Zeke showed up in my doorway with a duffel bag slung over his shoulder and a Starbucks coffee in his hand, after having made the long drive from Boston to NYC. There were many times over the years when Zeke had been on the East Coast for work but had never come to see me. This had caused many of our arguments. But a few days ago he’d announced an impromptu visit for this weekend. I had a sneaking suspicion this decision was not a result of him suddenly wanting to see the sites of New York or even to see me really. I had a feeling this was mostly because he was a little worried about my current state of mind. He knew this was the weekend My Ex had been scheduled to come out from California. That trip had been cancelled, of course. And although I’d told him I was doing FINE, he’d still insisted on coming out.
Truth be told, everyone seemed to be a little worried about me going into that weekend. My co-worker Archie texted me Thursday morning, “Brunch and sunglasses shopping with Chad on Sunday if you’re interested!!! xoxo”
“Sweetie, how ARE you??” my friend Veronica from Portland, messaged me on Facebook. “Let me know if you need anything xoxo!!”
The voicemail from my friend Brandon in San Jose stated, in a hushed tone, “You know, I have friends in San Francisco. I could have, you know, some guys go out there and teach that guy a lesson.”
Geesh. Everyone was treating me like I was going to fall apart. Didn’t they see my post a few weeks ago?? ‘You’re going to hear me Roar? (Oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh)??’ Didn’t they see that I was emailing on OkCupid?? Clearly, I was doing awesome.
Despite my proclamations of awesomeness, Caitlyn decided to have me over that Friday night along with Marlie, under the guise that the weather would soon turn and we should take advantage of the last days of Summer by having drinks out in her apartment courtyard. I was pretty sure it was, again, to make sure I wasn’t going to hurl myself in front of an oncoming cab as the Ex-less weekend loomed in front of me. Since I had a few hours before Zeke was to arrive, I agreed. I’d planned to have a couple of drinks and then go home, clean, put on a Sheri-approved outfit and perhaps bake a fragrant breakfast item. Such as a banana bread.
We sat outside as Caitlyn opened a second bottle of wine. The early evening breeze offered a kind respite from the heat that had pressed down that day. I had given up wine some time ago and switched to beer because it always seemed to end up in zero to bad decisions in about two hours with wine . But I figured since I was doing FINE, it was okay.
“Sooo, Zeke is coming tonight,” said Marlie with a gleam in her eye. She held her glass out to Caitlyn. “That’s exciting. Did you get a bikini wax?”
“What? Oh my god. No,” I gasped. I could feel my face flush. I took a sip from my glass. My friends were way more comfortable talking about that kind of thing than me.
“Okay,” said Caitlyn soothingly, as she topped off Marlie.
“Alright,” I said sheepishly. “I did.”
“I knew it!” Marlie cried.
“You go girl!” exclaimed Caitlyn. She and Marlie high-fived.
“Okay. Stop.” I put up my hand. “No one is ‘going’ anywhere, whatever that even means. The appointment was already scheduled because…you know…I thought He Who Shall Not Be Named was going to be here so….” I trailed off and took another sip.
“Oh, honey,” Caitlyn murmured.
Marlie put her hand on my knee. “Have you heard from him?”
“No,” I said and shook my head. “And I won’t. After he broke up with me, I sent one of those texts. You know, the kind you know you’ll never recover from?” I looked at their perplexed expressions and took a deep breath. “He hurt me so badly, I decided if I was going to go down, I was going to go down swinging and hit below the belt.” No response. “Um, I can show you the text.” I pulled out my phone and scrolled through the messages.
I set the phone on the table and they read through it together. The silence was heavy. I took a bigger swig of wine.
After a moment, Caitlyn spoke. “Oh…Wow.”
“You…really went there,” breathed Marlie.
I squirmed in my chair nervously. I was speaking quickly now, trying to defend myself. “Yeah. But he had broken up with me so many times. He was like the Boy Who Cried Breakup! I knew if I didn’t do something to put the final nail in the coffin, I would wake up the next day and still have that hope that I could get him back because I always did. And I just couldn’t do that anymore. I had to do something to just…you know, stop the cycle…” I then offered lamely, “I wasn’t trying to hurt him…”
“Sure honey, that makes sense.” Caitlyn leaned back in her chair. “Now. How is OkCupid going?”
“Fine,” I mumbled. I felt extraordinarily embarrassed. There is nothing like feeling that maybe your friends think you’ve gone too far. “It’s fine. I emailed this one guy who seemed pretty cool. I’m, um, just waiting to hear back…so…” I turned to Marlie. “So what’s the latest with Curt?”
“It’s great!” she said. “He’s been training for the marathon and…”
Her voice trailed out of my consciousness. Fuck. Maybe I really had gone too far.
The evening wore on and I drank more wine. I watched at a distance as Caitlyn’s boyfriend tended to us, ordering our dinner in, filling our glasses, kissing her on the forehead. I listened at a distance as Marlie spoke of her latest date with the athletic Curt. By 9 o’clock, I was trashed. I knew I had to get out of there.
I arrived home at 9:30. Zeke wouldn’t be arriving until around 11 o’clock so I still had some time to get things in order. I set about loading the dishwasher. I cracked open a Bud Light for this task, thinking it would sober me up. “Beer is the great equalizer,” my friend Bree and I always said. My mind kept going over the events of the night. Why did I send that brutal text? Who does that? What a horrible person I was.
I dusted for awhile. Then I looked over at my phone.
I could hear the faint voice of reason calling to me, “Nooooooo! Doooooon’t do it!!”
“Shut it, bitch,” I replied. “I know what I’m doing.”
It was a very simple text: “I’m sorry for what I said. So sorry for everything.”
Okay. So now I’d said what I needed to say. That’s done. Get back to cleaning. Much to my surprise, my phone beeped and there was a response from him. “No need. You might be right?”
I tried to focus on the screen as I wrote back. But it kept dancing through my vision. “Of course I wasn’t. I was just hurt.”
“It’s okay. We are okay. Take care, Tracey.”
Well. That was a very nice message. There was no bad blood between us. That was a good ending. I could leave it at that.
I think we can all agree here that going on Facebook after you’ve been drinking is a horrible, horrible idea. But that’s what I decided to do next. I saw on my homepage that it was my friend Luke’s birthday. “Happy birthday Luke!!” I posted cheerfully.
I kept scrolling down. I liked a few statuses, commented on some others.
And then a picture of a quaint house came into my feed. My friend MK from NYC had recently gotten a job in the Bay Area and moved out there but I’d hadn’t heard yet where she’d landed. From this post, it was clear, it was in my hometown. “I love my new place! Best decision ever!!” she said.
My breathing became increasingly shallow.
That was supposed to be my life. With My Ex. We were supposed to get the house in our hometown and garden and cook and watch movies and barbecue and get a dog and grow old together. It was our destiny. How did this happen?
It felt as though a weight was pressing into my chest. I thought I might pass out. My vision was wavering in front of me. I knew I was losing it. And losing it bad. Not even Katy Perry could save me now.
I dove for the phone.”You’ve probably forgotten but you were supposed to be here tonight,” I wrote as tears melded into my drunken state to blur my vision even more. “I feel like I was the only one in this.” I threw the phone down on the couch and sunk to the floor.
Only about 20 seconds passed until I received a beeping response. I wondered briefly if I should just let it go and get back to cleaning. Zeke was supposed to be here soon. But the alcohol crooned, “Yessssss….reeeead it…”
I picked up the phone. “I have loved you most of my life. You were not the only one in this.”
I carefully typed, “So, what happened?”
“I don’t feel that way anymore.”
I was gutted. If I hadn’t had already been sitting down, I would have collapsed. This was the first time he’d said anything like that. In the past when he’d pulled away, he’d always told me it was because this was really bad timing for him, that he needed space to work on some of his own things. I would listen lovingly and say supportive things like, “Of course, take as much time as you need. I will be here for you.” And then I’d immediately follow up with, “So what do you think of this for our wedding song?” And then send him a link to The Pogues YouTube of ‘Love You Til The End’ and demand he watch it. I clearly wasn’t listening to him. Which is why he’d finally left me.
Another notification beeped through and I reluctantly went to retrieve it. “I have no ill will towards you, Tracey. I hope that in time we can be allies.”
A sob caught in my throat. God, that was even worse! There is no more ultimate kick to the corpse of a relationship than when one person genuinely wants to be friends. At that point, I just turned off my phone.
My Dad, who is an engineer and pragmatic by nature but somehow has been saddled with a very emotional daughter, said when I tearfully told him of the breakup, “The feeling of loss is not so much about what you had. It’s more about what could have been. The hopes for that.”
That was it. I felt I’d lost everything I’d ever hoped for.
So when Zeke showed up, there was no clean apartment, no cute outfit and no banana bread. Instead, all he got was me – with a huge, scraggly bun on my head, in pj shorts, wearing my ex’s sweatshirt, with a tear-stained messy make-up face, holding an empty beer can. He looked me over. “I guess it’s a good thing I came this weekend after all.”
“I’m not doing fine,” I whispered.
And then I fell into him.