages.

I wrote him one last letter. I never expected a reply. He’d finally, after a year of being alone, met someone else and was smiling. It hadn’t been easy for him either.

I too had other lovers, I tried to love again. I felt some semblance of emotion for some of them, others were just physical interludes in a time of growth and mending.

I got better. I found my hope. I started writing and laughing and living.

I cannot find the last letter I wrote to Cole, in all its torn asunder splendor. I was going to post it here as one last gesture of open honesty and raw emotion. And clinging need. A farewell to a lost friend from a heart that has finally, through the power of writing, been able to move on. I must have discarded it in a fit of pique or mortification.

Still, there is goodness. I could not have been more honest in this telling, and I have been rewarded with a sense of peace and purity.

You have seen inside of me. I’ve turned myself inside out. For you. For me. It’s a beautiful, naked, tortured and complicated thing.

Sometimes we have to lose what is the most precious to us in order to evolve into the best that we can be. A sad fact, but ultimately a wonderful one- if the end result is peace and a better human being.

I had to lose something dear thing to me to become the best that I could be.

I’ve never been happier, yet I will never know what would have, could have, been.

This story ends here. There are no resolutions or reunions, no fated meetings or fairy tales. It just ends.

Life goes on.

FINI.

x


“I can’t remember what you look like,” I admitted to Cole one day. “I know I thought you were a bit on the yummy side, but let’s face it, I was drunk and slovenly and talking shit on a chaise to a total stranger.”

He paused.

“Check your email,” he said.

He’d sent me a photo of himself walking away from the camera. A tall body and the back of a messy head was all that was visible.

“You’re an asshole,” was all I could muster.

“Check it again.”

I checked.

“Yep, you’re funny.”

I examined the crime scene. Self portraits with spilled red paint can appear quite realistic and gory if you squint hard enough.

“Nice. You think you’re pretty smart, don’t you.”

The months passed. Two of them, to be exact. Weird things kept happening that hinted at a cosmic intervention working for us as a couple.

One night Cole went to a dinner party in LA and sat next to an old friend to whom he described the tall, mad Australian girl who was capturing his heart and mind from the other side of the world. His friend looked at him quizzically and interjected, “Oh. You must mean Zoë Brock. Where the hell is that wild horse of a woman these days, anyway?”

Soon I would be heading to Fiji, to begin work on a book project I’d been commissioned to research and write for, a project that fell by the wayside after many hapless adventures in paradise and a falling out with the contractor. In Fiji I’d be harder to contact, via email or phone.

“You know,” Cole stated one day. “All I need is a formal invitation and three days notice, and I’ll be anywhere you tell me to be.”

It was a scary proposal.

Do you meet your perfect person, only to have them be a lesser creature in reality than what you imagined? Or do you keep the status quo and let this cerebral love stay an indefinite, intangible, gossamer thing?

“Maybe,” he added. “We meet soon, or maybe we never meet at all? You decide. By the way, a magazine I never subscribed to just arrived INSIDE MY HOUSE, and the cover story is ‘Romantic Getaways For two In Fiji’, just so you know.”

A mystery? A sign?

Compelling, confusing stuff.

So I did what every sensible Australian girl in Melbourne does when confronted with a dilemma….

…. I flew to Sydney and got wasted.


“This is an insane story. You have to meet him.”

“I’m terrified.”

“Shut up. You have to invite him.”

“What if it’s horrible, Sar? What if he has a tiny little invisible penis?”

“Well… Considering he’s that tall it’s almost an impossibility. Granted, that would be a fucking disaster, but you’re never going to know unless you meet him.”

“Pass me the damn tequila.”

“Lemon? Here, salt. Tell me more.”

“I don’t know what else to tell. Tall, dark, and kinky as a twisted pipe-cleaner.”

“He sounds perfect.”

“Did I mention he works for an environmental cause?”

“You’re fucked then. This is it.”

“Oh god.”

“Invite him. Now. Here, tequila, laptop, email…. now.”

Blearily I typed.

Dear Mr —— Esq,

This is a formal invitation written on behalf of one Zoe Brock, by one Zoe Brock, to invite you to join her in Sydney, Australia at your earliest convenience, for fun, frivolity and other indoor sports, maybe, and to potentially accompany her to Fiji (unless homicide has been enacted upon either of the above parties, by either one of the above parties) within the allocated Australia-time.

Sincerely and with much trepidation,

Zoe Brock.

I pressed ’send’. The tequila repeated itself in my esophagus.

“Now you’ve done it.” Snickered my dearest friend. “He is SO going to have a tiny little cock.”

“Fucking hell.”

The airport was crowded and the throng made my head splinter.

“What sort of asshole gets a flight that arrives at 7 am anyway?”

I flushed, realizing I was muttering to myself, and tried to breathe without hyperventilating. The last three days had been a heady mixture of dread and anticipation, suspicious wishes and tentative hope.

From my perch on the railing that separated arriving travelers from the hordes awaiting them I had an ample view of the doors, but there had been no sight of him. It was past 8 so surely he must be through customs and baggage by now? I shifted, nervous, fraught with icky tension, and scanned the crowd of people waiting for someone special or new. I surveyed the crowd of lifted, expectant faces, the broad smiles and eager eyes and… oh, shit… there… on the outside of the crowd… watching me with a wicked glint and a rumpled demeanor… stood a tall, scruffy devil in a Gucci tuxedo.

He grinned.

I blushed a horrid shade of brilliant vermilion.

I smiled. Shy.

We stared at each other with quizzical joy.

“Hello,” I squeaked.

“Hello there.”

“Nice tuxedo.”

“Thanks. I thought you might not recognize me unless I wore it.”

“Did you change into it on the plane?”

“Nope,” he beamed with pride. “I checked in wearing this sucker and, let me tell you, I got some hella props from the brother behind the desk.”

There are moments in your life when you are overwhelmed with certainty. Of course I say this with the ugliness of retrospect and the knowledge that the love affair I’m describing didn’t have the strength, foundation, or capacity to survive the difficulties it encountered, but for a while there it was the most obvious thing in the cosmos. The world had thrown us together.

Those first few hours were an odd dream. We fitted. It was so easy and nice, so right and natural. We were dazed.

The hotel was perfect and the French bubbles cold. I can’t remember if we drank from glasses, or straight from the bottle, regardless, we didn’t need alcohol, we were already intoxicated.

We got naked. We screwed and giggled and played and talked and fucked and kissed and laughed and examined each other. It was beautiful.

Drunk on sex and love and duty-free booze I confessed my size-terror. He was amused. “That’s nothing,” he replied. “My friends have been telling me all along that you were probably a man.”

The next day was Cole’s birthday and we celebrated with feasts and wine and sneaky, public sex in a park as the afternoon wore into night. And the next day we flew to Fiji.

Paradise.

With an edge.

If I’d known how Fiji was going to impact on my spirit and sanity, and ultimately upon my new relationship, I might not have gone, but I didn’t know that and I boarded the plane with a hope-filled heart and head dizzy with love.

To be continued……