As demonstrated in my recent posts, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about intimacy. I wanted to share a story about Mark, the one and only person I’ve ever been emotionally intimate with. Spoiler alert: It does not have a happy ending… and may be the reason I have such a hard time with emotional intimacy now.
My first visit to Seattle was in spring of 1992 and I immediately fell in love. It felt like home. I met Mark during my very first trip there.
Seattle’s bar scene in the early 90s was exactly as it was in the movie Singles. It felt magical and there was an intense electricity in the air. Everyone you met had a band – a good band! There was a lot of great talent flocking to the area because of the recent grunge discoveries of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden.
Mark was a guitarist in an awesome band. I stumbled upon the band one night while they were playing in a bar. I literally stumbled upon the band… as in I was walking around one night and heard great music coming from a bar and went inside. There was Mark performing on stage. We locked eyes and then hit it off after the show.
We hung out a lot together during that trip and then kept in touch after I went home. He quickly became my best friend.
I felt like Mark was my soul mate. There was nothing physical, per se, between us (we’d sometimes make out but nothing more) but we shared such a strong bond. We “got” each other and could talk for hours. I still feel like he’s the only person in the world who completely understood me. It was like we were twins separated at birth. I haven’t experienced anything like before or since.
Our birthdays were two days apart. I’m sure us both being Virgos contributed to hitting it off so well.
He visited me in California a couple times, too. He instantly clicked with my close-knit group of friends, and they adored him.
I traveled to Seattle 3-4x/year and actively pursued relocation after I graduated from college. Due to the economic recession, it ultimately didn’t work out.
The last time I visited Matt, in spring of 1996, the trip started on a sour note and didn’t improve. He was distant and aloof from the beginning, even when picking me up from the airport. This was very atypical and unexpected. He had seemed excited when I spoke with him on the phone beforehand.
He wasn’t very talkative in the car and then told me he’d have to drop me off at his place because he had to return to work that afternoon. This was a big indication that something was wrong, as he was a freelancer and could set his own schedule. My trip wasn’t unexpected; why hadn’t he arranged to take some time off, especially during my first day in town?
He dropped me off at his place and then left without saying much. I was confused. I napped to kill time and hung out in his bedroom and in his house. There was a diamond ring in a ring box on his bedroom shelf.
Did he have a girlfriend? Was he planning to propose to her? Was my visit creating a problem with his girlfriend? And, even more importantly, why hadn’t he told me any of this?!
His friends were having a dinner party my first night in town. I had developed a migraine and couldn’t attend. Halfway through dinner, Mark‘s best friend/ housemate – not Mark! – came back to the house to check on me. I was touched that he did that but also hurt that Mark didn’t. What the hell was that about?!
I spent most of that trip alone, taking cabs to and from my informational interviews.
Mark seemed to be actively avoiding me. On the rare occasion I did see him, he denied anything was wrong whenever I asked. I’m not stupid. Something was definitely wrong. He was insulting my intelligence by telling me otherwise.
My last night in town, me and Mark and several of his friends went out bar hopping. Since Mark was giving me the cold shoulder, I spent most of the evening talking with his girl friends.
I kissed and exchanged phone numbers with a guy in the first bar and then kissed another guy in the second bar. It was all in fun. And I wasn’t in the best state of mind. I was drinking heavily, on a new medication (I had recently started a short course of anti-depressants), confused about Mark‘s behavior, and on vacation: a recipe for destruction.
Mark‘s distance intensified and by the end of the evening, he was downright hostile and wouldn’t even look at me.
Later that same night, back at the house, I approached him about it. It did not go well. He refused to talk to me. I was bewildered. Finally, he said something about making a spectacle of myself / embarrassing him in the bars by kissing 2 different guys. I was like ‘What the fuck does this have to do with you?!’ and he admitted to a double-standard, i.e. that “it’s okay for guys to do that, but not girls”.
I was livid.
I apologized for embarrassing him, explaining that his distance had confused me and I was acting out irresponsibly. I was drinking, I was on a new med, and I wasn’t myself. I was still disgusted by the double-standard remark, though. I thought I had known him better.
He wouldn’t accept my apology. He also wouldn’t tell me why he was so distant and aloof from the beginning. I literally begged him to tell me and he acted as though he had no idea what I was talking about.
I truly felt like he was using that night as an excuse to end our friendship. He wasn’t himself the entire weekend.
The next day we spent an awkward day together, mostly in silence, then he dropped me off at the airport. He might have mumbled a goodbye, I don’t remember.
I tried calling him and leaving voice mails a few times afterward and even sent a couple letters, all unanswered. I was mostly angry at first, wondering how I could have been so blindsided and how could I have not known who he really was after all this time. How did I miss that he was a chauvinist? After the anger subsided, I felt betrayed and discarded. I couldn’t believe that he would throw away what we had so easily and without explanation. I was heartbroken.
I lost my best friend, suddenly and without explanation. This happened 21 years ago and I am still hurt by it.
This was the only time I’d ever opened myself up to someone so wholly… and it ended badly. This may be why I haven’t wanted to trust anyone with my emotions since. Or it may have nothing to do with it at all. However, I thought it was important to mention because it shows that I am capable of being emotionally intimate with someone. The bigger question is if it can happen again?