Heart in a Cage


You musn’t give your heart to a wild thing. The more you do, the stronger they get, until they’re strong enough to run into the woods or fly into a tree. And then to a higher tree and then to the sky...” (Breakfast At Tiffany’s- 1961)

I paraphrased that line for years. I was so afraid of commitment, so afraid that someone would try to hold me down, that all my relationships inevitably ended with me telling them “it’s your fault for trying to love me” (basically). I pretended I had high standards, that there was something wrong with every person I was with, but it was me. There was something inside me  that had been blooming and dying for years, something scary that made it hard for me to believe that I was lovable. I was convinced, as a lot of people are, that it was either a colossal joke or that they would get sick of me after a moment. Leave before you’re left was my motto. If I felt myself getting too attached, I bolted. I told them terrible things about themselves, the minutiae of their sad existence. I was cruel, as only someone who is slowly lugging bricks to the wall around their entire life, and trying to keep people from getting walled in with them, can be. I was a wild thing, flitting in and out of the lives of people like a hummingbird, eating from bird feeders filled with childhood secrets and emotions.

I never listened to Paul Varjak when he said that the only cage Holly was in was the one she built for herself. Or maybe I did listen, but I didn’t believe him. I didn’t believe that any human being was worth that pain, worth the crushing humiliation of a breakup or the circulation of private photos and texts because “haha you got the ugly girl to think you liked her”. So, there I sat, convinced I was content with my hummingbird life, currently siphoning sob stories from a friend of my brother’s, when my friend called. She wanted me to meet her fiance’s best friend. So I caved. What else was I doing but stringing along some poor kid who “honestly couldn’t wait to fall in love with me”? Besides, there was something in her voice that night, when she asked me to have a G+ Hangout with the three of them (her, her fiance’ and The Boy). I was intrigued.

“No, you don’t get it. I think he’s The One for you,” I heard the capitalization in her voice like she was writing the novel of my life with this kid I hadn’t even met. “Give him a chance, at least”.

I was all set to break this kid’s heart, even if I didn’t mean to, or even know it at the time. I was going to do it. I think about that now, when I’m staring at my phone, willing it to ring, praying to whatever god listens to overwrought twenty-somethings whose boyfriends don’t call. I was going to have fun and leave. What the hell happened?

What the hell happened was this: I was tamed. The wild thing that ran amok and crushed everything in its wake was gone. It took a moment, maybe from “hello, I’m Adam” to the first time I made him grin (and vowed subconsciously to continue to do so for the rest of my life). I think that those Hollywood stereotypes have some basis in fact. Maybe sometimes it does just take the right person to show you that you don’t have to be alone or push people away. Or, just maybe, there are people that the pain might be worth. I hope I never have to find out. I hope you don’t either.

“You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.” (The Little Prince- Antoine de Saint-Exupery)


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