he within and she without
freedom viewed from bitterness
where the sky and sea are one
artistry and littleness
sat confined the mind goes blind
panoplies made similar
through the filter of a brain
seeing she, but never
I watched him fall apart obsessing over a woman who didn’t even know he was there.
It wasn’t that he interacted with her daily, and that she just didn’t think of him “that way” — it was that they had literally never even met. Long before the world of parasocial relationships existed, there was the world of admiring from a distance, or in his case, an extremely warped version of it. And he had a lot to lose.
In the language of that day and time, it might have been seen as being in the family of “mid-life crises”: this time in a man (or woman’s) life when they might risk everything they had trying to recapture something like lost youth. And while the object of his obsession was younger, she wasn’t so young as was often the case. It was more that she just “was”: different than anyone he’d ever known — wild, free, unpredictable. She was like the ocean, and he couldn’t take his eyes or thoughts off of her for long.
One of the experiences many of my female friends have had is suddenly being presented with strong feelings of attraction from men that they had no inkling were there. It is usually the feelings, not the men, that they didn’t know were there. She (who I only barely knew, but was on a first name speaking basis with) literally had never met my friend, didn’t know his name, had no idea he’d become obsessed with her, and would have been shocked to have heard the depth of his feelings.
Which, fortunately, she never did. Because, unrelated to all this, she got a job in another city, and moved away.
But before that his wife, tired of his lack of presence at home for her and their children, had started the process of divorce. So he ended up with no one.
He and I discussed the subject exactly once. He told me that his wife wanted out of the marriage, and that he was letting her go. That there was someone who had been on his mind every day for months, and that he had a plan: he was going to ask her to lunch, they were going to hit if off, and whole new worlds were going to open up to him. When I asked him who it was, and he told me, I told him that I knew her, and asked him how far along their friendship/relationship was.
“We haven’t actually spoken… yet.”
“What? Isn’t this kind of crazy?”
“Yes, it is, I know. But sometimes you see someone, and you just… know. You just know, you know?”
I said something to the effect that I did NOT know, and that I was surprised to hear things were this bad between he and his wife. He told me that, as a single man (which I was at the time) I would not understand how hard being married was.
“You get married because she makes you feel like a hero, but over time, all that goes away, and she just makes you feel worse about yourself.”
I watched the rest of the tale unfold from a distance. I ran into his wife at the grocery store about a month later. She asked me if I had heard they had gotten divorced. I said I had. Then she gave me a few details on things that had happened since he and I had spoken.
“I finally asked him, the day before the divorce was final, if there was another woman. He said there was. It turned out later that she didn’t know she was some kind of other woman, because they’d never met and she’s since moved away. He wanted to come back, which I nixed real fast. I cheered him up, though: I told him maybe he and she could be pen-pals, get to know each other.”
I said I had not heard that she had moved.
“At any rate, that’s not my concern anymore; I’m moving on with my life. I have children to think about, and they didn’t ask for any of this. I don’t need to be bitter; I need to be better… for them.”