H.A.L.T.

He was the kind of lover that made you want to thank him at the close of every rendezvous; to absolutely and definitively express gratitude towards him for his ability to give pleasure; to humbly praise his skill and his tangible way of physically bringing you to a place of bliss and then allowing you to dwell there. Yes, he was that good. All he did was give.

Until he didn’t anymore, and then all he did was take. I should have seen it coming. The whole yin and yang of life is not new to me. If our lovemaking was unbalanced, it only made sense that the pleasure he should have rightfully received, after giving me so much, should be taken from some other aspect of our relationship. An unbalanced debt is an unbalanced debt, no matter what the currency. Bills always come due.

It wasn’t until much later that I came to understand that perhaps it was all a set up. That maybe he used his rare talent as a way of achieving personal gain. In other words, he was a gigolo and I was his mark.  Maybe it wasn’t so much that I was selfish and did not try to give back, it was that he was determined to take his pleasure elsewhere and feel justified in doing so.  Or maybe it was just karma. Either way, I’ll never know.

I do know that I have been taught better, both figuratively and literally. On my first day of college a professor of a kindly paternal disposition set out to give sage advice to a classroom full of hopeful and naïve freshmen. He scribbled an acronym across the dry erase board and stated that we should make all of our decisions over the next few years with it in mind.

H.A.L.T.

 This meant stop and consider your personal state before making any type of choice. The professor succinctly said, “Never make a decision when you are hungry, angry, lonely or tired. Always remember to halt.” He went on to actually teach the subject we were all there to study, but my mind stayed stuck on his introductory speech.

It was a moment that changed my life, but not in the way that I think the well-meaning instructor intended. I spent the rest of the class contemplating the simple acronym and the meaning behind it. Eventually, I concluded that if I waited until I was in such an ideal frame of being to make choices, I would live out the entirety of my life without making a single decision. Because my reality was that I had never lived a single moment of my life without feeling hungry, angry, lonely or tired.

This revelation could have easily caused me to make a life change by working to create an existence where I was not feeling at least one of those sensations at all times. Instead I used it as an excuse to recklessly make decisions with dire consequences.

You see I was always hungry for an ever-elusive craving. An indefinable something that, if received, would satisfy me in a way that nothing else ever had. It was this insatiable hunger that caused me to latch on to him and take, take, take without any consideration of the phrase, “payback is a mother-“.

As a result, I was so familiar with anger as a constant companion that I was incapable of distinguishing between my everyday jacket of anger and a justifiable mink coat of rage. He did things that deserved violent fury and I let it slide, convincing myself it was the former and that I was overreacting.

Don’t get me started on the loneliness. It is the worst kind of isolation to feel lonely when you are in a relationship with someone. Again, I blamed myself. I berated myself for being such an ice queen that I could not let someone else in. It did not occur to me that a sincere relationship should gently chip away at the frostiness of loneliness with constant warmth in the form of passion, kindness and caring.

I thought I was world weary before, but I hadn’t seen anything until my debt came due. He sucked me dry. I was the kind of tired that made me lay awake at night staring at the ceiling. I was the kind of tired that caused friends to do a double take and express concern over my well-being. I was the kind of tired that caused my supervisor to suggest a leave of absence. I was the kind of tired that caused me to take that leave of absence thereby enabling me to expand my nocturnal ceiling watching to daylight hours as well.

Then I got tired of him. Ending it was by no means easy. He had so methodically captured me that it took a major crisis of conscious to free my mind from the luxurious prison he had created. And yes you are right, supposedly there is no such thing as a luxurious prison. The two don’t mix. That’s about the same as a cold love affair. Both metaphors are a complete contradiction in terms and hell to live through.

So now here I am, thinking over that wise instructor’s advice. Meditating on his attempt to give me and my classmates a local’s perspective in our newly foreign world. Finally I have made a decision worth the effort. I decided when I was hungry, angry, lonely and tired to not stay that way. I’ve come to a halt…and I’m changing the game.

 

Do you write short stories or essays? How do you create a distinct voice when writing in first person?

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