Where is the Love

You know that stomach ache you get when something isn’t right but you can’t put your finger on it? That’s how I feel sitting across from Travis. We have been together for more than eight years and lately things have seemed kind of off between us.

He has been so distant lately, preoccupied, for a while I thought it was because of work. He is a consultant and works with multiple energy companies. He and his partner have been working towards expanding their business and I know he has been stressed because of it. But this seems like something bigger than stress, it feels personal.

We are home having lunch and whenever I look up at him, he smiles, the problem is, his smile never reaches his eyes. Those eyes, I have always loved his eyes. I think I fell in love with the way he looked at me before I even knew who he was. It was almost like a Hallmark movie, two people see each other in a crowded room and boom instant attraction.

We were both at a mixer/networking event, I was there for the open bar, and my best friend was there to conduct business. Actually I was there because I have a knack for getting random strangers to come and talk to me. She is the same way so when we are together were are deadly. The idea was we both wheel them in and she takes over right when they are so comfortable with us they start to tell us personal things.

At that point they are ready to hear whatever it she has to say. Since she had the full attention of her next possible client, I decided to take a break and get a drink.

I saw him before he saw me and I silently prayed that he was heading my way. I could feel him getting closer, it was like this force field surrounding us that was bringing him to me. After I ordered my cocktail I heard him tell the bartender he would have what I was having.

His voice shot through me like an electric current, every hair on my arm stood at attention and I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. I thought if I didn’t turn and look at him, I would regret it for the rest of my life. The moment I looked into those beautiful brown eyes I knew I was a gonner. He must have felt the same way because he started to talk and literally started choking on nothing.

“Are you ok”

“Yes (cough), sorry (cough), I don’t know what happened”

“Maybe you were too excited about that drink and damn near choked to death. How are we going to date if you’re dead?” Did I say that out loud???

He looked up at me and said, “Well we can’t have that happen can we because I definitely want us to date.”

That was it, we have been together since. But lately our fairytale has seemed like the part of the movie where everything falls apart.
 I want to ask him what’s wrong but I’m afraid. I’m afraid that if he answers me, our lives will be forever changed.

So instead of dealing with our reality I ask, “Where did you get this Thai food from it is delicious?”

I start to take a bite of food and he says “I’m not in love with you.” With my arm midway up and the food inches from my mouth I just stop and look. It felt like time stood still, our eyes lock and he says, “I still love you, I’m just not IN love with you.” Oh that makes it better. How do you respond to this?

I put my fork down and say, “What do you mean you love me but you aren’t in love with me? Are you saying you want to break up? Do you want to take a break? I don’t understand.”

“I just mean that I love you but I’m not in love with you.”

And now I’m angry, why is he doing this now? I’m not ready to have this conversation and he is forcing me to deal with this. I start to see red and I lose it, “That’s not a damn explanation, that’s just you repeating the same shit over and over. What in the hell do you mean by that? What action follows that statement? Make me understand what you mean.”

“I don’t know how to explain it, I’m just not in love with you. I don’t want to hurt you, I just want to tell you how I feel.”

“Well you have failed miserably, you aren’t telling me anything, you just keep repeating the same statement without following it up with anything substantial. You say you don’t want to hurt me? You know how you do that? You tell the person the truth, that’s how you do that. So tell me the damn truth.”

He stands up and kicks the chair behind him and starts pacing the room. He turns and starts pointing at me, “That, that right there is why I can’t talk to you. You always have to make me feel stupid, like I’m not as smart as you are. Why can’t you just try and understand how I feel? Why can’t you just be fucking human and not always so high and mighty?”

Is he really trying to turn this around on me? I can’t believe this, I am so angry right now I could honesty hurt him. I start walking towards him and for a moment he actually looks afraid. I honestly want to hurt him but I’m not going to, we aren’t Ike and Tina. But I can just imagine the rage he sees in my eyes. I want to stop myself for walking up on him but I can’t, I have lost a bit of control. I stand in front of him, eyes squinted and ask,

“Are you fucking kidding me? I can’t make you feel anything, you control your emotions, not me. I can’t understand you when you aren’t making sense. You come in here and drop a bombshell ass statement like that after eight fucking years and don’t have a damn thing to back it up with. You tell me that you love me but aren’t in love with me and you wanted me to do what with that? Did you want me to just break up with you? Did you want me to handle it like I handle everything else? What is it that you want from me? When you thought about telling me this, what type of response were you expecting? Did you expect me to say “oh darling that’s okay, what can I do to make you fall in love with me again?”

He takes a couple of steps back from me and says, “Yes. Yes that’s what I expected from you. I wanted you to talk to me like you have feelings for me. I wanted you to tell me that you loved me and you wanted to do whatever it took to make our relationship work. I wanted you to fight for me, fight for us. I wanted to know that I matter to you, that I’m not something that you take off the shelf and dust off when you want company or sex. I want to know that after eight goddam years together you are in love with me. Is that too much to ask for? I love you with everything I have in me but I have no idea how you feel about me. This is the most reaction I have gotten from you in years. Why is that? Why did I have to drop this “bombshell ass statement” as you call it to get a reaction? Why is it so hard for you to open up to me? Have I just been something for you to do for all these years?”

And just like that, my anger subsides and the stomach ache has now turned to dread because at that moment the thought that I have been battling with for a while is now a reality. I know that this part of our conversation has to be calm, it can’t be angry. I turn away from him for a moment, force myself to take a couple of deep breaths and when I turn back around I ask him the question that has been on the tip of my tongue for a while.

In a voice I hardly recognize I ask, “Who is she?

For a brief moment this look of relief crosses over his face and he quickly looks down. When he looks up I am silently praying that he tells me the truth. The next words out of his mouth will dictate what happens with us moving forward. He walks up to me and gently caresses my face, “there is no one else Hope, I promise.”

My heart sinks, he just sealed our fate. All he had to do was tell me the truth, that’s it we could work out mostly anything, I can forgive mostly anything, except a lie. He sees the sadness in my eyes and pulls me in for a hug, “babe I’m sorry, I didn’t mean any of that, I’m just stressed, can we pretend none of this happened? Maybe we can take a vacation, get away for a bit. What do you think about that?”

I wish I could forget, I wish I could snap my fingers and turn back the hands of time, but life does not work that way no matter how hard we want it to. I step back and look into those beautiful brown eyes that now look dark and empty and say, “I wish you would have just told me the truth Travis, why did you lie?”

“Hope I’m not lying, there is no one else.”

“She may be out of the picture now but she did exist. Do you think after eight years I don’t know you? I wouldn’t recognize when you started to pull away? Three months ago you came home and could barely look at me. You normally come in the house, kiss me and smack my ass. That day you came in, looked at me, said hi and went to the room.”

“I knew then I just wasn’t ready to confront you about it. I hoped that it was just a one-time deal but then you started to stay away from home more and not answer my calls. You weren’t as affectionate as you once were and you walked around with the guiltiest look. When we made love the passion wasn’t there. After eight years we went from a healthy sex life to barely having sex. You were tired or not feeling well but I kept quiet through it all. That’s my fault, but that’s all I will take credit for.”

“Hope, I love you and I’m sorry for lying to you. I just didn’t know how to tell you about her.”

“So you couldn’t tell me about your affair but you could tell me that you love me but aren’t in love with me? That was easier for you?”

“No, I mean, yes, I mean, I don’t know.” He walks toward the living and pours himself a drink. He takes a sip and sighs, “Hope this has been difficult for me, I want you to know that. I didn’t mean for any of this to happen, it just did. I have to admit, nothing was wrong with our relationship, the opportunity presented itself and I took it. It was supposed to be just one time. Then she kept calling and I was weak and didn’t know how to get out of it. I guess a part of me didn’t want to stop.”

“So much was going on with the expansion of the business and all the stress that comes from that. I would come home and look at how excited you were to see me and I was happy, I really was, but it seemed too good. You know what I mean? We don’t have real issues, when I look into your eyes, I know you love me, trust me and will always be there for me. But I guess I craved a little excitement, a little drama and I sought it out. It was fun until it wasn’t. When I actually allowed myself to think about what I was doing I recognized how stupid I was. I had a woman who loved me and here I am fucking it up with someone I couldn’t care less about.”

“So I broke it off and tried to get back to our normal life but the guilt I felt was too much and I didn’t know how to make it go away. So I tried to make you break up with me so I wouldn’t be the bad guy. It was wrong I see that now. Can you ever forgive me?”

The tears that have been threatening to fall slowly begin to fall down my face. I’m silent for what seems like hours but is only seconds, my voice begins as a whisper but get stronger and stronger.

“I forgive you Travis and I love you, I really do.”

He starts to smile and walk towards me, “but I wish you had been this honest in the beginning.”

He stops walking and starts to say something but I cut him off. “Not only did you cheat on me and ruin what we had, you also tried to make me feel like I did something wrong. You wanted me to carry your burden so you could heal. Never thinking about how carrying your burden would affect me, you were only concerned with yourself. You are a coward and I can’t be with a coward.”

He walks over to me and falls to his knees, “Hope we can work this out, I know we can, just give me a chance to prove to you how much you mean to me please don’t give up on us.”

“I didn’t give up on us, you did. You ruined us, you have stolen something from me that will take a while to get back, my ability to trust. I love you Travis I really do but I love me more and loving myself means I can’t continue with this relationship.”

“Hope you don’t mean that, we can work this out.”

“I will come by and get my stuff this weekend, please don’t be here. I’m going to Ericka’s.” As I walk toward the door the severity of what is happening takes over and I breakdown, eight years down the drain, eight years of love and family, over and I cry and cry. I turn and look back …

“Travis?”