I’ve heard you have to know yourself before anyone else can.
I firmly believe it takes seeing yourself through another’s eyes to be self-aware. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to find someone who knows us better than we know ourselves. If we’re really lucky, that person loves what they find.
Call that person what you will – soul mate or maybe better half – but finding that person is how you discover yourself. It happens every day, all over the world. That connection is more pure, more honest, than any other in your lifetime. But what happens when it’s severed? When you wake up to find that person is gone?
Last year Billy taught me how to ski. I fell in love with it instantly, and I couldn’t wait to hit the slopes again. Sure, I fell down a lot, and I had a bruise on my backside, but it was great. I remember the wind in my hair and the rush of gliding downhill; it was such a high.
When we got home, I spent my entire paycheck on a new pair of skis and boots. On the way out of the store, I grabbed brochures for every ski resort within driving distance. It was barely winter, and I intended to ski every weekend until spring.
“What is that?” Billy had asked, staring at me blankly as I drug the skis into the living room, leaving a trail in the carpet as the tip of a pole traced my path from the front door.
“I got skis!” I said smiling proudly, holding them up for him to see.
“I can see that. Why?”
“Because I loved skiing,” I said, shaking my head as I wondered how he could be so dense sometimes.
“You didn’t love it,” he said flatly, picking his book back up from his lap. “You just got a rush from the challenge of it. You’ll hate it as soon as you can get down the slope without falling down.”
“Why would you say that? We had fun this weekend. I thought we could go again next weekend. I even got brochures,” I said, digging around in my bag for the glossy pamphlets.
Billy was still looking down at his book when I produced them from the depths of my purse. I let my purchases drop to the ground and crossed to his chair, fanning the colorful brochures out in my hand like a deck of cards to wave over his book.
He looked up from behind his reading glasses with a lazy smile that made him look like a sexy professor. I wanted to drop everything and straddle his lap right then and there, but I reminded myself to stay focused on the conversation at hand.
“Okay, we’ll go again next weekend,” he said, as though placating a child. He was still giving me that grin, but now it looked condescending.
“Why would we go?” I asked, huffing back across the room to my new gear, piled in the center of the living room floor. “I don’t even like it, remember?”
He marked his spot in the book, laying it in his lap before slowly taking off his glasses so he could see me across the room. I could see him out of the corner of my eye as I struggled to pick up both skis and the box of boots without knocking the lamp off the end table with the pole I clutched under one arm. The amused smile on his face only irritated me more.
“Skiing isn’t an easy sport to pick up. You’ll still like it this weekend. Once you master it though, all that stuff is just going to be taking up room in our storage unit. How much did you spend anyway?”
I finally had all of my purchases in hand again and was headed back towards the door. “None of your business. I have my own money. And you’ll see. I love skiing!” The end of a ski made a loud whack against the door as it shut behind me, punctuating my sentence.
Once inside the storage unit, I flipped on the naked bulb that illuminated the small space. I glanced around the room, looking for a spot to store my new equipment, vowing for the hundredth time to purge some of the clutter I hoarded down there. As I moved aside an old tennis ball hopper and a batting tee, I got a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. The one I got every time I realized Billy was right.
Standing back to survey the 10×10 cinder-block room, I noted a bin of basketballs and footballs, a pitching machine, scuba gear and a boxing bag. I’d always known I loved sports, I just hadn’t known why. It was because I lived for the challenge. When a sport no longer was one, I moved on to the next adventure.
No longer handling with care, I shoved the new skis and poles into a corner and dropped the box of boots to the ground with a thud.
Damn! I hated when he was right.
But he always was, at least when it came to knowing me. Living with Billy was like walking around naked every day while someone pointed out all my imperfections.
Except he didn’t see them as flaws. When I fell on the slopes or missed a jump shot out on the court and cursed in disappointment, Billy would be standing there laughing. He thought it was “adorable” that I was so competitive.
Trust me, I’ve seen me when I’m like that – there’s nothing cute about it.
Now I sit in his chair, breathing in the faint smell of his cologne, wondering what he’d say about me now. If he saw me like this. I wish he’d come back and tell me, because I’m not sure who I am anymore.