[Written 10.17.14, posted retroactively.]
“Jesus Christ,” she thinks, “I've been here before!”
She reaches for the red panic button. He says enough nearly eloquent lines, sprinkled with WTFs and cord strikings to know something’s not quite right.
“I'VE BEEN HERE BEFORE!” She presses the button, then argues with blank space of his absence.
It began wonderful, nearly. You a bit too into me and I squeamish and not really sure. But a drug, as you called me, has a tremendous ability to find its way to the addict. And you show up at my house with pizza and shocked I’m “beautiful” after 75 minutes of hot yoga. And there’s sex. Fine, I begin to give in, but there are moguls with red flags dangling precariously above that I know I need to navigate before I can settle in anywhere near comfortable. And then you leave. And I’m left with my thoughts and these flags and yup, nothing is normal and this isn’t how I want to be treated and you’re not listening to what I want too. I navigate, loosely leaving you behind, trying not to let go of the fraying rope. But I felt confined and hopeless after you listened to my reason then went onto ignore it.
We are equals, I said. “No, we’re not,” you responded just days in. It gave it the culture pass, as I did many of the moguls. Then weeks passed in your absence. Garbled fucked up weeks where I said one thing, you agree and then just continued to be exactly who you wanted like there wasn’t another voice to consider. And then came the last time we spoke. I knew it would be the last time we spoke but I was hesitant to admit it – doing that girl thing where you scramble to keep what you know you don’t want just because it’s leaving.
You called that last time because when you asked how I was, I told you not well. I was sick. You call even though I tell you not to; I was too much a mental and hormonal mess (but left that part out, not that you would understand). You set me off first by telling me I was selfish to ‘bother’ my mother with news about my health, crying and looking for comfort. I DON’T CARE IF YOU DIDN’T TELL YOUR PARENTS WHEN YOU GOT SHOT IN THE LEG. PERSONALLY I THINK THAT MAKES YOU DUMB (is that I wanted to tell you). No mother ever wants to not be needed. I’m sorry if that’s the way your mother made you feel; pity on you, dear boy.
I go on, defending my point: I tell you about the doctor finding the cyst – poking me internally so much so that she ruptured it, putting me presently in a lot of pain - and you ask with a chuckle, "Did you cheat on me?"
I lose my calm entirely. I shuffle from terror to fury and exclaim: "HOW CAN I CHEAT - WE'RE NOT IN A RELATIONSHIP?!" - again putting myself on the back burner to revisit your fucking theme of forcing me into a relationship I told you I wasn't ready for.
You continue to make faces at me on Skype, a weird form of cheering someone up or you’re just uncomfortable with my failure to be perfect. I'm falling apart.
I think: Why the fuck are you talking about your watch?! Why would you say if I cry, you'd leave the room?! What kind of monster have you been hiding behind the facade of sweet words (and eloquent commands)?!
You say: "What are you like in the break-up?"
I pause to think and reluctantly respond: "Kind of like this" and pause with another realization, "but ever man who has ever left me has always come back again."
"I NEVER GO BACK!" you quipped so sternly, adding "if this is what you are like when you like me, please don't love me. If you love me, only love me a little, not a lot."
I think: BITCH. I DON'T EVEN KNOW YOU. AND DID YOU MISS THE OTHER 400 TIMES I SAID THIS WASN'T A RELATIONSHIP BECAUSE...I DON'T KNOW YOU. And how dare you judge my relationship with my mother just because it is different than you and yours.
You say: "You're controlling. And always negative. And I'm controlling so that will never work."
I think:Well, you got one out of three! Oh those moguls I needed to navigate: I can't gain more than ten pounds or we're just friends; only bug bites, no bruises; only have two alcoholic beverages; no burping. YOU KNOW I POOP, RIGHT?! (And burping and alcohol are two of my favorite things.)
You say: "No talking about exes."
I think: YOU KNOW IT'S WEIRD THAT YOU'RE 30 AND NEVER HAD A RELATIONSHIP, RIGHT?! Why do I have to "teach" anyone how to be in a long term relationship? I'm done paving lesson plans for little boys. I'm too old for that shit. A 30 year old should have that figured out by now.
Suddenly and without reason, you pan the camera to show me the bedroom door.
You say: "This is a custom door. It was $3,000."
I think: WHY ARE YOU SHOWING ME YOUR PARENTS' $3000 DOOR?! I don't give a shit about your damn door; my ovary exploded yesterday!
You ask: "Do you like my car? Do you like my watch?" as if nothing else is going on and your subject change would go unnoticed.
My thoughts, they escape my mouth with heated furver: "I DON'T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR MATERIAL THINGS!. I'm sick and frustrated because you just told me that after 40 days, you’re going to be gone even longer and I'm so sick of this situation. I don't want to do this anymore!"
You say: "You said you liked my watch before..."
And suddenly, I realize this might be over.
It's a fine line to straddle at 31. To know the difference between I tried and run away because this is bad for me. Because I don't want to regret what I didn't do - or try for - and question ever 'what could have been,' but I also don't want to be broken a year later and think 'fuck, I knew better. I know better about this by now.' I guess I just have to trust myself more. That I make the right decisions; that no matter what, I cannot kill destiny. But I can preserve my heart, leaning on mistakes of the past. It is both foolish to let the past determine the future and foolish to not heed the bells of warning: You have been here before (and it hurt a lot).
I have my history. And now I require patience and understanding. And love - unconditional. For that is what I am willing to give if a man will have me, but I won't be taken if he would promise anything less. Love doesn't come with stipulations of weight loss and belching. And this, this is what I could not overcome, despite the rumbling in my chest.
Working six days a week: Where is my adventure?! Limiting me to two drinks: Stifling my choice. I do not belong in a cage, managed by the locks of what you would inevitably convince me was love. The compliments. That absolute doting. And just that look. There was good there, there was. But so were the dangers lurking below; dangers I wasn't willing to acknowledge for love story I wanted to have. The dangers of which I can only see now, moving past the infatuated desire for your promises.
"You're cheap!" you've said to me, more than once.
"I'm not cheap. I'm broke," I retort, yet again. "There's a difference."
But that was never an invitation for you to tell me how I don't make enough money and here's what I need to do instead. I don't need to have a Mercedes to feel validated in my life. I don't need beautiful hardwood floors. And I don't need your life fucking advice. I made it this far without the guidance of a man. And besides, you build cabinets for a living: Who the fuck are you to judge my career trajectory?!
I need only two things: Happiness and love. And I realized one very important thing about myself in all of this: I would much rather have a poor man’s time than a rich man’s money. A fact, I soon realized, you would never understand.
I find it a happy accident that my Uber driver in Boston was Turkish or I might have had the wrong idea about all Turks. This sweet, adorable man had a gentle spirit: Reminiscent of the Turk at his best. He said none of these aforementioned elements of control and judgement were normal and that, as a foreign national, it was the Turk's job to assimilate to my culture (not I to his). It was then I wished the blank space was filled with Turk's presence so I could scream: So my lipstick isn't tacky! It’s not my fault that Turkish women don't wear a lot of make-up! I HAVE BLONDE HAIR AND BLUE EYES AND CURVES FOR DAYS! DO I LOOK FUCKING TURKISH TO YOU?!
I was surprised to learn - as my new Turkish friend shared - that Turkish people are more emotional than Americans. A shock, considering the Turk said he would never cry anywhere but alone. "But I've seen you cry,” I said during that last conversation. “You were tearing up when you came over after your brother was shot in the face."
"No I wasn't," he responded, with a dry conviction.
"I've seen you cry."
"No you haven't," he contested. His rigidity had set in. He continued to rewrite history for his convenience:"You're the one that chased me..."
It was then that I realized, this was clearly over.
So how's that relationship - that you thought you could just so rightfully claim simply because you wanted it – working out for you?
She winks. And she lets go of the panic button.