My lovers can find pieces of themselves between lines of my poetry and stories I have written, most of which, I choose not to share. What is difficult for me to wrap my head around is how differently I can paint a person through my words. How my perspective shifts through hurt and heartache. How a man, painted so distinctly as a potential lover, can just as easily transform into an other.
The man who transmitted genital herpes to me was a puzzle piece in one of the best nights of my life, years prior to contracting the virus. I was studying abroad in Europe and he was stationed in the Air Force in London. We shared our first kiss on a London Tube escalator, and from that moment, that night remained electric. It stuck in my head for months, and to be honest, it will always be there. My intuition roared that this person would have a tremendous impact on my life, but I was unaware as to what capacity.
A couple of years went by, and I was still thinking about that night, still writing about the night I felt my heart rattle between my ribs. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, until I finally comprehended that instead of writing about this person, I needed to write to him. And so I did. I mustered up the courage to open the confines of my heart; I took a risk and set my heartbeat free. My poetry breathed life into an email across the Pond. The short story I wrote about our night had restored its electricity.
No one desires rejection, and in short, I was not necessarily on the receiving end. But I wasn’t moving forward through his response, either. He told me that he, too, felt that spark, that click between us, but it was the wrong time. We were both in different places. I was still in college, he was half a world away in the military. It couldn’t be now. But he left that door of possibility open, and I clung to it.
After I submitted that letter to him, we remained in contact through various forms of social media. When I discovered that he would be returning to America last summer, those echoes of “maybe” and “what if” ricocheted through my head. We slept together that 4th of July weekend. About 10 days later, we found ourselves inebriated, chasing one another around a local bar in town. It bared a strong resemblance to that night in London. Not exactly an all-encompassing spark, but enough to give me another taste of our shared adventure. He soon became entirely too intoxicated, so my friend and I dragged him home into my bed. I awoke in the morning, in his t-shirt that he requested me to wear through his drunken slurs hours before, and I just knew something was not right. I thought it was just a yeast infection, but part of me knew it was more than that. I kept quiet about it, and after he left, pondered all of the new “what-ifs” as to what the pain could be. But deep down, I knew.
After writing about my experiences with herpes, I have been accused of writing out of bitterness and spite. This is an expected response when writing publicly about one’s relationships, or lack thereof. The last thing I want to admit to myself, is that this guy still crosses my mind — but he does. For different reason this time. It is no longer out of curiosity of that spark. There is frustration in how he disappeared. There is irritation towards his ignorance, which he may or may not admit. There is a war in my head between how I once painted him, and how he acted towards me after receiving news of the diagnosis. For my own personal sanity, I needed to forgive him to move forward. Forgiveness is a very personal decision, which I have learned, may not be for everyone. But it is essential for me. These moments of anger and hindrances of “why” sneak up on me when I least expect them, but there are moments that I have learned to anticipate his ghost. When I reach for my Valtrex each day. When I remove my clothes. When I even think about engaging in sex. There is an echo in my head that he is a part of me which I cannot remove. This is the impact he was destined to make upon my life. This is the result of the spark.
Being vulnerable with oneself, I have found, is often more difficult than being transparent with others. Although I have grown stronger through this experience, and have been able to have a positive effect on the world around me, I have also taken steps back in other areas of my life. I am colder, and I wish it wasn’t. I shy away from expressing my feelings with those whom I hold close to my heart. I wish I could spill open and breathe light into those whom I hold any accumulation of feelings for. But I still have healing to do before I open my heart in its entirety, and that’s okay. I will restore my own electricity.