Let the Right One In
The single most romantic moment of my life I am happy to say I was with you. After a month of darkened nights lying in my bed, praying to die over my poor judgment. Sadly, I would wake up every morning and still be there to feel my shame. I would dress as I imagined an old woman would, feeling every ache and connection from top to tail and down to toe. I would put on clothes that verged on mismatched, slip on flat shoes I didn’t have to think about, and pat on makeup to cover the bags under my eyes.
You were the one that I’d chased. When I brought this up — fairly regularly, I am embarrassed to say — you just laughed and said that you were a slow runner, which made you easier to catch. But this never made me feel better.
I wanted to be the beloved, you the lover. At least every once in awhile.
As years passed I started to tell you that I wanted you to chase me back, but you had the same reaction. You just laughed and asked why were still talking about that. We had each other, wasn’t that enough?
But none of this mattered anymore, because nobody was chasing anybody anymore. It was the first understanding of what it felt like to lose you, to really lose you. And now I was lost, submerged in a pool of grief. And you know me. I have never been a strong swimmer. Every day felt like jumping in the pool and struggling to crawl. Occasionally I would give up my spasmodic strokes and just let myself fall to the bottom. I would sit there and look up at the surface, and for a moment there would be calm until I remembered I was at the bottom of the pool and I couldn’t breathe. Then I would claw my way to the surface and gasp for air, reaching like hell for the concrete edge. This went on for 30 days.
On the 31st day after the papers had been filed, the attorney texted me with three words. “he didn’t respond.” “?” I replied. I wasn’t sure what he meant, so the phone rang and the he explained to me the significance of an unresponsive ex. “We served him, but he didn’t respond. This has never happened to me before. I suppose it means you get what you asked for? I’ll make sure the paperwork is all done.”
And just like that, it was done. We were done. But were we? I could not bring myself to call you. I could not bring myself to do anything but go back to bed and cry. I stared at the ceiling fan and wondered what it would be like to die of grief, like the Victorian ladies who died of consumption.
On day 32, or was it 1? The first day of my new life? You texted me about the car and the how you needed to pick it up. That stupid car that we really couldn’t afford but bought anyway since we had too many kids. That car we would share, even if we shared nothing else. In spite of the arrangement we’d struck, whoever had the kids had the car, this was the first time you had talked to me directly in over a month. Even though it was just logistics, my heart leapt. Yah, it leapt.
Fuck clichés, they are the truth sometimes.
I got out of bed and walked toward the front door. I felt you, felt you in the neighborhood, wanted to feel you again since you had been so lost. I opened, no flung, the door open just in time to see you getting into the car. I had no shoes on, but started walking down the stairs anyway. You saw me approach and rolled down the window. I moved faster.
I smiled at you in spite of the awkwardness. I almost started to laugh, nervously, but caught myself so as not to do anything to make you run away. Your hands were on the steering wheel and I saw how strong they were. Hands that fixed things, hands that solved problems. I wanted them to hold mine, but fought the urge to touch them.
You looked up at me, hesitated, spoke.
“I have to ask you something.”
For the first time in months, we were close, well at least physically, again. I studied your face, saw your eyes were green today. You looked as tired as me, but somehow it looked good on you. You’d lost weight. Of course. Again, I almost laughed but held it down.
A dozen years floated in front of me. The almost beginning, when we met through mutual friends and ended up drunk and almost making love on a teenagers’ bunk bed. The time you sat in my living room when my ex showed up and declared his love to me in front of you and I let you walk out. When I saw you months later and you were dating someone new by then and Jason and I were almost over. When you agreed to take my call, when you accepted my apology. When I ended up renting your house for the summer while you were away and we spent a week of overlap in and on top of each other before you closed the door and got on a plane. Silly post cards and sexy communication gone awry, quick phone calls before we had good cell coverage. September when you returned and we were together, really together. Then the middle. Moving into together. Buying furniture. Driving around. Scooters, vintage cars. Gin and tonics and dancing. A 2 am marriage proposal in the middle of my 9 year old’s birthday sleepover just as I’d finally let go of the idea of marriage. Vows in Tahoe on a rainy beach. Buying our first house. You holding me while I gave birth to our sons. And the beginning of the end, when I got tired of running so I stopped chasing you, stopped trying, and waited for you to come to me. When someone else did. And finally the end, when I broke your heart and you told me that he didn’t love me and that you were my friend.
You have rarely allowed yourself to be vulnerable, and it struck me at how you’d been that way with me the whole time. Right now. Maybe that’s what you meant about not running. You were always right there, I just hadn’t seen it. Maybe it didn’t matter who was the lover or the beloved
You looked at me.
“Do you really want to be divorced?”
I caught my breath. Here is the moment I had dreamed about, dreamed for, and I was, of course, ill prepared.
All I could say was, “Not particularly.”
I started laughing, finally.
It was your turn to laugh.
“Not particularly? Really? That’s your answer? What’s that supposed to mean?”
There is more to this. I laughed because it was the truth and I told you. I could not bear another heartbreak like this and I told you. I could not break your heart again and I told you. I forgot about being barefoot and got in the car.