You know what’s awesome? Coming back from a vacation and running into the somewhat crazy ex-boyfriend you have deliberately not seen nor spoken to in four years, and then having dinner with a different former flame on purpose, even though you haven’t seen him in a year and a half.
Oh, wait. That’s not awesome. That’s sort of madness-inducing. I got confused.
Can I please go back to the middle of the ocean?
The funny thing about being single in one’s mid-30s is that one tends to get tired of one’s own relationship stories. Regular readers may have gleaned by now that Jack is a complicated story, which, if we’re being totally honest, is probably pretty cut and dried to any outsider. But it’s also valuable, meaningful and beautiful, and impossible to completely understand. And also sort of exasperating.
Most of my love life has been complicated, impossible to completely understand and sort of exasperating. And when you’re at this point in your life, that just makes you roll your eyes and slouch. You’ve done analysis to death. You’ve tried to figure it all out. You’ve figured it must be you who’s the problem, since you’re the common denominator in the relationship stories. But you can’t figure out what the problem is, exactly, and nobody ever tells you that you’re the problem. Even your shrink thought you were fabulous. Or at least he said he did.
You’ve had about 20 years of “It’s not you, it’s me.” Paired with a pretty hefty dose of very frustrating paralysis by analysis. (The internal kind. Not the kind you pay people for. At least, not anymore.) You’re surrounded by people who found it not at all difficult to meet their mate, fall in love and get married. They don’t understand your deal at all.
So in those moments when you’re tempted to try to figure it all out once again, you wind up getting halfway through a thought, and then you suddenly feel overcome with exhaustion and the need to sit down.
Wednesday at 3:30pm, I decided I really needed to get to the post office to pick up my mail, and go to the grocery store to get food, since I didn’t have any. I hadn’t had a shower in about 18 hours, but since it’s been 100 degrees for the last four weeks straight, I figured I could get away with some deodorant, a sundress and a ponytail to run these errands. Who was I going to see? It was the middle of the day in the middle of the week. Everyone’s sweating anyway. On the way to the post office, I stopped at a convenience store to get a bottle of water and a nosh so I wouldn’t be hungry at the grocery store. I was hunting around for a peanut butter Twix when suddenly there came a voice behind me:
“Hey there, stranger.”
I whirled around, got hit in the face with my greasy ponytail, and found my ex-boyfriend Mitch standing there.
We broke up about four years ago in a very ugly way after about a year together. I hated that it was ugly, but since it was finally over, I’ve always been sure that ending it was the right decision. Long story short (because telling the story will make me roll my eyes and slouch): he did a Jekyll/Hyde thing literally overnight and I stuck around way too long, trying to figure out what happened. He cheated, he lied about cheating, he turned arguments around, he didn’t care if I was hurt and he didn’t generally care about anything or anyone but himself and what he wanted. He said horrible things that I knew he didn’t mean, and that meant he was the kind of person who said things just to be hurtful, which I can’t abide. Two years after it ended, he tried to get in contact several times via email. He even left an unsigned Christmas card outside my place. (Which I thought was actually from someone else: Bob, who had disappeared inexplicably just a couple of weeks before. I mean, how dare Mitch think he was the only jackass in my life?)
Then, a short time later, he was IMing Jack’s co-worker on Jack’s business’s Facebook page, of which Mitch had become a “fan.” He knows Jack from years before I met either of them. When Mitch and I were together, he always felt threatened by Jack. He had never met Jack’s co-worker, but still, he was telling her via IM about how Jack’s best friend (a label that’s never been used, even if it may be true) was his ex-girlfriend, so Jack probably hates him, but he got a bad rap on that. The co-worker told Jack, Jack told me.
Mitch, what are you doing?!
But since I moved last summer, I’ve known I was bound to run into him sooner or later. I live in the same relatively small zip code now. I figured I’d see him at the post office, or Starbucks. But no. It was the convenience store. Hair greasy, Lunchable in hand, craving a peanut butter Twix and still fighting the floating sensation that comes with having been on a boat.
In typical fashion, he complimented how I was “keeping my figure” and then immediately followed that comment by telling me I shouldn’t eat that Lunchable. He started telling me all the things he’s doing these days, and how he has a roommate now so he can keep his house since the income wasn’t guaranteed when he started his business two years ago, but how she’s almost never there and she helps out by feeding the cat and watering the flowers (he has a beautiful backyard), but she’s really almost never there. He asked if I ever got the Christmas card.
I played dumb, made him squirm a little, and then said, “Oh, that was you? You didn’t sign the card. I thought it was from someone else.”
“Oh, so some other guy got the credit for that, huh?”
Credit? This is the thing about relationships and their endings: there’s a fine line between romance and horror. Mitch’s card veered pretty far toward the latter.
After a bit more small talk, he said what I feared he would say. “Well, I’ll ask… would you like to get together some time? Coffee or something?”
Sure! Can you run me over in the parking lot first?
There’s no good way to navigate this with Mitch, because he doesn’t take hints. The normal person would say, “Oh, yeah, we should!” and then just never seem to be able to find the time. The other person would get the hint. Mitch doesn’t work that way. If I had said, “Oh, yeah, we should!” he would have hunted me down, and if I then performed evasive action or otherwise declined, he would have gotten nasty. So I had to say something definitive, right there in the middle of the little store.
“Umm…” I stalled, scrunching up my face and feeling really awkward. “… let’s skip it.”
“Let’s skip it?” I said “Let’s skip it?” Who says that?
“Really?” he said, kind of scrunching up his own face.
“Yeah,” I said, attempting to be apologetic.
And then we parted ways.
Alright, well, that’s done. Bound to happen eventually. There it was. Roll my eyes. Slouch.
And bollocks, he’s still as handsome as ever. Too bad he’s an ass.
Then, just a few hours later, I was chatting on Facebook with Bob – who eventually did reappear, although our relationship, we agreed, was probably done. During our chat, he mentioned that he and his girlfriend had broken up about six weeks ago.
Oh dear dear dear.
When I had found out he was seeing her, I was truly happy for him because he seemed so happy, finally. And I found myself wondering if he is a happier person now than he was when we were together. I was a little jealous, maybe. And I have wondered about him from time to time. And we have stayed in touch on a very friendly and casual basis, which I like, but then suddenly we were chatting and he asked if I wanted to get together for dinner. The next day.
Oh, dear dear dear dear dear.
But you know what? I’ve wondered about him, and I haven’t seen Jack in two and a half weeks and haven’t really heard from him much since I got back from the trip. I’m not actually seeing anyone– what would be the harm? So I went. I had spent all day looking forward to it, not because I wanted to date Bob again (I don’t know what I want in that regard, honestly), but because it would be nice to see him and get a new sense of how he is and who he is these days.
Sitting across from him, though, I found myself uncomfortable.
It wasn’t him. It was me.
I have some very lovely memories of us, if you know what I mean, and I do think of that sometimes (fine, including all day before dinner), and now here I’m sitting across from him and I don’t actually want to relive the memories and I’m not at all sure what I’m doing or why I’m doing it.
That’s crap. Yes, I do. I just don’t know if it’s the right thing. Because it was good to see him, but when I left, all I wanted was Jack. The trick is, I can’t have Jack. Not really. So a girl’s gotta find a way to move on. I just don’t know if rewinding is the right way to do it. And the idea of… ugh, dating… makes me feel the need to sit down.
Roll eyes. Slouch.
Featured image is not of me. It only feels like it. It’s actually someone from lumiere.sopheava.com.