Open & Honest – Part X
“I think I’m done,” I say. It’s the first time I’ve said it out loud. It feels good to say it.
I just wish I could say it to her.
It almost catches me off guard. I have to pause to think about it.
“That’s too bad,” my friend tells me in the lull.
“No,” I reply, “it’s not.” Yes, it is, I think.
There’s this moment, when day three rolls around and I still haven’t heard from her. I’ve been left to my own thoughts again. It’s never a good thing.
There’s a reason I prefer to stay busy all the time, why I throw myself into my work, why I focus so intently on whatever project is in front of me. It’s to quiet the little voices in my head, the ones that niggle and prod, that play with reality.
But I’m not wrong here.
I had asked her to be better about communicating. She responded with an apology. And now she’s responded with more silence.
In the moment, with her there, I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t rip the band-aid off, part ways, and call it a relationship. Hell, I haven’t been able to call it a relationship from the start. How do you end something that doesn’t exist?
Now, there’s no doubt in my mind. Something’s different and she’s not telling me what.
“Hi,” I say into the phone. I’m surprised she’s called at all, especially given that I can’t get her to text me in a timely fashion.
“Hi,” she replies. “How are you?”
“I’m alright,” I lie. I want to tell her I’m angry and sad and lonely and confused. “How are you?”
“Good,” she says. It sounds honest. It sounds awkward, like she feels bad telling me this. “So… I got my schedule for next week.”
“I’ve got Thursday, the day before your birthday, off. I’ve got my class in the evening, but I could meet with you after.”
“We could do that,” I say. I don’t want to. I don’t want to see her. For the first time, I know that I really am done.
“And even though it’s the fourth and our manual says we have the day off, I have to work that evening, but it’s late.”
“Ok,” I say.
“So, would you like to do dinner?”
“Well, I’m trying to organize a barbecue for my staff after work that day, but you’d be welcome to join us when you’re done with class.”
“Sure,” she says, almost with mild disappointment. “Maybe we could brunch the next day since I don’t have to work until later.”
“Ok,” I say. I can’t figure out why I’m not saying no.
“How about Lucille’s?”
“I like Lucille’s,” I say, but I don’t feel excited.
“Cool,” she says. She doesn’t sound excited either.
“So that covers next week. What about this week? Will you have time to do something before you go to the wedding this weekend?”
“I doubt it. I’m working a lot.”
“Well, depending on what time your flight is on Thursday, you’re more than welcome to crash here. Save the trouble of coming all the way down.” If she doesn’t have time for me this week, I don’t really want her here at all, but it’s an offer I can’t help but make. And I’m hoping she doesn’t take me up on it.
I reach across in the darkness to check the time on my phone. There’s a text message sitting there. It’s 2:30 AM. The message arrived just before midnight. It’s from her. It’s just an address.
I ponder it for a minute before shooting a text back.
“Filed under cryptic late night texts I don’t understand.”
But now I’m awake. I can’t stop thinking about the address. Was it a mistake? Was it intended for me? Was it a party at which she wanted me? Was she out with another guy and this was her safety, letting someone know where she was going?
I can’t sleep, so I get dressed and wander outside. The address is only a 20 minute walk from my place. The cool air feels good as I stroll toward my mystery destination.
It’s nearing 3 AM when I arrive outside. It takes me a minute to find the house. It’s dark and quiet. Her car isn’t on the street. In another house across the way, a man watches movies loudly in the darkness. Next door, a band plays, complete with clarinet. I stand there, enjoying the calm chill of the night, listening to the sounds, before I turn and stroll home. I start thinking about stories to which that random text could have led.
I’m both disappointed and relieved she’s not there. Part of me wishes I had seen her car and found her with someone else. Part of me wishes I had found her at a party, and that she would have been surprised and pleased to see me. Part of me is happy that all I had to do was walk home.
I know she has tomorrow off from work to run errands and then flies out the next day. I figure it doesn’t matter, that I’m once again thinking into things too much.
I barely sleep again before my alarm goes off and I rush to work. I sleepwalk through the morning. The rental bike I’m riding feels odd. My own bike is supposed to be in the shop until the end of the week. Thunder and lightning turn us around from heading to a pool for swimming, instead landing us in a classroom watching bike movies as I work on paperwork.
In my head, I’m running through all the errands I need to do this afternoon: shopping for the overnight, collecting vehicle and gear, making sure everything’s set. It’s a lot. I should be sending out parent emails, photo updates, and filling out next week’s paperwork as well, but all of it seems daunting. In a down moment, I shoot her a text.
“Hope errands and prep are going well.”
It’s nearing the end of camp, when my errands begin when I get her response.
“Ugh not well. Last night was a friend’s going away party, and I didn’t have time to eat at work so I don’t feel great.”
I can picture her, stressed, unhappy, clutching her stomach. The thought alone pains me.
“:( anything I can do to help? I won’t be home for a while, but I’d be happy to cook you something healthy a bit later.”
“That sounds good. I’m supposed to meet up with a friend this afternoon/evening but I’ll let you know. When are you off?”
“I should be home by 7.”
It’s 6:59 when I walk in the door, sweaty, agitated, exhausted. Before I do anything else, my phone’s in my hand.
“I just got home. Let me know if and when you’d like to join me for food. I’m hopping in the shower for now.”
“I would like to, I just got to Boulder.”
“Name your time and I’ll aim for that,” I text before leaping into the shower. When I step out, there’s a text waiting.
“On my way,” it reads.
I quickly send her a response and start sliding on clothes. She’s in the front door before I even have my pants on. I throw on a shirt after giving her a hug and a kiss.
“Are you staying tonight?” I ask.
“I was hoping to,” she says.
Shit, I think. I can’t end this tonight if she’s staying. Oh well. And I wonder why I’m not more upset.
The night goes by smoothly. We eat. We talk. It’s the most pleasant evening we’ve had for a while. We wander around the corner to get ice cream for desert. She looks at me quizzically as I turn down tasters and then decline any on our return.
“Why won’t you have any?” she asks.
“I can’t,” I say.
“Oh shit! I forgot you’re lactose intolerant.”
It’s not the first time she’s forgotten. In my head, it reaffirms that I’m simply not important enough to her for this to continue.
She leaves her car at my house, her key with me. I drop her at the bus stop and give her a kiss goodbye before she runs off to the airport. Then I have the day from hell, an uncomfortable night in a tent, and a rough last day of the week.
Over the weekend, I pray that when she comes back, she’ll just want to drive home and not stay the night, that I can use the opportunity to tell her I can’t do this anymore.
I spend time with friends, relaxing, biking, going to the Colorado Brewers’ Festival. “I think I’m done,” I tell them. “I need more and I can’t get it from this relationship.”
“Can’t you ask her?”
“No. I’m not comfortable asking. It’s not what she wants. And I already know the answer.”
I don’t hear from her all weekend. On Sunday afternoon, as I prepare for her flight to arrive late, an extra early morning for work the next day, I keep hoping she won’t stay.
I greet her at the bus stop with chocolate and water. She declines the chocolate. She forgot to eat and had chocolate in her pack. It’s all she’s eaten all evening. She downs the water.
When we pull up at my place, she parks and gets out of the car. She doesn’t ask if she can stay. I’m unhappy as we walk up to my door. Once again, I can’t tell her how I feel without sending her on her way and she seems so tired I can’t bring myself to do that.
As we’re undressing, she realizes the presumption. “I didn’t even ask if I could stay. Is that alright?” she says.
“I’ve told you before: my door is always open.”
“Thanks,” she says.
I slip out of my room in the darkness and begin collecting my things. I’m halfway dressed in the bathroom when I hear a knock at the door. As I open it, she has a pained look on her face.
“I have to go home. I’ve got really bad cramps,” she says.
“Can I help? We have a heating pad.”
“No, I need to go.”
“Ok,” I say. She leans in and gives me a hug.
As she disappears out the door, I rush to dress and chase her barefoot out the door, hoping to ask her to let me know how she’s doing later. She’s already backing up as I get to my doorway. I stand there and wave when she spots me.
Her car vanishes around the corner, and I’m off and running again, getting ready for what could be the worst week of the summer at work.
In the afternoon, when she should be getting ready for work or at least recuperated, I shoot her a text.”Sorry you had a rough morning. I hope you made it home alright and are feeling better.”
I want her to respond, but I feel the odds are low. And I’m right. I’m greeted with silence and emptiness.
Our plans for my birthday are worrisome. I wanted to see her, to speak to her, to cancel and move on. But without contact, it can’t happen. I don’t want to break up via text, but I have no intention of actually meeting her for anything but a conversation in the evening. I definitely don’t want to do brunch.
“I think I’m done,” I tell another friend. Every time I say it, it seems more certain.
“But you don’t have to close any doors.”
“That’s the beauty of this relationship,” I tell him with a smirk. “If I wanted to pursue other women, I wouldn’t be in the wrong. But I’m not built that way. I have to end it to look elsewhere.”
“Gotcha,” he says.
As we sit there sipping beers, my mind turns to the next two days, in which she had talked to me about doing things. Given that she hasn’t spoken to me in days, I’m unsure anything is going to happen, and I’ve turned down a number of invites to things trying to keep those times clear. I even canceled the staff BBQ, and by canceled I mean I never sent out noticed or tried to put it together. I feel shirked.
On the afternoon of our maybe dinner plans, she finally texts me.
“Happy almost birthday!” she writes. “What time would you like to meet for brunch tomorrow?”
So dinner is out, it would seem. My evening is now wasted. I want it to be clear, to know that she doesn’t have time for me.
“I’m pretty flexible,” I reply “We’re not doing anything tonight, then?”
It takes her three hours to respond.
“I’m pretty busy tonight so probably not, but how does noon sound?”
Terrible, I think. I’m not going to brunch with her. I’m not going to see her tomorrow. I don’t want to see her unless things change right now.
“Don’t worry about it,” I type. “I’ll see you when I see you.”
I’m a big ball of raging hatred. I feel like she doesn’t even have the time to let me break this off. I feel trapped. I’m done. I’ll let it sit. I’ll quit and wait until she finally wonders why I’m not there at all. And then I’ll tell her.
But that’s not me.
“Soooo… noon then?”
With that text, I can’t decide how I want to do this. I can’t believe she bothered to press the issue. I’m this close to texting her back and just laying it out, but that’s unacceptable. I’ve never and will never break up with someone via text, but I can’t seem to get her face to face.
I walk around the corner to the convenience store with a friend. I reason it out the whole way. And then I send him on his merry way and call her.
“Hello?” she says.
“Hi,” I say. “How’s it going?”
“Good. How are you?”
“I’ve been better,” I admit. There’s no stopping now. “I wanted to talk to you about plans tomorrow. I don’t want to go to brunch with you. I’m kind of done with all of this. I don’t feel you have time for me and I need more out of a relationship. So, I’m sorry, but I’m done. I don’t want to do this anymore”
There’s silence as I continue to stroll.
“Are you ok?” I ask.
“Yeah,” she says. There are long pauses, like she’s surprised, like she didn’t see this coming. It’s odd to me. I could’ve sworn she wanted it to end, to go away, to not be a burden. She certainly treated me as such.
“Look,” I try to explain, knowing more needs to be said, “I feel like I’ve been putting in a lot of effort to make time for you, to adjust to when you’re available. I haven’t been getting that back. It’s really hard to not hear from you for days, to get no response, to feel like you just don’t have space for me in your life. When you go running out the door with terrible cramps and I express sympathy, I’d hope you’d be able to let me know you’re ok. I worry about you. But when you can’t be bothered to let me know, it makes me not want to do this anymore.”
“My problem is that I’m head over heels in love with you. It wasn’t what you signed up for. I knew when this began I’d be more invested than you. I thought I’d be ok with that, and for a while I was, but now I need more out of the relationship. And given everything you’ve told me, I don’t feel comfortable asking for more. I don’t think that’s what you want. Tell me if I’m wrong.”
“No,” she says with a sigh. “I agree.” I let it sit for a moment. “I’m sorry,” she says, “that I haven’t been there more. It’s my fault.”
“No! Bullshit. It’s not your fault. This isn’t about whose fault or who did or didn’t do what. This is about what I need out of a relationship. I need more. That’s not something you want. We simply don’t want the same things at the moment. I mean, I hate the cliché that it’s not you, it’s me, but in this case it really is me!” She snickers wistfully and I can picture a sad smile on her face.
I can feel my step getting lighter, my anger, my disappointment floating away. I can feel weeks of unnecessary angst slip off my shoulders. I feel happy and sad and excited all at the same time.
Suddenly we’re talking about the future, and we’re talking about the past, and all the things I’ve wanted to say are gushing out, flowing endlessly into the ether. I’m telling her about how good it was, how I can’t be angry about it. She’s telling me how it hasn’t been the same, how she hasn’t really be feeling it for the last couple weeks. I’m telling her how this isn’t an end, per se, that if our paths converge again, I’d be happy, but that it’s not what I need right now. She explaining how she didn’t want to do this on my birthday or the day before my birthday. I’m telling her about how I don’t give a shit that it’s my birthday, about how I wanted to yell and scream and rip her to shreds, but all I could do was kiss her and smile because of how happy she makes me when she’s here.
We’re talking, openly, honestly, for the first time in what feels like forever. Everything that went unsaid, everything locked away to prevent things from breaking, to keep things going, are coming out. We’ve broken the silence, the odd status quo, the relationship.
And it feels wonderful.
Open and Honest – Epilogue