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Guardrail

Dear L,

The belief that we must each find love to live a full life pervades deep into our psyche. We see it in the abundance of romance in television, film, and young adult literature.

I am ashamed that I have also fallen to the trap of this belief. But I am also unable to find my way out of it. I feel that I am not whole, or that perhaps I am even empty and hollow, because I do not have another half.

I have never been loved as an adult. Throughout all these years, no lady has taken the time and effort to know me and love me.

Most of my friends are ladies, and they almost all have boyfriends. I feel that I perform a lot of emotional labor and give a lot of emotional support for ladies whose boyfriends are unable or unwilling to do so.

Somehow, when I do this work for them, I feel fuller and more complete, but when they leave to return to their boyfriends, I feel that I lose another piece of myself. I give these ladies pieces of my heart each time I work for them. My heart pumps blood for them, oxygenating and energizing them for their journeys home to their boyfriends.

Then I go home alone.

When I am alone, I feel that my relationships with these ladies are like dead ends in the maze of love. Alone and cold, I back out, retrace my steps, and try to remember where I was trying to go before I took care of them. But it is difficult, and I get lost. I don't know where to go, so my legs crumble. I lay down, my back curls, and my knees support my elbows as my hands wipe my eyes. A fountain of tears spouts all the pain that I carry for these ladies.

Every night is another heartbreak as I face the truth.

Ladies love my questions, my way with words, and my ability to help them express and understand what they think and how they feel. They love that I look at them, listen to them, and follow up on what they say. They love that I make them feel seen, heard, and understood. They love my mind, but they do not love my body, and they never will. They love their boyfriends' bodies instead. That's the body they are with after they spend their mind with me. That's the body that came first. That's the body they like. That's the body they are used to.

And yet, despite knowing that my relationships with these ladies are dead ends in that they will never make me whole, I do not have the heart to escape. I cannot bear to let them wander in the dangerous maze by themselves when I am their map. I cannot bear to sweep them off their feet and disappear when I am the stool they stand on and the net that they fall upon.

But even if I left to find another half, I do not think I will ever find one. There are people in my life who enjoy talking and spending time with me, and there likely will be more, but they never love me to the extent that they love my body too. That's why I will always be alone.

When I meet new people, they aren't interested in talking to me, and I think it is because they do not like my body or my looks or my style. It isn't until they feel like they have to talk to me, to be courteous to me or their friend who introduced me, that they open up for conversation. And it isn't until they hear me listen that they begin to accept and enjoy my presence.

Their willingness to converse with me will never grow into physical attraction. They will confide in me their most shameful secrets and deepest insecurities, but they will never tell me that I am cute, that I am pretty, or that I am handsome. They only say that I am a great listener, and that they really appreciate having me in their life.

That's the difference between appreciation and attraction: I am only the guardrail on the way to the view. I am strong and sturdy, and they can hold on to me all the way, but with each step and grip, they let go of me and rise to greater heights and sights. They use me, pass me, and look to see beyond me.

I know I shouldn't get attached to people. They always leave. But I do not know what to do. I am hollow, and I can always be hollow, or I can live with the hurt and let others be whole.

H