Dumping the Drama, Keeping the Guy

For years, I wondered: Is it possible to be in a passion-filled relationship where drama isn’t a necessary byproduct? After getting an abrupt reminder of the crazy train of relationships-past, I was relieved to realize that was no longer my daily reality.

Recently, the Warrior Poet and I went to a party where we witnesseddrama 300x238 Dumping the Drama, Keeping the Guy two major instances of couples blowing up at each other. Each remembering the wild relationship hijinks of the past, we exchanged grateful glances. “Thank God that will never be us,” he said, wrapping his arms around me.

Read how I finally learned how to flush out the drama, but find myself in one of the most passionate and pleasurable relationships of my life on The Singles Warehouse in my latest post:

http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2012/06/dumping-the-drama-keeping-the-guy

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What Happens When Your Answer Temptation’s Call

On Wednesday night, I went out with The Renaissance Man, which turned out to be a fun evening with mixed emotions. Everything has been different since last week’s re-emergence of The European. Part of it has been TRM finding himself busier and more distracted than usual, but a lot of it admittedly have stem from the silent but visceral signals I must have been emitting ever since I disappeared to Boston on Thursday.

As some of you might’ve predicted, temptation and curiosity got the better of me when The European finally committed, several weeks too late, to get together again. I don’t want to mislead here—it’s not like this invitation came completely out of the blue. We’ve been talking for weeks and he’s expressed the desire to get together repeatedly, but there were also excuses about being so busy with work, not feeling himself due to a lot of emotional things he’s been going through and just feeling out-of-sorts in general. Perhaps they were genuine reasons at the time, but they started to feel like excuses, so to protect myself from getting hurt and disappointed again, I just made the decision I wasn’t going to be. I was going to actively start seeing others again. The fact that TRM came along in the process was an unexpected and wonderful surprise.

Yet, a part of me was still tied back to The European. It didn’t help that we often still talked at least once a week on FaceTime, where I could see his face grinning at me as if talking to me made his day. He observed all my expressions and surmised my moods and concerns just as he always did when we were in each other’s company. It was unnerving, yet comforting at the same time. During those conversations, it was easy for me to remember why I had started to feel like I was growing to love this person back when I trusted him.

But I’d started to believe that that is all they were—conversations. I was a friend that he trusted, with whom he shared his deeper emotions. He had his activity partners, even people he could philosophically or politically banter with occasionally, but he could be more vulnerable with me. I was safe—from afar.

So it was a total surprise as we were wrapping up one of our FaceTime conversations when he blurted out, “So do you still want to come visit me in Boston?”

Yes. No. I don’t know. Should I? Does he even deserve it?

I wrestled with these questions for almost two days, even up to a couple hours before I finally boarded a bus to South Station. I talked it over with my friends and my parents. My mom was wary and protective of me. My dad, ever the romantic, saw a bit of his and my mom’s love story in us, remembered their miscommunications and emotional conflicts that nearly led to a complete destruction of their relationship before they even took off, and even later, led to them spitting, before they finally reunited for good.

I thought about how I felt. I wanted to know if what I remembered was the truth. I wanted to see if TRM had erased some of that fairy tale magic I had once felt in The European’s presence. I wanted to see if there was still hope. I wanted, if I had to, the opportunity to say goodbye.

The European shocked me by meeting me at the bus station. God, he looked so good. His hugs. That accent. The way his hand slipped into mine like it belonged there.

There was an insistent ring on the cell as we headed back to his place. He usually ignored calls in my company, but this one he answered. He spoke in rapid Polish then he hung up the phone. His hand returned to my leg.

His roommate warmly greeted me before we headed out for dinner. We picked a lively BBQ restaurant with colorful ambiance and delicious food. Afterward, we crossed the street to an Irish pub, with a front room featuring authentic Irish music and a back room with an ‘80s cover band. After a drink, boisterous conversation and lightly tender caresses, we made our way back to the livelier music and dancing.

Dancing with The European is always electric. He comes to life on the dance floor, and together we have an energy that draws people to smile and watch. He put his arms around me, and I could feel the heat. Yes, it was all still there.

I was awakened the next morning by the doorbell. The European’s cell phone sprang to life with insistent noises that sounded like alarms that required more attention. I tried to rouse his attention, but it was finally his roommate who came to the door. “Someone’s here for you,” he said gruffly.

It was 6 in the morning. After what felt like a half hour at least, he returned.
Was it a co-worker?” I asked. No. A friend? No. A student? No. You’re not going to help me out here…was it someone you’ve been dating—a girl?

Finally, hesitantly, he says it is someone he had been seeing on and off. I think you can imagine what was running through my head. Something along the lines like, fuck you, when’s the next bus out of here?

He fell back asleep while I stewed. Finally he awoke to my questions. He claimed they were not “involved,” that there was no commitment. He said he didn’t understand why she came over, why she was emotional, but everything was okay after he talked to her. He apologized for the situation, but he assured me there was nothing fishy going on, that I was wanted with him. She had feelings he did not reciprocate, but it was hard to have to let her down.

Hmm. Yeah right.

Unfortunately, he left me with key as he went to work. I couldn’t just slip out and leave. I stewed. I called friends and my parents again. My mom said to forget him and the key, just come home. Drop the key off at his work if you have to. My dad said, act cool. Wait until he gets home, talk to him. You can come home then or wait until the morning.

He came home from work late as usual, stopping at the gym for a long session. We did a teleclass on meditation together. It was hard to stay pissed off at him as he coached me through things and made sure I was comfortable. When we couldn’t stand sitting any longer, we tried meditating lying down, but he fell asleep. We hung up the call and decided we needed to eat.

With all his Easter leftovers, we cooked up a nice meal at home, with the idea that we’d go out and catch another band at the same bar we’d hit the night before. But by the time we were done eating, it was nearly 11:30 p.m. We were both tired after an early morning and a long day. He was still game, but I honestly was too full and not sure I was up for a couple hours of dancing, and his eyes were pretty red. We wound up watching animal documentaries instead.

The next day we slept until noon. I had decided I was going home that day. The European said I could come again, but I didn’t respond. I was expecting him to leave for work right away, but he wanted to snuggle, talk and enjoy me until it was time to catch the bus.

Sometime before I left we got involved in a serious conversation that stunned me. Basically The European expressed to me his hesitations getting involved too seriously when he knew he was leaving his fellowship before a year was up. Chances are very high that he’s returning to Europe. He told me that he felt that length of time was too short to know a person before marriage; he’d made that mistake before with his ex-wife. He didn’t know her well enough before he married her to move them to the States, and she’d turned out to have major psychological problems. He didn’t want to make that mistake again.

“I get the impression that you want to get married right away, right?” he said.

Wait, what? Back up a second. I corrected him quickly. “I’m looking to find the right person. I want to follow my heart, not let obstacles get in the way of getting to really know that person, spending time with that person, letting the relationship progress naturally, and letting love flow in its proper course,” I said. “I don’t want to rush marriage. I’m looking for a partner to love first and foremost and grow with.”

“You Connecticut girls are very wise, aren’t you?” he said, giving me a squeeze. As opposed to the Massachusetts girls he’s been dating? “I’m so glad we can talk about things so openly now. There’s none of this pressure and worry about hurt feelings.”

Hmm. That’s when I realized he wasn’t necessarily talking about me.

Later, he waxed poetic about a dream scenario, how work would be, how his routine would be less stressful and leave more time for fun, socialization, and relaxation. And then he inserted me into that scenario, included aspects about my home and the things he loves about the area where I live.

And I knew then he was just a dreamer. I would never really fit into his reality. And I also realized that with all of his issues and drama and emotional imbalances, maybe he didn’t fit into mine either as much as I thought he once did.

Leaving for home felt like saying goodbye this time. It wasn’t as heartbreaking as much as closing a door, waking up to the next chapter.

Yet still, the other night, out with TRM, my mind began to drift when I got the first text from The European since I’d left. I think it was a feeler text to see if I was out because he never responded back when I told him I was enjoying a delicious meal out. Later TRM and I went to a blues open mic, where we were entertained not only by some excellent musicians but also by a group of college-age swing dancers as well. They were having so much fun on the dance floor that I wanted to be out there with them too.

But TRM doesn’t dance. That would be The European’s playground. Still it was nice to just be a spectator this time, and I snuggled into TRM’s big, warm embrace.

The next morning came with it’s own surprises. At close to 10, I felt the buzz of my cell, and I looked over to see a text message from The Music Man. The night before, he’d also texted me with the sad news confirming he does indeed have cancer. This morning, however, he had a surprise of a completely different nature for me:

You Triple The Risk For Burns When Old Flames Come In Threes

A couple of years ago, I came up with a theory about old flames: Like sneezes, bad news and abysmal Hollywood sequels, old flames seemed to pop back into my life in threes. Depending on the timing and the circumstances, this has been either comical and fun or just plain too much chaotic drama to rock the boat of an already teetering current relationship.

So last week, when The European waved his tempting flag of invitation in the air after the lovely budding of a new relationship, I wasn’t overly surprised to also hear from The Music Man. Ever since we broke up a little more than two years ago, after a tumultuous six months of dating, he has shown varying degrees of regret for not being fully appreciative of us in the moment.

Yet I was completely unprepared for what he lay on me as I blissfully enjoyed a hot fudge brownie sundae at the restaurant we’d agreed to head to once he realized I was not going to cave in and get horizontal with him.

Find out how it all went down over on The Singles Warehouse in my latest post:

http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2012/04/you-triple-the-risk-for-burns-when-old-flames-come-in-threes/

Icarus Vs. Goliath: Old Love or New Beginnings

Much to my surprise, things were going better than good with the new guy. The past weekend, our first unplanned sleepover had turned into a delicious entire weekend together full of comedy, music, lively intellectual and spiritual conversations, a long bike ride, decadent breakfast buffet and late afternoon at the beach. If I had any doubts that this man 16 years my senior could keep up with me, they were more than silenced by his joie de vivre and seemingly boundless energy—even in the middle of the night. On top of all that, this Renaissance Man turned out to enjoy inventively cooking and sweetly cuddling and had a wicked sense of humor that came out when I least expected it.

With all that goodness, I should’ve had my guard up for interference, which sometimes seems inevitable in my complicated love life. Because I was entirely unprepared for when The European asked me over FaceTime, “So do you want to come up to visit me in Boston again?”

Find out how it all went down over on The Singles Warehouse in my latest post: http://www.singleswarehouse.co.uk/2012/04/icarus-vs-goliath-old-love-or-new-beginnings/

When Texts Promise Hugs, Life Hands You Babies

This morning when I logged into Facebook, one of the first things that scrolled down my newsfeed was a photo of an adorable newborn child. My eyes and brain did a double take when I read who had posted it: Harlequin Hero. Surely it’s not…

“Congratulations, buddy!”

“Congrats to the new Papa.”

“Since when were you having a kid?”

As I read through the comments, two things became crystal clear: One, my former flame who has slid in and out of my life for years was now the father to a baby. Two, I was not the only one who was thrown for a loop by the news. It was just a couple months ago that he had announced officially to FB that he was “in a relationship.”

The last time the Harlequin Hero and I crossed paths in November, I ran into him in the bar where we first had met three years earlier. I was with the Gentle Giant at the time…you remember him, the guy who talked like my boyfriend and acted like my boyfriend, but a couple months in claimed he wasn’t my boyfriend—no, not the European man of my dreams who is texting me to FaceTime as I am typing this right now; the other guy who did that when it didn’t hurt me as much as befuddle me.

Anyway, back then GG and I were a cozy couple still fairly early on in dating, snuggled next to one another at a table at the bar/restaurant while watching what would be the first of many New England Patriots games together. I got up to go to the bathroom at the back of the bar when I saw the last face I expected to see back in that place: Harlequin Hero’s.

His hair was long and hanging in his face again. He had just turned 40 and retired from motocross, which came as a surprise after our talks about his desires to come back with a big bang before he was too old to continue the sport. Still, I supposed it was rounding that time in his life, and he’d had some great successes in the last year.

HH kept giving me big hugs, though he was clearly distracted. He said he had just run into a childhood best friend he hadn’t seen in decades. He kept exclaiming with surprise how great it was to see him and how little he’d changed to me, his mom and stepdad and the others with him at their table. Then, he’d pull me in for another hug. I kept wondering if GG could see me from that far away and what on earth he would think of this.

I remember there was a woman with them at the table whom I had never seen before. In her late ‘30s, probably, with short hair, typical closed-off face of the small-town girl who hasn’t tasted much of the outside world, I remember thinking. (Hey, she didn’t smile at me when I smiled at her.) I wondered what her deal was, but as I hugged HH’s mom, I wasn’t introduced. She definitely didn’t look like she would be HH’s type just from a surface glance, but clearly, what did I know. After we’d had our tender fling way back when, he’d gone back to the fiancée who had stomped all over his heart in the first place.

It turns out that this girl whom I thought wasn’t his type is now the mother of his child. I typed a quick line of congrats on FB, but I couldn’t get over the news while I was taking my shower. Was it really just a couple months ago that we’d exchanged texts about his need for a SoloAt30 hug?

Last December he texted me about a random UConn game, asking if I was there. When we dated, same time of year, we watched several live, college basketball games together and he knew from FB that GG and I had seen a game together recently. He said the girl singing the anthem reminded him of me.

Three days later he texted me: “What’s up with that branch over your driveway?” It had been dangling precariously over the driveway since the bad October storm. “86 that thing already!”

Teasingly, I replied, “Are you really driving by house just for the chance to see my lovely face? Haha. You are going to have the branch issue up with my dad.  :)”

I went on to say something more about how whether he still thought this was only powerful attraction, that I though he was cheating himself out of the potential for more by not even keeping up the friendship we’d rekindled when his sister’s life tragically ended two years ago. He’d eventually moved back home permanently, buying a house less than two miles from mine. We’d christened the futon in his garage after he painted the walls of his house.

Later in that crazy blizzard of a winter, he shocked me by showing up with his snow blower and start clearing away the driveway, simply asking for a hug or two or three in return. There would be texts exchange about what was it we had between us. It wasn’t simply physically chemistry, was it? And we both finally seemed to be looking to move forward to something deeper and more permanent in our lives.

Yet in the end, as always we were off on the timing. Either he wasn’t ready or I assumed he wasn’t so I moved forward in frustration. He was always leading a separate life regardless.

And then, the momentum was lost.

“You will be satisfied to know The Branch is gone,” I wrote him in January.

“No I won’t,” he said. “No hug.”

Laughingly, I wrote: “You can come suck up the saw dust?”

“Perhaps.”

And that was it. Nothing since then. No mention of his girlfriend or their child to come. I asked him today if he had also failed to mention a wedding. He said no bells.

My mom wonders if this is like the situation my ex, The Bulldog, got into. After we broke up and he ran into me and my new boyfriend six months later, he was extremely upset and hooked up with our neighbor whom he accidentally got pregnant. They did their best to try to make a relationship work on-and-off-again for three or four years for the sake of the child between them, though after I found out the news, The Bulldog told me in tears that he still loved me and didn’t know if our story was even done yet. I firmly told him he needed to focus on this new relationship and this new life that they had planted if they wanted any hope at trying to make it work.

Years later, The Bulldog came calling back to me for emotional comfort and physical release, of course, and his ex told me she now understood all the craziness I’d left behind.

src: lozalicious.blogspot.com

But I suspect HH sincerely wanted a baby. He is 40 now and feels it’s time. It is also that same time of year that he lost his sister and a year ago, his other sister had twins around the same time. I know it’s not a coincidence that his family is bringing new life in this season as part of their healing.

And it really seems like this woman could complement HH, and she is leagues better than his former fiancée. I just find it curious he didn’t marry her before the baby was born, why the child has her last name, when she seems to be at least somewhat a part of his wonderfully close-knit family already. But then life is full of surprises.

It’s the Eye of the Cougar

I haven’t written here since the amusing goodbye to Mr. BFD, he who is obsessed with Brazilian women. My absence is not because of Mr BFD because he is long out of sight, out of mind. It’s just that my dating life had become rather stale, taking a back-burner to a new one-year program I’ve recently begun, writing about topics not involving relationships and dating, and enjoying the fact that my body is behaving better than it has been in a long time.

Source: Damian Dovarganes/ AP

This does not mean I have stopped looking at my online dating options. I’ve been ready to take down my profile on Match for a couple weeks now. The only person of interest who has emailed me lately is a divorced man with five children, three of whom are adopted, with the two biological children under the age of 5. I say he’s of interest because I’m wondering how the heck a couple ends a marriage after investing so much into their relationship as to adopt three kids. He’s not the first divorced man I know who has young children, but the writer in me also is curious how a couple divorces when they have a 2-year-old child.

These are things an inquiring mind really wants to know—I might want to write a fictional piece that includes a similar scenario one day, after all. But other than that, there are guys who email me who don’t particularly interest me, guys I’m interested in who never respond, or guys I’m interested in who respond enthusiastically for a while before one of us drops the ball.

But then two guys from OkCupid surfaced. In one corner: The Kid. Five years my junior, The Kid is a fellow musician and composer, loves be in the outdoors, travel, does volunteer work, is a self-described nerd, has a very successful career in computers, and he independently found my health and wellness blog and sincerely enjoyed reading it, as he also has an interest in nutrition and related stuff, which earned him brownie points.

In the other corner, we have BBoy, who is only a year or two younger than me, but still I’ll throw him in the “Younger Guy” category since, with one exception, the men I’ve been in relationships with in the last 10 years have all been at least five years older than me. BBoy works in IT from home, is very athletic (softball, disc golf, ultimate Frisbee, hiking, and yes, break-dancing.) He has a garden and apparent makes killer cheesecake and fudge (yes!)

Apparently some time ago, I initially contacted BBoy on Match, but due to some credit card mishap, he no longer had an account, and he found me on OkCupid. He was very pleased to because he was eager to write me back and get to know me. Honestly, I didn’t even remember the guy, but earlier that same day, I had found his profile and thought to myself, I should write this guy sometime..

So I am going out with The Kid tonight to some “casual” restaurant in the middle of a rose garden that serves fancy food, but I was told to wear jeans. Not likely, but we’ll see. Tomorrow, BBoy and I are meeting at a park on the water, where he had break-dancing practice this past week.

BBoy and I had a really nice, easy conversation yesterday. The Kid and I talked on the phone a couple days ago, and I found myself going on too long and he had to go to sleep, so he kept saying, “We can talk more about it when we see each other on Friday.”

One of my closest friends predicts The Kid will be a better match, but who knows? It might very well turn out that neither of them makes it to a second date.

My German friend, T, will be coming back to the U.S. in early September to visit her friend in Maryland who is having a baby, and she wants all of her favorite people (minus those in Germany) to be there for her birthday party. He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named is bringing his girlfriend. I refuse to go if I don’t have someone to go with, even if it’s just a friend. There’s only so much humiliation a girl can take.

I haven’t seen Berkeley PhD in a while because we both have been very busy. I think we’ve settled into the “friends” category, which is fine as I always welcome new, interesting friends.

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?

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 I

For reasons that will become apparent later in this [way too long] post, tonight I started thinking about things that come in threes. According to Google: bad luck comes in threes. Bad news comes in threes. Trouble. Death. Good luck. Apparently even comedy comes in threes?
Thinking about my dating life, it always seems like romantic opportunity usually comes in threes. In most cases, this usually comes in the form of old flames. For me, when one old flame flickers back into the picture, I always have an eye out for at least two others to shortly follow. They usually do within a week or two. I always feel like God is pulling a sick joke on me when this happens.
At one point in my life, a guy I had dated for a month emailed over a year later to re-kindle our friendship (read: ring for a booty call while his nearly live-in girlfriend was away on a business trip, ass). At the same time, an old lover, always kindred spirit and good friend, from maybe six years earlier announced he was coming to town and was finally completely single at a time when I actually was too. Meanwhile, my ex-boyfriend, with whom I had lived for over two years and dated off and on for three, was making contact finally after close to two years.
The last time we had talked, he had admitted impregnating his (formerly our) neighbor shortly after we had last seen each other, which was a nightmarish scenario when I walked into a bar with my new boyfriend only to see him, the man who was still in love with me after four or so months.
This particular old-flame reunion was the most cherished one for me, as it was the first time R had picked up the phone to reach out to me and ask to meet. Some mutual friends were throwing a concert at our old stomping ground. He and the mother of his daughter had finally broken up, presumably for the last time, so he felt it was okay reaching out to me.
He talked to me about everything. He seemed a changed man; one, he was completely pot-free; two, he was a father of a beautiful little girl who he absolutely adored; three, he as changing his career back to teaching and coaching; and four, he was the fittest I’d ever seen him. I told him how proud I was of him, and I meant it. He took me back to the house, let me see my cats that he forced me to leave behind when I moved out. A lot of old memories swirled together with the new changes, and we stayed up until maybe 4 a.m.
Our relationship had never had resolution or closure before. When he had called me those years before to tell me his girlfriend was pregnant, he had been in tears, saying he still had love for me and hadn’t even been sure our story was over yet. As painful as it was to hear, I told him, this was his story now, and if he wanted to be a good father to his daughter, he had to be a good partner to the mother now. I told him I knew he loved the mother, especially if she was bearing his child. I knew his heart. He had to let go of the past and look to the future.
Sadly, this mean he cut everything off completely. I sent emails of congratulations when news passed via our mutual friends, I remembered his birthdays, but he couldn’t and wouldn’t reciprocate anything back. I understood why it had to be that way, but it still stung to have been so close so many years and now be nothing at all.
Today, we do not remain in touch. We finally had our one chance to say everything that needed to be said. Sometimes we are never given an opportunity to have full closure with someone we once loved. I feel especially blessed that I did with R because I never have had the opportunity to with V-Man, the one who came afterward.