Jack is marrying Gwyneth.

It’s not a dream. It’s not some weird hallucination or some silly rumor. It’s true.

Jack is marrying Gwyneth.

Brad is the one who told me, God love him. He emailed me today while I was working and said that there was a rumor going around that I wasn’t going to want to hear, but that I would probably want to hear from him before any other way, and that he was probably going to have to tell me on the phone. I asked him if I would need vodka.

“I think you’ll probably be okay but you might plan on a glass of wine.”

Pfft. It’s like he doesn’t know me at all. “I always plan on a glass of wine,” I replied. “That just means it’s Tuesday.”

Of all the things I couldn’t imagine it being, this was nowhere near the periphery.

Jack is marrying Gwyneth.

Brad told me the word had gotten out after Jack mentioned his “future wife” at an event the other night. Apparently then the Facebook chatter started – chatter I never saw because I’m not friends with either of them now. Apparently they’re not engaged officially, but are getting engaged officially soon.

Apparently a lot of things.

I was in my car when Brad told me this and I had to adjust my rearview mirror to see my own face. This is not an overstatement: nothing in my life has ever shocked me as much as this. Nothing. Not even when a boyfriend got married to a woman he had barely known before me, who lived a thousand miles away, less than eight months after breaking up with me. And I literally fell over when I heard that.

Jack didn’t want to get married. Ever. To anyone.

Jack spent years telling me I was his ideal. I thought if he would ever marry anyone, he would have to at least date me first. I thought Gwyneth was just the latest part of his pattern of almost loving someone and then walking away. I felt a little sorry for her. I thought, when he told me in September that he wasn’t capable of sustaining a substantive relationship, that he must be right.

Jack and I haven’t spoken since then, when he abandoned our friendship entirely after heartfelt and honest entreaties from me to save it for what it was – ten years of something truly extraordinary. He told me he knew he had caused me great pain and would take steps to repair it when it was no longer so painful for me.

I knew then that I would never hear from him again. But I never, ever could have imagined this.

She’s 22 years younger than him. He’ll be 50 next January. Could that be why he’s doing this now?

What was I – his trainer?

How long had he lied to me? One morning when I woke up in his bed, in July of 2011, and saw a t-shirt lying near my feet that I hadn’t seen the night before, and asked him where it had come from… when I thought for sure she had worn it, somehow, months before I knew they had some sort of relationship, I thought it for sure, and he said it was just a shirt he sometimes wore to bed… when I smelled it to see if it smelled like a woman before he came back into the room… when I knew he never wore t-shirts to bed… had I been right, all the way back then? A year before the last time I saw him? Almost two years ago now?

How long had he been spending nights with both of us?

How could he?

Years ago… how many years ago? eight?… I remember sitting across from him at a table outside our regular hangout. We had never touched beyond a hug goodbye. I loved him already, but it was controlled. I remember thinking that if I put my hand on his chest, he would disappear. He would fade like vapor under my palm, before my eyes.

Six years later, I knew how solid he was, how real. It seemed impossible that he could disappear for me now. Even if he changed, even if the touch went away, he could never disappear for me now.

And now it’s like he’s vanished. Like none of it was ever real at all. Like it was never more than mist, mirage, oasis. Like it was someone else’s life. Like that movie, “Midnight In Paris,” as if I’d gotten into a car at a particular time in a particular place and found myself in another dimension, not to be believed… but so very, very real, and so immensely pivotal to my life.

He has been past-tense to me for months. I don’t remember exactly when I fully accepted that I would never hear from him again, but it’s been months. I thought I might be finished crying.

I still dream of him. I feel a sting at certain times during Mass, times when I always used to give his name to God, times when I always used to think of holding his hand.

It’s terrible of me to think that this is only happening because he’s nearing 50, because she’s cute and blonde and 27 and likes to run, because her mother has cancer and his mother died of it when he was 17. It’s cruel of me to think the connection is that cheap, that it is built on something so easily found with a million other people. When what we had was so…

What? What was it?

Was it anything?

Did I spend ten years in love with someone who wasn’t real?

It’s cruel of me to want to send him a message with three words: “Is she pregnant?” when I don’t want to know. It’s cruel of me to want to send him a message telling him nothing has ever shocked me more and no one has ever hurt me more and I have never loved anyone more, and then telling him to never reply.To want to ask him how long he lied to both of us and whether he still lies to her. To ask whether she knows about me. To ask her whether she knows about me.

None of it matters. And I know, if I were her, I might think that, after all, I‘m the one who gets him, swearing to God and all who are present, to love, to honor, to cherish. That, after all the decades of love and loss, I’m the one to whom he has promised himself.

Somehow, now, I have become the vapor under his hand.


22 thoughts on “Vapor

  1. On the one hand it sucks. On the other, you have a new home. You have a new job. And maybe this is the official ending to your old life. Now you’re free to charge into a new and improved and exciting future. You’re getting a clean slate. Nothing wrong with that.

    • I have not lost sight of the good things happening in my life and I am still grateful for them. This has not made me think that everything is bad. I appreciate your thoughts, but I’m not at “clean slate” yet. There are some permanent engravings from this relationship. I had made my peace as best I could – now my understandings have been destroyed and I have to do that work all again. But thank you for the reminders. 🙂

  2. I’m sorry, cellie. I understand. You have started over, but somehow knowing that what you thought you trusted may not have been true, even after you have let go, is incredibly painful. I have been there – no, I am there now. Hugs.

    • You’re so right, Sea. As I mentioned to Fransi above, I had cobbled together an understanding on which I could function and find the most peace possible at this point – and now that feeble understanding has lost the ground it was built on. Thank you for your warm words.

  3. I’m so sorry. I don’t know if you ever wanted him back, but I understand how much it must hurt. It feels like rejection maybe, and I wish I could take that away from you. But you are not vapor. Or if you are any part of that description, let it be to rise, to escape, to not be held back by him ever, ever again.

    It takes a long time to unlove somebody. But you’re 8 months in, so don’t let yourself backslide. And he probably knew just exactly what he was doing and how he was hurting you for a long, long time. I’d like to kick that guy in the face. Ok, so in my head this is going the way of getting-out-of-hand-friend-who’s-gonna-rip-a-new-asshole-into-the-one-who-done-you-wrong-talk so I’m gonna stop before I get myself in trouble.

    • You’re so sweet, Stoney. No, I didn’t want him back. I had reached a point of no return – that place where you never want to see or speak to someone again, but because of the pain it caused. And you still love them, and you have to just accept that. So that’s where I was when I heard this news. It’s hard to wrap my head around what you’ve said about him knowing he was hurting me for a long time. I think it’s true. On one hand, it seems not to match up with who he was. On the other, it seems I’ve always known this. Thank you for your fierce defense of my heart. 🙂

      • I didn’t mean to hurt you more by saying that, and I don’t even know him. I guess what I was really thinking is that he may not have done anything intentionally – like really purposefully hurtful. But there are many things we do in our lives that we really know what we’re doing even as we deny the evidence of it to ourselves. You know what I mean. He allowed himself to hurt you, maybe, is a better way to put it. Rather than aiming to hurt you. I think we’re all guilty of that kind of activity at one time or another in our lives. And we do it to ourselves, God help us. We know, but still we hold on.

        I’m glad you are past the point of no return, though. Things will be good for you soon. You are SO on an upward cycle in your life. Rocketing past the past, you know? It’s still visible in the window and that’s melancholic, but new worlds will soon come into vision and blow your mind. Enough rocket analogies? 🙂

      • I don’t know why this format won’t let me reply to your latest comment directly. Or maybe it will pop up as though I did. But anyway – I know what you meant, and you didn’t hurt me further by saying it. I think you’re right – he knew that some things would hurt me – he hid some things, perhaps because of that, but hiding them only made it worse. He lied sometimes, probably because he doesn’t like confrontation or conflict or seeing the damage he’s done. He knew I would be hurt if I knew the truth sometimes, but he was glad I didn’t. And sometimes I think he didn’t know what he was doing. The hard part is figuring out which is which.

  4. Beautifully written … and heartbreaking. It sucks when you have to grieve something that you thought you were done grieving. Sorry you have to go through it.

    • Thank you, Bud. I had constructed a fragile peace. As I mentioned to Seasweetie above, the understandings I had come to have no basis now. It brings about a whole new round of not understanding why things between us went the way they did – seeing so many inconsistencies and not knowing which side of the coin was the real one.

  5. I read this last night and I was so sad for you. Not because Jack is marrying Gwenyth and I can imagine how that hurts. I was sad because you have to live through these next few days with sadness when you have so much happiness in your life right now (and have for a while, despite Rick) — I hope the sadness passes quickly. You are and have been thriving since your break from Jack and as great as he was, you are worth someone much better. Hugs & Love.

    • Thank you. I am still mindful of all that is good, and grateful for all of those positive changes in my life. I am so glad I’m in my new job – I know that, if I were still in my old one, things would be so much worse. The positive energy in my new job has carried me through these last few days. My house, however, is a hot mess. 🙂 I think the sadness will stay for a long time, but hopefully it will at least slide down deeper in my consciousness.

  6. Honestly, it sounds like you dodged a bullet. Consider this as a mantra: Jack is mentally ill. I’m serious; it sounds like he has major issues. You got the better end of the deal, I promise.

    I’m also taking this moment, right now, to put forth a prediction: They will not stay together. I’m not even convinced they’ll get married, but if they do, it will falter and crumble, and within 18 months of the ceremony, they will have separated and he will have come knocking at your door. I have confidence that you won’t open it.

    That said, I’m sorry for your pain. Try not to regret the past; it brought you here and it gave you happiness. I hope the near future brings you more of it, in abundance. 🙂

    • I told my friend Angie that a friend had suggested Jack was mentally ill. Her response was that we all are – it’s a little too simple to put it down to that. I don’t know which of you is right, but I’d rather it be you. 🙂 Then again, I’m the one on anti-anxiety meds.

      Your predictions both sadden me and validate my feelings. I don’t want either of them to suffer that fate. But I don’t want everything I ever understood about him to turn out to have been wrong, either.

      I’m trying to figure out, abstrusely, which parts of ten years were real and which parts weren’t, which parts of his affect on me I should keep and which I should throw away, and then, how. Thank you for the reminder about regret.

      • I doubt *everything* you ever understood about him could be wrong. People are complicated, so yes, there will be some things you got wrong — there are things you have gotten/will get wrong about everyone you ever meet and/or love. But no way could you get everything wrong. Give yourself some credit.

        He possibly lied to you about some things, and I’m sorry for the pain that causes you, but trust me — there’s no way he couldn’t have had feelings for you if you during the course of a decade. It wasn’t all a lie or your imagination, and I’m betting that really, not much of it was. He did some bad things over the most recent years, but that doesn’t invalidate everything else that happened between you.

        All of it happened, so all of it was real. Keep it all, the minority bad with the majority good. Don’t waste another minute trying to put memories into separate mental bins; instead, focus on the sum total. I know that’s a lot easier from where I’m sitting, but you can get there.

        As far as anti-anxiety meds, that doesn’t mean you’re mentally ill. His issues are on a whole different tier, and you are better off without them.

        It’s evident from this comments section that you even have strangers who care about you; I bet you have even more people you know who do. Take solace in them for now, care about yourself, be happy for the good times that happened, and be relieved that you didn’t end up with the wrong person. Again, you’ll get there.


  7. Also, I’m sorry for the look on that cyber-face. I thought I was posting a regular smile, but on my computer, it’s showing up as an open-mouthed grin, as if it’s mocking you. That’s not what colon-dash-paren is supposed to do, dammit!

  8. Oh man, what a blow. I totally get what you are feeling right now. Like an additional cut on your already shredded, but trying to heal, heart. Don’t let this jackass ruin your progress forward. I know that is easier said and all. But it is the truth and good advice. You just have to have the strength to take it. Sorry, babe. HUGS.

    • You know that old saying about how these kinds of things build character? I was just thinking yesterday that I”ve got character coming out my ears and it’s time for a break. Yes – it s a reopening of tender wounds. I hope they’ll heal faster this time. Thank you for the hugs.

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