That was the message waiting for me in my inbox yesterday when I returned to the house.
Now, such an email would have been touching as a (private) missive between lovers.
It would have warmed my heart to hear this from someone I'd known for a long time -- someone with whom I was comfortable. It could have been a meaningful token of intimacy.
But I didn't know this guy. Because he lived too far away, we'd messaged each other a few times. I'd shared that I was a writer, and an ordained minister. I'd told him (with just a hint of anxiety) where he could find my articles. He was a Christian, he was "born again," but he seemed very open to other points of view.
And now he wanted my cell phone number.
The old Elizabeth would have wondered at his loneliness. The woman I was once might have tried to find a way to help him.
During my evening run, I wrestled with what to write. But I didn't really debate.
When I got back, I sat down and wrote: "You don't know me. You know my image. I'm sorry, but you need to find a real woman who is closer. You seem like a sweet guy."
This past week I've heard from a few men really attracted by my profile. Some of them contact me online, just to chat.
My guess? They can see that could be empathetic, and they need someone to listen. Simply listen. That, in itself seems innocent...but it is also taxing.
Where I once was a person who would stop and engage a guy in conversation that I knew would lead nowhere, I'm not that woman anymore. Or I'm trying not to be.
I'm not being compassionate to myself when I hang out and advise.
And I'm not, long-run, being compassionate to them -- they need to find ways to help themselves.
More disturbing is the appeal of a persona, an imago, a carefully constructed fantasy.
There is so much loneliness out there, such a roiling blend of feeling, and we have such strange ways of filling it. Right now, I'd rather walk in solitude than distract myself.
I know I sound rather hard-boiled.
Part of it is a front. The other part is that some fools will learn in no school but that of the one they attend through experience.
I got up from the computer and looked around.
Now where the heck was my novel?