I realized I didn’t like fireworks when you took me out on our first date. On the way, we stopped at Subway to buy sandwiches. I wasn’t confident enough in myself at the time to tell you I didn’t like Subway, or the weird smell and flavor of their food. If you wanted sandwiches, I could have named at least three other places in town where I’d much rather get a sandwich. Instead, I stood next to you and ordered something from the menu.
We arrived at the park early, laid out or blanket and sat there, chatting, while we ate. I don’t remember if I ate the whole thing, just to be polite, but I do remember the bread being incredibly soggy and tasteless. As soon as the fireworks began, I realized I hate them. I realized I didn’t want to be there. The company was good, and I was enjoying spending time with you, but I was afraid to say I didn’t want to be there anymore.
I was shocked, not only by the noise and the flashing lights, but by my own reaction. I used to LOVE fireworks when I was a kid. I longed to be “old enough” to light the fuse on a Catherine Wheel at my uncle’s annual Independence Day celebration. I used to spell out my name with sparklers, and laugh as the tiny snakes appeared out of small, black pellets. I had already told you how much I loved fireworks shows, so it wouldn’t have made any sense for me to suddenly change my mind. I didn’t want you to reject me, so I swallowed my fear and tried to remember what I enjoyed about them.
You clearly enjoyed the show, making all the “oooohs” and “ahhhhs” as the giant balls of light exploded overhead. As it happened, the bangs and flashes of light were a trigger for me, an unknown trigger, and one I didn’t expect in the least. I was suddenly trapped in the past, reliving the night my spouse of fifteen years physically assaulted me for the first time. There had been fireworks that night, we had watched them from the backyard. We had that terrible fight later that night, but I hadn’t made the connection between the two events until right now.
Because I’d spent more than a third of my life in an emotionally abusive situation, I was pretty practiced at swallowing my anxiety and hiding my negative feelings. My abuser would not put up with that, so I had become a master of wearing a mask of my “happy” face. It’s possible I convinced you to leave early, but I don’t remember. That was more than two years ago now, and with the pandemic being one of those two years, it seems an age since I thought about that day.
But here you are, I knew I’d run into you someday (it’s a small town) and here we are at the same Independence day celebration. Lucky for me, there are no fireworks this time. The fire danger is real, and there is not even a sparkler in sight. Looking back, I realized I let us “grow apart” because I didn’t want to deal with the consequence of admitting my lie of omission to you. But here you are, and here we are, chatting again like we never had any time apart.
We met again for lunch, to “catch up.” This time, I picked the restaurant. We had a drink and a meal and spent a good two hours talking. It was nice to see you again. To hug you, to look into your eager eyes, to see your desire simmering there, just below the surface. I could feel you holding back because you know enough about me to know I’m cautious now with my heart as I’m not sure I have all the pieces back together yet. You said you liked me, but you almost said “love,” unless you’ve developed a stutter that specifically affects the letter L in the word “like.”
Many of my prior relationships have been like fireworks: exploding with passion and then fizzling out as the brightness fades away. I’ve thought about you, from time to time over the past two years. I had to delete your phone number to avoid me contacting you out of sheer loneliness. But now, you’re back in my life.
I’m still not ready to rush this. I’ve grown a lot in the past two years (ages). I now understand I don’t have to jump into bed with everyone who likes me. It’s up to me to decide, and it takes some time to get to know someone. I have the advantage of being moderately interested in you: we’re less likely to spark bright and fade away. I won’t leap to conclusions, I won’t make such an effort to please your sensibilities. I’m looking after me now. I’m content if I end up with another friend, there is no need to leap into a relationship status. I’ve made my intention clear, now I can wait and see what develops over time. I don’t need to take part in a fantasy of a relationship, I’m ready to allow for whatever this is going to turn out to be.
I suppose I’ll have to admit my fireworks aversion to you at some point, maybe you’ll find it funny as I do (now). I’m sure Subway will come up at one point or another… But this time, I’m not afraid of how you’ll react, if something I do or say “causes” you to reject me. I no longer fear being alone as I no longer feel lonely. A year in lock down did wonders for my self-esteem; I was finally able to slow down long enough to listen to my own voice, my own desires, and my own needs. I’m confident enough to state my opinion, even if it’s not popular in present company. If you reject me, that is your choice and it has more to do with you than me.
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