Thursday, December 08, 2005

Rude Awakenings (Accent 4)

Way back in my past I had a pretty active dating life. I would say that from the time I started college to the time I was about 27 I was involved/embroiled in one boyfriend situation after another, most of which ended fairly badly. I have a little story about one particularly BAD ending that I'd like to share (yes! another one!!), because it taught me a thing or 2 about some men that I could have lived a long and happy life not knowing.

I was 25 when I met him, I was working in a bar. He was a coworker's brother who was hanging out at the bar waiting for his brother to finish his shift, and he was just my type - tall, dark hair, broad shoulders, glasses, nice smile, a little goofy. I was in my cocktail waitress/body builder/grad school student phase, was pretty confident (for me), and was in the process of breaking up with my current boyfriend because we were only "in like" and he couldn't get over the girl he had dated previously. So, even though THAT guy was rich and nice, he was headed out the door by mutual agreement.

"New guy" caught my eye, as I said, and after the bar closed for the night he hung out with the staff (including his brother) while we had our typical after-work party. I was intrigued by him, as he seemed to be by me, and not long thereafter we started up a relationship by long-distance commute on the weekends (he lived 2 hours away).

Dating him was a great life; I had my time during the week to do whatever I wanted to do, and on the weekends we got together and played. He had all the toys a guy could want - a hot car, a motorcycle, one the first CD players I'd ever seen, and a computer (this was the late '80's; 'kay? Lots of people didn't even KNOW from personal computing yet). We would take the motorcycle out and drive 100 miles an hour to a nearby state park and go rock climbing or play in the water or go out to dinner at a Thai place that served the best lemongrass soup EVER MADE or play "Star Fighter" on the computer, or just "stay in." And I think you all know what I mean by that.

New guy was funny and silly and nice looking and liked to spend money and liked me and liked to spend money on me, which was as sweet a deal as had ever been afforded me. I mean, what's not to like about a man who will buy you a dual tape deck with auto-dub for Christmas only 2 months after he'd met you (I was somewhat of an audiophile at the time, if you couldn't guess)?

We cooked along like this for about 4 months - breaking my usual 3-month relationship cycle - when he asked if I would like to go skiing with him for a week in Vermont. He would pay for everything if I paid for my lift tickets (guess he wanted to draw the line SOMEWHERE). Me, being level-headed and thinking seriously about the fact that, not but a week after the scheduled vacation I had to pass my oral comprehensive exams to get my "get out of grad school free" ticket punched, agreed immediately to go. Of course! Why not go skiing for a week AND study for oral comps at the same time? Why CAN'T I memorize the Krebs cycle and the cell cycle and every other biological cycle known to God and man after spending a day on the slopes? Sounds fine to me! Let's go!

(insert ominous music of your choice here, 'cause the meat of the story is comin' up)

We loaded up his car with our ski stuff (my new heated boots were first in!) and his computer stuff and all my textbooks and headed up the road. 12 hours up the road to the cold climes of Vermont and a mobile home on the side of the road that his Aunt and Uncle let him use. We gleefully dumped all our stuff and started in with the hard-core skiing and partying and gaming, and by Day 3 I was completely and utterly worn out. This whole "being with each other 24 hours a day" thing was tricky to work out - when was I supposed to study or sleep?

Turns out the sleeping came before the studying - I was plum tuckered out after all day on the slopes and most nights by 8 pm was zonked out on top of my botany book or whatever chunk of biology I was trying to cram that night. I was not, to say the least, the sexiest or most alluring ski bunny in Vermont. I found it hard to keep up the "cute and sexy me" persona, and some of the "real and unsexy me" started creeping in. A week was simply too much together time for me - though I don't think he felt entirely the same because even late in our time there he KEPT asking me to ski the same slopes as him and seemed disappointed when I said that I didn't mind if he skied the slopes he wanted to, I'd catch up with him at the bottom. He was at least trying, I guess, and I had just given up with the whole "I dig you" thing. I wanted some alone time, and was wiped out by a week of all kinds of nonstop action.

Even so, I thought the week went well enough, and as he dropped me back at my townhouse we made plans for him to come down the following weekend, which was Valentine's Day. I recall he looked at me for a long time that night, as if trying to memorize my face, and I felt some kind of wall break in him that allowed me to see further into him that I ever had before. I liked what I saw - I even allowed myself to think that it might be my future.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when the next Thursday evening I got a call from him, during which he said that he didn't think he should come down to see me that weekend, and that he also didn't think we should see one another at all anymore. The proverbial "ton of bricks" hit square on, and I remember sinking to the floor in the kitchen of my townhouse while the floodgates opened and all I could say is "why?" His reasons seemed flimsy to me, contrived, artificial, and not serious enough to warrant a breakup, especially a breakup over the phone.

I was devastated. I begged him to break up with me in person. I was crushed. Once I hung up I was beyond consoling, even though my roommate did her very very best. It was the worst I had ever felt; there was no going on for me, I would dissolve into a puddle of warm tears and snot, never to be the same.....

Dark, dark times. My friends worried about me because the shiny happy me was replaced by a filmy and dusty image of what I had been, a husk covering a broken heart. I shuffled through my days and performed all the actions expected of me, but I wasn't really there. I was simply biding my time.

And, don't you know, time did what it always does; it healed the broken part of me. In a week or so I emerged from my dusty funk and got back on my feet, the nervous shaking in my gut diminished, and I learned to breathe once again. I took my comps and passed and was given the green light to leave grad school, and my life got back on track. I was astonished at the turn of events, and even more astonished to learn from his brother why he broke up with me. It was, and I quote "because he was falling in love with you."

Fancy that. The shit. Men can dump you because they love you. This is a lesson I did NOT need to learn. That was part of my heart I thought was safe. I thought being in love should be wonderful, and he thought it meant he should never see me again.

Which, by the way, he could NOT do, because he kept coming down to see his brother because, apparently, he had NO social life outside of that, and I kept working at the same place his brother did and where he spun tunes on Thursday nights when I waited tables in the bar. I saw new guy, all right, and made darned sure that he knew I was OK. Why, I was so OK that we wound up back together for a brief period of time until it petered out on its own. Much to my surprise I was OK with that too, though it didn't stop me from missing what might have been, if only we'd been less afraid of our hearts and had taken the leap into one another.

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