To know or not to know


At 31, I left a devastating relationship with a married man. There are lots of things to say about this, and maybe I will say them here at some point. For now, it feels enough to acknowledge the enormity of the mistake. I was uncertain about my place in the world, and I felt very alone. Trust in myself was at an all-time low.

Then Jake appeared. Our introduction was an unexpected gift from co-workers who took pity and pulled me into their circle of outdoor thrill seekers, faux spiritualists, and unabashedly ambitious friends. For a time, they were a fun and lively group, and I was grateful to be among them.

Jake was solid, a graduate student who had grown up in a comfortable midwest suburb, with a stable family and an objective point of view. A philosopher, he had come out to the west coast to be an organic farmer, and then a writer, and finally a small business owner. I was drawn immediately to how normal he was. Confident and generous, handsome and untethered, he was everything the former lover wasn’t. From him, I felt no judgement. Jake offered the perfect chance to reinvent myself, and I eagerly took it.

When I realized I might be at a major fork in my road, I went looking for him. Drew. We hadn’t spoken since our high school reunion years before but when I found his email address, I sent him a message. I felt a sense of urgency, and I knew that if I paused, I wouldn’t have the courage to challenge our status quo. Would he respond? He did. But when I told him I was keeping a key under the mat for him, a metaphor I thought was evocative, it was met with silence.

As it turns out, he was married, disastrously. In the thick of it at that time, he was questioning his own value, measuring himself through someone else’s eyes. How I wish I could have helped him through that. But I didn’t know. I tugged on the thread between us, the vibration itself a message, but he was gone.

I knew he was a question I could never answer on my own. To move forward with Jake would mean agreeing to never know.

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