“F**k with me this summer” I shot as a response to her text message on a late-June morning. After four years of ups, downs, false-starts, double-backs, fights, sentimental moments, and a shit ton of drama, enough was enough. In this time, there were many others-for both of us-there was no better time to give us a try. If it did not work out, we left no room for “what ifs.”
I won’t lie; we had a great time. We went to concerts, walked around Manhattan, bar hopped, attended comedy shows, shopped, went out of town, and many after-work evenings in conversation. We made our way over the walls which held us back…and it worked out.
History and some of my own cynicism told me one thing: at some point, the other shoe will drop. On the outside, I was the man I promised and sold myself to be. However, I refused to put all of my eggs into her basket until mutual agreement. I didn’t feel bad about it, at all.
I enjoyed every minute in the streets that summer; sometimes with her and others, she wasn’t even a thought. In my head, I figured this right might be the one, so I better get whatever out of my system and once again, leave no room for “what ifs.”
We decided to make things official in the fall. There were a few hiccups and adjustments; nonetheless, we were off to a good start. I enjoyed the boyfriend routine; it had been years since I considered myself one.
But something happened. Not too long after we began, I wanted out.
There was no specific incident which catalyzed how I felt. It was not the thrill of a chase in which after I got the girl, I was over it; not at all. I realized while we had a lot in common; we were not a good fit. I did not belong in her world and she in mine. At best, we were outsiders who made frequent cameos. We always left each other’s show before the jokes and dynamic got stale, only to reignite after some distance and experience once again made our storylines interesting. She realized this years before and I wasn’t the one who saw it.
In the winter, we had a large fight. Well, it wasn’t so much a fight because I didn’t want to entertain it. But there was some shit and it’d gone down. I called my big brother, Barry, to seek counsel.
Barry cut right to the chase and said “Look, you’ve been hesitant to commit and I’m going to tell you the reason why and you may not like the answer. You don’t think she’s the one. When you envision your life, and a life with her, she is not the person you see as the mother figure to your daughter.”
He was right. I hadn’t told a soul I felt the way Barry articulated so well, he all but read my internal monologue, word for word.
After I got off the phone with Barry, I drove to her apartment. On the 45-minute drive, I replayed several moments and instances over the years. There were moments in which I felt in my mind and spirit, there was more being single to do, while we were together. I recalled instances, out and about, my eyes wandered as if my body and spirit sought more than the perceived happiness, right in front of me. I longed more for a time like the summer of our courtship than us.
Despite how I felt, I still gave our relationship another chance. When I look back, it wasn’t my best effort; it was to build a case. I stockpiled evidence, looked for the right moment to make a clean-as-possible break, so I could look back and say, “I gave it my all.”
The first time I saw a therapist, ever, was couples’ counseling with someone I’d called my girlfriend for a few months; and I paid out of pocket for it. Years later, I spoke with a friend-a divorcee-about the experience and she told me “One goes in wanting to work things out and usually, the other, wants to end things.” I was the latter who on the surface, masked as the former.
The day I broke it off was a hard one. We finally had a talk which was years in the making. Life as I knew it, for her and myself, became abundantly clear. Hell, she was right back in 2013: we weren’t right for each other. I kind of knew it too; but still felt I had a mission to complete. By the time I left her place, for the very last time, I knew it was the last and the end of a chapter. The earth was scorched and neither one of us could return.
I have no regrets about our dynamic, relationship, or how it ended. It had to play out the way it did. We were not Sam and Dianne from Cheers, or Wendy and Kevin in The Wonder Years, nor Jim and Pam on The Office; we were Jan Levinson and Michael Scott…and our end was very much the Dinner Party episode.
Everyone needs dysfunction to grow; it creates the necessary discomfort to do so. For the two of us, our bond was rooted in trauma. Before we were aware, there was a mutual attraction and we’d hung out a few times. About six weeks in, I learned quite a bit about her. I saw someone who needed to see and feel love with no condition or contrition; and this was my mission. There were many days which hurt like hell. My intent was never to change her; but if anything, see what it looked like when a man truly cared and loved.
Deep down, I always knew she wasn’t for me and vice versa; but for herself and whomever would come along after. I have told her, even in the midst of our most heated moments, this was my purpose and one day, she will see similarities in how the right one will come along and what it will look like.
Even from a distance, I still root for her. One day, a mutual friend will inform me “You heard she got married?”
“Nah. But I’m happy for her” I’ll reply. Then I will wish her a peaceful journey.