Antigone valued her spiritual ideals at the cost of her earthly existence, Hamlet could not take action until the eleventh hour, Cyrano allowed his insecurities to get in the way of his happiness. Tragic figures resonate because we recognize their flaws as magnified aspects of ourselves. My twenty-second year has just drawn to a close, and what I will take away from it is my tragic flaw: when I allow myself to care for someone, I will care for them even if they decide they no longer return my affection. Some self realizations are totally introspective in nature, but as you can guess this one has a supporting cast. There are two characters: a woman with whom I have shared the trials and tribulations of my twenties, and a man who walked the line between friend and lover but ultimately wound up being neither. Though these two people have never met and carried out their actions separately, in tandem they resulted in my first heartbreak. Squared.
Allow me to be clear, I don’t wish to paint myself as the innocent victim. I am more than that, and so I believe are they, though I don’t have the ability to prove it. It’s hard you see, because I don’t have their side of the story. Black and white have little prominence in my world. I am loathe to judge that which I do not understand. However, I would be lying if I didn’t say the fact that they have failed to provide me with explanations makes me angry. Cold shoulders are hard to bear when you are used to warmth and intimacy. This is, along with the timing is why my separate relationships with them began to weave into a single narrative in my head. They both withheld the reason for their coldness. I’ve had daydreams of being a deranged Socrates, them standing together in a room with me demanding “Why? Why? WHY?” over and over. But even in my head I can’t make them answer.
Then again, perhaps I don’t want them to. Having so few facts means I can create my own fiction, and maybe them succumbing to human frailties is easier swallow than the truth. Perhaps she wanted a kind of love I couldn’t give her, perhaps I wanted a kind of love he couldn’t give me. It’s not how I would have handled the situation if the roles were reversed, but once upon a time I might have. Confrontation, especially involving those we care for, is among the most feared of human interactions. Yet I would be willing to endure it if it meant whatever happened could be mended, or barring that some kind of closure could be had. Then I could weather the storm until indifference set in. I imagine for them it already has.
I’m told I’m supposed to be indifferent towards them, but evidently Cupid shot them first and ran out of arrows before getting to me. I know I don’t hate them. That’s something else I’ve learned about myself, I’m incapable of feeling hatred. That’s a good thing, right? There are already more than enough of its offspring in this world: war, violence, bigotry, Internet trolls. Yet, it would be so much easier if I could hate them, if I could twist my mind against them so nothing they did (or didn’t do) could ever hurt me again. At one point, I dreamed not of hating them but erasing them. If I could climb into a Delorean or a blue telephone box and go back in time. It would be simple, our lives collided by such random happenstance that me choosing not to pull one all nighter or ignoring one internet message would mean that they would never be the Pluto to my Neptune. Aren’t real planets supposed to have their own orbit anyway? In the end I always determine it’s not worth forgetting her crude humor, the laughter and tears we shared over the insanity of growing up after becoming technical adults. It’s not worth never having those long conversations over white wine about the books we read as children, and the way he saw the potential in someone who was more than a little lost. It’s not worth losing the connection I fostered with them, even if they weren’t meant to last.
I don’t know much about the human heart, but I postulate that it can stand being broken a time or two. I can see faint patches of light and know there is an after. There will be a time, probably quite soon, when the pain will diminish and finally vanish entirely. I’m quite fortunate to have a small but very supportive circle of friends, and I have this crazy, big, important dream of channelling my imagination into a book one day. And so the question becomes not what they choose to do about me, but how I choose to think about my time with them. And I choose, tragic flaw or not, to remember them well. I will remember how they challenged me and helped me to grow, how they encouraged my dreams and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I hope that knowing me impacted their lives positively in some small way, and that if they do think of me, they do so with a smile. I cannot change the way I love, and if my tragic flaw was incompatible with theirs so be it. I only know this: even if I got my smaller heart, it would still probably have enough room for them both.