Do you believe in love? Can you say when love happens? Are there rules of engagement in this thing called love? Does love conquer all?

I am a romantic, and I have come to realize that I easily fall for people whose intelligence gets to me. I first have to appreciate a guy for what’s going on in his head. And if he happens to be well-endowed, then that’d be the icing on the cake. I have dated a number of such guys in the past. And I have had some breakups as well, some of them amicable, some of them bad.

A short while ago, in a gay Facebook group I belong to, I saw someone post a witty comment on an update. I appreciated the sharp humour in the comment, and was suddenly interested in knowing the person behind it. I clicked over to his profile and looked through his photos and available updates. I got more interested. So I sent him a friend request. (For the purpose of this writeup, I’ll call him Solomon). When he accepted my request, I sent him a message via his inbox, and we began getting acquainted. We already had the commonality of our membership in the Facebook group, so there was not much need to dance around the topic of possible sexual interest.

However, at the time, we were just interested in being friends. We chatted a lot. He was a very interesting person to talk to – intelligent, engaging, funny, with deep-seated emotions that brought about a strong connection between us. My heart stood no chance against Solomon’s personality; I soon started developing feelings for him. Our verbal rapport affected me on such a deep, chromosomal level. It helped that we didn’t go straight to sexual talk when we started our journey to friendship. In fact, for a long time, we talked about everything but sex – life, career prospects, family, LGBT issues. I saw a visionary in him, and his seemingly genuine interest in me and my private battles as a first child of my family and as a single gay man strengthened my growing affection for him.

So when I knew I was falling in love with him, I let him know. I had to be sure we were operating on the same wavelength. He assured me that the feeling was mutual. And so we began making plans to further our relationship by actually meeting and sharing more than a virtual connection.

This story isn’t a story about love. It is a story about when life happens to love…or something like it. First, there was this thing of beauty, this thing that held promise. And then, it was no more. The flames that burned in the fireplace, bright with colours of passion and promise, eventually burned out to embers of cold ash.

I’m not exactly sure when things started going downhill between Solomon and I. But it began to seem like we hit a roadblock, and were subsequently limping on. There was no big fight, no wounding betrayal, just a sense of loss that slowly began creeping in.

And then, I got a message on my Facebook inbox.

‘Hello,’ it said.

The message was from (who I’ll call) Mark. He was a distant online acquaintance of mine – you know, that person you know is in your friend list, but you’ve never really had a dialogue with, except run into each other on updates of mutual friends.

‘Hi,’ I responded.

He wanted to know how I was doing, about life and work. Our talk was casual, the talk of two people merely firming up their acquaintanceship. We were also well aware of our shared sexuality.

And then –

‘I want to know more about you,’ he typed. ‘Are you in a relationship? Or are you not the relationship kind of guy?’

That was so out of the blue, and I was instantly wary. It just then dawned on me that this was someone trying to start something with me.

But I was not available, and I was upfront about it. ‘Yes, I’m a relationship kinda guy,’ I responded. ‘But they seem to fail me. I am currently seeing someone, but I’m no longer sure of where we are. I still have hope for us though. I’m trying.’

‘We’ve all had our share of heartbreaks,’ he replied.

But I had to know. I was bewildered by his sudden interest in me, and I said as much.

‘I didn’t suddenly notice you,’ he demurred. ‘I have admired you for a very long time. I haven’t been able to come forth though because I’ve been scared.’

He went on to open up to me, talked about his longstanding affection for me, about how I didn’t deserve to be treated badly by whoever was messing with me.

‘You don’t have to fight to stay with him if he belongs to you. Have a direct talk with him and get everything out in the open and make a decision to move on based on the result of that discussion.’

I realized that Mark was making a case for himself, a case to get with me. But that realization wasn’t as strong as the awareness I came into that I’d been afraid. That I’d been afraid of having a hard talk with Solomon because I was afraid he would outrightly tell me he didn’t want us to be anymore. I’d been wearing blinders, hoping that if we didn’t confront our issues, and if we skirted around whatever problems we had, we’d be okay and still remain together.

But Mark was right. I had to talk to Solomon. I couldn’t continue being in this state of limbo anymore. So I made us have the talk. It wasn’t very pleasant. And he didn’t hold back.

“I was never ready for a relationship,” he said. “I’ve had relationships in the past that didn’t end well. I thought I’d be ready for a fresh start. But I’m sorry, I’m not.”

On some level, I had seen this coming, this devastation. So I was prepared. His words didn’t wreak the havoc in my heart that I’d feared they would. I felt the impact. I embraced it. I locked it down. And then I was ready to shut the chapter.

But then, reports started getting back to me through mutual friends, who I wasn’t even aware had apparent knowledge of our relationship. Reports that weren’t supposed to reach my ears, of Solomon talking about how he had to agree to a relationship with me because he felt sorry for me, and that I manipulated his affections with my tears and overflow of emotions. (One of the persons spreading this story also happened to be the bitch claiming to be Solomon’s latest love interest. That was especially galling.)

Hearing these brought about my heartbreak. I had seen our breakup coming, but nothing prepared me for this blatant betrayal. I could not believe this picture Solomon had painted of me as some weak, emotion-driven, sad guy whose power lies in using his tears to get what he wants.

This is the antithesis of who I am (My friends can attest to that). I am strong-willed, have no patience for weakness, and sometimes forceful with my strength. I am not a damsel in distress, and no matter how many times my heart has been battered in the past, I’ve never needed anyone to come rescue me.

First I was devastated by these things I heard Solomon said. Then I buried my grief under the welcome weight of anger. I burned with rage. I confronted him, lashing out in the course of the confrontation. He lashed back. It got very ugly very quickly. Resentment burned between us. This was very clearly the end.

I was determined to move on. And Mark put himself right there, wanting to be a shoulder that’d provide solace for my grief. And then, he began wanting more, to fill the gap he figured Solomon had left in my heart.

“Dear, I came to you to help you heal, to show you the true love you deserve. What I fell for you is no infatuation. It has been there a long time. You have been saying you won’t ever date again. I understand why you say this, and yet my heart weeps when you say those words. Give me a chance, my darling.”

“Mark, I can’t…” I tried to fight his persuasion.

“No one holds the key t your happiness. Remember that. Don’t give Solomon the power over your happiness. Do not let this disappointment rob you of a chance to be happy again.”

It has been three months of this dogged attempt to get me to change my mind, and I haven’t said yes. I do not know how to say yes to him. His ardour is tangible. He has been persistent. It is clear he wants to be with me. He has often laid himself bare to me, his vulnerabilities all out in the open.

But I still can’t say yes. Not only is this so soon after the mess of my affair with Solomon, but it is fact that a wounded person does not soon seek the sport that caused his injury.

But in the still moments when I tell myself I’m making the right decision to keep my heart shut away, to keep myself away from Mark, a small voice whispers: what if you’re missing the opportunity to get what you know you want?

Do you believe in love? Are there rules of engagement in this thing called love? Does love conquer all? If love is such a conqueror, why do its battle wounds run so deep and its scars never truly heal?

Written by JBoy

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