We met up with a few of my friends before the Sounders game for beers and headed in a few minutes before kick. I asked her if she wanted to grab another drink before getting to the seats.
A: Oh I like you
I know we won the game. I don’t remember much else. She had 100% of my attention. For the first time ever I sat while the rest of the stadium stood and screamed after a goal was scored. Something was a little different today. We were touching. We were getting closer. We took the lightrail home. She asked to get off at my stop so I could drive her to the next stop. She wanted to spend a little more time with me.
And then just before getting out of my car she kissed me.
I smiled the entire drive home.
I’m not going to go into anymore details like the above. They don’t have anything to do with the outcome, but I needed to paint a picture here. Unlike the woman from far away I actually felt a connection with A. And that kiss is where things started to go badly. Not all things and not right away and not related to her at all.
Up until that point I had felt mostly comfortable with A. From that point on I felt… differently.
I mentioned this earlier but I have some pretty low self-esteem. I always have. And of course losing Christine had me in that lonely zone. Spending time with A made me feel free from that loneliness. I hate the loneliness. Keep all this in mind.
The more I got to know her the more I liked her. She is insanely funny, forgetful in a funny way, successful and very tough. She doesn’t do anything she doesn’t want and is happy to share her opinions on any subject. I also found that below that exterior was an incredibly vulnerable person.
Things moved REALLY quickly. Within a week or so I’d met all of her kids. She has three. One was the 14 year old daughter I already wrote about. A also has this awesome unicorn obsessed three year old girl. I met her next. The first night she was on her way to bed.
3 y/o: I want him to leave. I want him to leave.
Not a great first impression I suppose. The next time I saw her she leaned on my shoulder and we watched Barbie. I was doing better.
Finally I met her son. They aren’t my kids so I suppose it’s OK for me to pick a favorite. It’s definitely him.
This skinny little 7 year old is crazy smart and sooooooo ADD. The first time we met was also the first time A met my two youngest kids. We went to see Meg. There wasn’t tons of interaction. The next time I saw him he was building an indestructible cardboard fort. He had covered the whole thing in duct tape and it was so strong he was able to stand on it. We worked on additions and windows, using a steak knife to slice holes. The entire time we were on the project he talked. Topics ranged wildly. School, his dad, my favorite candy. It was all over the place.
He reminded me a lot of myself when I was younger. Poor kid is going to have a tough time.
Then A came over for dinner and met K.
We spent more time together. We had more joint family outings. There were also things that came up. Concerns that A would tell me, or disagreements we’d have.
Whenever this would happen I’d try to course correct. I’d try and be more like the person she wanted. I joked that she had magic powers of suggestion. The truth is I was just willing to be anything she wanted.
At first it was no big deal. Trimming my beard a bit. Buying a pair of black jeans. Then it got into things about me. What I said, how I acted. I kept trying to change things.
Now when I was around A I was anxious. I was trying to remember all the things I was supposed to do differently. It was like when someone lies too much and they have to keep all the lies straight in their head.
She told me she wanted to be my girlfriend. We planned some trips together. She told some people that she thought she would marry me. The stakes were getting higher. I couldn’t screw this up. Any mistake could lead me back to her leaving me alone again.
See? Selfish. Me, me, me. I actually really liked her. I wasn’t just avoiding bad feelings by being with her. I wanted this to work because she is super cool.
All this time I was also pushing Christine away. I was doing it as hard as I could. I refused to go anywhere or do anything that might remind me of her. I wouldn’t even repeat the word ‘Norway’. My anxiety related to Christine was building. One morning I had to stay home from work because I felt like I was going to die if I left the house.
I told A one of the things I liked so much about her was she was the only person who didn’t know me before. I wish I could take that back. It would have been nice for her to have seen me before I was so broken.
We were also drinking. A lot. We’d drink together, we’d drink apart. We’d drink while we talked to each other on the phone. We drank. I felt like death every morning. Work was a nightmare to get through each day. I kept telling myself I’d slow down. I didn’t.
And then something changed. I could tell she was feeling differently. She didn’t say anything, but something was off.
We had a trip planned to Great Wolf lodge. Double family trip with all of us staying in the same room. The first day went OK. I took her son for most of the time we were in the water park. He and I played in the wave pool, went on slides, etc.
It was fun. Did I mention that I like that kid?
However, after the park things got… bad. A was stressed because her son was going bonkers every moment we weren’t involved in some activity. E was constantly complaining about her two youngest kids ‘annoying him’. He has a very low threshold for people not doing exactly what he wants and isn’t afraid to share that.
A finally got fed up and punished her son much more harshly than usual. I think she blamed me and E for it.
Bedtime was also a train wreck with no one willing to sleep according to plan.
The next morning her son woke us up early. He is an early riser who also likes to wake everyone else up. We tried to keep him quiet for a bit but the more we tried the more his energy and frustration built.
A scolded him again and left the room.
Then he climbed to the top of the four post bed.
Him: Everyone hates me. I’m dumb. I’m bad. I’m dumb. I’m bad.
Me: Can you please climb down from there?
Him: I want to kill myself (jumps down, climbs back up) I’m trying to kill myself, Ben (jumps down, climbs back up) I’m trying to kill myself.
I told you about the PTSD. I told you about the anxiety. I told you about bottling everything up.
The walls closed in. I fled the room.
I came back later. I was still agitated. I snapped at her son when he tried to apologize. I took my kids and went home.
The picture at the top of the page was taken from the Widow(er) message group I’m a part of now. I wish I had seen those words earlier. They are followed up by ‘Just let it naturally evolve.’
It had been about 8 weeks since I met her below the Hammering Man statue. 8 weeks of fun, stress, laughter, anxiety. They were a great 8 weeks.
And just like that, we were over.