I don’t mean to ramble, but I do. I’m extremely sensitive to the lengths of my posts; I can’t seem to keep them under 1000 words. Typically, they’re 1500, sometimes 2000+. I should probably rename this blog TL;DR.
In that vein, I will attempt to keep this brief.
My dear friend, Sally, came to visit me this weekend. She arrived at 4 amid a hot, thick summer’s Friday and left on a beautifully cooler overcast Monday, just after sunrise. She lived my life for three days and her assessment?
“I’m fucking confused.”
She said it matter-of-factly on my balcony, her long legs stretched out on a chair, a glass of wine in her hand Sunday night. Wine The Neighbor had brought over for us when we’d run out of ours 30 minutes before.
“Friday and Saturday he acted like your boyfriend and then he disappeared today, presumably to get ready for his girlfriend’s return soon. I just don’t get it. He obviously cares about you very much. That’s clear as day, but he also obviously has no idea what he’s doing.”
Her love life has been in tumult this year. Her live-in boyfriend moved out one afternoon after asking her what she and her two kids wanted for dinner. Poof. Just gone. They’ve reconciled and moved back in together, but she’s different now. She’s not going to start telling me what to do with TN because she understands more than most that we all have to wake up in our own beds. More than half the people in her life think she’s making a mistake taking him back, but she believes in him. I admire her tenacity while simultaneously remaining skeptical.
But she’s right: it’s her bed she has to wake up in. I don’t have to. If he ghosts on her again I’ll be there for her and I’ll never say she made a mistake. She loves him.
So, she looked on me with sympathetic eyes. “I wish I knew what to tell you,” she said.
“Me, too.” I took a sip of the delicious Malbec from the man next door. “This is a death rattle. All this,” I moved my hands in a circular motion. “We obviously weren’t good at cold turkey, so now this is where we’re at.”
Later that night Downstairs Neighbor came up to drink with us. He and Sally were discussing the whole Hy-TN situation animatedly, protectively. It felt weird to hear two of my champions comparing notes. Sally’s were now first hand: she saw him offer to make us Sidecars Friday night, saw him grope and kiss me every chance he got whenever she left the balcony; she saw him invite himself to breakfast with us Saturday morning, go swimming with us and play catch with me, tossing the balls high in the air and making big, laughing splashes with me; she saw him say yes to loaning us a movie to watch Saturday night but then assuming he’d watch it with us, watched him help me make it through the movie with loving pats and squeezes; and lastly she saw him disappear Sunday.
Word bubbles of reproach hung above each of them when TN walked back in.
Of course he’d come. He can’t stay away, I thought.
He’d mentioned his girlfriend a couple of times throughout the weekend; he wasn’t hiding it. I asked him when she was coming back from her trip. “Tomorrow.”
Sally asked him some more questions about her, just general things like what she did and how they’d met, etc. She played the supportive friend very well. Then he mentioned that he’s been keeping her away so, “Hy doesn’t beat her up.” I laughed at that.
“I won’t beat her up, but I appreciate that. Thanks.”
Sally, DN and I continued to drink. TN abstained. I was exhausted from a long weekend of drinking and all the emotional crap with TN, but I still felt playful. The conversation took a turn and I challenged TN to wrestle. He accepted and we began to parry.
Sally and DN were laughing and I was thrilled. Suddenly, I feel extra weight crushing down on me and TN releases me. I roll away and DN is on top of him crushing him from behind, his arm pressed tightly against TN’s throat.
I hit his arm until he let go and TN slumped to the floor. “You fucking crushed my windpipe, you asshole!” he hissed at DN.
“No I didn’t. If I did, you couldn’t say that.”
But the mood was gone. The men stood and eyed each other angrily. “Ok. I’m gonna go home now,” TN spit out tersely. “Sally, it was nice to meet you.” He turned to the front door.
“No, wait!” I pleaded. “Don’t go! I was having fun!” I turned to my other neighbor, “Goddamnit, DN, you bastard, why’d you do that?”
“What?” he shrugged innocently.
“No, I’m going home. It’s 2 am anyway,” TN said.
“I’m so, so sorry,” my words fell on deaf ears as I walked him to the front door. He assured me he was fine, but I felt like DN had crossed a serious line. TN has issues with being overpowered by someone bigger. Deeply rooted, deeply, painfully felt. It was just a dumb prank to DN, but to TN I wasn’t so sure. His reaction did not match the crime.
He insisted he was fine and left. I texted him later to check on him and he said I was wrong about the trigger, that I had nothing to be sorry about. I left it at that. I haven’t spoken to him since.
Back inside on my couch, DN told me part of why he did what he did: he was mad at The Neighbor. He was mad at him for hurting me, for leading me on, for cheating with me, for everything. And he felt protective. I still felt like he was a big, fat Neanderthal, but there wasn’t much I could do about at that point. DN is DN, after all.
After I drove Sally to the airport Monday morning and gave her a long hug goodbye I crawled back under my covers and felt like I’d just run a marathon. She’d noticed I was different Sunday. I’d told her I was exhausted, that my life (not only where it relates to TN, but other parts, as well) were suffering. I was not ok.
It’s hard to admit to someone that you’re not doing well. We’re supposed to be that implacable duck on the water, after all. But I did and she was kind enough. She’s been through the ringer herself. And what I realized in talking to her is that I have stopped caring for myself, as in the self-care sense. I have an extremely emotionally demanding job and about six months ago — about the time I realized I had feelings for TN — I stopped my self-care.
I no longer went for long walks along the river or went to the gym. I started smoking and drinking more, eating less; my sleep pattern, while always iffy, tanked. I am at the end of my rope emotionally speaking and I am craving solitude like a long cold drink in the middle of the desert.
I roused myself from beneath my protective covers and called my exhusband. “Have you taken Peyton to school, yet?” I asked. “I think today should be a hookey day.” He agreed and said they’d be over shortly.
I needed to see my baby. I needed to see my ex. Two people who truly love me and care about me.
When my arms were filled with my child and my eyes spilled over with tears my ex asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t keep it together and started to cry. He sat and talked with me, heard about my weekend. “I’m about to go psycho-exhusband on that boy’s ass, Hy. Seriously. He needs to leave you alone. Either shit or get off the pot.”
“I know,” I cried. “And I need his help to leave me alone; I’m so incapable of saying no to anyone, especially him.”
“If I were you, I would pull back from everyone and everything. Find something you really love to do; cut back on the smoking and stuff; take care of you. I know it sounds cliché, but it’s true. You can’t do much if you aren’t ok.”
His timing was impeccable considering I’d just thought the same things earlier. We talked some about how Mary had friended my ex-sister-in-law on Facebook. “That can’t be making you feel better, either, huh?”
“Eh,” was all I could muster.
“Don’t think too much about it, it’s not all roses.” I looked at him questioningly. “She doesn’t trust it.”
“But it’s the romantic comedy ending! I’ll never get that! TN will never pull an ‘exhusband’.”
We chatted some more while Peyton played around us and insisted on telling us funny stories, then he stood to leave and opened his arms. I walked into them and he squeezed lovingly.
The rest of Monday was spent with my wonderfully precocious baby who jabbered away at me about the sun and moon and stars, who would randomly say, “Mommy, no one loves you more than me in the whole wide world,” or just a simply sighed, “Mommy, I love you.” I’d see beauty and love and balance in that precious, perfect face and know that I was finally on the right track.
I never heard a peep from TN.
I’m one step closer, y’all: one step closer to me, to leaving him behind, and to something better. At least I hope I am.
Oh, but definitely not one step closer to keeping it short. Sorry, I tried!