When I was 20 I suffered a horrendous break up. My live-in boyfriend at the time slept with our roommate and hid it from me for months.
Somehow my intuition kicked into high gear near the end and precognitive dreams as well as severe physical distress clued me in to the possibility that all was not what it seemed. At some point I found my roommate’s cell phone unattended on the coffee table. I regretfully saw the textual evidence of an incredibly sexual affair. They happened to be hanging out in the attic together at the time of the discovery. I was not nice. I smashed wine glasses and plates. Punches were thrown and names were called (or screamed). In less than 3 hours all of my items were removed from the house and I never saw either of them again.
I’m intense. The pain of our trust being broken shattered me like the plates I threw at my roommate’s head. I was lucky that shortly after the breakup my dad asked me to join him, my brother, and 8 other men on a fishing trip in the middle of nowhere Canada. I said yes without really knowing what I was getting myself into.
The trip left me with the impossibility of using my phone, the Internet, or wallowing in my female desperation and distraction. I was amongst men and only men. We slept outside, we pissed in the woods, we caught and cooked our own dinner over open flames and we did all of this for 10 days. If we wanted to shower we had to bathe in the lakes, if we wanted entertainment we carried ourselves to our absolute limit on rivers of brandy, Canadian lager and whiskey. No one was excited about my relationship troubles. We told jokes instead or tossed footballs around in the sand. In the morning I awoke to the rising sun in a world of dew and fog. The campfire’s embers still sending smoke into the stars sang my lullabies.
In the midst of this forest existence I started journaling. Bourbon and sports would not be quite enough to mend the wound in my life. I found that the best solution to what I was feeling was to look towards the future at what I wanted and not in the shrouds of the past and all that I had lost. Versed in 21st century self-help rhetoric I quickly decided that writing down everything that I was seeking in a future mate might help me realize why it was a blessing my previous relationship had ended.
Starting the list was slow going at first, but the magic of my own creativity quickly became invigorating. The list grew from just a dozen, forced qualities to nearly 100 items. He would be smart, tall, and romantic. He would be an excellent writer, his hands would be strong, he would know how to cook me a perfect meal, he would be sensitive and he would travel with me.
I started to get carried away with the idea of this man. My desire for him to exist burned inside of me until the idea of him melted into truth. I continued this exercise the following days after 8-hour trips in my dad’s fishing boat. Sometimes while riding one of the quads I would imagine he was there. I wondered what sorts of things he would talk about or if he was a good fisherman. I wondered the ways in which he would show how he loved me. Would it be obvious? Would it be an obsessive love? Maybe it would it be a quiet, yet committed romance.
The exercise became so healing that I was convinced I should expand it. I found myself writing letters from this man that didn’t exist to myself. I even gave him a name “Gil.” He was from Colorado. He was interested in music and wrote music, but he wasn’t really passionate about this. His real passion was writing. He thought about me often and knew I existed too. He wanted to meet me, but wasn’t sure when fate was bringing us together.
My Canadian trip ended, my phone reception returned and a 10 pounds lighter, wind-burnt and stronger version of myself found her way back to the city. The trip was over yes, but now Gil was a permanent figure in my mental landscape.
Gil and I continued to write letters back and forth via my own imagination and only within the confines of my own journal. I even began to dream about him. He was like my little secret- an invisible magical talisman that offered me a constant source of strength and healing.
When I met my next boyfriend a couple of years later I thought I had finally met Gil- the man of my dreams. Gil’s letters no longer appeared in my journal. I felt all of the love I had craved fulfilled by my new beau. However, when the relationship began to show signs of trouble Gil returned again with his usual promises of an eventual rendezvous. He urged me to have faith that he existed and promised a meeting sooner than later. He reminded me of what I deserved and begged me to not accept anything less. After my relationship found its equilibrium however, Gil disappeared once again.
In the past few weeks, freshly single from a relationship that kept my attention and passion for nearly two and a half years, I am beginning to sense Gil’s presence again. At night his is the cheek that presses against the pillow next to mine, during the day he is the voice that whispers, “You’re doing a great job.” & “You look beautiful.” He is the man that fills the void left in my catalog of fantasies and his are the arms that comfort me when I am lying on the floor in a heap of tears.
Maybe my creation of Gil is just some half-assed version of having a true and working system of self-love and self-esteem in my life. Or maybe Gil is the product of some weird psychological disease I have that has gone undiagnosed, but who can really say? All I know is that when times are tough and I am in need of love in my life Gil is always there for me urging me on and reminding me that my life is meaningful no matter how much success, money or outside love I am experiencing.
I know that this love is most likely a compartmentalization of my own self-love, but maybe just maybe Gil is out there. One day he might recognize a voice lifted from letters still faithful in patience for our first rendezvous.