It’s hard to tell a story when you know at least part of your audience has very strong feelings about it.
So, I’m going to try my best to just be completely, painfully honest.
I met The Ex-Boyfriend Formerly Known as Mr. Wonderful at Starbucks. At first, he didn’t recognize me, on account of my hair being longer than he’s ever seen. He sat down and basically vomited out this apology: he’d been thinking about it for months, and he just wanted me to know how very sorry he was for how he acted in our last months together. He wanted me to know that I didn’t deserve the way he treated me, and he had nothing but great things to say about me.
I asked what caused this revelation, and he didn’t know – he just needed to tell me. He was vibrating with nervous energy, and he looked smaller than I remembered.
And then, we commenced upon The World’s Most Uncomfortable Small Talk. How are your parents? How is your family? How is your house? How is your job? Seen many concerts this year?
There were long pauses.
Finally, I asked, “How’s the Ladybug?”
Ex-Wonderful laughed. “Actually, the other day, she was playing with those magnets you gave her and she asked me, “Daddy, what were the names of Cha Cha’s dogs again?”
At this point, I started pinching my hand under the table so that I didn’t start sobbing.
I mentioned that the Geriatric Poodle passed away. Then, I asked, “So, does it bother Lisa when Ladybug talks about me?”
Ex-Wonderful flinched. He hemmed and hawed, and asked if he could consider his response and answer later. I said he’d better answer it quick, and I picked up my purse. He asked if we could go for a walk because he didn’t want to get emotional in front of all of the coffee shop patrons.
Lisa doesn’t mind when Ladybug talks about me in the context of dogs or magnets or whatever. But Lisa gets upset when Ex-Wonderful talks about me, because it makes her feel like he’s not over me.
“Well, are you over me?”
“No … no, I’m not. I’m still in love with you.”
And then I dropped dead from a shock-induced heart attack, in the middle of the parking lot outside of Starbucks. I’m actually writing this from purgatory. The wi-fi isn’t bad here, actually.
Actually … I didn’t drop dead. I ran my mouth. “Not over me? You weren’t done with me when you started up with Lisa!”
“No! I wasn’t with Lisa when we were still together …”
“My experience was that you were having an emotional affair with her. That devastated me. I deserved better than that.”
“Well … it was … it was inappropriate. You’re right. That wasn’t fair to you, it wasn’t fair to Lisa, and it wasn’t fair to me.”
“I don’t feel sorry for you.”
“I deserve that. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”
And we sat on a bench. And it was quiet. Then he said, “You know, we stood in a parking lot towards the end of our relationship, and you told me you’d do anything to make it work. I realize now I should have paid attention to that. I should have listened.”
“Yeah, and instead you left me sobbing in my car in the parking lot of a fucking Duds ‘n’ Suds. I didn’t deserve that.”
“It was a Duds ‘n’ Suds?”
“Wow – you’re right. But only college students go there. And … Mexicans.”
“You shouldn’t have left me there.”
“I know. Duds ‘n’ Suds.”
“Duds ‘n’ Suds. I hate that fucking place.”
“Yeah, it should have at least been a dry cleaners.”
“Yeah. Even a $1.99 Cleaners. Anything would have been better than a Duds ‘n’ Suds.”
So we joked. And I realized that my arms were crossed, protecting myself, but it was also so odd for him to be sitting at the opposite end of the bench. There was silence, and at one point he said, “You know, I don’t mind sitting here in silence with you at all. It’s comfortable.”
Which led him into a soliloquy about how he could always be himself with me, and how he missed that, and basically how ideal and perfect his life was when we were together. He was confident and felt loved and felt like a good friend and partner and was good at his job. “I was happy,” he said. “We had so much fun, and I was really happy.”
“So what happened?”
“I got greedy. The grass is always greener.”
And we sat in silence some more.
Later, he said, “When I broke up with you, my dad told me, ‘you might very well regret this for the rest of your life.'”
Then he nodded ruefully.
I looked at the clear night sky and tried not to cry.
He told me he doesn’t love Lisa; that he’s seeing a counselor; that he’s realizing how much I gave and how it nearly killed me; how he can’t look to another person for his confidence and self-love and how that has to come from himself; how he needs to learn how to be happy alone; and about a million other things.
And I mostly kept my mouth shut, mostly for fear of what would come out. However, I did tell him that my wish for him was perspective.
I couldn’t stop the tears when I realized that I had once memorized his entire face, and it was so odd for that visage to be there in front of me, the same.
Once the initial nerves wore off, it was easy to be together. We talked – and sat in silence – for about two hours. Finally, he walked me to my car.
There, he hugged me. And the Earth ceased to spin and the stars stopped shining and we couldn’t get close enough. We always fit together so perfectly, and that had not changed. My head fit into the crook of his neck, and his arm circled my waist and his hand smoothed my hair, and we stood like that for a very long time, trying to memorize it. In a fucking Starbucks parking lot.
He thanked me for the “gift” of meeting with him, and said he didn’t know if we wouldn’t talk for years or what, but he’d always be thankful for the time I’d granted so he could say what he needed to say.
We hugged some more. I never told him I accepted his apology – I don’t know that I do. I never told him I loved him, too. I guarded my words and my heart.
Then, when I drove off? I sobbed like a wounded animal. I’m not quite sure how I got home.
And today? Today, I’ve been crying in my cube a good portion of the day, confused and angry and so sad and lonely. I don’t think he fully understands the damage he inflicted on me. I don’t know if he is wired to ever understand it, or if he’s supposed to. I guess that’s not my concern.
However, I have been fighting an urge to e-mail him and say, “Get yourself straightened out. Then come home to me.”