• The poetry of details

Everybody is free to love


We couldn’t have known that the still morning air was about to become heavier at noon, just by making eye contact. Even if we were hiding behind the colorful lenses of the sunglasses, our story flashed back to us, on fast forward, being as fresh as when it happened. We were walking on the same street, in the opposite directions, when we glanced at each other once. And then we looked again, trying to make sure we were seeing what we thought we were seeing.

Our story began in an afternoon in July: we started talking by accident - he said - and it seemed as though (all in an instant) my heart went back to me in the rebound. I was the lucky one, I thought. “Take a basin of water and a sponge, Ioana, and wash the dust off,” was the sentence that was helping me sleep at night. After all the drama, heartache and crying, I was about to clean everything up.


I liked him a lot and I was happy - you surely know this - the type of happiness when you believe soul mates are real. “This is the reason it didn’t work with the other guy,” I kept telling myself. I was excited to get to know a man that was speaking my heart’s language.


He had just broken up with someone - and he didn’t knew I knew that. He wanted to show to everyone that, of course, he was the bigger person and that, of course, he can stay friends with his ex(es).


The only problem was that he knew too many things about me, without me mentioning them. At the beginning, I assumed he’s a good people-reader or that he talked to some common friends. I didn’t spend time analyzing his words, nor did I ask around about him. I assumed that he was just...understanding.


But there were so many red flags on the road, that I was overwhelmed. I wasn’t trained for such a big level of manipulation - and he was a master at deceiving people.


He once asked me to talk to an ex of his, knowing I’m friends with her on Facebook. “Send me a picture of her daughter, I wanna see how she looks like.” I refused to do so, as it felt like a breach of intimacy. “She didn’t post a picture of her child on Facebook,” I said, “and if she sends me one as a private message, I can’t forward it without her permission. Why don’t you text her and ask about her daughter?”

He laughed: “Never mind, I just needed a confirmation that her child is uglier than our imaginary child”. I didn’t understand if by ‘our imaginary child’ he meant our (as in mine and his) or their (as in hers and his). I dropped it: I didn’t want to discuss about this - I want(ed) children, but not five minutes after I met someone.

But I guess on some unconscious level I knew he was a player. Some questions made me uncomfortable, although he never revealed a mean attitude towards me. I was many times caught off guard, but in the same time I was fascinated how his mind worked. I took it as a challenge. I couldn’t react in any other way. I didn’t know how.


Only towards the end, when things went south, I blamed the summer for his game with my heart, while some common friends were ready to side with him against me. He was the first to tell the story of us, and when my turn came, no one listened. I was - as he depicted to everyone who asked questions about me - mentally unstable and in need for professional help. I was the reason he was stressed at work and couldn’t find time to go out. I was to blame for him missing his friends and family, and I was - as he mentioned once - the reason he found himself in a sorry plight. It all went down the drain very quick, and his jealousy was just a pathetic weakness that turned into a burning resentment. And he decided to blame it all on me. In his words - I was insane because my mom died. He went that far.

Time has passed, and a friend of mine casually mentioned him once.

“Do you know what he’s been doing lately?” She asked as if I was somehow still understanding the darkest corners of his soul.

“I don’t know, and...frankly, I don’t care,” I replied in an unhurried voice.

“But you know his mum has cancer, right?”

“No, I don’t. We don’t keep in touch.”

“It’s pretty bad, and you know his mum liked you. And she prayed for you.”

“I know,” I said as a vague memory was surfacing again. I wanted to add something else, I wanted to say that I’m sorry and I will pray for her too, but I couldn’t open my mouth. I was afraid that I wasn’t genuine sorry for his mom getting sick, just because he hurt me. And I can’t bare the idea to have so much hate in my soul directed to one person, that I can’t feel empathy anymore. I can’t bare the idea of my soul being hideous and - above all - admit it out loud. I am not the kind of person who takes joy in someone’s pain and suffering. I can’t be that person.

I waited for my friend to change the subject, and decided to think about him later. But later never came, because I forced the discussion out of awareness, unconsciously or not. Whenever the unwanted memory intruded on the mind, it was, I guess, a (natural human) reaction that kicked in - the desire to want to block it out, in order to protect my sanity.

But during quarantine this year I gave myself permission to think about it all. It was sometime between late April and middle of May, when his name popped into my mind, over and over. I found it strange. Enough time has passed to blur the memories into shades that once moved in front of my eyes, and yet, he was present in my thoughts again. I found it strange.

I don’t have any text messages from him, no pictures or concert tickets hidden in books - yet, I wanted to clear the clutter of what was left. I only allowed myself to think about him shortly because it was a very traumatic experience and I couldn’t risk a meltdown during a pandemic.


I thought about our talks, I remembered the violin song in the late summer evening that made me wonder if our souls understand more than our brains manage to comprehend.

I rarely talk about this in a general way, and I never mention his name. But the pieces of the puzzle started to fit, and I asked questions and read some articles and day after day, I kept finding explanations or...even worse, excuses.

“If it wouldn’t have been summer, and if I wouldn’t have been so honest ... and opinionated about it all, maybe...” and one day I stoped blaming myself. God knows I am not perfect, and I’m still learning to fight the demons, but this story still has a bigger relevance than I want it to have.

I was too scared to admit it to myself, but was he some kind of stalker? Or why did he know so many things about me?

Was he the lurker in the darkness, that says all the right things when he comes into the light?!

Was I played to such extent that I took his words as the ultimate truth? Or did I actually act like a lunatic back then?

Was I, of all women in the world, to condemn him without knowing what he had done to others?

Who’s on the right side? Me or him?


I couldn’t answer.

I wanted to be honest with myself and don’t let my judgement be shadowed by revenge or range. I needed more time to figure things out. Such questions were a signal for an unlocking of memories, and although I didn’t lose sleep over this, I guess back in my mind things were started to make sense, without me paying attention.

And then this day in July came, as if a circle was closing finally. He was on the opposite side, so he should have had to cross the street in order for us to be face to face. He didn’t do that.

The weather was exceedingly fine, mild, and clear and I was wearing a white pair of shorts and a white T-shirt, with a text written on it: “Everybody is free to love.” My blue sunglasses (that were protecting my eyes) and the blue mask (that was under my chin) were concealing my face, without hiding it.

Oddly enough, no one was walking around, and a couple of cars that drove by haven’t interrupted our stare. It was like everything was moving fast, while the two of us were walking in slow motion. The birds were hidden in the trees, the few shudders which were still open closed rapidly and the dogs stopped barking. The fight-or-flight response didn’t occur, although I was shocked to see him. Maybe because he was further away from me, my brain didn’t consider I’m in danger.

I looked at him for a brief moment as I was walking further, without changing my pace. And then I looked straightforward, but could still feel his eyes following me. I always imagined that a suffocating band will be encircling my throat when I will encounter him again. But it didn’t happen. I advanced - I wouldn’t say fearless, but confident. When I turned my head, I saw him in the middle of the street, motionless. I continued my walk, not caring that he stood there until he couldn’t see me anymore. I turned right on the next street because I was about to eat a delicious lunch.

< How awkward the past is peeping over the shoulders of the present, I smiled. And how strangely too see him in July, here, from all places. > That’s all I could think of before meeting my friend. Coincidentally or not, it was the same friend that told me about this guy’s mom. I wanted to tell her “Hey, guess who I ran into just now?” - but I couldn’t. I wondered if it was really him or my imagination was playing tricks on me. I said a short prayer and then I started eating. I wasn’t about to ruin our lunch with frivolous ideas.

I haven’t told anyone about our encounter. I wanted again to forget about him. I whispered to myself one night: it wasn’t him, it makes no sense.

But in the last couple of days, I started writing sentences down because this subject occupied some share of my headspace. The thoughts themselves are of a kind hard to put into shape.

I needed to rest after every writing session - I had to take two naps during the day. I ate so much chocolate that I almost threw up. And I ate it for breakfast - very very bad idea! (I don’t eat chocolate, I really don’t like it, but the distress was so acute that I needed some artificial energy. And sugar sets in very fast.)


Yes, we’ve been friends on Facebook, but I never wrote the name of the company I was working at. My LinkedIn account was in the limbo of non-existence. Half of my friends don’t know the name of the street I’m living at - not because I’m keeping it a secret, but it’s no need to remember these things, we just know how to get from my place to theirs and vice versa.

There were a handful of people that knew that I had running routine, and I never mentioned this to him. Never. Because I was frustrated how unfit I was. And I am sure he couldn’t have talked to them, because they are among those friends who don’t use social media. Yet, at the end of one of our arguments, he suggested I should go running and clear my head.


There were too many coincidences that didn’t add up, so I’ve been going back and forth, forth and back. I tried to make sense of it all, but it wasn’t easy to group the sentences together.

I didn’t know how terrified I was until now.

Is writing really cathartic?

Why can’t I let this go?

Is writing really cathartic?

Why couldn’t I react better back then?

Is writing really cathartic?

Why didn’t I cross the street and punch him in the stomach?

Is writing really cathartic?

Is this anger that I’m feeling?

Is writing really cathartic?

Am I healing from this?

Is writing really cathartic?

Did I fell in love with a horrible human being?


Is writing really cathartic?

When I walked away from him, it wasn’t a walk of shame, and for a couple of moments, I was proud for keeping my head up. I pretended I just keyed his car. I’ve never done this to anyone, but I imagine it brings some temporary satisfaction leaving a small message on a car, especially when someone is obsessed with buying the expensive model. I thought this was all I needed - looking perfect while he was staring from afar. I was glad to have had this T-shirt, and I’ll tell you why.


He’s only a few years older than me, but with an attitude that is still stuck in the 1920s. You can’t even call him old fashioned, because that term would be too nice to describe him.

He thinks gay people shouldn’t have the same rights as straight people. Freedom of speech is only for him, and if you contradict his ideas, you’ll be called names. You are dumb, but he is not.


He’s a man with a certain social status that - in his mind - gives him a sense of immortality. He believes men are superior to women and - to some extend - he’s a trump supporter.


Yes, trump should be written like this, as small men don’t deserve capital letters!

But this guy is a trump supporter. A trump supporter?!??? How? Or why!?!


Other than golfing, insulting his citizens, debasing the presidency and ignoring a pandemic which has killed 140000 people, what exactly has bunker-boy done to make America great?


In fact, America is pitied by other countries, and many political analysts talk about the danger of trump’s actions:

“Powerful leaders who have a persecution complex will use their power to hurt their own people, destroy the rule of law, and turn their country into a military dictatorship. They feel they are justified in their own minds because THEY are the victims and the people are the enemy.” (Words of a Twitter user who knows more about politics than I do.)

Oddly enough, we were on the same page when we met, fighting for the same cause, believing that one person can change the community, etc. And now his strong beliefs are set on opposite side of the fence. Shocking? Yes. Heartbreaking? Yes - people can become even meaner. Aging gracefully is not for everyone, I guess.

What hurt me the most is that he gained my trust and then manipulated me like I was another car he could take for a spin. He made me question my own memory, perception, and judgment. And that broke me. Is it easy to admit this? No. I was in a spider‘s web and I didn’t even know it.


But what I know now is that his mom died, in May. I didn’t know this when I saw him on the other side of the road, and I didn’t know he was struggling when I was struggling to keep him away from my thoughts.

He’s mom died and I guess we’re in the same boat now. But I pray to God I will never see him again.


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