He tells me, "I'm sorry I'm not strong enough for you. I can't tell my family that I love a Jewish woman. I can't go forward with us. And you deserve better."
I doubt his love for me.
We met for the first time in September 2000. He was a leader at a conference I had attended. A few exchanges of real conversation about real questions, spins and turns on the dance floor and fleeting glances later, we began to date, one week after that first meeting. We continued to fall, and fell more and more deeply for each other.
Our love was simple, as it should be. We cherished each night together, never running out of "I love you's."
I guess what made us feel so powerful and beautiful is just how excited we were to love and live together--two inner spirits intertwined that pushed or allowed each other to be better, grow stronger, laugh harder and hug tighter. We opened each other's souls to a freer wind--perhaps the best gift two human beings can share.
He made references to us raising children together, allowing them to run naked along the beach. He mentioned us moving out west together, to spend late nights snuggling by crackling fires. He spoke of us reading books together, taking hikes through mountains, cuddling in front of movies, philosophizing about changing the world, sharing our deepest secrets.
I believed in his love more than I had in anybody else's. I was ready to be bold, take a risk, really let myself see where he and his love could take me, and, in turn, where my love could take him.
But then, as we were about to take this next step, he told me, "I'm sorry I'm not strong enough for you." He couldn't tell his family. He couldn't go further. The next time we saw each other, he seemed determined to prove we weren't meant to be...Where did the bold man I loved go?
I had tried to be understanding, knowing I could not truly comprehend what it was like to have a family not supportive of your love of someone simply because of a prejudiced, ignorant belief. It had pained me to go to his basketball games and meet his family as his "friend"; and then to go to family get-togethers and sleep in separate beds because we were "friends"; and whenever around family, to obey our comic yet real "10 foot rule," keeping ten feet between us because it was always hard to keep our hands off each other. His family was all right with Jewish friends, just not the partially tainted Jewish blood of their would-be grandchildren. Were we living a lie? But if our love was strong enough, it didn't matter.
But now this--two people loving each other and breaking up.
And why? I cannot tell if it is his parents, his family. Would they disown him if they knew? One anecdote... His sister had died a few years back, while in high school. A year later, when his father found out that he had dated outside his ring of the permissible, by dating a black woman, he spoke to him with words that still haunted him years later, "I feel like I've lost another child." I could only imagine the depths of that sharply stinging penetration. I would just hold him as he told me his fears of letting his parents down again. Had that comment now reached his heart and wrapped it in chains?
If he has given up on us because of his parents and this lack of strength, then I am sorry for him, angry with him, surprised at him, because he is the strongest man I know, or knew.
Or are those reasons a cover-up, a lie to me, a lie to our love? What haunts me most is that I can't tell, and I'm not sure if he can tell, whether our current status of "loving each other but being broken up" is the result of our love that is not what we thought it to be, or these fears around his parents', family's and society's prejudices.
I loved him. I gave my heart to him. He did the same. Yet we aren't together, and I have no answers.
He says it's an issue about strength. I think it might be an issue about our love. But I guess it doesn't even matter...
I hate giving up on things. So does he. How did this happen?
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Allison Harper graduated from Harvard in 2001, with a Cum Laude degree in Government. She is currently the Stowe-Harvard fellow on a one-year teaching and travelling fellowship, based in England.