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Throwing Myself at the Feet of Love

by Susan Frownfelter

'The Mirror' by Brant Kingman
The Mirror
by Brant Kingman
I woke up angry at my husband, again, today. The feeling isn't new. I'm a 1200-dpi dreamer who frequently brings her most colorful slumberland emotions into an otherwise gray, early morning reality. I remember, one morning, feeling particularly angry after a dream in which I'd kicked him. The slumberland movement of my right foot broke into his reality that morning. Both of us remain a bit mystified when we think of it. I kicked him, for crying out loud!

This morning, however, I lay there for a long time in silence, pondering my anger's origin. Seems I have some latent issues -- and while the anger isn't new, the re-booting of it, this time around, found an old file on my hard drive I thought I had long ago trashed.

Mark was a new professor at the institution where I was employed as an editor in the public relations department. We met when I interviewed him for a feature in that school's newspaper. He was among the very few individuals I have ever interviewed who stopped the one-way probing to ask a few questions of his own, about me. As disarming as it was, I found myself flattered -- and intrigued.

Not long after that, Mark and I ended up dating; his attention to me was compelling. Enthralling, even! Despite my attempt to maintain some semblance of professional distance, I soon found myself in full swoon, a post-puberty giddiness, alive with all the rushes of that young kind of love.

Just to be near him was enough -- so I spent long hours near him, in his apartment, watching him prepare for his classes. Of course I pretended I had things to do as well, but mostly I just swooned.

It's funny, isn't it, when we suddenly find ourselves in these relationships, ignoring the gaping cracks that would eventually level the whole structure? After all, it wasn't as if we fought about things. Our silence in response to a particular action or expression, however, lobbed the time bomb back and forth between us. In a few awkward moments, our eyes would lock onto the truth while our hearts would lie, lie, lie.

Anyway, not surprisingly, Mark lobbed a live grenade to me one day. He wanted to end our relationship -- for the girl across the hall of his apartment building. I remember staring at him in disbelief as a full-body slam of emotions exploded within me. Truth be known, this relationship would never last. I was relieved he finally did what I had wanted to do for months. Finally, freedom from having to pretend anymore.

The truth, however, was lost, as I slipped outside myself and began to watch an otherwise professional, independent woman regress to a small, frail, weeping little girl desperately wanting that which now lay just beyond her reach.

I explained that experience, this morning, to my sleep-drunk husband, wondering if everyone has one such mortifying occasion when all dignity is lost as we throw ourselves at the feet of love, pleading that it not leave us alone again, possibly forever. That's it, after all, isn't it? We don't want to be left alone, feeling as though we are not attractive enough, not desirable enough, not good enough for someone to love us for a lifetime. I remember thinking that what I had offered Mark was inferior, that somehow the girl across the hall could better provide him with things I must be incapable of -- and that if he found me unacceptable, who would ever find me worth their while?

So, I begged Mark not to leave me. I threw myself on him while sobbing, pleading, negotiating, refusing to leave his apartment. It's the only out-of-body experience I can ever recall. The intelligent, dignified, Steinem-like me watched in horror, perched somewhere above it all, screaming for the small, scared little girl to join her for a respectable walk into the sunset.

It was some time later when I left that day, blatantly refusing to let him go across the hall to continue what he and I had begun. When I finally did leave, the madness continued, despite the calls of my higher self. In a torrent of love rage, I packed everything that even remotely reminded me of him -- all the little gifts he gave me, the books, the notes, the things he never even knew I kept -- all in one large paper bag, the most uncaring envelope I could find. On top of it all, I placed the lyrics of one of Barbra's most heart-rending pleas, all designed to hurt, prod, shame him to his senses about my value as a life partner, as a person.

All of my actions with that breakup still send a chill up and down my spine. I can still feel that lingering sting of shame, the dull pain of injured pride, the little girl horrified of being all alone.

Although it has been more than 10 years since that final scene with Mark, I relived all those latent emotions again this morning, as I pulled the blankets up around me. My slumberland journey for the last seven hours had supposed such an out-of-body scene with the man who was now lying next to me, my husband and the father of my two children.

He was unsuspecting as he stirred and first met my brooding anger. As he snuggled close, I lay still, wondering if God was trying to warn me of a future without him. Had I noticed him glancing a while longer at the woman across the street?

He rolled his eyes in that here-we-go-again way as I plied him with questions. "In my dream, you spoke French; do you know French? Is there someone in your office who speaks French?"

He pulled me close and gently teased the little girl lying beside him. In his arms, I felt an assurance Mark was never able to provide.

My higher self then deleted that long-lost file on my hard drive.


Susan Frownfelter currently is a freelance writer. For the past 15 years, she has served as the editor and associate editor of several newspapers in Michigan, a public relations official for the University of Michigan-Flint, and most recently as the press secretary for the Mayor of the City of Flint. She has received top honors as a columnist by the Michigan Press Association.