What They Don’t Tell You About Vulnerability

What they don’t tell you about vulnerability is that it can end in very cold walks across an iron bridge back to a friend’s tiny apartment, a shattered soul cowering under covers.

On a floor I once sat, staring at organic tortilla chips and soy hummus as men talked about being vulnerable. Heart circle, it was called, but I thought I was asked there for a fuck. That night was about vulnerability, cherry tomatoes and something with quinoa, awkward floor cushions, and a tiny bell rung after everyone had been deemed vulnerable enough.

Men baring their hearts, being vulnerable in between the crunch of tortilla chip and slurp of açai berry spritzers, moist warmth like what happens when corpses decompose in hot cars. So much vulnerability I felt a bit flu-ish, while outside the wet chill beckoned, a last bus or a very cold walk more appealing than listening to other men’s performed vulnerability.

Vulnerability is when you were invited to a man’s bed but find yourself instead first having to endure a heart circle and you really don’t want to be there anymore, but don’t have a ride home. And anyway you don’t actually have a home, just the promise of one later, one in another country where you don’t speak the language and anyway you just wanted something human.

Vulnerability is leaving after the tiny bell is rung one too many times, after too many tortilla chips have been crunched and too much spritzer has been slurped, leaving to catch a bus that doesn’t take you where you’re staying but it gets you close enough to that iron bridge across which you walk, cold, wet, homeless.

Like the walk cold, wet, homeless after he said you were done, after a year of holding him together, a year after you cowered under a blanket covered in broken glass and drywall, torn clothes and broken computer bits.

Like the walk cold, wet, homeless a year after you cried under covers, cowering though he wasn’t there any longer, cowering because he wasn’t there any longer but somewhere else, probably in the cold and wet night while you tried to sleep.

Vulnerability is calling your best friend when the door finally slammed and he took off into the night. Vulnerability is brushing off as much of the broken dry wall and glass from your blankets so you could try to sleep though you know you won’t, not after that, not while he is out in cold and wet while you shiver alone wondering what you did wrong.

Vulnerability is waking to your best friend stepping over torn books and splintered wood, a shattered chair, broken garden pots and soil, finishing nails and glassless photo frames to reach you. Vulnerability is meeting your best friend’s eyes with your own, tears and groans from the glass still in your foot, telling him what happened, admitting you just want him back.

Vulnerability is like the cold wet homeless walk away from your home a year later when all you did to hold him together meant nothing to him, when he told you he was done but you left instead of him because you were better at being homeless than him.

The wet cold walk homeless to a friend’s house is the same walk from a heart circle as it is from the end of love, but without the soy hummus and açai berry spritzer.

Vulnerability is being homeless in another country because you were once vulnerable, cowering under blankets as your soul shattered.

Vulnerability is walking across iron bridges in the cold and wet rather than pretend to be vulnerable with people for whom vulnerability means organic tortilla chips and a tiny bell.

Vulnerability is later walking across another bridge in another country, crying over the railings because you have just walked away from the man you love for a little while. Not because it went wrong but because it is going so fucking right.

Vulnerability was walking over that second bridge the first time with him, uncertain what would come but knowing it would change regardless.

Vulnerability is telling him you’re scared, not because he is less than what you want or need but because you thought it was only going to be a fuck and now it’s become more, more than what you thought you wanted and more than what you thought you needed.

Vulnerability is the moment you tell him you are scared that you don’t know how to do this, the moment just before he kissed you and laughed and said you’re already doing it. It was in the moment you asked him if there was a formal application process to become his boyfriend, because you were already hooked and it was terrifying you but you wanted to keep doing it anyway.

And then vulnerability was the week after, reading too much from the brevity of his texts, ready to unwrite yourself from this story before it began. It was feeling that raw place, dark like innocence, and not running away.

Vulnerability’s the moment you realise your body feels better next to his and not ending it right there. It’s rubbing your chest as you leave each time, your hand telling your heart that the ache it feels when you part isn’t pain or fear but love.

Vulnerability is deciding to learn that difference.

Vulnerability is admitting you’re going to cry when you walk that last time over the bridge, despite the plane ticket you’ve already bought to see him soon after, despite his own assurances that he is more happy for you than sad.

Vulnerability is how you hear his words and hear behind them how he is trying not to cry, too.

Vulnerability is the moment you hug him good-bye and soak his shirt with your tears, and it’s the moment his hand lifts your head to his and see he’s crying, too. And it’s also the laughter in the moment, laughter with those tears, and the “I love you” and “see you soon,” knowing soon will come only as fast as it can, no sooner.


What they don’t tell you about vulnerability is that it can end in very cold walks across an iron bridge back to a friend’s tiny apartment, a shattered soul cowering under covers.

And that it later can end in walks across a different bridge thousands of miles away, the wind from river to sea drying your tears with laughter.

One thought on “What They Don’t Tell You About Vulnerability

  1. Outside paradise, we live invulnerable, a couple years observing the world will make it clear that beauty and pleasure are fairly constant in life. No day goes by when at least, for a moment, we are not in paradise.

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