AN AGORAPHOBIC'S ROMANCE
Katherine E. Rabenau
Katherine E. Rabenau
I met Frank at OA the one time I got up the courage to go out of the house. Let me tell you, my heart was beating so hard I could hardly breathe and my legs were like jello, all wobbly and weak. I thought I was gonna die or make a fool of myself, or both, and then I caught Frank's eye. He looked to be in the same condition and my heart went out to him, so I forgot about my own panic. "You ok?" I said, and he kind of gasped out "Panic attack!" I said, "Me, too," and it struck us both so funny that we started to giggle and forgot we were dying of terror.
Frank's fat too. And agoraphobic like me. Makes for an odd relationship. I suppose there's a mild sexual attraction, except we both have so many hang-ups. Me, I'm afraid of sex. If you'd ever met my mother, you'd understand why. Then add a hefty dose of sexual abuse. I have trouble being around when sex happens; I mean, I leave my body. I leave even when it looks like sex might happen. So it's really quite convenient to have a "boyfriend" who can't leave home and only talks to you by phone. For his part, he doesn't feel attractive, and to be honest, he isn't. I mean, he could be if he lost some weight. Isn't it awful, a big fat ugly woman who condemns other fat people. Or at least some of them. Frank just happens to be one of that group. I mean, he's one of the sweetest, kindest men in the world. Funny! He's got this kind of wry humor, slightly sardonic, but not mean. A tinge of cynicism, but also kind of a dreamer. Except that he's fat and agoraphobic, he's the perfect man for me. Or maybe he's perfect because he's fat and agoraphobic and I don't have to wrestle with the sex thing. I don't have to be afraid of him. He's so good at listening to me. I really love that and sometimes I wish I could touch him, you know, hold him and be held. We're both awfully lonely for touch. Sometimes he says he pretends I'm with him and he's got his arms around me and he's kissing my eyes and stroking my hair and just gently touching the softness of my skin. When he says that, I feel kind of comforted and tender and a little excited, and then I get scared and change the subject. I'm afraid I'd lose him if we ever got close, you know. Either he'd think I was cold or a whore, or both, and either way, he wouldn't want me and I'd be alone again, completely.
This way I can say I have a boyfriend and keep my mother's nagging at bay. All her, "if only's" and "you shoulds." "I do have a boyfriend," I counter. "Frank and I had dinner together just last night." And we did, sort of. We ordered food from the same Chinese restaurant and talked on the phone. We both got speaker phones so we could do things and talk, so sometimes we eat and sometimes we watch TV. We even rent the same movies sometimes and synchronize running them. Let me tell you, that's not so easy, but we've gotten pretty good at it. It's not perfect, I know, but I do love him.
We started therapy a few months ago. Found someone who makes house calls. Once in a while we have a joint session on the speaker phone, about, you know, getting together and touching. We've both lost a little bit of weight since we met and if I'm gonna trust anyone, it'll be Frank. Next month Jan - that's our therapist - she's gonna try to get Frank to come here for a visit. She'd have a session with us, then go out, and if he needed it, help him go home later. We thought we'd see how it felt to really touch. Sometimes I imagine it and it feels so sweet, I think it can't be possible. But who knows, maybe the times they are a changin'.