“Okay. I have to stop you right there.”
“Yeah,” I said with a laugh. “I figured as much, Kanye.”
“I need a glass of wine for this.”
“Yeah, I figured that too.”
“Or a bottle,” she muttered.
And she was not happy.
This was not a surprise.
Those of you who’ve been with the blog from the beginning, you’ll recall that the breakup with My Ex was, like most breakups, um…challenging. It was challenging for me, and it was challenging for the people around me. I can’t tell you how many times my girlfriends had to pull me out of happy hours because I’d dissolved into fits of sobbing and had to walk me home, their arms around me tightly so I wouldn’t stumble from the grief and the excessive alcohol. I can’t tell you how many times I called my out of town friends like Tina and whimpered and cried to them that I’d never get over him. So it was only natural that when I’d hesitantly mentioned to Tina here and there over the past few months that My Ex and I were trying to create a friendship, she’d tuned me out or changed the subject. She didn’t want to go down that road again.
I get it.
I heard her opening the bottle at the other end of the line. She poured a glass and then paused to take a sip. She then took a deep breath. “Okay,” she said, trying to stay calm. “How did this happen? How long has this been going on? And how could you not tell me about it?!!” Her voice was now inadvertently pushing hysteria.
“Wow,” I said as I put her on speaker and went to the fridge to get myself a Bud Light. “That’s a lot of questions,”
“Okay fine, one question at a time,” she said. “So. How long has this been going on?”
“Um, let’s see,” I said, as I twisted off the cap and tossed it in the trash. “Since the middle of July?”
“July?!” she exclaimed. “JULY?! And you didn’t tell me all this time??”
“Frankly, Tina,” I said and moved to the livingroom, taking the phone with me. “I didn’t want to hear your input.”
“Oh,” she said in a small voice.
“Look, don’t take it personally. I didn’t want to hear anyone’s input. I didn’t tell many people at all.”
“Hmm…,” she said. “But how…how did it happen?”
“Did I tell you about that 40’s/50’s Singles Event Marlie and I went to ?”
“The one where you felt bitchy and judgy because you didn’t want to talk to anyone?”
“Um…right. That’s the one,” I said and grabbed the comforter from my bed. The Fall chill was already seeping into my apartment. I settled into the couch. “Okay, so I told you about it. But what I didn’t tell you about, was what happened afterwards.”
When I’d arrived home that night and sat on the ottoman to take off my high-heeled sandals, I’d felt ashamed of how I’d acted at the event. I’m 43 years old, so men in their 40’s and 50’s are of course, a logical age range for me. But after a while of scoping out the scene, I’d found myself becoming increasingly uneasy. Every time one of them made eye-contact with me I would silently pray, “Please don’t come over here. Please just…don’t.” But some of them did, and I would stand there stricken and silent and Marlie would be left to do all the talking. I knew objectively that I should be trying, I mean, didn’t I want to meet someone for Pete’s sake? But, I just couldn’t do it. These men all seemed so grown-up, so adult, and so, well, old. I felt, unlike a potential partner, more like a quirky kid sister.
I would feel a lot more ashamed about it all if Marlie hadn’t agreed with my observations.
But as I thought over all this that night when I got home, I realized my reluctance to engage with them was more than than just the feeling they were too ‘mature’ for me. It was, if I was honest with myself, something else.
And that something else was, I wasn’t over My Ex.
It had been almost a year since we’d broken up. I knew I should’ve been over him by now. But I wasn’t. And as I changed into my pajamas, I thought this over. I wondered if maybe I was putting him up on a pedestal or something because I hadn’t seen him. Certainly, if I saw him in person, I would get over this nonsense. I decided we should meet up when I was home for Christmas.
I hadn’t talked to My Ex in about a month or so because I’d been a little drunk and hysterical with him one night so I was giving him a break. But I also knew that if I really needed to talk to him, he would respond. So I texted him:
“Hey. I need to talk to you.”
I didn’t expect to hear back so quickly but in a few minutes his reply came through. “You beat me to the punch. I need to talk to you too. I’m on my way home but I’ll call you when I get there.”
Immediately a sense of panic seized my chest. My mind kept spiraling around such thoughts as, “He’s going to tell me he doesn’t want talk to me anymore. He’s going to tell me he’s met someone. He’s going to tell me he’s GETTING MARRIED! OHMYGODOHMYGOD!!!”
But when he called, he didn’t say any of that.
And my response, at the end of his speech, was this: “I don’t…get it?”
So he repeated what he’d said. Which was that this had gone on too long. That he still loved me. And this had gone on too long.
It was time to resolve things. Once and for all.
“Are you…coming out here?” I’d asked tentatively.
“Yes. If you’ll have me,” he’d said.
And within two weeks, the plan was set. We agreed we’d both be too busy during the Summer to take time off, so the trip would be in October. I was doubtful we would make it the three months as we’d tried this twice before last year, and twice before gone down in ragged flames of cruel texts and hurtful words with no trips phasing into reality. But I figured I could at least try. After all, it was only a fact-finding mission.
“A fact-finding mission?” Tina asked. “What do you mean?”
I patted the space next to me on the couch so The Cat would jump up. “Tina, this has been going on for 28 years now. It’s not fair to him or me or our future partners to still be thinking about each other. I mean, I don’t want to marry someone else and still be dreaming about him. It’s not right. We had to see each other in real life to see if this was a teenage fantasy or what. We had to resolve this once and for all.”
She took another sip of wine. Then I could tell she was choosing her words carefully. “Are you…are you sure this isn’t a case of you both being single and you’re the only ones left standing? I mean, there was long time there where you guys didn’t even talk. Fourteen years, if I recall.”
I gritted my teeth and took a deep breath. I cleared my throat. “Tina, you of all people know why we weren’t in contact all that time, and it wasn’t because we didn’t love each other. We are, for whatever reason, tethered together or something.”
“Oh, honey,” she sighed. “I know you feel that way. But are you sure he does?”
“How do you know?”
“Because what I just said to you?” My words were coming out a little more fiercely than I intended. I grabbed my beer and took a sip. I then managed my tone. “Those are his words, not mine.”
“But…but what about all those dates you went on?”
I shrugged and ran my hand along The Cat’s back. “That was sort of a non-issue. I wasn’t going to stop dating or stop writing about it. I wasn’t going to change my life for him and he didn’t ask me to. All he asked was to throw his hat in the ring – and may the best man win. And if he didn’t win, at least we would resolve this. Once and for all.”
“Hmm,” she said again.
We were silent for awhile and then she said, “So did you? Did you resolve it once and for all?”
I sighed. “Do you want me to tell you about it, or do you want to read about it?”
This is a question I often have to ask now, and nine times out of ten people choose the latter, as at this point clearly I am a better writer than conversationalist.
So it didn’t surprise me when she said, “Oh, I guess I’ll just wait.”
“Fine,” I said. “So what’s Jordan been up to?” I asked, as I knew any question about her son would lighten her mood. “How has -”
She interrupted me then. “So what was it like? Was it awkward? Is he still in that band?” Her voice rose: “Does he still have all his hair?!” And then lowered: “Did you have sex with him?”
“Tina!” I said and laughed.
“Oh!” she cried. “Just tell me!!”
“Fine,” I said. And then I told her it all.
And it felt great to tell the truth. Finally.