I don’t really know what turned things around for My Ex. Actually, that’s not true, I do know. But that is not my story to tell, so I won’t. But I will say this. Ever since that call in July, he has never wavered. Not even once. There was no back and forth or indecision.
But as we’ve all seen, I’m not the easiest person to “date.” I can be insecure, needy. I can get paranoid, I can drink too much. Sometimes all those things at once. In the beginning of the three months before his visit, I was so nervous he would change his mind that I would regularly get hysterical and freak out and and accuse him of ‘playing me’ and shriek things like, “I won’t tolerate this! I won’t!!”
Then, the next morning I would call him up and say in a meek voice, “I’m sorry.” And then in an even meeker voice, “Are you still coming?”
And his response was always the same: “I’m still coming, Tracey.”
One of the cool things My Ex did when scheduling this visit, was to plan to come see me for five days, then meet up with his brother and Dad for a Boys’ Trip for a week. Then he would return to NYC for one final night before he went back to the West Coast. We decided to hold off on any sort of talk about our relationship or the future until that final night. This would allow us to just spend time together without any pressure and see if we could actually enjoy each other’s company. Then we could have a week apart to think about things.
We did a lot on this trip.
We took the Staten Island Ferry. We walked through Wall Street where we saw the New York Stock Exchange. We ate big pretzels and got coffee from street vendors. We went to the Flatiron District and fought our way through Eataly. We had drinks at 230 Fifth Rooftop at sunset and marveled at the people who were donning the complimentary red robes even though it was still quite warm. We took pictures of our heads with the Empire State Building in the background. We checked out a punk-rock bar he wanted to go to, where I dragged my feet through the door because those places are so out of my comfort zone and I feel like a total geeky goody-two shoes when there. But we actually ended up having an awesome time and the only thing of note was that there was a really drunk English guy who hopped up onto the bar to do a pole dance. Which is totally in my comfort-zone, so that was fine. We had cheeseburgers at my favorite burger bar. We took my commute so he could get a sense of my day-to-day life. We went to Central Park, where I didn’t even pretend to know where we were going (I’d learned my lesson with Zeke’s visit) but somehow, we ended up stumbling upon every single place I’d wanted to show him.
And every night when we would come home, My Ex would knock out a few items on the (very) long list of things that I’d asked him to fix in my apartment. Now, as I’ve mentioned, I am actually pretty handy but there just are certain things I don’t have the physical strength to do or don’t really understand the actual issue, so I can’t fix. “Are you sure you don’t mind doing all this? Really?” I’d ask, feeling guilty since this was supposed to be his vacation.
“No, I like it. It makes me feel useful,” he’d say and I’d sit on the couch, drinking my Bud Light, watching him while he fixed my dresser drawers, my curtain rod, the shower rod, the kitchen light and a number of other things. I’d get up and interrupt his work and kiss him hard because I appreciated him so much and because he made me feel like a lazy princess.
This had been My Ex’s idea as he said he knew they were my NYC family and he wanted them to know he was sincere in his actions. When I’d told them this, Thalia had exclaimed, “Oh! I’m so excited to meet him!” Sean had taken a swig of his Guinness and then said, “I might have some questions.” I had told My Ex this and he’d replied, “I’m ready.”
That night, I thought maybe Sean might take My Ex off to the bar area of the restaurant so they could talk man-to-man privately. Thalia and I would be left behind to fret and fan ourselves in worry over what they could be POSSIBLY be talking about. It didn’t go down like that. Instead, Sean took another tact and asked us a series of thoughtful questions together – what had happened last year, why was it different this time, how did it feel to see each other now. I stammered through my answers because I was unprepared, and also because I’d had two glasses of champagne. At one point, I was so out of sorts, I’d grabbed a piece of bread from the basket, sopped it through the leftover pesto from my pasta and announced to the table, “I’M EMOTIONALLY EATING NOW.” But My Ex’s answers were straightforward and strong, and as he took my hand to steady me, I was reminded of why I’d loved him for 28 years.
When we left, Thalia pulled me into a hug and said, “I’ve never seen you so peaceful and happy, Tracey.” When Sean hugged me goodbye he said, “He seems like a good guy. I’m happy for you two.” And as we walked away, My Ex said, “I’m glad you have them Tracey. It makes me feel better to know they’re here looking out for you.” And I could have burst into tears because having three of the people I love the most all together in one night, was almost too much to take.
Then we went to Times Square for about three minutes as that’s all you really need in that crap-hole. Take your pictures and get the hell out of there asap.
The day we were to go to Central Park, My Ex and I had been at a breakfast place near my apartment and I’d wanted to take my leftovers with us because I figured I’d want to eat them later. “I can put them in my purse,” I said as I tried to fold the to-go box in.
“Tracey,” he’d replied. “You don’t want to carry that around all day. We’re going to be out for hours.”
“But I don’t want to throw it away,” I’d insisted.
“We’re a block from your apartment. Let’s go drop it off.”
I’d pouted. “I don’t want to walk up all those stairs.”
He’d laughed then. “Baby, you don’t have to.”
And we’d gone back to my place and he’d gone up the five flights and deposited my leftovers in the fridge.
It was these little things that got me the most, maybe even moreso than the fix-it agenda, because I didn’t ask him to do them. How when we’d get snacks for the apartment, he’d carry the bags. How when I’d get out of the shower, he’d have made the bed. How he’d make a point to say hi to The Cat when she deigned us with her nightly appearance and agreed that yes, she was very cute, when I’d insist he look over the pictures I’d inevitably take as we’d usually had a few drinks while out. He created playlists for my iPod and always refilled the Brita when he noticed it was running low. He made me feel cherished and he made me laugh and our conversations were interesting and easy.
So on our last day together, when we’d gone to my favorite brunch place and as I finished up my usual meal – four cheese pizza with mushrooms and truffle oil, hold the mushrooms – I’d looked up at him and shook my head.
“What?” he asked.
I took a sip of coffee as I was a little nervous to answer. I took a deep breath. “You know, you’ve been here for five days now. We’ve done a ton of things, walked all over the city and been overtired, had a stressful dinner with friends, been staying in a cramped one room studio but…,” I trailed off. He smiled at me. Then I sat up straight and just said it. “But I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve never gotten sick of you, I’ve never wanted you to leave or have my space or been bored or irritated anything like that. I’ve loved you being here. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
And then I felt like I might start crying so I looked down at my hands clasped in my lap and took a shuddery breath.
“Hey,” he said. “Look at me. Tracey.”
“What?” I said and did as he asked.
“I feel the same way. It’s been a great trip.”
“So…,” I said and swallowed. “So we’ll talk about the other stuff, the future and all that on Friday?”
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “We’ll talk about all that on Friday.”
“Okay,” I said and nodded.
And then I just had to wait.
Image: I actually took that picture at Central Park when I was there with My Ex.