Episode One: Every Story Needs A Beginning
What the hell? I didn’t know that this is how it was going to happen. This isn’t how it was supposed to end and how it isn’t supposed to be in general. The whole relationship wasn’t really as it should have been in retrospect, I suppose. Maybe it was wrong from the word go. Maybe we really were toxic to one another.
But then again, no.
Eight years can’t just be wasted like that. It’s just not possible that one person can be so obtuse while the other lives a lie. Perhaps it wasn’t always a lie but it was at some point and that’s enough. Not every “I Love You” was genuine and that right there is grounds for never trusting again. Of course I will trust again and knowing me it’s going to be sooner than later. But this time around I’ll have a little more insight into not only who I am but how I am. And a hell of a lot more insight into who I want next to me.
So here’s how I got to here:
We met through a mutual friend named Dr. Bob. That’s enough detail there - either you know what that means or you don’t. We met in a room that was otherwise full of older people, older than us at any rate. She was eight years my junior though I didn’t know it then. We would make eye contact across the room and smile, look away, smile. She began to playfully stick her tongue out at me. I began to playfully pretend to have to talk to a friend outside whenever she went to smoke. Within a few weeks I had asked her out, though the act itself flew right past her. She hadn’t realized I had asked her out until hours later (which speaks more to my lack of ability than her attention to my efforts). But I asked again and a date was set.
She wore her sister’s shirt and tight jeans. I wore a blue sweater and ill fitting denim (most denim is ill fitting on my angular frame). In lieu of flowers I brought a brand new copy of The Catcher In The Rye. We ate salmon. She had water and lemon. I had a Coke. We had creme brûlée for dessert. Then I drove her home and she let me kiss her. It would be the first of so many.
But looking back now I can see that it wasn’t just a kiss. It was more than that. It was a promise waiting to be broken.
I introduced her karaoke. It seemed to help get her out of her shell, the one I noticed but also didn’t notice. It wasn’t an active ignorance on my part but I also did little to pay it any mind. She slept through New Years in my bed while I watched an old Billy Joel special on PBS. I tried to wake her as the clock struck twelve but she had just gotten back from an overnight at her old college and was too wiped out from…driving? That hour and a half drive. Yeah, that would wear even long-haul truckers down.
But I forgave it and forgot it.
Or rather, I Acted As If.
In the movie Boiler Room they say to make any problem seem like less of one you just have to Act As If. You’re a salesperson who can’t make a sale? Act as if you’re the best damn salesperson ever and you will. You an insecure codependent who just scored a girlfriend way out of your league on the looks scale? Act as if everything she does is fine and never question her about it.
In other words: Act As If you’re setting yourself up for failure.
She and I ostensibly hit it off once she was back in the state and out of inpatient care for a few issues. She was back on meds and I was back on the idea that I really liked this girl and for once - FOR ONCE! - I wouldn’t even have to fix her. This one came with her own team of doctors and support staff whose literal job it was to fix her. But the funny thing about codependents is we just can’t help but fix things, even when they don’t need fixing. After all who knows better how to fix someone? A highly skilled and trained professional with decades of experience or the logistics supervisor for a small motor parts company? Exactly. It’s the latter.
And this was the sand upon which I decided to build my house of cards, all the while ignoring the lightening fueled storm clouds gathering behind me. Or were they all around me? I’ll say this much: I had no idea you could actually begin anything in the middle of a hurricane. It's not exactly easy but you can. And it’s even more difficult when you realize that a hurricane is always swirling. It’s always moving. It’s always destroying. Even the eye is a kind of devastation. It shows the truth - the wreckage and the humanity and the hope and the loss and everything that life and love and relationships should be. But you won’t notice a damn thing if you keep your eyes clenched shut and your fingers in your ears.
But the worst part by far is the realization that you didn’t just happen into the eye: you got yourself there and didn’t even notice. Who was the storm that threw you there and why the hell did you immediately seek another puddle as soon as your feet had dried?
Alas, for me these puddles should have always come with a sign that reads: No Lifeguard On Duty. Jump At Your Own Risk.
I can probably write for the next year straight and never cover every single event which led the day she asked for a divorce. But really, who wants that? That would be tedious for you to read and frankly soul crushing for me to commit to the page, though purging such memories may prove cathartic. But I will save us both and instead focus on a few instances that may or may not have led to this but sure as hell didn’t slow down the timeline. (And for the record: there are going to be quite a few unflattering things here about her. But they are real and true to the best of my recollection. And plus there’s going to be a lot of crap about me and my insecure ways, too. So it’s really a wash. Just thought I should say that.)
The Time She Ditched Me On New Year's Eve (or, The Time She Was Going To Ditch Me On New Year's Eve And Either Her Plans Changed Or Her Mom Needed Her Car Back But She Told Me She Wanted To Spend The Night With Me But Spent It Instead Asleep In My Bed): Well, I guess the title sort of gives this one away. Plus I mentioned it already but it’s really that important. The relationship was still new and I had already gone through so much with her by that point. She wasn’t doing great when we met but was getting better. I was just over a year sober and feeling pretty good, though my codependency was still unchecked. Events transpired which caused her to have to re-enter inpatient care and I went and visited every day, playing the part of a caring boyfriend. Actually, she wasn’t labeling us yet at that point. It had been about six weeks and we had verbally confirmed our mutual devotion but she still refrained from calling it anything. I’m still unsure what the point was. Perhaps keeping the door open should she find someone else? As though the word boyfriend was in some way on par with husband. It really shouldn’t but as you’ll see later it needs to be said that those two labels are totally and completely different and should never be used interchangeably. The very concept of both are worlds apart and come with a completely different set of responsibilities from both sides of the relationship equation.
(Sorry - that was a tangent. I tend to go on those. I’m not going to apologize again for them but invite you to skip over them as they appear if you so choose. But they tend to be fun so it’ll be your loss!)
So she goes to inpatient for a bit and gets out and finishes her outpatient program. Then, to my surprise, she randomly hops in her mom’s car and goes to Wisconsin on December 30th. She calls me when she gets there to tell me she won’t be going on our date that night. (At least she called?) Then she refused to commit to an answer when asked about returning for the the following midnight. (At least she didn’t outright lie?) Then she hung up on me before I had a chance to actually say good night. (Um…maybe her battery went dead? …yeah, I know…)
The next day she texted to let me know she would be staying up there for New Years. I was disappointed but enough of me was expecting it that it didn’t sting too badly. But as usual I smiled and said, “Okay. Happy New Year and I’ll see you when you get back.” Resigning myself to a solo New Year I went and saw a movie and made plans to sing karaoke in the evening. Just as I was getting out of the movie she texted. It turned out that she “changed her mind” and she would be coming back in time for New Years with me. I would have to be at her mom’s house to get her around 9 and then we could go back to my place. Which we did. She almost fell asleep on the way there (a scant 20 minute drive) and totally fell asleep less than ten minutes after walking into my apartment.
The next morning we got up and went to a meeting. I dropped her off at her mom’s and then I didn’t see her again until the following morning.
And this was all fine by me. I’m fine. Everything is fine. Don’t worry about me. I’m fine.