The hot water rushed over my head while I fought to steady to my breath and find peace in the quiet moment–alone, uninhibited, totally allowed to turn everything off while the stranger sat in my hotel room.
As we walked into the room he glanced at my books sitting on the bed. He told me he didn’t like the ending of one, and I told him to keep it to himself. I don’t want to talk about fucking books with you, I thought. I don’t want to talk about anything of substance with you.
Even in my 2 AM haze I couldn’t turn off my brain. I knew I could sleep with him, but I didn’t desire to–not the way a body craves closeness, even the shallow kind, with another body. Yet, I wanted to sleep with him, just to show that I could. I wanted to have a night that meant nothing with no one in a different city, far, far away from my reality. I wanted to prove that my heart was stone and my body was mine and I could do whatever I damn well pleased. I wanted to say: See, you aren’t hurting me. You didn’t crush me. Not only am I okay, I am desirable. Look at what I can fucking do.
The shower brought it all back. The hot water and I had a history–burning my skin until I couldn’t stand, crying until I ran out of breath. When the moments crept up and I thought about my husband and the girlfriend he found in the town he worked in while I waited at home, my body turned to ice. The only way I found to cope was to stand in the shower–multiple times a day, every day, until I killed my heart with heat.
Turns out it’s a common reaction to betrayal and infidelity–to seek comfort in hot water. I wasn’t alone in my habit, but I was in my marriage.
Years later, there I was in the wet, familiar heat, forcing my heartache down the hotel shower drain, fighting the pain from a different romance and the romance of the past and the one before that, and my fragile heart and the stupid things it lets me do.
We spent the night in places filled with beautiful women–women dancing on bars, swinging from the ceiling, laughing with friends in their skin-tight dresses and sky-high heels. The guys claimed “their team” for the redheads and the blondes and the tattooed girls–whoever their preferred genus of woman happened to be–and I sat back and watched. He pulled me aside as he smoked his cigarette and said, the beautiful girls I go for never have anything good to say.
And I thought:
The girls like me, without the perfect body and the beautiful dress and the sex appeal from across this miserable fucking bar–we have plenty to say.
We have brains that dive deep beyond the shallow conversation you’ll find here. We have hearts that give and give and give. People like you desire it all, but you’re too goddamn afraid of the thoughts in your head and the aching in your heart to look past the shape of my dress and the shape of hers.
I just smiled and shrugged as if I didn’t have a solution to his dilemma.
The next morning I felt the soul-crushing weight of the night before. My frustrations swarmed my brain and I pulled at my hair, so sick of feeling heartsick.
I didn’t sleep with him. I didn’t want to, because my heart was tied up elsewhere. Even with the vodka and the hot water and as we laughed in the elevator and I reminded myself of all the freedom I had, I didn’t want to.
I let him out of my room before the sun came up the next morning. My dull headache was a quiet hum compared to the screaming pain that buzzed through my body as the reality of my situation crashed through me. I realized in that moment, sharing my space with a stranger, that despite what I’d been telling myself, my safely-kept heart had been ripped open, after years of tucked away from the hurt, once again.
I looked back on the months before, the moments where I fought so hard to maintain control in order to prevent this. I tried so hard to build a cushion around me to stop the hurt, but instead, I cracked wide open, allowing the real me spilled out too quick for me to catch it. I fell deep into an attachment that was dangerous. I allowed myself to relish in the gift of vulnerably connecting, but as the reality caught up, it felt an awful lot like it did to watch the beautiful girls swing from the ceiling in their lacey bodysuits in my jeans and messy bun.
I didn’t give a shit about the man in my room hours earlier. I cared about the one weeks before. The one who left me alone, again, unsure of what had happened between the two of us, and what, if anything, would ever happen again.
The reality of the situation crashed over me. It was over. All the good from the whirlwind months before–the deep conversations, the soul-baring confessions, the real, not for the cameras, smiles, the heart fluttering, rollercoaster stomach, skin touching skin, breath synched with mine, perfectly broken, unexpected, beautiful thing–was done. It was over.
The familiar script showed itself.
I’m not enough.
I’m not pretty enough.
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not good enough.
I’m not loving enough.
I’m not enough to be cared for.
I’m not enough to be respected.
I’m not enough to not betray.
I’m not enough to not beat down.
I’m not enough to deserve happiness.
I’m not enough to be understood.
I’m not enough to get what I give.
I’m not enough to love.
I choked back on my tears and fought the pain with anger.
I got mad at myself.
Why did I let myself do this? I knew better. Why couldn’t I just let myself stay safely alone?
I got mad at him.
Why did he do this to me? Why did he open the doors to a room that he planned to set on fire?
When my marriage ended my husband looked at me. “You over romanticize everything, Jess,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll ever find a life as good as you want.”
I watched the fog lift over the city from the edge of my hotel bed.
This statement from what felt like a lifetime before today rolled around in my head–the way it routinely had since I walked out of my perfect, 4 bedroom, 2 bath house with my giant diamond ring tossed in my glove compartment.
Maybe I’ll never get the life that’s as good as what I want.
Or maybe I will.
Maybe I did.
And maybe now it’s gone.