I’m Not Far Away Enough (Yet)

by Sydney Tate Bradford

article cover + photography by Sydney Tate Bradford, model: Lindsey (@clever.idiot)

It is only a little strange to explain what brought me six hundred and ninety-nine miles away from you.

“You” is a character, a placeholder, and the title for about seven different places and approximately ten or more people.

You, being the deepest-rooted misogyny I had faced my whole life coming from all directions, and in a city that claims to be everything but. You, being the whispers of danger that crept slowly in from the closest friend of the man who showed me what real love is for once.

Six hundred and ninety-nine miles is not nearly enough space for me to forget, but it is plenty enough to try.

Would I have realized it was your birthday had my phone not displayed it first thing in the morning? Would I wonder as much if you’re listening to the music I find if I deleted the photos we have?

If I had not been a fool for nine months, would it be as difficult to convince me that I am lovable?

I know it is unproductive to blame myself for chasing a pretend love that resembles the lack I was given up until now, but I am responsible for everything from here.

And what is “from here?” From now on, moving forward, all things considered. I’m afraid to work again. Feeling sure of myself and understanding my value as a person became an unfamiliar experience in the wake of mistreatment that fell like a line of dominoes.

I wonder if dropping out of college was really the right move because I could have offset the pressure of taking myself seriously for a bit longer. Really, that thought is rhetorical, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Still, it’s insecurity on some level, and you exacerbated its pain level to somewhere in the thousands.

Approaching this process brand new means being intentional. At the same time, I’ve lost the capacity to form new friendships. You stunted me from birth, wouldn’t let go, and wanted to treat me as disposable. It seems like too much baggage to entwine in a “how are you lately?” type of conversation — though some are willing to listen, it isn’t right to pretend to be a friend if I haven’t got the capacity.

Which leads to feeling lonely again — it was isolating to be devalued and disrespected for over a year, let alone the previous twenty of them.

I allowed myself to lean into this recession with no urgency at all. Rarely, I would share bits and pieces of myself with someone new, and I managed to let an all-consuming-type relationship back into my sphere. I’d tricked myself into believing it was healthy on both ends and I couldn’t have known the wiser.

You’d doubted my mental state, didn’t trust my feelings in response to someone close to you and asserted an endless bout of assumption while claiming to fear how you’d come across.

I wish you’d been more honest.

Six hundred and ninety-nine miles away from you, I’ve permitted myself to feel capable. I am proving it each day in creative endeavors and I’ve opened further to leaving the false sense of safety that monogamy provides.

(If I know all of this to be true then) why are my relationships proving cyclical despite all perceived knowing? Why does each man become a mirror of the last?

There’s no one way out of this — the haphazard crafting of a deluded perception that implies I am anything less than — but I am sure as hell going to try. It will be a lifelong thing riddled with wonder; The infinite gaze of doubt will not hold me.