I had a dream about him the other night. His strong arms were wrapped around me. I ran my hand along his smooth muscles. They rippled under my hand as my heart rippled in my chest. Our bodies molded together, I melted beneath the comfort of his arms.
But, that is all I remember. All the dream consisted of. No elaborate fantasies being played out by my subconscious. No fictitious scenarios of life together as dreams had tortured me with so many times in the past. There wasn’t even a face to the man in my dream.
Was it even him? Or had my mind simply filled in the missing pieces?
I didn’t sweat it much. Boiled it down to a stress dream. Surely that was all it amounted to. Stress. That was all life amounted to. At least my life… lately.
I felt broken, and I felt ridiculous for feeling broken. I had made it happen. I had pulled it off. For the most part. So why did I feel like I had failed so miserably? Why did I feel so broken?
I know that Christmas just sucks for some people. I have never been one of those people. Sure, I’ve never been crazy about Christmas. I’m much more of a summer holidays kind of person. But Christmas, it had it’s own beauty to it.
The warmth of the lights blanketing the living room. The glittery tinsel that weaves it’s way into your carpets for the rest of the year. Watching your friends and family open the gifts that you spent hours pouring over exactly what they would want, that you could afford. The gingerbread house making and cookie baking with the kids. Christmas was just a magical holiday, and I loved being a part of creating that magic for others.
There were no cookies this year. No gingerbread houses. No decorating stockings. No hours of scrubbing glitter glue off of my dining room table.
I spent every waking hour for days on end selling clothes online. I spent hours on Christmas eve scouring through the toy shelves of every thrift shop store in the area searching for anything that would constitute as a gift to place under the tree for my two children and three step-grandchildren.
A few days before Christmas I found a pre-lit tree at Goodwill. Thankfully, the 50% off holiday sales made it affordable. For a moment, I felt good. We had a tree! Then I poured over presents, and although there were very few, Santa had came for the kids. I had even managed to get some great finds for the gift exchange at Moms.
So why was I feeling so broken? Why, when it was all over, did I feel like I had failed? Was it the lack of sleep? The pure exhaustion from spending every waking moment making “it” happen? Or was it that I had truly failed?
Santa had left old pictures on the sd card that was in my son’s pre-loved Nintendo DS. Santa also left price tags on the severely clearanced games that were included in the box. As well as a parental lock that, of course, I had to wait until the day after Christmas to call up Santa to unlock the system. It wasn’t the Nintendo DS XL that he had asked for, and it wasn’t even the old Nintendo DS that Santa tried to pass off.
But, with lots of “explaining” even that one was pulled off, and I smiled as the magic of Christmas sparkled in my sons eyes.
Everything had come together. I had made it happen. I had pulled “it” off. I even had a meet set up for the next day that would give me the gas money to get to Moms for her Christmas. It had all came together.
Then, my meet never showed… and, I broke.
Until then I had held it all together. Sure, it wasn’t even nearly the best Christmas ever, but it was good enough. I knew I was so blessed. I had so much more than so many others, and I knew it. I knew that it wasn’t the presents under the tree, or the missing stockings, or the skipped cookie decorating. I watched five little kids swimming in shredded wrapping paper all over the living room floor, and I knew, that I had it pretty damn good.
Then I had to call Mom and tell her I couldn’t be there. I had to call my sister and tell her I would bring my part of the gift exchange to her kids as soon as I could. I had to realize, that I didn’t quite pull it all off.
Maybe if I had done what Mom said I would have been there. Maybe if I had planned better. Sure, we had no dish soap, shampoo, conditioner, and barely a hint of toilet paper left. Sure, our tobacco supply was so bleak it was bordering on being a default News Years resolution to quit smoking. Sure, I had put everything on the back burner to ensure that this magical holiday existed. But, if I had “planned better” I would have made it to Moms Christmas too.
I’d like to say that Moms words were what had broken me. But, they weren’t. I was broken the moment my meet didn’t show. The moment I knew that the day after Christmas no one was buying anything offline. The moment I knew my loved ones deserved so much better, and I had failed them.
Like stubbing a toe as you crawl out of bed in the morning, my split second of being broken spiraled out of control.
I was on the verge of tears. My self-esteem was at an all time low. I knew I was being ridiculous but, I just felt so sad, so alone, so much of a failure.
I reached out to an old friend. Something I suddenly noticed I had very few of. At one time, he had been my best friend. Of course, that was before we had sex. Before he poured his heart out to me. Before he asked to be with me. Before I had walked away, leaving him drowning in his own broken heart.
We had talked over the years. Although neither of our feelings had ever changed and our other halves wanted us to have nothing to do with the other, if it came down to it, when we needed each other, we would be there. And I really needed someone, anyone, to be there.
I didn’t tell him what was going on. I didn’t tell him how broken I really felt. I didn’t tell him that it was either talking to him or drowning in my own tears.
I might not have been suicidal but, he saved me. He made me laugh, as he always had. Or at least got a smile out of me, even if it was only on the inside. As we said goodbye, he told me he loved me… and I knew that he meant it. And it meant everything.
It wasn’t because of how I looked or what I could do for him. It wasn’t because of anything. It wasn’t a whispered lust to step on my husbands toes or to demote his wife. I knew he had deeper feelings for me, but this wasn’t about that. He loved me for me. He loved me because, above everything, he was always my friend and I was always his, and that was important to him. I was important to him. He loved me because he cared, and somehow, he knew I really needed someone to care.
In that moment, I realized how ridiculous it was to be feeling so broken. But… it didn’t take the broken feelings away.
The next day this old friends words were all but gone, but the strength behind them remained. I needed to crawl out of this downward spiral I was so quickly falling in to. I needed to feel better. So…
I reached out to another old friend. An old friend that was nearly the exact opposite situation as the one before. For this one, I knew I felt much more for than I ever should and that he would only ever be just a friend. But, his words could usually pick me up out of the funk. And I was desperately reaching out for anything to do the trick.
I told him I was broken. I told him I was shutting down. As briefly as human heard of, I screamed between the lines that I was drowning. And…
He left me hanging in silence.
But even that, did not break me any more than I was already broken. The words whispered by others never make the impact that the ones we whisper to ourselves do.
I realized that this old friend really had never been a friend. Not like the first old friend and I had been. Not in the ways that ever really mattered. I realized that this man never really did make me feel better when I was down. Maybe for a moment, but it always led to feeling so much worse. And friends didn’t do that. I pulled up his Facebook profile and, with the clarity I should have had years ago, removed him from my friends list.
It was almost a new year, and a new year meant a new me. A me that actually allowed the things I needed in my life to surround me, and removed the things that I didn’t need.
Awhile later my husband walked in our room. My husband that made me coffee every morning because he knew it started my day off on the perfect note. I smiled at him, opened my arms, and told him to come hug me.
Of course, there had been a few times I did this purely out of hormones, so I laughed it off when he turned down the request. But this time, it wasn’t about being horny. It was about him being close to me. Him holding me. This time, it was just about how very much I needed a truly real hug.
As a last ditch desperate attempt, I said “Oh come on, I just need a hug.” Sure, I had probably used those same words to manipulate his body into my horny arms before, but this time, I meant them with ever fiber of my body. And every fiber of my body was crushed under the weight of the single words that fell off his lips….
“No.” And then he left, shutting the bedroom door behind him.
I laid back on my bed. Alone. Pushing play on the stupid show I had filled the emptiness with the past few days. Forgetting about Christmas. Forgetting about the drive to Moms house that I wouldn’t be making. Forgetting about the money that I didn’t have. Forgetting about life, because it was quickly feeling like life had forgotten about me.
As I zoned out into this stupid silly show, those arms that wrapped around me suddenly came sneaking in through the cracks of my mind. The strong arms from my dream holding me so tightly. Just who’s face did those arms belong to? My old friend who had fallen in love with me? My old friend I had fallen in love with? My husband, who through it all loved me anyway and was always taking care of the important things, like coffee in the morning?
My son came in my room, hopped up on my bed and, with a smile, kicked back to watch my stupid show with me. Moments later in came my daughter, copying her older brothers moves. And without fail, along came the cat that was as big as a dog curling up at our feet. I looked over at them, at my nearly perfect children, as they watched this very stupid show with their very broken mom… and I smiled.
Maybe those arms that were wrapped so comfortingly around me, the strong arms that made me feel so safe, the arms that had no face…
Maybe… those arms belonged to me.