when i knew
I’ve been doing some inner work on relationships over the past few months. Mostly to help me get past some things. I’ve decided that my next leg of therapy–which won’t happen till this fall, due to tight budgets–will focus mostly on this aspect of my life. Mostly because I’d like to date again and find someone. I don’t want to really go there now because I’m honestly not really ready. I mean–I’m capable of loving someone, as this year has definitely illustrated–but I’m still choosing people who aren’t going to meet my needs–who I can’t love fully myself.
This posting today is about that moment when you know that you’re in trouble…that this person has some potential and might actually be worth investing in. It’s also about that moment when I knew it was unraveling, and we’d never be the same. A highlight reel, of sorts, from this love life of mine.
The Man from Shawnee
I remember I made a decision, months before I ever met you, in the weeks that followed my friend shooting himself in the head. It was a decision to love–to be known–to actually lean on someone. And I never thought I’d find it. Even though, as my former boss can attest, my horoscope said it would happen for 2 months straight. Until that weird day when everything changed and you told me you could talk to me forever without ever noticing time had passed.
It was one of those lines I’d heard before–that all girls hear, at some point. It was that over the top bullshit that the eternal jaded cynic in me had always deemed as ridiculous and dumb. And yet, there was something there that let me know you meant it. That you weren’t that guy who used these lines. That all you could be was sincere. And there was something about how you listened to the silly stories I’d never told anyone that allowed me to tell you all the things I thought would ruin my life if I spoke them out loud.
You had moved to Maryland. Without me. And we tried so hard to hold on. This trip was about that. It was a whole month of us together and you in one place so I could actually visit. The apartment you hated was actually nice–not nearly as cavelike as you said. For a while, it was like old times. We spent late nights alone in your bedroom, sharing our discoveries, reading Vonnegut and listening to Pink Floyd. I cut your hair and laughed so hard I almost peed my pants. You were not amused, but laughed because I laughed so hard. We walked in the woods to the movie theater and spent a weekend in DC–crying at the Holocaust museum and watching Jane Goodall movies–me squealing about coelocanths at the Natural History Museum. You went to work during the days with your brother. I’d hole up, writing my stories and waiting for you. Waiting for your face when you came home and hugged me. And in that moment, it was perfect and fine. And I couldn’t imagine loving anyone else. Ever.
The day I left, I remember being happy–relieved even–and it shown on my face. You felt it in my hug goodbye, and for years, I wished I had some ability to fake it. To reassure you that nothing had changed–that holding on had worked and that you could will someone to never leave your heart. But I was happy to go home–where you weren’t–to my mother and my friends and this life I’d made for myself without you.
Months later, our world was upside down again, and you were back in that complex where you lived when we first met–trying to find the person you left behind…the person who would never stop loving me. And my mother was sick and dying–in the hospital. I was broken and devastated. You wouldn’t answer your phone the day before–when your voice was the only thing I needed to hear–to reassure me I would survive her death. And even that didn’t convince me to give up on you–or maybe I was just meandering in my grief. But I made my way to your block–walked through the fields with the prairie dogs–knocked on your door. You answered, let me in, and sat with me on the couch.
I gave up on you when you told me I knew it was going to happen. How you shrugged it off and didn’t know what to do with me and my mountain of grief. I knew how insensitive that was in that moment, and I wanted to hate you for it–did hate you for it–but I still needed you. And so we did all the things we’d been doing, with my mother’s disappearance from this planet as backdrop–and a few months later I disappeared on you and hated you for years as I tried to unlearn loving you.
I wrote a personals ad on my birthday, while drunkenly feeling sorry for myself–used quotations from Donnie Darko, and lamented dying alone. You were one of a hundred or so that replied within a day.
You were the only one I talked to on the phone. You were the only one I actually wrote things about–and wrote things to. You wanted to know all the parts of me I kept hidden. So, I wrote to you about being a girl. And you wrote to me about being a guy. And the fact that we could talk about that–could talk about the political aspects as well as the sexual aspects in details that were totally intellectual and vulnerable at once? Well, yep…that was trouble. So, we talked. We sparked. Hours and hours about everything on Earth. You were passionate and artistic and surprising. You loved your dog like family. You knew people I knew. You were a hipster and I wondered how the Hell we hadn’t met yet.
We were both terrified. Fascinated by each other, sure, but the feelings we both had came quickly and were overwhelming. You were Mr. Forever, and I was the girl who wasn’t sure she’d ever be able to go there–despite wanting to. So I did that thing I do when I’m distancing. And you saw it immediately and called me on it–fighting with me–saying mean things and I knew it wasn’t right. You’d still show up sometimes–us running into each other awkwardly with the people we weren’t sure about.
Purple Tie Guy
I remember the smirk, more than anything. And how you opened up in the words you shared. And I liked your face. I think I said that in the first email I sent you. We immediately connected and suddenly Twitter was everything. Literally, everything you said was interesting and funny. We batted at each other like old friends and traveled everything together with hysterical vulnerability. We talked all day on the phone some days. You’d send me pictures of cocktails you made. Of you stuck in traffic with your stylish ties. You were all the things I didn’t think I deserved. One day, you decided to drive down–two hours from your home to mine–and I was absolutely terrified you’d hate me.
So, I wouldn’t let you in. And you wouldn’t leave. So we talked for hours until you finally had to get back. Always the gentleman. Always the guy chasing his heart. Always willing to show up for me. I knew I loved you then. I wish I’d been a better person for you then.
You showed up at my work–confused and angry and hurt. And I wanted to say something to you–to explain–but I couldn’t because it was work. So, I called and we talked–and it was awkward and not us. And I got angry. I was shaking and I pushed you as far away as I could because of my shame. And hurt.
It always felt too good to be true, and maybe it was–but for a while–it was absolutely everything. But we both didn’t know how to be in it. That vulnerability we always had with each other scared us both too much.
Mr. Writer Man
I was drawn to you because of mistaken identity–or maybe because you were all the things that made me weak in the knees. You were an enigma to me for a while. I remember being puzzled whenever you said you adored me. I remember trying to analyze everything about our interactions.
I knew I loved you long before this moment, but I think this was the moment when I knew I wanted everything with you…when we were driving to Colorado from California and I somehow made us miss the Grand Canyon…the one thing you wanted to see. I remember you thinking I had missed it on purpose–when, in reality, I just suck at maps. And I remember getting so mad at you for thinking that. I remember looking at the clouds and I remember you squirming–hating that I was mad at you. And I just stopped being mad because I never wanted you to feel that way.
I know that’s a silly thing–given all the moments we had–but that was a big one for me.
This one isn’t obvious. There were a lot of things said and done in the last few weeks we lived together. But this is the one that made me give up on you as a lover, a friend, an anything–and it’s why I finally stopped talking to you.
We were talking in that shitty way we talked after you left. I don’t remember anything about the conversation. It didn’t matter. But I remember, at some point, you and I were talking about support systems. And I remember saying I would always be there for you if you needed someone, and I remember you saying how–unlike me–you had people you could count on for support. How you didn’t need me.
It was uncharacteristically cruel. It discounted every moment we ever shared together. And it made me feel like I never meant anything to you. And it hurt because you used the tragedy I’d endured to cut me–something I had nothing to do with, that I could do nothing about–something that you knew hurt me deeply. It was on purpose.
I remember thinking you weren’t who I thought you were. That you had never been who I thought you were. And that moment is why I honestly hated you for years and could never talk to you again without feeling hurt and angry.
I forgive you now. I do. But that moment still hurts me.
You kinda stalked me for a while. I remember wondering why you kept trying to find me on OKStupid. I was lonely and fed up with dating. You were nice and safe. So, I let you call me one day. And I was shocked. You were fun to talk to. Easy. We had that banter. We laughed with each other and poked fun with each other. You were maddeningly organized and practical–so different from me. But then, I heard you talking to your mom. And it felt like home.
It was sometime when you were in Macedonia. You felt off. We were talking all the time, but our magic summer reunion had disappeared. That sweet, vulnerable man was far away. Was it your family? Lack of privacy? The odd hours. I got angry. I was contorting to fit your needs, and I was trying so hard to make this work. But you kept leaving–even when I tried to tell you what was wrong. I didn’t want a repeat of last time.
Later, I found out why. About the ex who was visiting you. You were so stupid. Either that, or you didn’t care. I forgave you–believed you–tried to anyway. But told you we’d be done forever if I found out another lie. And of course, that’s exactly what you did.
I still hate you.
Beards and Odd Jobs
You were a decent human being. And I really needed a decent human being. But I wasn’t sure I was being a decent human being to you–despite all my intentions. I was cautious with you. Told you I just wanted friendship and wasn’t in a place to pursue anything. And yet, you kept trying. And trying. And trying.
Sometimes, I let you win.
I didn’t want what you wanted. I wasn’t sure what I wanted, really, but it wasn’t this. The more you pushed, the more I fell back. It felt like smothering. It felt like stuck. I knew we weren’t on the same page. I knew you weren’t healthy, and I couldn’t keep being tempted. So, I stopped it. And I know I broke your heart. I’m not sorry.