Friday, November 24, 2017
Loving In Fear
By Darryl James (Columnist)
Published May 14, 2009

Some of us spend a lifetime searching for the very thing that we ward off with our own behavior. For some, it is our desire to have what we can not hold, because we want more than we are willing to be.

For others, it is our desire to have someone heal us when we are not open to healing ourselves.

Still, for others, it is our inability to let go of the past in order to embrace the future.

Many of us are simply too afraid to love in the present.

A good friend called me the other day. He told me that he ran into a woman I almost loved who asked if I was still single.

The question rolled around in my head as I remembered yet another unrequited love.

Shirley and I were the same age, but she was so cute and well preserved, that she could easily pass for ten years younger. She was oh, so smart and a genuine sweetie.

When the wise elders tell you that you’ll know when you see it, please believe them, because it’s true.

I met Shirley at a party and nearly from the time we laid eyes on each other, we were both smitten. The attraction was powerful–so powerful we both had to acknowledge it. We danced with each other the entire night and when a slow record came on, I knew she didn’t slow dance, but I asked her anyway. I asked her, because I knew she would say yes to me-and she did.

We held each other comfortably–so comfortably that both her friends and my own thought we had known each other for years. And even as the music played, we talked like old friends do. When the music stopped, we had to be told, because we were in our own world.

Of course, we exchanged numbers, and the phone conversations did not disappoint. We conversed divinely, and discovered that the initial strong attraction had a strong foundation. There was much in common and great mutual desire.

But James Ingram warned me in his song, “100 Ways,” when he said “There might be an old lover in her memory.” There was.

In our first conversation, she told me that there had been a recent breakup. But she said that it was over and that they were just friends. She said that she felt unencumbered and I took her word.

But while we were planning a date, she told me that she wanted to just be friends. With me. She said that her ex wanted to see her and that she wanted to talk to him, too. She wanted to stop the thing with me, so that she could concentrate on the thing with her ex.

She wasn’t my girlfriend. Hell, we hadn’t even been intimate. But, the elders are right–when you see it, you know it, and I knew what I saw in her. I also knew that what she was telling me was a sign of something else that just wasn’t cool.

It was just too new and I didn’t want to deal with something that could bring me drama before it was mellow. So, I gave her a deadline. I told her that she had until the end of a three-day weekend to deal with her ex, sort it all out and to let me know.

The three days came and went.

I blinked first. I backed away from my own deadline.

I called and we shared some small talk. She said that she wasn’t going to call because she knew she wouldn’t make the deadline. I admitted that the deadline was kind of silly and that I didn’t really expect her to pay attention to it. But she took it very seriously and said that it had changed her mind about the strong attraction she felt toward me.

And, then, she told me that she still had feelings for her ex.

That was all I needed to hear in order to make a clean exit the only sensible option. I may have chosen another option, but during our conversation, she pushed me away. And I let her.

After the fact, I realized that she may have simply had some temporary confusion over finding something so strong so soon after losing something else.

After the fact, of course, I also realized that perhaps I should have given her more room to do whatever she needed to do and feel her way through whatever she needed to feel her way through.

But the reason why we say “after the fact,” is that it is usually after the fact. The fact remains that we both felt something so strong that it couldn’t be denied. Something so strong that everyone else could see it. We both felt something so strong that it could have blossomed into something very beautiful and long lasting if only given the chance.

But her fear of unresolved issues took away the chance. My fear of her unresolved issues did the same. I called again, but she wouldn’t return my call, so I didn’t call anymore.

When people ask why fools fall in love, I know the answer. It’s the same reason why fools mess it all up–they are fools.

Some foolish people will complain to anyone who will listen that there just aren’t any good men or good women. Those same fools will fall down on their knees to beg God to send them something that is often sitting right in front of them, or something they just sent away. And, to quote Will Smith as “Hitch,” they “wonder why falling in love is so God damned hard.”

Sometimes we wait for the right one to come along, only to create a reason why they really aren’t the right one. Sometimes, we are simply afraid to let go of what’s already gone, which we must do in order to embrace something new. That fear can cause us to lose both that which is gone and that which was never fully with us.

I can’t say that I haven’t thought of Shirley every now and again, but when she sent me away, I complied and never looked back.

I knew that she was afraid to let go of what she had and that she was afraid of what was right in front of her.

But I also knew that I was afraid to pursue and love someone who was loving in fear.

I chose to live with my fear since I could not get her to face her own.

Darryl James is an award-winning author of the powerful new anthology “Notes From The Edge.” He released his first mini-movie, “Crack,” and will soon release his first full-length documentary. View previous installments of this column at Reach James at



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