|Mavrica [Rainbow] by Andrej Jakobčič, Julij 2004 via Wikimedia Commons|
Anyway . . .
From the summer 2000 to February 2002 I dated a boy who'd end up breaking my heart, and I've been trying to tell this story ever since. Tell it without judgement or recriminations. Tell it and let it go.
I can't say for certain that it was love I felt for the boy. This is something I've struggled with actually. I can't say that it was love, because I'm honestly not sure it was. I liked him a lot. He was smart and fun and a fabulous lover. And what I felt for him may have been something like love, but I'm not sure. It certainly hurt when we broke up, and I don't think I've ever quite gotten over it, but I think I could have—would have if other factors hadn't interfered. It definitely damaged my ego—I'd always been the one to end my relationships before—but is a bruised ego the same as a broken heart?
I don't think so.
To me our relationship was magical. Or maybe it was just that that time of my life was magical. I was newly clean. I was having fun with someone who shared my interests. I never thought too much into our future, mostly because he was up front with the fact that we didn't have a future. That was fine with me. In 2000 I was 19 and not looking to get married. Plus, it was very clear that we had two different visions of our futures. He wanted to move back to the big cities of the East Coast, and I had vague fantasies of small town living. Too many people in one place makes me claustrophobic, and I wanted to live somewhere I could own acreage without spending millions of dollars.
I still believed that I could grow up to become a writer. I'd write frequently, jotting down ideas for stories, outlining novels, creating characters I thought were interesting. I should have paid more attention to myself, because, looking back, depression was already eating into my brain. I always had some excuse for why I didn't pursue writing, why I didn't finish the story or start writing the novel: I was too green; I needed to learn more; I was too busy with school and work or whatnot. I think already there was that voice inside my head whispering that I would fail, so why try? It just wasn't nearly as loud as it is now.
I'm scrambling desperately to regain some of that belief now, and put it into practice.
So this boy and I spent most every weekend together for the better part of a year and a half. It was nice. He was friends with all of my friends. My best friend had actually dated him for a while. It didn't cause us any drama because she was the one who first suggested that we get together, he and I. She was right, too. We got along famously. Though it probably would have been best if I had broken up with my high school boyfriend before sleeping with the boy, but what are you going to do? I broke up with the high school guy almost immediately thereafter, and that relationship had basically already ended anyway. We just hadn't gone through with the formalities.
That first summer I would visit the boy in the house he'd rented with my best friend, two of her ex-boyfriends (not including the boy), one of their girlfriends, and this really hot former Army officer who was getting his teaching degree. We'd sit out on the porch, the boy and I, and watch the storms pass through that midwestern college town. If you've never seen the violence and the beauty of a midwestern thunderstorm, well, you're really missing something. That first summer and fall was unusually stormy. Following the storms were rainbows. I don't think I've ever seen as many rainbows as I did while I was dating the boy. I know that after we broke up, it was years before I saw another one. More than a decade, really. My eyes and my heart just weren't tuned to them, I guess.
I took the rainbows as a sign. Of what, I couldn't say. Or maybe I don't want to. No, to me they were another bit of romance to top off my new and much better relationship, my new and much better self. I was where I was meant to be at that moment. I was happy and infatuated and, yeah, a little bit in love. Why is that so hard for me to say?
He took my rainbows from me when he left. Or maybe I gave them to him. I don't know.
There was a brief thunderstorm today that left a rainbow behind, long and fat and beautiful. I stepped outside in time to see it in all its glory, and watch it as it faded. I also saw the whisper of another bow above it. That reminded me of this, and I knew that it was time to write it up and let it go.
The house didn't last long, just that first summer. When autumn came, my friend went back to her dorm, and the boys moved into apartments off campus. I helped the boy move, hauling boxes of books up stairs and into rooms.
Our whole relationship was lovely to me. Until the end. Which, I have to say, I saw coming. He grew distant. We talked less. The sex was still good, not as kinky as it had been, but that was it. He didn't degrade me or insult me, he just withdrew. And I didn't know how to handle it.
I made myself smaller thinking that would help. It certainly had with the other guys I'd dated. They had enjoyed it being all about their wants and needs, which made it easier for me to leave. It didn't work that way with the boy. He simply continued withdrawing. Ultimately, I think it made it easier for him to leave me, and harder for me to handle it. Because somehow, this time, in making myself smaller I managed to lose some essential piece of myself in the process.
So that weekend in February 2002 I knew what was coming. I knew it. I just didn't expect it quite so soon. I was actually hoping that we could last another couple of weeks since my birthday is in early March, and I was hoping for a present and a nice time at my party. Didn't happen, of course, but that was my hope.
Saturday was what had become typical for us. Small talk, fucking, sleep. Inconsequential, average, a little bit awkward. I was afraid that I was losing him. I was right in that fear. There was nothing I could do that would stop him. Truth, that weekend was not very memorable. Except for Sunday. The day the boy told me he didn't want to be with me anymore.
We made love that morning. It was slow and sweet and lingering. His way of saying goodbye without words? After, my body still warm with him, though we were both dressed, he used his words. It hurt. A lot. I was shaking so much I had to lay down. So I lay there on his bed, alone, and tried to act like it was all okay. I was fine. Yes, I still wanted to be friends. It was fine. I was fine. I couldn't breathe, but I was fine. Then I left. I tried to cry on my drive back home, out of town, but I couldn't.
I don't remember ever shedding a tear over him. I wanted to, though, most desperately.
So, that cracked me, but I didn't shatter. Not until a few weeks later.
My friends were set to throw me a birthday party at the house I was moving into with my best friend, the girl who had first introduced me to the boy. The boy was planning on attending the party. I could be cool, no worries. Except my best friend, just days before the party–my party–told me that I shouldn't come. The boy was bringing his new girlfriend. Like, what the fuck? Wasn't it supposed to be my birthday party? I went anyway. Forewarned, I didn't make a scene. That's not really my schtick anyway, you know? But that conversation we had, her disinviting me to my own party, added another crack. I was getting fragile.
I shattered about two months later.
I'd moved into the house. I was sad still, over the boy. I was working a new job in which I didn't fit. My best friend made it clear that she didn't want to deal with my sadness, so I didn't mention it and it festered. That festering gave voice to my depression, and I was lost. A cracked bottle barely floating in a sea of made of unshed tears.
And then she asked me to move out.
And I shattered and the pieces of me sank into the deep dark.
My mom told me recently that my friend told her that she was frightened for me. That's not the message I got from my friend. What I got from my friend was that she valued her friendship with the boy more than her friendship with me. And I now I think that both those things could be true. Because she didn't try to be my friend afterwards. She never called or emailed or checked up on me. Nor did any of my other friends. I lost them all, but she's the one that hurt the most. I didn't hear from her again until the next year, weeks before I moved to Alaska.
She invited me for drinks in that midwestern college town. I went, hoping that maybe I could find my friend again. I didn't. She apologized, but it didn't mean anything to me. I was numb. I didn't feel anything really. We went to see the boy in his new apartment, and it was awkward and awful and I didn't feel anything for him either. I just kind of wanted to leave.
So I did.
I've been trying to suss out my reactions to them ever since. Depression, man.
I've had a really hard time making friends since then. In fact, I've only made one. I've not dated since then either. I've not had the stomach for it. I have a really hard time trusting people, trusting myself, believing that I'm worth anything.
I'm working on it.
I think I've found most of my pieces, and some buoyancy, though I've not yet broken through to air. I'll never be what I once was, but maybe I can find some bit of life yet. Maybe I can repair myself into something that can steer to shore. The cracks will always be there, the jagged edges, the missing shards, but I have to believe that I'll be able to find dry land and leave behind the sea.
I just hope it happens soon.