The week that followed, we kept on texting quite regularly, very nonchalantly. He continuously apologized. He was realizing what he had done and he was sorry. He had not cheated. He had not done anything against any outright written rules. He had betrayed me. He had betrayed the trust of the one person who had not been using him. It caused him to finally start dealing with his underlying issues. I was happy for him, for his progress, yet the nightmares would not stop. He still called me baby, and still did not prioritize me at all. So, I tried to keep living, tried to process what the hell I had been feeling. When my friend called me on Friday to ask if I could help her shoot her first video for one of her songs the next day, I could not be happier. Helping someone else and evading my own life was exactly what I wanted to do. So I went, and it turned out to be a true Christine kind of day. I met a handful of wonderful people and potentially got myself a job. I was networking—one of my all-time favorite things to do. My friend looked gorgeous and it was really cool being in a video. All around, I was ecstatic to be reconnecting with myself. I went to work that night with a smile on my face. I had a big presentation on the Monday, so I had to work hard at it all Sunday, iron my suit and run some errands. It was looking like a very productive weekend.
I realized around 11am on Sunday morning that I had not heard from him since Friday afternoon. All I could picture, from then on, was him, balls deep inside of her. Aha! The self-torture had permeated from my subconscious, my dreams, into full consciousness and all hope of relief was lost. The images, the sounds, the words, the looks. I saw it all. I heard it all, in my head, even the witch’s voice had somehow become real. I had to work through it; I had to keep my head above the water. It was a daylong battle against suffocation, a twenty-four-hour drowning in shallow waters. The next day as expected, he texted me from work. How very convenient I thought. When I had not answered two hours later, he texted again. Never mind that I was actually busy with the presentation, he knew something was wrong. You see, it does not feel good when someone stops prioritizing you; let alone when they never did in the first place. So I started answering, sheepishly and slowly, shyly gloating about my eventful weekend. Until I realized that evening that I could not keep doing this to myself. I had to be my own best friend and acknowledge what I was letting him do to me.
So I told him I did not want to see him again. I confessed to the self-torture of the previous day. I said all the things I had not said to him all this time. I needed and deserved more. Not in a preachy way, but in reality. I deserved a lot more than what he had been giving me. I had never wronged him. In fact, my roommate kept repeating I had been a saint to him. She did not understand how, or where I got the strength from, to keep my cool and listen and not judge him. I did not know either, but now the pain was all there was left of this and I had to stop it. I told him his lying and pretending abilities scared the shit out of me. I said I could not deal with the ugly parts of him anymore; there was nothing to outweigh them. And then he said “I talked with her about it yesterday. I don’t want to lie to anyone. It’s a path I’m also disgusted with myself for.” So he was with her on Sunday! TA-DA! I knew it! Damned stupid woman intuition: her perpetual, refractory presence, taking over all other thoughts in my soul, always every so uselessly retroactive.
I said I was sorry for everything he was going through, the self-doubt, the disgust, the terrible choices… I just could not care anymore. I needed him to become a better person in the end so that this all, my pain, would not have been in vain. But I was done being the good one, asking for nothing, and standing there by his side, invincibly. Well, I was not invincible. And then, he must have felt I was truly giving up. I did not want any more explanations. I just wanted out. I needed out.
He must have known, because he said he was especially sorry that he had no fight left in him, and that I was worth the fight. He said I was incredible, that I made him smile and laugh and cry and truly be himself. That that’s who I was to him: Real. And extravagant and incredible and I wish I could be something more to you. That he truly did but that he could not. And that he did not deserve me.
I had to be my own best friend. I had to be my own mama bear right that instant. It was becoming more and more clear we could never go back. It never had returned to what it had or might have been. He was not the one for me, however much I had wanted it. I wished him well. I told him I loved him. It had to be goodbye. He agreed. So it was.
I went to bed exhausted. I realized his ugliness, his faults and his betrayal had made me better. That week following the night in hell, I had made amends with all the people in my life I still held grudges with. I buried hatches. I did good deeds and reveled in the smiles and the laughs of the wonderful people in my life. It felt great to be able to look at myself and see that I had done no wrong here. Yet there was that little resounding voice in my head: Oh you feel great? No, no I don’t think so. See that pinch in your stomach? You know what that is? That is how you really feel: shortchanged.
I saw his towel hanging on bathroom door again as I was exiting the shower the next morning. I smiled and put it in the wash. I went to help my friend Sam* with her baby. She has such a warm soul and Thanksgiving had helped me feel so much better that I could not have hoped for a better task that day. We ended up having coffee and I told her the whole story. She understood my feelings of confusion between caring for him and being so angry at his failures. She comforted me and smiled. We could almost touch the love we truly share for each other and both left feeling warm and fuzzy. She is an amazing, strong and beautiful woman that simply inspires greatness. I went home with all the best intentions in the world, of studying my butt off for this midterm I had the next day.
Instead at 2.48 p.m., I booty-called him.