When I originally wrote the three-part story that is now published here as The Last time and The First time, I had also written The Middle. But as I read what I wrote, I realized that it didn’t do justice to the real dysfunction that went on. It reads more like sex gone wrong, than the emotional mind-fuck that it truly was. So I’m taking some time to figure out how I want to tell it. This is an addendum, and maybe a good display of where those 10 years left me, about two years after The Last time and about three years before On love and the impulsive girl.
She had been back in the city for about two weeks when her phone rang. It was him. They hadn’t spoken in months. As far as she knew, he was officially a married man, his wedding having taken place just the month before. She probably shouldn’t have answered, but she was curious as to what he might have to say. He wanted to see her. Could she meet him somewhere in an hour. A glutton for punishment, she gave in after a few half-hearted denials. Truth be told, she wanted a chance to confront him face to face. To ask the questions that might help her understand what had happened.
An hour later they sat at a bar. He had a ring on his finger and seeing it shocked and hurt her like a sucker punch. Her mind went back to her one regret and she felt, once again, like one of ‘those’ women, the ones who allow themselves to be ‘the other.’ But they were in a public place, they were just talking, and she’d leave after she got her answers. Within minutes it was clear he had different ideas. He was leaning in, whispering, trying to kiss her. She said something mean. Used her words to shove him away from her. She’d forgotten that he wasn’t easily dissuaded. Before she could get another word out, he began his “this is why I asked you here” speech. As he spoke, she looked at him incredulously, mouth agape. He couldn’t possibly be saying the words she was hearing. He was propositioning her, and the conviction in his tone told her that he sincerely believed that she would not only accept, but that she would think herself the luckiest girl in the world.
Ten months earlier she had believed that she would marry this man. That he would someday be the father of her children. He had said it, it wasn’t simply her hope. On the night he had professed his feelings for her, he told her that she was the woman he would marry and she would be the mother of his children. Now, only 10 months later, he was indeed a married man, married to another woman, and he was proposing that she become what would basically amount to a mistress. His wife did not live in the state. She visited once a month. He would be hers the remainder of the month.
She was speechless; didn’t have the words to convey all that was going through her mind at that moment, and so she only said goodbye and left. She drove home in tears.
In the beginning, she had believed him to be different. Had allowed herself to fall in love with him, only to now be delivered a second blow in only 10 short months. The first had taken place 8 months before.
She was in her childhood home, in the bedroom where. before the age of eight, she had spent many a night staring out the window when she couldn’t sleep. The walls were lavender now, an appropriate color for a six year old girl.This was where she was staying, the bedroom her six year old niece slept in when she visited her father. For those reason, her own childhood memories—the knowledge that the brother it took over 30 years to connect with and meet was just across the hall, and that she was in the paradise of Puerto Rico—she should’ve been happy. But at that moment , over 2000 miles away from the place she called home, all she felt was alone…
She was lying on her stomach, unable to move. It was almost as if the signals her brain was sending to her body were being ignored, and while she could feel all of her limbs, they felt heavy, unmovable. Her cell phone was ringing. It had been ringing for almost an hour with intermittent notifications of text messages that all basically read the same, “ANSWER THE PHONE. I need to talk to you.” But what could he say to make her feel better? What could he say that wouldn’t make her feel worse? The question she had text him over an hour before required only a yes or no answer: “Are you back with your ex girlfriend?”
“She flew in to surprise me for my birthday.”
“That’s not an answer.”
“I’ll call you in a little while.”
“Don’t call me. Just answer the question. Yes or no. It’s really that simple.”
That’s when her body gave out on her. She laid on her stomach unsure of which the many emotions that were surfacing to feel first. Maybe that was it. It was the wave of emotions that had drowned her, and that’s why she couldn’t move, could barely think.
She had been on Facebook when on her news feed appeared a photo that he was tagged in. It was a photo posted by his ex girlfriend just two days before. She clicked on the photo, looked for others. They had broken up months back. Could it be an old photo? That’s when she text him the question.
She never did answer the phone, and he never gave her a yes or a no. She stayed in bed that day and the next. Her family, people who with only a little over a month of interaction between them, were still basically strangers. They didn’t know how to help her, so they let her just be. But within a few days she was up, and instead of crying, she chose to lose herself in travel adventures with a new friend, map in hand.
But after tonight’s blow, she couldn’t do the same. She was back home now, broke and unable to lose herself in anything more than a job hunt. Two days passed. She didn’t plan on contacting him, but as she gathered her thoughts she realized that she had looked past her hurt, her experience and had given him a chance because he was different, and in the end he had proven only to be worse.
She had to tell him how much he hurt her, even if only to release the words that were essentially choking her. She had, with the exception of a few times, only been offered cookie crumbs from the men in her life, and for that she had been resentful. But they, unlike him, had never lead her to think that that should be enough, that she should be happy, and that she deserved it all.
He didn’t understand her anger and eventually she stopped trying to explain it. She was partly responsible. She had been a willing party in the crushing of her own spirit and self-worth for almost 10 years. Ten months or ten years, what was the difference when she always ended up in the same place?
She felt like she was living in a nightmare where she was riding a merry-go-round. Each time she saw herself around the turn, she was riding a different horse, but each time she was crying because the ride wouldn’t stop, and all she could do was scream for help.
Continues at The Middle