The night I met Lee started off as a night out with my brother. He and I were living together at the time and decided to have a night out to bond. It was a chilly night in December and on our walk home we decided to make one last stop at a sports bar for a night cap. That was where I met the saddest person I had ever seen close up. His eyes were full of pain and we ended up talking about his life, the dissolution he faced as his dream job helping refugees was taken from him and his slow road to recovery from a surgery which cost him the thing he wanted to be doing most.
Working at a college town bar was the last place Lee wanted to be, surrounded by first world problems after trying to help people who were torn apart by war, famine and horrible loss. I did not know then that he himself had lost more than a job when he left the Middle East. I would discover too late that his heart, part if not most of it had died in the desert sands.
If anyone was in need of a friend I thought that for sure this guy fit the bill. So with the intent of helping a fellow human in need I stopped back by his bar the next day. I bought my beer and left my number on a coaster. Looking back now I should have stopped there. The voice in my head said ‘he’s not yours’, but I gave that voice a passing nod with the idea that it was his choice to reach out and no harm could come from being sympathetic.
Soon enough I found myself infatuated by this person who told of his heroic efforts to save people (I am a sucker for bleeding hearts, as I fancy myself one too). All of the struggle and loss of the one thing he wanted to do most made my empathy muscle bulge. And with the question ‘Where have you been’? after we had shared a particularly beautiful and connected night together, I was a goner.
At first things were good. We had normal dates; zoo, hot springs, hikes in the hills. And on the days he worked Lee would show up after his shift looking haggard but still cute. Ah the sweet short memories. Soon I realized that Lee was flaky at getting back to me. Sometimes ignoring my text messages and calls completely. There was always something going on with his health, or his family and though I offered to help I was never taken up on my offer. ‘Normal’ I said to myself. Logical that he doesn’t want the girl he just started dating to help in family matters. What good could I really do anyway?
For you critics out there who just rolled their eyes with a ‘duh girl, he’s just been through some shit and doesn’t have the energy for you. Why are you surprised?’, I know. It was dumb but I was fairly sure that after a little bit of time things would improve. I mean, he seemed interested enough and was still coming around, right? And for someone who had all those issues, more support is better than none. And I could be someone for him to count on after so much had gone wrong in his world.
The nature of getting to know people is tricky. I understand that inserting oneself too early is seen as intrusive and too late is stand offish. And of course there are personal boundaries to consider. Some people think sharing a stick of gum is close enough and others will invite you into their sister’s delivery room and offer you a slice of pepperoni pizza (more on that later). The point is you never quite know where someone is on the spectrum until at least a little time has passed. And pass it did…
To be continued…