During the ten or so years in which I’ve been dating, I have regularly developed connections with men who live in another state. And that means they live at least a day’s drive, or a two hour plane flight away. Not completely ridiculous, of course. It’s not as though they live in another country. But still hardly the optimum potting-mix from which to grow a solid relationship.
Many of these connections have merely been what a friend of mine humorously refers to as “FIFOF” (fly-in-fly-out-fucks): men who come to my home city regularly for work, and wish to catch up with me while they’re here. All terribly grown-up and lovely and no complaints from me.
But others have become something more, at least in my mind. The distance and lack of face-to-face daily annoying of each other can feed the fertile mind and heart: especially for a gal like me who suspects she may have developed a fear of intimacy. When they visit, I can have the boyfriend experience for a couple of days, weepily see them off at the airport, drive home feeling sad and sorry for myself, and then happily pyjama-up for a night alone in front of some crime docos. And none of the emotions on that continuum are inauthentic: they’re just contradictory.
But this is still a space in which the heart can get bruised.
Around a year ago (god…is it that long??) I started chatting to Brad*. Another nice, safe, two-hour-plane-flight chap. I was initially enchanted with his online profile, which was intelligent, witty and articulate. He knew the difference between “your” and “you’re”. How could a girl resist? Our first phone conversation, from memory, was about five hours. Neither of us could believe it. The next chat, a few days later, was much more reasonable and only a mere three hours. Eventually we added Skype to the mix, and so it went on. One of the most refreshing things about this connection was that, although we certainly talked about sex, along with many other topics, we never sexted or got into toxic intrigue. In fact even our flirting was done in a humorous, friendly way. It was that classic situation of feeling as though I’d known him for years. I was astonished at how almost instantly comfortable we were with each other. And yet never was that comfort dull. He challenged me, inspired me, made me laugh to the point of hyperventilation. After a particularly stressful or horrible day, when he would call I would answer with “Thank god it’s you!” I never had to explain myself. I never felt judged.
A while back the correspondence between us started to dry up. I knew that he was going through a really rough time and some major, unpleasant changes in his life. So I gave him space, and just occasionally texted with a “thinking of you”. I last messaged him two months ago and haven’t heard back.
And this is where the distance-connection becomes just another pile of crap. Brad and I never met, so that lack of physical reality made our relationship more than it was, in terms of fantasy, and yet much less than it should have been, in terms of any sense of loyalty. I’m not REALLY a friend, so I don’t feel that I can just call him out of the blue and ask him how he is. And the fact that he has not responded tells me that chatting to me is not a priority. I totally understand that he has much more pressing issues on his mind, but I had hoped that we were close enough in our cosy, distant way, that I would be someone he would turn to in a time of trouble. Clearly, I was mistaken.
I had hoped that once I was in a better position in my own life, I would fly over to visit him. I am now in that position, and he is no longer in my life, it seems. Because the disconnection was fairly gradual, I didn’t suffer the sudden let-down and heart-ache; and yet whenever I think of him, it is with deep regret, longing and sadness.
Did I over-invest in a distant prospect? Possibly. I never thought I was in love, or that we were soul-mates, although I’d be kidding myself if I said I didn’t think there was a possibility of that in the future. But I think I over-invested in him as a friend. He did nothing wrong. Neither of us made promises, or put expectations on each other. We kept it real, man.
Yet here I am feeling abandoned and slightly foolish. And missing him.
I’ve always sneered at people who put “must live within 50k radius” on their dating profiles, but now I’m beginning to see they have a point…
*Not his real name.