Monday, March 7, 2011

the not-at-all tragic death of an imaginary friend

Once upon a time there was a boy from Texas that fell in love hard and fast with a boy from Brazil. They met online, and with great ease became fast friends. Long conversations, the exchanging of pictures, time spent over the phone and on webcam - led them to even more quickly becoming a couple. A couple in the "youthfully naive, puppy-lovey, long distance, no hope of being sustained any significant period of time for lack of means to make it happen and/or one partner's hesitation to even try" sense of the word. The Texan was a jerk. He acted out, was manipulative and cruel, heartbroken over the loss of what he'd wanted so. Apologies were made and forgiveness was granted; nonetheless, fate ushered them apart, each along their respective paths.

Some few years later, the Brazilian, thinking enough time had passed, was able to get in touch with the Texan again, hoping to catch up and maybe begin their friendship anew. When they did finally speak again, all those past, unfulfilled feelings the Texan had felt came rushing back, flooding his senses and soul. His feelings were not at all reciprocated, the Brazilian even denying there'd been that much to their connection in the first place. It was embarrassing and hard for the Texan to hear. Immediately, he set forth to change his lover's mind.

He tried sweet. He tried pathetic. He tried bold and unpredictable. He tried everything to win the Brazilian's affection. Partly genuine, partly desperate, his machinations were more geared towards capturing his lover's heart, than trying to glimpse it - and he resented him for making him act that way. What made the entire situation so intoxicating - and aggravating! - for the Texan was his genuine admiration not only for the Brazilian himself, but for Brazil - its culture, music, and natural allure. He immersed himself in the musical sounds of multiple Gilbertos and Sergio Mendes. He bought himself software he could scarcely afford, intending to master the Portuguese language, envisioning some bright future in that exotic land, able to bask in the sunlight of the Corcovado sky, Christ the Redeemer proudly looking down upon the pair, blessing the Texan and the sexy Brazilian on his arm.

In one instance of more sincerity than not, the Texan, knowing that the Brazilian would, for sentimental reasons, like a particular oak tree pendant he'd found online, sent it to him, genuinely hoping to make his beloved happy - and he did. When it was later stolen, literally ripped from the Brazilian's neck by a drunk (at a concert?), the Texan promised that one day when they at long last met face to face, he'd bring him a replacement pendant and place it around his neck himself. But that wasn't meant to be.

Much like their first parting, their last parting was just as sudden - though not as unexpected; the Texan knew his constant pushing would most likely cause a rift - and yet, he couldn't seem to help himself. But the day did come when the Brazilian stopped sending emails and stopped calling. By then, sick of the chase, the Texan felt he'd long ago tossed aside his dignity and that enough had been enough, he'd beg no more. He reasoned that if the Brazilian wanted him in his life, then it was the Brazilian's move to make, and he would wait for him to make it. He waited and he waited. And never heard from him again.

Months and years after the quiet began, the Texan still hurt, still took it personally. Any mention of Brazil or thought of his beloved left him feeling more than blue. Even seeing the infomercial for the "Brazil Butt Lift" would cause his heart to sink. He swung between states of furious resentment of the Brazilian and pitiful self-reproach. His mind was awash in "should haves, would haves," and "why me's?" He was torn between exorcism, cursing the day he'd laid eyes on that computer screen and plotting cool, nonchalant ways of winning him back in the future. In the meantime, he decided he'd hold on to Brazil instead. He played the groovy, laid-back bossa nova. He kept Rio's forecast on his WeatherBug. He practiced Portuguese from time to time, thinking that maybe, just maybe...

And then one fateful day, as he was about to begin his Portuguese lesson, he noticed the resistance that arose. Even more, he acknowledged that it was a feeling he always felt when the thought of practicing entered his mind. It was clear to him on this day that he didn't really want to be learning the language - or he eagerly already would have been; there would have been no procrastination. "Why, exactly, am I doing this?" he asked himself. "What do I think I'm going to accomplish or prove by forcing myself to learn a language spoken in a place I can't peacefully imagine visiting? If I'd never known the Brazilian, would I even be bothering? Why am I constantly chasing after this non-existent life, worshiping a person in my mind that obviously wants nothing to do with me? Why would I dream of going somewhere that would without doubt be tainted by nasty thoughts of him?" In his mind's eye, he could see himself walking barefoot in the sand of Ipanmea beach, oblivious to its beauty, lamenting the fact he was on the stroll alone. As he began asking himself these questions, his story slowly began to unravel. "I want the Brazilian in my life: is that true? Can I absolutely know that my life would be better with him in it? I want to learn Portuguese: is that true? Am I practicing? Am I excited as I begin my studies? I need the Brazilian in my life to be happy: is it true? Who would I be without that story? How do I react, who do I pretend to be, how do I treat the Brazilian, and myself, when I believe that thought? The Brazilian is too good for me: is that true? There's something wrong with me: is that true, do I know that for sure? I never meant anything to him at all: is that true? Did the Brazilian ever mean anything to me? I love the Brazilian: is that true? I want someone in my life that doesn't want to be in mine: is that absolutely true, really?"

And as the Texan answered the questions that poured in to his mind, his perspective on his and the Brazilian's love story crumbled, and the spell he'd been under was broken. When the Texan took the time to question his devotion to the one-sided love affair, and honestly saw how he beheld the Brazilian, he could see that he didn't even know him, and even more surprising to the Texan, there were parts of him that he didn't even like - or would from then on be willing to accept in a partner! He came to see that he'd been obsessed with someone he'd hardly ever known. In reality, compared to the vastness of a person's entire make-up, the Texan had only been given the scantest clues to what made the Brazilian tick. He spent years fantasizing over a character he'd concocted from the meager scraps of the real life Brazilian, that the Brazilian had deigned to give him.

Admiring the curly dark hair of a handsome stranger, hearing someone's stories, laughing and sharing songs - no matter how precious the moments - does not a love affair make. Nor does it make a friendship if its foundation isn't pure. And it couldn't have been. Not when one adamantly claims to want the other's freedom while simultaneously is seething with resentment. Not when one uses every psychological tactic he can think of to bend the other's will in his favor. Not when one approaches the other as something to be desperately grasped at for their own sense of importance.

Yes, the Texan finally did wake up. But dreams sometimes linger upon awakening - and some longer than others. Sadness sometimes still arises. He'll see a picture of Sugarloaf Mountain or Copacabana, or might realize it's Carnaval time again, wishing that he could visit - but not wanting to if it would ache. When the conflict comes, he remembers not to fall asleep again, but to sit up, take note, and pay attention. "Look at what you're believing," he says to himself. "You want to visit: is it true? Is one mental ghost story powerful enough to keep you from a region of millions? Don't go back to sleep. Don't resurrect the non-existent world of dreams you've come to see through. When you want to go, when and if you are destined to go, it will be made so abundantly clear to you, nothing will keep you away. Until then, just be glad. Be grateful."

And he is. He smiles, knowing that the fantasy "frenemy" he'd conjured can be laid to rest, having never been real in the first place, and that the beautiful, innocent, real-life Brazilian - whose only "crime" had been remaining unapologetically true to himself - is in another part of the world alive and well, rocking his path, exactly where, and how, he should be.

In the end, the Texan could see very clearly his next move, and was delighted by how simple it was. He removed the language software from his computer. He took the replacement oak tree pendant, threw it in the trash. And then decided to tell the story of the lover he'd never really had, and how in the losing of him, saw him for what he'd been: a hallowed brother come to help wake him up.

And with the telling of the story, he said...

"Thank you," to the brother.
"I'm sorry," to the lover.
"Goodbye," to the friend.
"Maybe someday," to Brazil.
"I love you," to the Soul.

And to the bossa nova:
"You and me are gonna dance."



  1. I love this... for so many reasons, on so many levels. I think this is a universal story, Jeff. We all do this at some point in our life. Then we begin to fall in love with our Selves, and oh my what a love affair that turns out to be.

  2. I am speechless. This is so haunting and beautifully written. Wow!

  3. Thanks, ladies. You know, it's that universality of the ego's stories and emotional ups and downs that let me know it's okay to write something personal like this and post it. We really are telling each other's stories - in countless ways. And I agree, Tracy, falling in love with the Self is the real deal, I can see that.

  4. Oh, this reminds me of when I decided I could drop my own self-torment addiction. Becoming aware in our minds of another option besides contortionist changes to ourselves in order to be what the other wants--it is so ridiculously simple but so ridiculously not hohnoredin this culure. Why is that, exactly, I wonder. Why is pining away and losing ourselves in someone else not against the law, for cryin' out loud?

  5. It really is a form of self-violence. And it's not good for the other either. It would be a different world if we were all taught how miraculous we are, and how - and why - to seek our inner counsel from the time we're children. It seems like it would be so much more difficult to get lost in the thoughts and opinions of other people that way.