“Are you sure you aren’t using this as an excuse to contact him?” Veronica asked. We were having our usual Sunday phone chat, where it was early afternoon for her in Portland so she was getting ready for CrossFit and it was late afternoon for me in New York so I was getting ready for the workweek ahead.
“I…,” I had to stop and think about that. “I don’t think so.”
“Okay,” she said warily.
“No,” I said with more assurance, as I filled my Monday through Friday vitamin packets. “I’m not. I have to tell him. If he hears I’m writing about him from someone else, he’ll be really pissed.”
“Well, let me know how it goes,” she said.
In all honesty, he would probably be pissed regardless. My Ex is the most private person I’ve ever known. He doesn’t even post things about himself on Facebook. It’s either about his band or some sort of informed political rant. Meanwhile, I’m like, “Hi everybody! Now I’m chewing blue gum!”
I’d never planned on writing about him. I began this blog fully intending for it to be a breezy and fun account of dating in NYC in your 40’s. But after I’d bragged to everyone about starting a blog to the point that I actually had to write one, I’d realized I felt anything but breezy and fun. So I just posted about what I was going through. And that included him.
As the weeks went on, I was surprised and touched to see that it was more than just my close friends and family who were reading it. But then I thought, if people from my hometown were seeing the blog, it was only a matter of time before My Ex found out what I was doing.
I went over a couple of possible openings to my text but finally decided on: “So I started this blog after we broke up?” (Somehow it seemed less threatening with the question mark.) “And some people from home are reading it and I wanted you to know I am writing about you. I didn’t want you to hear it from someone else. So, that’s it.”
I hit send. Then I hastily added, “This is not an excuse to text you.”
A few minutes passed and then I received: “I know. I’ve been reading it. Congratulations. It’s really good, Tracey. I think it’s great you have a creative outlet to express yourself during this crazy time. Carry on.”
My first thought was that I should be embarrassed. You want, when you’ve been dumped, for your ex to believe you’ve been out dating a myriad of tall, handsome, successful men who’ve all been wining and dining you at Per Se and sending multiple bouquets of rare flowers to your office. To believe that you’re hotly strutting around the city with your own personal soundtrack of Destiny’s Child’s ‘Survivor’ swirling around you in a Power-Mix. Instead, My Ex knew that I’d been drinking myself into oblivion, putting on clothes inside-out and sustaining only on cheese and crackers. And most humiliating, he knew I’d read ‘Twilight.’
But I didn’t feel embarrassed. I just felt sad.
It’s one thing when your boyfriend breaks up with you, it’s another when he says he doesn’t love you anymore but it’s an entirely different thing altogether when he reads that you’ve been going online to start dating other people and he tells you to “Carry on.” The only sane takeaway is he’s not coming back.
My mind started flashing over our past memories: The first time I ever saw him, standing on a bench in our high-school courtyard wearing his football jersey and although I didn’t know him, I knew my life would never be the same; the first time he’d said ‘I love you’ when we were just 15 and I believed him, and never stopped believing him for 27 years; when we’d walked into my 25 year high school reunion and everyone there had said, “Of course. Of course you two would end up together.” And I’d looked up at him and smiled and said, “Of course.” But they were wrong and so was I. It occurred to me then, we would never together create another memory.
Usually I would use this as an excuse to start drinking but instead I put on my sneakers and his sweatshirt and walked to the East River. I’d brought a notebook along because, as I mentioned in an earlier post, journaling is what one is required to do during heartbreak. But as I sat there, I got distracted by the dad teaching his daughter how to ride a bike; the dog with the big plush banana toy in it’s mouth, pulling along its laughing owner; the barges moving by at an astonishingly quick pace. I tried to pull my focus to what I’d just experienced. I put pen to paper and demanded to myself, ‘The man you love doesn’t love you anymore. And he doesn’t care if you date other people. Now PROCESS IT.” But I felt nothing. My heart had completely shut down. I could almost hear it saying, “Can we take a break from all this and just sit for a while?” And so I obliged. After some time, I got bored and went home.
I sat on the couch and thought over what I wanted to say to him. And this was it: “Okay. Thank you for the blessing.”
He responded: “You will always be in my heart and in my mind, Tracey. Take care.”
I stared at the message for awhile. Then I made a cup of tea. I took off his sweatshirt and folded it into the laundry hamper. And then I answered some work emails.
A few days later, I wrote this post. When I went back to read it, I noticed I’d put the last line as, ‘And, for now, this chapter is over.’ I’d thought I was being so clever – “I’m writing, see, and it’s the end of a post, like the end of a chapter of a book but what I mean is a ‘chapter’ of my life! Man, I’m GOOD.”
But then I realized that by putting ‘for now’ I was still holding onto the the hope and the belief that he would come back someday. That it would be okay for us eventually. Because it’s always been that way. If I look back over my Introductory Post list of why I am still single, I see that probably the main one, is one I didn’t even note. It is that my heart has always belonged to someone. I was already taken. And this has got to stop.
And so, to My Ex: Twenty-seven years is a long time. I feel very, very lucky that you loved me for all those years. I wouldn’t change a thing. But I now know I have to let you go. I have to move on. It’s time. And that is not the bagel. Take care.
And now, this chapter is over.