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: