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    Gray Space

    Gray space.

    The blank screen of adocument stares back at me as I try to articulate my feelings.

    The ambivalence of it all. I’m admittedly good at many things.  Romantic relationships I am not. I call myself a poet or a storyteller.  A wielder of words; I form sentences, quotable’s. I inspire people.  I share my thoughts on the internet. However, there was something blocking me from a story I needed to share.

    He was never really mine. I was never really his.

    Poets are supposed to know what to say. They are supposed to be fearless, hopelessly romantic. Poets are supposed to be overcome with emotion like a tsunami and share their thoughts with ease.

    Just two people tethered together by circumstances. With the same friends. Over 150 mutuals. In the same field.

    His face comes through my feed. He’s handsome and I definitely once wanted to drink the essence in the crescent of his smile. The man I once wanted to hold like the sun. Maybe I was just Icarus, lingering long enough to get burnt- to finally learn my lesson.

    I was never an outrightly romantic girl. Dreaming of weddings or future children’s names. I would never reveal such things to people I was into. However, I didn’t have those obsessive altar making yearnings like Helga Pataki either. I’m not hopelessly romantic. I get bombarded with marriage announcements and baby shower pictures on my feed. Even more so as I’ve been approaching 25, I often wonder how much of it is for show.

    I didn’t want to be one of those girls yearning for a man’s attention. One of those needy girls.

    Maybe I’m just bitter. Or jaded. God forbid I be one of those perpetually single Black women who can’t find a partner. The type of woman my church going grandma warned me from becoming.

    I’m just seemingly in the gray space.

    What’s that? The gray space, it’s like the friend zone for women who date men. The world of no definition. You are either aren’t a man’s idea or worth relentlessly pursuing.

    It doesn’t get discussed that much but basically it’s when a man is attracted to you yet, for some reason or another, he won’t commit. He won’t give you a title. You’re on standby but he will say things to keep you in proximity.

    You’re special. You’re the GOAT.

    Now I don’t mean to be cis-sexist as any gender can exhibit this behavior. Isn’t that just ghosting?

    Sorta. It’s more like being emotionally immature.  In the great words of SZA: “Why bother me when you don’t want me?”  That space where’s it’s nothing but it’s something. You enjoy each other’scompany. The guy in question? We went on dates. We’ve talked on the phone and even at one time texted extensively.

    Isn’t that dating? Yes…no…maybe…

    He pulled my heartstrings in the most charming way possible. In typical male poet fashion, he was intelligent, dancing around with words. Different from other guys, so I assumed. We met through poetry, shared some of the same goals. He tried to make me laugh. I’m one to take a while to warm up to guys so I was unphased by his advances. He had many girls attracted to him but that’s to be expected in the world of performing arts. In the midst of it all, I felt like a canvas graying with each interaction.

    This gray space. Where you can’t get jealous. He talks to other girls. They find him attractive.

    It felt good to want to be wanted. It was great until I started to ask for permanence. That’s when things began to change. Which felt bizarre because we were friends for a year. We kept it casual; I had to focus on graduating. Also, we had a collaborative project to work on, clear boundaries established. So I kept my distance trying to bury myself deeper. However, he kept insisting that the possibility of us being more was imminent.

    One day I couldn’t stand being on this see-saw. So I purposely made it so I couldn’t see his feed. I couldn’t keep agonizing myself with someone who was honest with their intentions. Partially I was disappointed with myself because I’m very blunt and yet ended up disappointed. Perhaps in retrospect, I made too many excuses for him.

    in the gray space of maybe, he’ll realize what he’s missing. We have history- maybe he’ll see potential.

    However this summer I learned he had a partner, it was long distance. It possibly was long term but apparently, he cheated on her.  She was the exact opposite of what I am.

    She’s a white sneakerhead. With a fatass and uses AAVE. What does he see in her?

    Which admittedly blew my ego; I felt sorry for her because she deserved so much better than a man who didn’t fully commit himself. I deserve better than to be treated as a gray canvas. I am not a receptacle in which you can deposit bullshit, while I dispense attention.

    I don’t want to be someone’s option and I definitely am not interested in men who don’t see the fullness of women. We are not your fantasy girls, there to be the building blocks till you get your shit together. Nor are we “wifey” types that you can place on standby until you figure your shit out.

    The hardest part of it all was still being able to see the good in him. Every pedestal I put him on crumbling from the very foundation of infatuation. I started to see him less as attractive. I eventually found the courage to unfollow him on every social media page. I deleted all of his texts, photos, and emails. It’s like breaking up with a ghost. However, I made the choice to leave this gray space.

    I’m brilliant, beautiful, and driven. I make people smile. I write to heal. I color my world with every color. This is not a cautionary tale, a warning for you to never date poets or performers. This behavior can arise in anyone. It’s up to us to discern who is really into us. I will say that closet romantics are more susceptible to the allure of the emotionally unavailable person.

    To all my people who wear their hearts on their sleeves. You can’t make anyone love you. You cannot wring yourself of the love you keep trying to give, you just will strain your color.

    Photo: GIPHY

    Brittney Maddox
    Brittney Maddox

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