SEARCHING FOR LOVE (SHORT STORY)
Paris watched Blaise as he slept. He was a restless one alright, even in sleep. There was a faint frown on his face, like he was solving a puzzle. Maybe teaching advanced calculus in the university would do that to you.
She traced her finger from his temple to his jaw. He stirred and caught her hand. He kissed her palm and pulled her close. As she snuggled against him, she felt it was the best time to broach the subject she had been agonising over in the past few weeks.
“You have classes today, don’t you?”
“Hmmm,” he replied, holding her tighter.
“You have classes. That means you need to go home and change.”
“Not for an hour or so,” he responded, caressing the love handles by her side. That was one of the things she loved about Blaise. He never complained about her recent weight gain.
“You know you could save yourself the trouble of running back and forth by moving in.”
There! She’d said it and it wasn’t so hard to do. She and Blaise were both 31 and taught at NYU, she in Physics, he in Mathematics. They’d met at a cafe on campus and had been dating for a little over a year, with him often sleeping over at her flat close to the Greenwich Village, Manhattan campus. The first time was when she invited him over to celebrate their one-month anniversary. He lived in an efficiency apartment on campus and always went back to his place the mornings after their nights together to show up bright and early at the Courant Institute where his office was located. Every single time.This is the story of a young woman's pursuit of love and emotional healing. Click To Tweet
Paris had hinted that he leave a few clothes at her place but he didn’t. So she bought him some, hoping with those he’d spend two or three days at a row in her place. But he packed them back to his apartment and continued his practice of spending a night with her, then skipping two or three nights before showing up again. The raw situation reminded her of the saying, “You can take a horse to the stream, but you can’t force it to drink.”
Paris wanted more but Blaise wasn’t giving it. So she decided to make the offer that she just did. There never seemed to be a right time to talk about commitment with Blaise which was really what she yearned for. And her immediate past relationship had taught her not to assume anything with a boyfriend. But his silence now proved that Blaise didn’t like her suggestion.
“I do need to get going,” he said, rolling away from her and off the bed.
That stung like a slap. She wasn’t going to pretend she wasn’t hurt. Blaise stood up and began to put on his trousers.
“I just made a suggestion, Blaise.”
“I heard you.”
“Isn’t it obvious? I don’t think it’s a good idea.” He wore his shirt and began to button it.
“Can’t you guess? You’re a smart woman, Paris. And besides, now is not the best time for this conversation. I need to get home and prepare for work.”
“No, I say we have this conversation RIGHT NOW!”
Blaise became annoyed at her insistence. “Fine,” he said, sitting on the bed to wear his socks. Paris came around to face him.
“I love you, Blaise. Why can’t we be together?”
“We are together, Paris.” She noted that he didn’t echo her love declaration and he called her Paris, as he always did. “I just don’t want to lose my own life. I gotta have my own space.”
“I don’t understand. We have 750 square feet of space in this flat. You can have as much personal space as you need.”
“It’s not the same thing. I’m perfectly satisfied with the arrangement we have now.”
“Well, I’m not. It’s either we’re together or we’re not.”
“I can’t give you what you want, Paris; I can’t go beyond what we have now.” Blaise stood up and slid his glasses on.
“I think you’re selfish and afraid of commitment.” Paris was on the verge of tears.
“And I think you’re needy and clinging.”
“I thought we were good together but I guess I was wrong.”
“Watch what you say before you have to eat your words when this blows over.”
“You’re such an arrogant pri#k! I think you should leave now and never come back.”
“Get over yourself, Paris. Why would I want to come back? Next thing I know, you’ll be begging me to marry you.”
“Get out at once!”
“Gladly!” Blaise declared, slipping on his shoes and picking his blazer from where it hung in the closet and leaving.
The moment he left, Paris dissolved into tears.
That would be the fourth man to walk out on her. What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I get them to stay? I just want to get married. Why do I keep hooking up with all these commitment phobes?
Blaise said I’m needy and clinging. How is that a bad thing? Shouldn’t a man love a woman who makes him feel so important, whose life seems to revolve around him? All this is so confusing. I think I’m just not cut out for this dating game.
She remembered what she had been taught when she was growing up.
“Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. … Flee youthful lusts. … Pursue holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.”
She really believed and practised that stuff till after her graduation from college. She had been a typical book worm in school and had made a clear 5-point average, which earned her an academic position in her alma mater and a scholarship to do postgraduate studies in Europe. She ended up at Uppsala University in Sweden, where she got a teaching position for additional funding and pursued a doctorate degree in theoretical physics.
Opting to study abroad deepened her loneliness and her inability to cope with it drove her into the arms of one of her professors, Katz. She began to fantasise about settling down in Sweden and raising a family with Katz, only for her to wake up one morning and learn he had accepted a position in Norway. He left a note apologising for letting her down. She was young and beautiful, so she would find someone else soon, he had assured her. (Katz was twenty years older than her.)Sex is not a guarantee of longevity or commitment in a relationship. Click To Tweet
Then there was Gilberto, the Italian painter she had met during a trip to see the city she was named after. Just when she had finished rehearsing the speech with which she would invite him to go back to New York with her, he preempted her by saying he was going back to Italy, to join a monastery!
Upon getting back to New York, she decided to avoid the artsy crowd and go with more cerebral folks. But a romance with a marine biologist, Chad, lecturing at a community college in Brooklyn fell through. She discovered he was married and confronted him. He said he didn’t know singleness was required in their relationship and that he still loved his wife. Paris wanted to ask if he didn’t mean to deceive her, why he hadn’t mentioned his wife in the two years they’d been together. But she decided it was too late – pointless. She later learned his wife was a fashion model and constantly travelling. No wonder the guy could come and go as he pleased. She also recalled that he never invited her home, claiming that the view of Washington Square Park from her place was therapeutic.
And finally, Blaise! Charming, handsome, funny, smart, Blaise! Blaise didn’t know his family. He was raised in an orphanage, same as herself. Although they were taken into foster care as adolescents, they didn’t build close relationships with the families they had been placed in. Paris had assumed she’d found a kindred soul and together, they could heal each other. But while being an orphan made her crave love, it had the opposite effect on Blaise. He embraced his aloneness and maintained superficial relationships with others.
Their differences actually ran deeper. Paris grew up in a church-run orphanage and always had a deep longing for God. She accepted Jesus as her Saviour at the age of ten. Blaise, on the other hand, mocked her religion and told her to grow up, implying that to him, belief in God was an infantile notion.
All Paris was looking for was love. She felt if she got a man who loved her, she would rededicate her life to God and begin to serve Him well. She didn’t think she stood much chance of finding an interesting guy in church. The church folks she knew from her childhood were “stuffy”. But as she wept over the disastrous way her romance with Blaise had ended, it occurred to her that she had been disobedient to God all along. She was living by her own rules but that didn’t make her actions right. She had been seeking love and happiness but she had only found heartache and pain. It was time for her to retrace her steps. She needed to get back to who she was before she travelled abroad. She needed to quit the dating scene. She needed to allow God to take over the saddle of her life once again. His love was superior to any other. It was what she really needed and in time, if He willed, she would have the love of a man under the right circumstances.It is best to seek emotional healing in God, not in the arms of a fellow human being. Click To Tweet
As she was about to kneel beside her bed in prayer, her cell phone rang. It was Blaise. Paris was confused. Should she pick the call? What did he want? She didn’t want to fool herself into thinking Blaise would apologise. Even if he did, what would it actually mean? He certainly wouldn’t be granting her request. If he did, he would resent her in the long run. He could only want to restore the status quo, which would mean hurting her again in the near future. But all this is conjecture. I really don’t know what he wants.
Much as she loved Blaise and was very curious about why he called, she decided it wasn’t nearly as important as what she was meaning to do. It was harder than she imagined (not just ignoring his call but giving Blaise up) and she succumbed to another bout of weeping. She knew the tears would still be flowing intermittently for weeks, maybe months. But for the moment, she pulled herself up from the floor to kneel by the bed and find her way back to God.
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja 2018
Hi! Hope you enjoyed the story. Would love to get your views on these issues:
Do you think it’s wrong for a man or woman to be “needy” and “clinging” in a relationship?
What’s your take on Paris’ idea that it’s hard to find an interesting partner or spouse in church? (She described church folks as “stuffy”.)
What do you think of the decision Paris took at the end?
Do you have any relationship advice for young adults like Blaise and Paris?
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