It was around 4 in the morning. My head was spinning and I was confused. I didn’t recognize anything around me as I drove these dark residential streets. I was trying to get home, but I was lost.
It’s been 11 years, but the emotions and the confusion are still crystal clear. It had been easy to get to the place where I had met this woman to talk, but when I finally left — eight or nine hours later — I mistakenly started down the wrong road and became dreadfully lost.
I have no idea why that confusing night is on my mind right now. An hour or so ago, I noticed a horrible ball of emotions in the pit of my stomach. Before I knew it, I was seeing fragmentary images from that night — and I was feeling those terrible emotions.
Fear. Guilt. Shame. Loneliness. Confusion.
Getting lost that night as I left is deeply symbolic of what I did to myself that weekend. I came on a straight and clear road to meet someone that night, but I made a wrong turn and got lost. In some ways, I’ve been lost ever since.
I was meeting a woman that night to break the news that I was going to marry someone else. I had dated her in the past, but I had broken things off with her to date the other woman. She had promised to wait for me to come back to her. Even though I knew she was wrong for me, it felt good to be wanted by both of them.
I was happy with the other woman. She was brilliant, funny, curious, competent and attractive. She made me feel alive in ways that the woman I met that night never could. When we agreed to marry, I felt happy, even though I still had some doubts.
All I had to do was break the news to the woman who had been waiting and hoping.
I feel guilty when I can’t give people what they want from me, and that’s the way I felt that night. She begged and pleaded and cried. She asked me to give her another chance. She couldn’t give up — and I couldn’t just firmly tell her the decision was made and leave her behind.
I didn’t love her. I wasn’t going to love her. But I couldn’t bring myself to do what I needed to do and let her just get over it in time.
I made the worst possible decision. I backed out of marrying the other woman. I hurt her badly. She waited for me for awhile and then gave up. The woman who had begged for another chance eventually realized she would never really have my heart — and she gave up.
Because I tried to sit on the fence and avoid the decision, I lost the woman who could have been a perfect match — and I also lost the other choice, too.
These emotions I’m feeling tonight aren’t about either of these women. Each one married someone else in time. I assume each one of them is happy. I haven’t spoken to either of them in a long time.
But I can’t get over the wrenching realization that I blew up my future by my unwillingness to do what I knew I needed to do.
I eventually got home that night, but it was a confusing trip through neighborhoods which felt utterly unfamiliar. I felt lost and alone and confused.
I feel as though I’ve been on that lost and confused journey for 11 years now. It’s as though I made a wrong turn that night and I’ve never made it home. I feel as though I’m a lonely soul traveling alone through unfamiliar territory and there’s nobody around.
There was one year — about six months of that year — when I thought I had found my way out of the confusing fog. Maybe it was just the mirage of a lost traveler who sees what he needs to see. For that short time, I felt as though everything made sense. I was back on a straight and clear road.
But then I was in darkness again.
We build our own prisons. I didn’t know it then, but by refusing to accept the love I was offered — by someone I loved at the time — I started building my own prison. I hurt her and then I ultimately hurt myself. And I’ve been in this lonely and solitary prison ever since.
My emotions tonight aren’t about either of those women. They’re about a variety of things.
Regret. Loneliness. Hurt. Need. And fear.
I fear I’m stuck on this lonely road. I fear I’ll never find my way. And I fear I’ll never have the love I need. I fear I will spend the remaining decades of my life wondering why I got myself lost that weekend.
We all pay a terrible price for some decisions we make. For 11 years, I’ve paid a terrible price for what I did (and didn’t do) that weekend.
I’m still lost in that confusion — and I see no end in sight to the nightmare I started with that wrong turn.