Tuesday, July 3, 2018
The summer of 30 has felt very adolescent in some ways. Often in the year and a half since I moved to Alaska and achieved independence, I've experienced a sensation of discovering certain things about myself for the first time. I enjoy living alone, for instance, something I never would have anticipated before. I have a sense of derring-do, of adventure, of persistent personal and professional restlessness, that likewise has proven surprising. In piloting the ship of my own life, I've found an unexpected person at the helm.
If that feeling is true in Alaska, it's doubly so out of it, when I have the time and the money and the freedom to go wherever my inclinations direct me. The removal of prior limitations has been a revelation. It's also stripped away the reasons I had for foregoing so many experiences: travel, vacation, leisure, dating. There's nothing in the way now, and so I've started taking scary steps that, in another life, I would have first taken long ago.
Gavril happened basically by accident. I was online late one cold Alaska night, trolling through OKCupid matches, and there he was. And then I sent him a message, and he sent me one back, and there he was. This sweet, kind, considerate, funny person who'd somehow entered my life. Gavril thrilled me from a distance, because he seemed like he could be all the things I'd been hoping for so long. A confidant. A lover. A friend. Gavril scared me in person, because the beautiful hypotheticals his online profile embodied suddenly became real, suddenly actual qualities of an actual person standing in front of me and offering himself.
It was, by necessity, months of online talking before we finally met face to face. When that day finally came, on a cool summer evening a few hundred miles north of the City of Fate, the worries we'd both had about compatibility drifted away. We talked, easily, and for hours. Our interests and temperaments coincided to an almost bizarre degree. His personality was sweet and playful. I'd never met anyone who made me feel so at ease.
The first time he tried to kiss me I cried and pulled away, welling fear and panic seizing me in a way I didn't understand.
"It's okay," he said. "We don't have to."
And then we did, anyway, when I made myself even though I didn't want to.
We talked and we talked, for days we talked, until one morning we were on my bed and I pushed down my fear enough to just let in some pleasure. Afterward I cried again, this time out of happiness, because I'd never thought I could let anyone in that close.
"Thank you," I whispered, and then I kissed him because I wanted to.
But when it was all done and we went our separate ways, vowing to see each other again before summer's end, I was apathetic.
"What do you feel?" a friend asked me. I was sitting in her living room outside of Snowstorm City, days later, and didn't know how to make sense of any of it.
"Nothing," I said. "I feel nothing."
Which is not true, by the way. But in these curious moments I don't know what my emotions are, don't know how to let anything through. And in those moments, there is nothing.
"People talk about those fireworks," I told her. "I don't know if I don't feel that for him or if I just can't feel that at all. For anybody."
"Usually if you feel numb, it's your defense mechanisms kicking in," she said. "Normally you feel something for someone else, good or bad. But if it's nothing, that might mean there's an issue you need to do some work on figuring out."
Right now, Gavril and I know that we enjoy each other's company. Right now, we know we can talk to one another about pretty much anything. Right now, we're letting that be enough.
"It's like home base in baseball," I told him today. After I explained, he agreed.
It doesn't feel right to tie him to someone who's 4,000 miles away, to someone who still has so much to decipher about himself. The idea of Gavril foregoing companionship, fun, physical pleasure, to honor something incomplete and distant, a half-partner over a computer screen, strikes me as deeply wrong. But I still feel connected to him and want him to be a part of my life. He still feels for me and wants me to be a part of his. So he and I aren't boyfriends. I don't expect him to touch or talk to no one else. He doesn't expect that of me. But we're each other's home base. We're the point we both come back to.
Over time, we'll figure out what that means.
Of late, too, I've been confronting what I want in the long term generally. I've known for a while that rural Alaska can't be my life. I've also known for a while that I've never really seen myself remaining a high school teacher for the rest of my career. I mean, thirty years, all as one thing? No changing? No challenges, save those within a single profession? It brings me back to that question that's been ever present this last year and a half: What's the next step? What's the next step?
Only this week a prospective next step has made a big impression, occupying so much mental space that I realize it's been in my heart for a long while. But too many things are still up in the air, so that's something to share another time.
There's a glorious chaos to life sometimes. To my life, at least. I'm discovering a freedom of choices, a freedom of movement, that's frightening but intoxicating as well. I can go anywhere. I can do so much.
When I was in eighth grade I said something whose import I didn't realize until many years later.
"Sometimes I wish I could live a really long time," I told my science teacher, me all of fourteen. We'd been discussing advances in knowledge, and it made me wistful. "There's just so much to see and do. I hate to think of missing it."
Maybe that's me now. Trying to live multiple lives in one. Trying not to miss it.