Adiós, The Brit; Bonjour, Confusion…Again

I know that several of my readers were rooting for The Brit. We had a really nice date a few weeks ago, and I assumed he was eager for another date as he had been the previous few weeks, but then he basically disappeared into thin air. Now I usually take The Fade in stride, particularly if there is no serious emotional investment, but the sudden backing off of The Brit surprised me. At first, I attributed it to the end of the summer course he was teaching, that he must be busy with grading. And perhaps he was also really into researching and writing more for his next book. I’d get a couple texts now and again, but then he’d fail to respond for a while.

To be honest, with all the other men in my life, The Brit was not at the top of the list. He’s intelligent, funny, a decent kisser, and we had fun all the times we hung out. Yet he really didn’t blow me away with his personality or his looks. I write about relationships and health. He is obsessed with the psychology of politicians. This isn’t to say we didn’t have plenty to talk about, but his status updates on FB were all about which British political figure was doing what, along with his acerbic analysis; mine were about feelings, links to my YouTube music videos and my other blog articles. Then there was the fact that he was a vegetarian (because of a recent ex).

Still I was very curious what had changed to the nights of snogging in the car to infrequent polite texts. So, I asked him. He never picks up the phone, rarely texts, but he’s been on FB very frequently this week, so I decided to send him a message. Here’s how things went down.

SingleInMy30s July 18 at 10:40pm
did i do or say something that completely put you off me? Or have things just run the course “dating”? I’m more curious than anything else, so please don’t feel like I’m upset, just intrigued. 🙂

Hope you had a great weekend

The Brit July 19 at 4:03pm
Aw, it’s not that SingleInMy30s. You haven’t done or said anything. And I am attracted to you. It’s just you seem to really like me, and it seemed unfair to keep seeing you regularly.

SingleInMy30s July 19 at 4:06pm
That’s funny. I thought you were the one who really liked *me*. I don’t know you well enough to really like you, and I have in fact been seeing other guys besides you. So no harm, no worry.

It’s funny how this exchange made me feel: relieved. One less guy to worry about, without worrying I might be hurting his feelings.

I’m still pondering whether it’s in my best interest to get back together with V-Man. We spent Saturday night together. It turned into that all-too-familiar routine of him working on house stuff while I assisted when necessary. We didn’t eat dinner until 9, and we grabbed The Hangover from Redbox. He really enjoyed it, which wasn’t surprising (I’d seen it before). Yet as soon as it was over, he picked up the damn iTouch I bought him a couple months before I broke up with him the last time, and was busy perusing eBay for bike parts, his latest obsession. Things in the bedroom are still fun, exciting and passionate, but lacking tenderness. After doing more house work Sunday morning, he dropped me off, and simply said, “Thanks for all your help.” Not exactly what I am looking for from the man I’ve been considering getting back together with.

I realize things haven’t really changed a great deal. His best girl friend got engaged last weekend and he refused to go their celebration. He keeps “forgetting” to call or text her a congratulations. His house will always come before people. And he will also frown on marriage–don’t blame him, since he has very poor examples of positive marriages, but that doesn’t bode well for my future with him. I don’t want to be one of those girls who has to drag her man to the altar after a ridiculous number of years dating. I don’t think he’d want that either because that would just prove him right about “how everyone woman just wants x…”

Mr. Etiquette is still calling and texting, trying to prove his love. I appreciate the romantic gestures, the backing up he did when he I told him I needed space. Yet I still carry that pain that he wanted to go back with FMG, despite her treating him like shit for so long, and despite the fact that he had the kind of woman offering just the kind of relationship he wanted right in front of him but let go of, however temporarily.

And of course, Harlequin Hero is back in town, moving into his new house. He texted me the other night, asking when I was coming by. He doesn’t really understand the concept of invitations still, does he?

Is it really too much to ask for a love life that’s easier and more fulfilling?

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Rediscovering the Hidden Gems in My Closet of Love

It breaks my heart that my morning pages a.k.a my diary for years has been obliterated by an OS meltdown, but maybe I needed a complete emotional reboot as well. V-Man’s been telling me for years that I needed to clear out my garbage, and he was right. Of course, he meant my literal garbage, all those old clothes, old papers, mail that doesn’t need to be kept, literal junk I hold onto for nostalgia’s sake or because I just hate to throw away perfectly good stuff that is perfectly not right for me anymore. More and more, I realize how much that holds true for my emotional life as well.

I also am recognizing how there are some hidden gems in my closet that I complete forgot I had, or that I had become blinded to as gems, for whatever reasons, and so I allowed all the clutter to block my vision of their true worth. It’s ironic that the person who’s been trying to point this hoarding flaw of mine out to me again and again is also the one that I’ve overlooked the most as the greatest gem in my life, though his radiance keeps glimmering in my heart again and again.

After two years of dating, I buckled under pressure. My best friend was a newlywed. She and her husband, despite their marital and financial strife were pushing for having a baby very shortly. Her husband was nearly a decade younger than my boyfriend. She told me, in her blunt way, that after two years together, the V-Man needed to “shit or get off the pot.”

I knew I didn’t want to be like my boyfriend’s news anchor co-workers having their first babies at age 40. I was an arthritic 30-year-old with an autoimmune disease who worried that every passing year was stealing another year of active opportunity to be the hands-on, athletic mom I had always dreamed of being with my kids. I also was aware of the increased risks I would face over the age of 35, even as a healthy mother, so who knew what I was in store for already as a high-risk pregnancy?

I felt the pressure. I watched the vast majority of my friends starting families. I wondered when my adult life was going to move forward to that stage as well. In other words, I made it quite clear to my boyfriend that, after 2 years together, I wanted to know if V-Man was even thinking things like, “I might want to be with this woman for the unforeseeable future, possible marry her, and maybe even have kids together.”

We had some ambiguous talks. He said, “Oh you have five years, no rush then right?” in the cavalier way of a guy with no understanding of my concerns.

He didn’t understand that was only one of the reasons I broke things off. His obsession with house remodeling and yard work to the point of having no other life but that bothered me. I had no problem yanking down a tree or holding up sheetrock for a ceiling every now and then, but when we only did fun things together like go hiking or go the New York City for the day once every six months. The rest of the time I felt like he had me on for free labor.

The sex wasn’t even awesome half the time when we had the energy to do it. I was still ridiculously attracted to him, but the connection was disconnected from emotion so often. I felt we had reached a stale mate. He’d spent time with my family on numerous holidays. I’d never met his mom who lived less than 10 minutes from the house. I thought he was ashamed of his (violently at times) autistic brother. The majority of the kids I work with these days are autistic. I lived at his house 3-4 days out of the week, which meant I lived out of my car shuttling between his house and my place. He innocently said I could move in up to 4-5 if I wanted to.

I thought he was ashamed of me. I thought I wasn’t high maintenance enough for a man who worked in the TV news industry. He claimed to hate that type of woman, but he was attracted superficially to those looks of course. I never got my nails done. I yes, sometimes dressed like I was 40, when appropriate., though I tried to look sexy and hot for him when appropriate (but I wasn’t wearing mini skirt and heels when we were digging dirt in the backyard, thanks). I thought maybe I wasn’t ambitious enough for him. My book wasn’t published (or completed) yet.  The company for which I was COO flopped miserably (though to no fault on mine). I had three different master’s degrees I  genuinely planned to pursue. I thought, to him I surely was a basket case.

So I broke up with him. He didn’t want what I wanted. The idea of a future with me, while he sometimes thought about it, scared him, “because it was so grown up,”—yes, coming from a then 36-year-old. I wanted to know more about him and where he came from, but he didn’t see why meeting his mom mattered. So it went.

The next year and a half without him was a mess. I had an immediate head-over-heels fling with Harlequin Hero. He stomped my heart. I quickly tried to date someone else as rebound—he was completely wrong for me, though a nice guy, an odd fellow. Dated another way too intense for me guy for several months. Finally had the guts to end it. Had a friends with benefits period. V-Man surprisingly came to this show we went to and immediately ignored him and flirted with me like FWB didn’t exist. In that moment, the only one who cared, who mattered, who made me grin, made my heart thump-thump was V-Man.

The next guy who I really did try to make matter was in love with his ex for the first few months as well. But then he fell deeply for me—in his selfish way.  Still fairly early on, when the infatuation and lust was still high and I was heady with his musical talent, he and I went to an open mic to perform individually. Guess who showed up? V-Man. Even seeing the affection I showed Music Man, V-Man said hey, then turned his body and talked to me the entire night. This time he said, the only reason we weren’t together was because of me. That I and my parents had misconceptions about him because of half-truths or straight out lies I had told them about him. I was so confused and wanted to explore this theory, but not there, not then.

Music Man saw the obvious chemistry and was incredibly jealous to see that someone else could make me come alive like that, flirtatious, laughing, and it wasn’t him. I should have followed my heart and ended things then, Music Man wondered if we should as well, but we both stubbornly decided to give it another go.  It was the second New Year’s V-Man wanted to spend with me, and it was the second one I severely let him down. I should have been there at least one of those years, if I had only trusted myself!

Despite our non-couple status, last year, he saw Coldplay with me, Living Colour for the second year in a row with me, saw the Riverfest fireworks for the third time with me, continued to build memories that are part of my tradition with him that I never wanted to just give up. So when I got so sick this January, the first person I sought comfort from besides my parents and my best friend M was V-Man. He hates hospitals, doctors, blood, you name it. But when he heard what I was going through, he got his butt to my hospital room  and stayed for hours. He held my hand, learned what to do during my seizure-like episodes, and talked to my parents to find out what was going on and get angry on my behalf about.

When I got out of the hospital, my musically gigging “boyfriend” was too ashamed to take me to his first solo big gigs. V-Man was proud to take me out to see some interesting shows that I wanted to see. He came to the house and sat with me, holding me even when the whole family was right by my side. He held conversations and played with the little nephew. He didn’t treat me like an invalid. He joked as always. He even found me sexy still. After I broke up with the boyfriend who wasn’t, V-Man started taking me out for little day trips to his house for a change of pace, to keep him company and to keep me company. We realized the chemistry was still very much alive. He reminded me that he still found me irresistible even doing the most mundane things in not even the sexiest get-ups.

I basically asked him, “What’s going on between us?”

He deflected, as usual. “Let’s wait to have this discussion until you’re better. I’m not going anywhere.”

Surprisingly, he wasn’t. He hasn’t. He’s made more efforts to bring me over. One weekend here. A day visit there to help him pick out appliances and paint color. One dinner out there. This weekend I owed him a repair of the curtains my cat messed up the last time V-Man cat-sit for him, plus he wanted my help pulling down a tree and tying up some tree branch bundles. I initially asked him if I could bribe him to take me to the shore this past Friday. He said, yes, if he’ll get some help in return, then asking which bikini I might be wearing. Wanting to have time for both fun (beach state park) and the work, he thought an early start would be best so invited me to spend the night prior as well. I thought about for a half second before knowing that’s what I deep-down wanted to do.

We went to Rocky Neck State Park. It was incredibly hot and sunny. We found cool in the shade of the forest trails surrounding the area. There was an incredibly impressive stone arboretum with tree furniture inside. We walked along the stone cliffs down to the four-mile-river leading out to the Long Island Shore. Finally, when we couldn’t resist anymore, we dipped our legs in the warm water. It was peaceful and enjoyable and I loved how he’d always reach down or up for me on the steep inclines to  make sure I was steady.

When we came back to the house, we decided it was far too hot to do yard-work. So we made dinner together. We watched some Friday night TV. Saturday we set to work. Later we went clothes shopping (wound up with shoes for both), and then grabbed dinner. On my way home Sunday morning, we finally talked, meaning I asked the questions I was afraid to ask and encouraged him not to weasel out of them with humor or deflection.

Did my illness scare him? He hated seeing me sick. He wanted doctors to find a way to get me better. But me being sick was not a deal-breaker or a problem at all even. I asked if my idea of a future scared him. Again he said, if that’s what he wanted too, no it didn’t scare him. What scares him more is his individual future: the security of his job, the threat of losing his stability that he’s had for 10 years.

He sounded more like he had been worrying he wasn’t good enough for me. That he thought he was too boring for me. How could I think he thought I was boring, he wondered. I always had a million different things going on, half of which he didn’t even understand. I said do you ever think about getting together again. He said, yeah, sometimes. I said, do you really like being a bachelor? Your freedom? He told me hasn’t dated. He goes to work, he comes home and works on the house. He goes out with his friends one a month or two. He sometimes likes having free time to himself but he’s usually just messing around on the computer. I said, doesn’t that ever get lonely? He said, yes, of course it does. But he just snuggles with his cat, haha.

So I joked, if I got rid of the rest of my granny clothes and my new specialist in a couple weeks gave me promise, would you consider a trial run of us again? He gave the loudest, most genuine laugh in the longest time. Like, you’re so silly, you don’t need to do anything.  He said he enjoyed spending time with me. We talked about how nice it is to have a balance between fun things like we did at the beach and also being able to get things done like he feels pressed to do. And still find time for ‘me time’. It’s all about balance.

I can accept that. I need to earn his trust back and be more reliable and dependable for him to want to be with me again full-time.

And yes, I know some of you may want to know, the sex we had over those three nights and three days was absolutely amazing. He was attentive, inventive and thoughtful. Not just in the bedroom either. But yes there too. I would say in one day, we had more sex than we’d typically have in the average month in the latter section of our relationship. And it’s not like this is the first time we’d touched since we broke up. I think some walls were just let down and we could let more of each other in.

I’m afraid of this. What if it doesn’t really mean anything? What if this is just how it’s going to continue to be ad infinitum until I say I can’t do any of this anymore, you can’t ask me for favors, I can’t help you pick out things for your house, and we can’t have sex; I need to truly move forward to a relationship if you don’t want to give it to me. I felt real hope this time. He actually revealed his heart to me, which was the toughest thing for him to do especially after the first few months of our relationship. I know I will just go slow, not hope for anything more, and like he said “we’ll play it by ear.”

He may spook tomorrow, and come back in two weeks. Heck, I probably will be the first to go that route.

When An Ex Waxes Nostalgic, It’s Music to My Ears

The Music Man never fails to blow me away with the sheer perfection of his physique. Chiseled arms and legs, ripped abs, plus the tanned skin and perfect hair of a man who pays a lot of attention to his appearance. Even during my “man, this guy is a total jackass”-phase, I have never looked at him and not thought, “Wow, he looks delicious.” But his unchecked words, with their timing and delivery, still manage to catch me off guard.

Last week, he had promised we’d get together soon in the coming week, but it’s been months since we’ve actually been able to follow through on getting together. So this morning I woke up to a text from him asking if I wanted to get together at noon. On the drive to lunch in his gorgeous red Mustang, he informed me what he had been up to this morning. “Remember those sexy photos I have of you?” he asked, giving me a sideways glance. “I was jacking off to those this morning.” What? I didn’t know if I should choke him, or if I should be flattered. Later, I wound up doing both.

Before all this though, we somehow ended up talking about relationships and feelings, The Music Man’s second favorite topic behind, naturally, music. During our relationship, he over-analyzed everything, to the point where I, the typical feelings female, was like–“please give it a rest.” Today,  as he talked about the women he was dating, he commented on how much work dating these three women was becoming. I couldn’t help adding, “Like it became work when I got sick?”

He frowned at me and protested. “It was absolutely not work when you got sick. I wanted to be there for you, and I was happy to. You know we had our bigger issues far before you got sick.” I nodded. It was true. That was really what was behind why I broke things off with him, after all. When I was sick and he was at home playing the guitar by himself when he used to play so often for me, he said, one afternoon he just broke down crying. “I never did that over my ex-wife or even the ex-girlfriend. I was really sad and upset in those cases, but over you, I literally lost it for like sixty seconds.” He told me how he would always have a loving feeling for me because of how beautiful and caring and sexy a person I was and am.

I was touched but didn’t really know how to respond. Of course he asked, “What do you think about all that?”

After lunch, we went to the park and walked for a bit under the scorching sun. We quickly made our way to the shade of the trees and just lay on a sheet for twenty minutes relaxing. The Music Man reached out to put his arm under my head, and he pulled me in for some passionate kisses, but mostly we just talked. It felt good. I did miss our talks. As shallow as he sometimes appears, when The Music Man get below the surface, we always have great conversation.

When he drove me back to the house, he asked if I wanted him to come in. I gave him a quizzical look, but I remembered the sexy photos he showed me that had roused him earlier that morning. He reminded me then and there that there had been some passion in our relationship after all, that it hadn’t always been a case of me failing to live up to his fantasies and porn-style expectations.  He reminded me that yes, there had been too, in his odd little way, love.  He also reminded me that I was irresistibly sexy, just as I am, in this very body. All these things were beautiful to remember.

When A Phoenix Rises From the Ashes

Anger was getting me nowhere. That was always the case. When I was a little girl, my brothers knew that if I got mad at them, it was only a matter of minutes, after cajoling, funny faces, and tickling, before I burst out laughing against my will, letting them back into my good graces again. I was always the first to cave in an argument.

As I got older, the sulking period grew a bit longer, especially depending on how long resentment had been building up, but that negative time was still a flash in the grand scheme of things. After a defensive eruption of harsh words, I would always wind up feeling worse after the initial high of finally getting the pent-up emotions off my chest. The disconnect always left me feeling empty. So much of my life derives meaning from connection.

Some people can hold grudges until the day they die. I have friends who haven’t spoken to their parents in years. Or who, after some harsh words said in the heat of the moment, lost their best friends forever and pride forbade them from ever making up. I never could understand it. No matter how angry I got, no matter how hurt I was over something, I always sought peace, forgiveness, or some other form of closure.

Around the middle of this week, after I got great feedback and commendation at work, very promising leads for the next step in my career, and an awesome writing project for the summer, I was riding high. I had two fabulous dates with The Brit. I was feeling inspired again. I was re-connecting with friends I’d somehow gotten out of touch with.

During one of my daily chats with Tina, the mutual German friend of Mr. Etiquette’s and mine, I spoke of how I just wanted this cloud of negativity between me and him to be behind us. It was the only thing holding me back from really being at peace with the moment. I told her I felt this urge to reach out and lay down the olive branch between us. She encouraged me, smiling, as I sent the following message:

I’m sorry if u felt I was too harsh on u. I want to let go of this negativity. Life is looking so good for me right now & I want to enjoy it fully w/o the shadow of this ugliness between us. I sincerely wish you well.

There was an agonizing five or more minutes where he didn’t respond, and then the phone rang. Mr. Etiquette popped up on the screen. I anxiously picked up. He talked, and I mostly listened for a long time. I heard his perspective. I let him say what he needed to say. I let him talk about Sara without feeling like it was competition. I listened with forgiveness and understanding in my heart.  I felt it when he said he was sorry and that he never meant to hurt me. I said I knew that, but he did. I felt it when he said he missed me and when he told me how much i meant to him and still do. He still confused me with certain words he repeated that I thought still gave hope. I told him why saying those things weren’t fair right now. He understood why it confused me, but he said he didn’t say this things to confuse me. It was just how he felt. He said he really wanted me to still be in his life in some friendly capacity. He didn’t know how we could do it but he asked me if we could try.

After our phone call ended, Tina and I continued our Skype talk. She sounded very happy that we had reconciled to the point of at least making the effort of truly being friends solely this time. Mr. Etiquette started messaging her. He said how happy he was to talk with me and glad we were making amends. He told her he was heading out to see a show. Nosy me asked where he was going. I knew he wasn’t going with Sara, since she only gives him a couple hours on Sunday afternoons right now. They are not boyfriend and girlfriend. They are just moving slowly to start “dating” again.

He told Tina where and asked if I wanted to come. He hated going to the bars by himself. I hemmed and hawed. Thought it was probably a bad idea. But I had just told Tina that the only way I could see us being successfully friends was if we had activities outside the home that kept us positively and constructively doing stuff, not over-analyzing and going into the danger zone of emotions. Tina gave her Swiss opinion. Mr. E and I both deliberated, my dad objected, but finally I decided let’s go for it.

I showed up looking killer. I didn’t intend to. I wanted to just be totally casual in regular jeans and a cute top. Until I realized I had a couple hours earlier put all my clothes in the wash. So I was left with a top I originally had bought for work (but it looked downright scandalous when I put it on tonight), and white tight jean capris. Only thing that went with those were tall wedge-type heels. I decided it didn’t hurt for him to see me looking fabulous, not broken and grieving.

He certainly approved. Unfortunately even in his casual wear, I still found my heart turning over a bit, but I tried to be as blase as possible. Of course, he wouldn’t allow it. We talked of many things. At first he sounded hopeful about Sara, her possibility for recovery. How there were things she was doing now that reminded him of the old Sara he loved, which gave him encouragement. But he admitted he was also scared. He found himself waiting by the phone. Wondering why she didn’t text sometimes. Wondering if he didn’t initiate contact, would she? Wondering if he can trust her to show the next time. I reminded him it’s still so early, she’s not yet getting the treatment she needs, and he’s got to be very patient.

He kept telling me how amazing I looked. How wonderful it was to see me. How much he missed me, my smile, my laugh, how easily we can communicate. “Things are so easy with us. I hope things can be this easy again with Sara again,” he said. Seeing me again reinforced how strong his feelings for me had been and still are. He worried if things didn’t work out with Sara, and I had moved on, he wouldn’t know what he’d do if he lost us both. He questioned whether he was doing the wrong thing, making a mistake to choose Sara now.

I told him there was no wrong choice. Even after he’s proven to himself that there is another amazing woman he was starting to fall in love with, he still can’t fully let Sara go. The only way he will ever know for sure if Sara still is or is not the woman for him is to see a) if she can and will get mentally healthy again to be the happy and wonderful girl he was blissfully in love with for 6 months b) if by then, too much time hasn’t passed that he has given up hope, and c) if they get that far, can he trust that she will stay consistently healthy enough that she won’t completely shut him out again for a year like she did and break his heart all over again. So many ifs I said.

“I have always been a dreamer,” he told me. “What if I’m just deluding myself into thinking she can ever really get healthy?” We talked for a while about the real possibilities that even with the proper medication and therapy, she might not be able to fully conquer this generalized anxiety disorder that she seems to have inherited from her mother. But I reminded him she’s starting to being proactive now and including him in her struggles. That’s a big change in the right direction.

When all the psychoanalyzing got too depressing, talking in circles, we spoke of other things, of the great things going on in my life. He sounded so pleased for me, and I was so proud to be able to share how amazing life was growing for me again even without him by my side. I showed I was strong enough to stand alone from him. I said I was dating again. That made him jealous, he admitted, wanted to know about The Brit. Tough shit. He cautioned me not to move too fast. “Like I did with you?” I asked. And then the music finally started and we got caught up in the joy of just grooving at a show together.

After the show, we talked as he drove me home: “I am a man torn between my love for two different women.” He wondered if the woman he once loved even still existed or could still exist again. Will things ever be as easy with her as they once were, as they were and still are with me? Will intimacy, whenever she allows it again, be awkward and just feel plain wrong? I told him he won’t know until he experiences it.

“There is still more than the wonderful friendship we have between us here,” he said, while we sat in my driveway, unable to leave just yet, very loosely holding hands, possibly for the last time. “You feel it too, right?” I silently nodded. “There was always so much more between us than just the chemical,” he said.

Though this night maybe should have been painful and just opening up old wounds again, it wasn’t. It confirmed to me that Mr. Etiquette wasn’t the completely asshole I’d demonized him into in my own grief over losing him. He didn’t handle things right, but who knows if I would’ve done it better in his shoes. It also confirmed to me that what we shared was real and mutual, and not something I made more of in my head. Somehow that was reassuring. So off we go to be sometimes friends. There’s too much between us now to do more than just touch base every now and then. Yet that’s okay with me now. I have found the peace and closure I needed.

In Grief and In Confusion, The Past Meets My Future

Monday was the wake. The place was packed with dazed and crushed 21-year-olds who had never faced mortality so close to them before. HH's little sister was loved by so many people from so many walks of life. Memorials to her young life paved the walkway–photographs, a video montage, her baptismal gown. At the head of receiving line was Mom, who burst into a new dose of painful tears when each person representing a different part of her life or the daughter's walked by.

When I came in with my oldest brother, who grew up with HH, HH gave me a huge hug and whispered how much it meant to him that I came. Later, in a text, he asked if I saw him smile when he saw me come in. He thanked me for making his insides light up.

The next day, Winnie and I went to the funeral together, as planned. We met up with two other childhood friends and sat together through the touching ceremony. The congregation was overcome with a chorus of sobbing when HH's middle sister, S,  got up to give her tribute to her little sister. She talked about their close bond, tearfully spoke of how her sister will never be an aunt to her kids, how she will never get to see her little sister get married, etc. She shared funny memories as well. I've never seen a crowd so overwhelmed with emotion before.

The burial was somber and mercifully brief. Afterward, HH came over, surprised to see me and nearly picked me up with a huge hug. He asked how I was, and I shook my head. "No, how are you?" He commented on how I was burning up in the heat of the sun, dressed all in black, giving veiled compliments about my looks. S came over to us, her friends, and we spoke about how it was a perfect day. How the birds were singing, the sun was shining despite the threat of clouds later in the day. Little sister was buried next to a plot carrying a Yankee flag, her favorite baseball team. HH and his sister said the family had been seeing signs of little sister everywhere.

We went back to the church for the reception. Winnie, M (one of the dear friends of my childhood), and I sat at a table by ourselves. We spoke in hushed tones about the accident, our worries about how the family was holding up, noting how neither HH or S were eating, how S looked like a frail bird.

M asked if HH was going to move up here. I said I sincerely doubted it. Somehow we began discussing my brief relationship with HH, how it went from absolutely amazing to heartbreaking. M commented that S was exactly the same way. She only let people get so close before she pushed them away. That brought me some kind of comfort and closure, even.  M said how our job was to stay in touch with S, to make sure she remained connected with her friends, and that my job was to convince HH to move back to the state to be back with his family.

Suddenly HH, S and her husband swooped upon us. HH sat next to me, pulling me to his side. He kept hugging me, squeezing me to his side, and finally he tightly grasped my hand in his hand. "It means the world to me that you are here." We closed out the reception, bringing smiles and laughter to S's face. When Winnie and I got into the car, she said, 'I would certainly say the HH was very glad to see you!"

Yesterday, I texted Harlequin Hero, asking if he wanted to get out and do something outdoors while the weather was nice, also allowing him to get away from the sadness and drama that surely overtook life at home this week. I wasn't too surprised when later, HH replied, "What are you doing tomorrow? Is the weather supposed to be nice again?"

Today, he wound up being caught up in family stuff all day. I was about to write it off as a raincheck or even a blow off, when he texted, "I'll pick u up in a few."

It was after 7 p.m. when he arrived in his new truck. "Did you have any thoughts for where you want to go?" he asked. "I just needed to get out of the house." I mentioned we could try to find a park or something that wouldn't kick us out after sunset. As we drove by the tavern where we met and where we went to many a karaoke night, he noted all the vehicles parked out front and I said teasingly that it was Thursday: karaoke night. "Really?" he replied. "Maybe we'll drop by there afterward."

First, we just drove. We talked about my illness and my plans for the near future. We talked about his sister. We talked about spirits and signs from loved ones when we needed them after they'd passed. He painfully spoke of her last attempt to reach out to him before she passed and his missed opportunity to reply. He shared more extended family drama.

We navigated the familiar streets of our hometown. We went through the automatic carwash to wash his truck. Then we headed for this pond that we thought was still accessible. It wasn't. We wracked our brains for other teen haunts, and tried another place. We saw a fence and a "No trespassing sign." Next to that, though, we saw fresh tire tracks through the grass. HH followed it until we got to the beach in front of a lake.

It was a beautiful night. The sky was clear, and we could see stars everywhere. We could hear frogs and crickets and smell the water as the breeze wafted its aroma in our direction. We found a park bench to sit on. He pulled me toward him. "You are so warm," he said.  "I'm freezing." Our bodies remembered history, as he pulled me onto his lap and pulled my face to his.

After a time, the breeze was no longer refreshing; it was just cold. We retreated to the truck. We continued where we left off. We enjoyed each other a little bit more, we laughed. Reaching for him, I accidentally grabbed the Gatorade bottle in the beverage console in front of us and started cracking up.

"Have your boobs gotten bigger?" he asked later.

"Why, do they seem like it?" I replied. "Yeah, I've gained a little weight," I said proudly.

He nodded appreciatively. "I thought they had an extra bounce to them; I can really cup them good now," he said, gesturing with his big hands.

We started talking about everything. He is looking at houses in town, including some in my neighborhood. The taxes scared him, so I told him to look one town over. He mentioned he'd need a roommate. I asked how serious he was about getting a house here. He said something about how he was almost 40, and it was time to settle down.

"What, with wife and kids?" I asked. He said he was too old to have kids. I said, you're an athlete, that's no excuse. "Marry a 23-year-old," I joked. He said that was too much for him to handle. "Okay, marry a 30-year-old." He said, yeah, someone closer to his age would be more realistic. But then he ducked his head and said something about how all that's not so important to him right now.

Then he told me how until last week, he had gotten back together with his ex-fiance. The one who had completely shattered his heart and forced him into a shell from which it took him months and months to emerge. I was the one who first drew him out of it over a year ago. His sister had sincerely thanked me for bringing some happiness to him again. Anyway, a little over a month ago, the ex drew him back again. He was ready to move her up with him, he'd bought a truck just to handle the horse trailer she'd need to bring her animals up. He planned on surprising her with the truck last week, but she couldn't/wouldn't find the time for him. Then, his sister died.

The gf's response was terribly lacking. Then, instead of comforting him on his long, agonizing drive home, even for just a few minutes on the phone, she couldn't find time for him, instead more concerned with her friend who broke her ankle. Boyfriend's sister dying vs. a broken ankle. The former kind of seems like it should rank as a higher priority in terms of being there for someone, IMHO. HH agreed. He couldn't believe that all he got were a couple of empty texts. Any time he called, she never answered. He wrote her off then and there. Deleted every text conversation, her phone number, etc.

He said, what am I going to do, go back down to my place down South and be a hermit or be up here with all these people who love and support me? Exhausted from an incredibly long day, he took a power nap in my arms. Wide awake, I thought about everything that had happened this week, the sorrow, the surprises left and right. I thought about the other person in my life who suddenly seemed very far away, and yet more concrete and complete, filling my cracks and never leaving me wanting except for his physical presence.

After HH dropped me off, I talked to one of my best friends who saw me through and after my relationship with HH, and she surprised me by saying he sounded like he was starting to realize how much I meant to him. I said he's probably just reacting in grief and will disappear. She said it was more likely that if this is what I wanted, I would have to be very, very patient but this might possibly lead to a happy ending.

At the beginning of this week, I was thinking about being ready to start a future with someone else. At the end of this week, a part of me is left pondering the past again. I feel like this is the story of my life, to always have the past drawing me back in, forcing me to make difficult choices or wonder if I'm really able to let go. Honestly, I don't even know if there even really is a choice to make, but if there is, I don't know if just how easy it would be for me to say no this time.

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A Tragic Return of An Old Flame

Readers of this blog are now familiar with my theory that old flames tend to dance back into my life in triplicate. When I get a phone call or email from one old flame, I am sure to hear from at least two more in the next couple of weeks. This time, the wait for flame number three took a little bit longer, but it came in a tremendously unexpected and tragic way.

But first, a little back story: A little over a year and a half ago, my friend Sarah and I were reunited after losing touch post-high school, growing as close if not more so than we were as teenagers. After I broke things off with V-Man for the final time, she was there constantly to reassure me that I had done the right thing, and that I was an amazing person who deserved and would soon find better. Of course, being newly married, she saw things from a broader perspective than I could in my feeling-sorry-for-myself-state, but deep down I knew she was right.

A week after the breakup, it was Thanksgiving Day. The night after the holidays, people in our hometown usually gather at the local “tavern” for mini-reunions. Sarah and I decided this year, it might actually be fun to go and see which of our classmates were back in town. When we arrived at the pub, we saw a couple people we recognized, but for the most part, the crowd was much younger than us. Like, class of 2008 with fake IDs young.

We sidled up to the bar for some drinks when this guy whipped around and said, “You’re SoloAt30, right?” He was ridiculously tall, lean, with long, flowing hair. He looked like he should be on the cover of a Harlequin romance novel (on a later date, some stupid hicks would ask, “Hey, are you the ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ dude?”), not sitting in the local dive bar, with his bedroom brown eyes and dimpled chin. He was no one I recognized in the slightest, yet he knew me upon sight.

Sarah stared at me, silently demanding an explanation. I shrugged, but I allowed him to flirt and buy us drinks. He told me how he knew my brother. He’d come over our house numerous times to hear the brother’s band and had gotten a couple bass guitar lessons from my dad. “You really don’t remember me?” he asked, feigning hurt. I shrugged my apology. I really wished I did.

Sarah quickly grew bored of our banter and glanced around for familiar faces. “Ah, there’s S,” she said. Harlequin Hero looked over and said, “Oh hey, you know my sister?”

“Yeah, she’s from our class,” I said slowly. Then I put two and two together. “Wait, you’re Harlequin Hero, as in S’s older brother??”  I didn’t remember the face, but I definitely remember the name and the association from growing up. S and I were never close through school, but she had been a long-time best friend of the girl who later also became my best friend, and we got to know each other better as bridesmaids for our mutual friend’s wedding years later. Here I was flirting ridiculously with her brother, who didn’t want to let a familiar (cute and older than 21-year-old) face leave his sight, but feeling a bit freaked, I made my polite goodbyes, and went with Sarah to say hello to S and a couple other classmates.

But the thing is, I couldn’t shake him from my mind. After assessing his dashing looks with Sarah and asking best friend Winnie her opinion of Harlequin Hero, having grown up with him,  I’m embarrassed to say I decided to cyber-stalk him. He raced motocross, so this wasn’t very hard to do. I found him on some extreme sports site. The shameful thing is that I signed up for a profile on this extreme sports site when I hadn’t touched an extreme sport in oh, 8 or 9 years. I sent him a very brief email saying it was really nice meeting him the other night, brazenly gave him my cell number, and said if he ever wanted to do something while he was still in town (for the next month), feel free to call me. I immediately deleted my profile and assumed I would never hear from him again.

A few days later, I get this random text message from a guy saying he’d be up for going out this weekend.  I mulled over the realistic possibilities and realized who this *must* be. So that weekend, Harlequin Hero and I had our first “date” at this bar a couple towns over to hear a band–I think it was a jam band, which is hilarious since all HH listens to are ’80s rock bands like Van Halen.

We spent the whole night talking, and we had our photograph taken by some city scene website. My friend T-dog sent me the link to our photo a couple days later and asked who the hunk was. She said I looked extremely happy. The next day HH asked me what I was doing a day or two later. He had tickets to a college basketball game.

The next couple weeks were filled with basketball dates (included a double date with his sister, who thanked me for making her brother happy after a really rough year), guitar hero dates, karaoke nights, lazy cuddling, stuffing our faces with amazing food cooked by his stepdad, and watching football with the entire family dates, and amazing romps. We laughed over how slightly pervy it was that he had crushed on me when I was just a kid, but now we both could brag.  He completely stunned me by getting me a thoughtful birthday present. And then immediately after, he got terrified, and everything went downhill.

From being the couple in a bar that people watched with envy because of the vibrant magnetism and fun between us to being a moody and distant pair who couldn’t go through two days without a fight, I was at a loss for what I had done wrong. His ex-fiancé had been in touch. He didn’t want to be back together with her. She had been terrible to him and completely broken his heart. But he was still broken, and he wasn’t ready to go all in. I was exactly the kind of thoughtful, passionate, smart, beautiful, funny girl he wanted to be with, he said. Someday. He just wasn’t in the right headspace for me now.

I tried very hard to respect this, but it stung like hell. Especially when he still kept reaching out. When he’d call and invite me over before he left because he needed to say goodbye. When he’d call me to talk about a motocross event we both were watching. When he’d invite me down to visit him in Florida anyway.  But he needed to be selfish, and I needed to move on to someone who was ready for me. So he did what he needed to do to get his career momentum back, and I did what I needed to do to get my groove back. To say falling in love again with someone new was never the same is an understatement. At least, it definitely felt that way until a couple months ago. But that’s a different story for a different time.

To circle back to the theory of threes, Friday night I was flipping through the newspaper and my eye fell across the obituaries. It’s an old habit from being a writer–you find fascinating people and stories that way sometimes–and also just from growing up in a small town–you’re bound to come across a relative of someone you know in there. My heart sank as I read the name of HH’s baby sister. Twenty-one years of age, killed in a car accident early that morning. I immediately jumped to my cell phone to text HH. I sent emails to S and later another FB message to HH. He responded to the FB message with gratitude, saying he didn’t have my cell number anymore. He said he could really use my support and hugs this week, so I’m glad I reached out.

Tomorrow, my brother and I will go to HH’s baby sister’s wake. Winnie and I will go to the funeral together on Tuesday. Less than a year and a half ago, I was giving this baby sister advice about her future. She and her best friend were talking about going to Colorado. She was excited about the idea but afraid to leave home, and I encouraged her to go for it now while she was young and the opportunity was presenting itself. She could always come back home later, and the experiences she’d live through would teach her so much about herself.  Now she’ll never get that chance. She was so fun and full of life. If I had a baby sister, I imagined one like her.

My heart breaks for HH and his family. I will not be there for him in the role of his lover this time. I will be his friend, his shoulder to lean on, a harbor in which he can safely cry. That’s the thing about the kind of love he invoked in me long ago. Whenever, if ever, he needs me, I will be there for him.

Does He Always Come in Threes? Part II

Where we last left off, I was describing the trend in my life of old flames coming back in triplicate. One of those times brought me back in touch with an ex for whom and with whom closure was severely needed. Unfortunately, true closure has never occurred with the long-term relationship that followed with V-Man. Ironically, of all my exes, we probably have remained in touch the most and been the closest post-break up.

After two years of a relationship, and one year of time apart, V-Man and I are buddies. We have spurts where he calls several times a week, or we text back and forth throughout a day. He’s watched my cat when I went on vacation in the early days. We’ve hung out as friends-only last year when we were officially no longer a couple, going to concerts, meeting for meals, seeing fireworks.
During the times when we both knew better, there were times when we gave into the attraction that was still electric between us and enjoyed extra benefits. I’ve gotten confused, overreacted, rehashing the issues that caused me to break up with him in the first place and never were resolved back then and still fester from time to time, and he’s wisely withdrawn. Then two weeks later, he texts: “How doin?” as if nothing ever happened. And things go back to normal again.
This year, when I was in the hospital for a week, he came to see me though he hates doctors and “medical stuff.” He held my hand during the horrible seizure-like episodes, and he came to visit when I got to come home. He was the first person to take me out to do something fun, see a concert. My boyfriend at the time didn’t do that. The V-Man held me protectively and tenderly, treating me like a fragile china doll only when necessary, but also let me feel free to be normal when I could.
So why the confusion? Well, late last year, when I was obviously dating someone else, the V-Man turned alpha male, for the third time that year. He talked into my ear with urgency how the only reason he and I aren’t still together is because of me. He talked about how my parents have misconceptions about him because of lies or half-truths I told them about him, because I have this misconceptions about him, that I don’t know everything about how he really feels. He was overtly flirtatious, which is normal, but this other side of him that was basically saying, it’s still your move made me think, is he really saying this doesn’t have to be the end of our story? Do I want it to be?
It took me getting sick and seeing the way he tended to me so lovingly to really take the question seriously again. So, after breaking up with said boyfriend, I brought it up. In a text, blech. He said, “Why do you always do this over emails and texts. Let’s do this face-to-face, so you can hear my side of things and know how I really feel. I want you to get better first. [my emphasis hereI’m not going anywhere.” So, days and weeks pass. He constantly asks my status. Are you eating well? Are you gaining weight? How many episodes did you have today? How are you walking? No mention at all of the topic.
Today was the first time we’ve seen each other since then. We’ve talked plenty. When he was covering the NCAA Women’s Tournament in Dayton, he called me first after he arrived before he called his mom. He’d call to ask me where he should go to eat. He called the next night when he was waiting to get food. He’s called several times this week about various stuff just to share random or crazy work or life stuff.
Then today, he said he wanted to have the cat play date before I left for vacation. Since we broke up, he finally moved his cat into the no-longer new house, so my cat has never met him. We worried there’d be some strife. There was. What I wasn’t at all prepared for was the “SexySweets”, the touching, the “what do you want to do?” bit. Bent over to rescue my cat from under the sofa, the V-Man was envisioning an entirely different bending over. Figures. I know he still lusts, he still loves, but he doesn’t seem to want the relationship. I really don’t think I want it anymore either, but what gives?

Last night, the most recent ex who claims to be un-datable but still wants to go on dates that aren’t dates, hold hands, hug, and kiss, asks me to sleep over. I don’t. Today, the other ex wants to give me a “complimentary special.” There are only two and half more days until Vegas. Do you think I can make it through without any more temptations? Because I haven’t even told you what’s awaiting me there…

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