Masochist [mas-uh-kist] noun: 1. a person who is gratified by pain that is self-imposed or imposed by others. 2. a person who finds pleasure in self-denial.
I stared at her from across the table, my mouth slightly open, mind spinning. Don’t you see it? Don’t you see what he’s doing to you? She whispered again.
I had spent months, years, trying to piece together your abrupt mood swings, your changes in behavior, your unrelenting need to pull me close and then push me away. We had been together long enough to impact the course of our lives, making a deep impression in each other’s hearts. While I knew you had an inherit sadness buried within you, I had always felt that if anyone, anything, could fix it, it would be me. This is not to say that we didn’t have intensely unforgettable memories together. There were days on end when it felt as though the sun would never set on our innocent affair. But, eventually, these moments began to fade into darkness as your shifts in temper and unsettling manners became more and more evident. It took me far longer to understand the times we spent together were much less significant than the times we were forced to redefine our role in each other’s lives after we parted ways.
My closest ally through these years of turmoil, the best friend who was now staring intently at me from across the table, listened to me pour out yet another deceiving measure you’d gone to in order to infringe upon my life. Despite my greatest efforts to block every form of communication I had with you, you found a way to seep beneath the walls I built. The miles between us did nothing to lessen your enthusiasm for searching me out. You made sure I knew that our connection would never be broken.
Our shared interests, our common friends, our mutual views on life, the world, each other, would forever remind me that you were a part of me, a part that was utterly impossible to lose. It was a vicious, brutal disease lying just underneath my skin. While I kept up all my best attempts to maintain a positive and intact exterior, I knew so much of me was dying on the inside. All fingers pointing in your direction. I had hit a glass ceiling, your hold on me weighing me down. It became more and more challenging to ignore your troubled cries for attention as you completely neglected the notion that our relationship had been over for months. Yet, as soon as I gave you consent to come closer, you would withdraw yourself and retreat back to your solitude.
Can’t you understand what he’s doing? She continued. You’ve been roped into the throws of a masochist. He’s been thriving off the pain he feels for wanting you but never actually going the lengths to have you. What don’t you understand?
I was wide eyed, frozen. Had I really been so oblivious? Had I honestly not recognized the signs of a self-serving obsessive? The pieces were slowly coming together. You had been that one person for me, the one who was constantly circulating in the back of my mind. The object of my affection…the object of my destruction. No matter how much I forced myself to move on, a part of me hung back, pacing, anticipating your return at any moment. I had to be ready, guard up. You sent me stories written by broken-hearted poets, your notes were laced with pain, tragedy, regret. You shared essay after essay on loss and defeat. You couldn’t help but see so much of yourself in the wretched words you surrounded yourself with. The letters were slowly tearing me down and fueling my ridiculous attempts to comfort you in the hurt you, yourself, were creating. Songs of infinite sadness and endless misfortunes were the soundtrack to your life. You sent messages in the abandoned hours of the night, fully aware that only you and I were awake. You’d trail on about the visceral pain you felt from losing me. As if, in an unknown moment between us, I became the sole fault for your demise. You claimed that feeling the everlasting suffering was far better than feeling nothing at all.
I believed it, too. I believed it hurt you. I just couldn’t comprehend how you were in love with that feeling. The moments destroying me were your pleasure, your enjoyment. You flourished in their development, only truly living in the heat of adversity. The qualities I had once viewed as sensitive and perceptive were, in actuality, the foundation of your pain-seeking ways. We were two very different types of broken. While I went to all lengths to heal, to find the good when I had every reason to believe it ceased to exist…you worked against me. As long as the hurt was there, as long as you felt anything at all, then you were complete. You were surviving off the deliberate wounds you caused while I could barely catch my breath.
How do I get out? I leaned in closer to her. She sighed profoundly and reached for my hands. You know how. You can admit it now. He never loved you, he simply loved losing you.
It suddenly became clear. I had been so naively unaware that this was the closure I had been searching for. This was why you wouldn’t cut me free, you were existing on the shredded threads left of us because you found satisfaction in the obliteration, pleasure in the downfall. You refused to turn away from the damage because you were made to walk through the fire. The words of pieces I’d read ages before resounded in my mind. Love was the most elaborate means of self-harm.
It was only when I realized that you weren’t in love with me, but rather, in love with the pain you felt by not having me could I truly, sincerely, break out of your hold. That, in fact, I would not allow myself to be a souvenir of your heartache. While you might settle for the breakdown as a way of life, my expectations held a far better view. A view you would never see.