Three Dog Night sings about one being the loneliest number that you’ll ever do. But two can be as bad as one; it’s the loneliest number since the number one. So which is it for me? Is one the loneliest number; or two?
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’m forty-seven, I’ve never been married, and the longest I’ve ever lived with a man is three months. That three-month stint was in my twenties. The man I was seeing had sold his house (he was fifteen years older than me) and asked to stay with me until he figured out where he was going to buy next. In actuality, I think it was a ploy for us to live together, and he knew I wouldn’t go for that if he went at it directly. So I allowed him to move in with the understanding that it was temporary, a few weeks, but no more than a couple of months. I can’t recall the particulars of our day-to-day life, but I do know that as time went on, all I wanted was for him to get the fuck out. Don’t get me wrong: there were moments when I liked having him around. But we lived in a one-bedroom apartment and this was not how I envisioned living together in a committed relationship would be. I grew sullen. Argumentative. Difficult. And eventually I told him he had to leave. This ended our relationship. And began many months of what is now known as stalking. He called incessantly, begged, pleaded and wept, sent me gifts (mostly jewelry, but once a bag of panties) and flowers, showed up at my home in the morning before I left for work, blocking my car in with his, wrote letters, sat outside my apartment in his car, just watching. (He was also prone to physical violence, lest you feel pity for him.) My friends thought it was sweet and showed how much he loved me, how devoted he was to me. Maybe so. But I felt like prey. Eventually he was transferred to another city, and his obsession dwindled. Although he did call my parents’ house last Christmas looking for me. My mother, god bless her, did not give him my number. (Apparently he hasn’t heard of the google.)
The point is, that was my one foray into living with a man. He also was the only man who ever proposed to me before Mack. Although there was no ring, so in my mind, it didn’t count. That was more than twenty years ago, and although I’ve had a few serious relationships since then, none had reached the level of commitment that involved living together or proposals, until Mack. In fact, I had all but resigned myself to the fact that I was destined to be alone. But I was okay. I have a successful career, I make good money, I have a nice home (albeit small, as Mack and I learned), I have good friends, I take vacations, I have hobbies. And most importantly, I have cats.
I must pause here. About the cats. The night before last, in the midst of some severe self-loathing and pity, I was reminded of an interview Mickey Rourke did with Barbara Walters during her Oscar show, when he was up for The Wrestler. He talked about periods in his life when he was suicidal. And he said that the only thing that kept him tethered to this earth during those periods was his dogs. I can relate. Were it not for the cats, there are moments these past few days I may have been bordering on suicidal. An exaggeration? Maybe. But it didn’t feel like it at the time. At the time, I considered that I might be broken somehow. Damaged beyond repair. I concluded that my relationship with my father (I know, so cliché), coupled with my past relationships with men, had left me so scarred, that I could never be with a man. Not completely. When I was with Mack, I thought I’d overcome this feeling. I thought I’d finally figured it out. Learned to be in a real relationship.
As it turns out, I was wrong. When Mack was here, I felt just as panicky and anxious as ever. I withdrew from him emotionally. And toward the end, physically. In between I criticized him.
Which leads me to wonder whether Mack and I moving in together was too much too soon, or am I simply incapable of being in a real, committed relationship? Maybe I am destined to be alone. Maybe I must resign myself to the fact that I am one of those people who can’t be with another person. I’m too damaged. It’s better for me to be alone. It’s better for the man in my life to not be with me.
And really, is one so bad? Is it really the loneliest number? Aren’t there lots of people who are two, and wishing they were one? Before I fell in love with Mack, I had convinced myself that one was not the loneliest number. That I never felt lonely. That I was perfectly happy being one. Mack’s been gone for over two weeks now. I feel his absence. I ache. And I am lonely. I’m lonely for Mack.
I think Three Dog Night had it right: One is the loneliest number. But is it too late?