The following week was… painful.
A and I continued talking. I did my best to let it all flow off my back. We had planned a trip to Portland, ME together for the weekend following Great Wolf and decided to go despite ending our relationship.
Or thought we ended it. She was kind of all over the place on that, saying some things that I didn’t really understand. But it felt over. I made up my mind I would not pursue anything else. We would go as friends and have fun exploring Portland and Boston. I refused to be hurt. Bottling up emotions. Shocking.
I was also feeling grief rising again. Pushing hard against me. I was keeping Christine in a box. A box that threatened to burst open.
I was attending a benefit for Crisis Connections in Christine’s honor on Friday night and then we were flying out very early on Saturday. The first day was spent in Boston and then we went on to Maine.
When we arrived at the Portland hotel and checked in we were put on the second floor, room 212. Of course we were. Of course we got the same room number Christine was in on her last night. I felt panic rising. I pushed it down.
Our trip can be summed up into four distinct parts that overlapped on occasion. Think of a poorly drawn Venn diagram.
The first was the good times. It felt like when I was first getting to know her. We toured Boston and Portland, discovering things together. We laughed, we shared stories, we complained about other people, talked about our kids. We made up fake mottos for Portland. ‘Portland, Maine, a great place to be depressed’. It was fun. Very fun. This made up a large overall percentage of our time together.
Next were the reflective moments. Portland and surrounding areas are gorgeous. However, there is something about windswept, rocky coast line that lends itself to melancholy. I found myself letting Christine creep into my thoughts. A unknowingly asked me to add one of Christine’s favorite songs into our playlist. An occasional tear would run down my face.
Then there was the drinking. We drank. A lot. We went from place to place, drinking at each one. Taking naps in the evening and then drinking more. Fun was had, reflection was had.
Finally there was the fourth. This was made up of The Comments. We both clearly had some hurts, some resentments. Most of these were delivered as jokes. Little stingers that would land but then be laughed off. Some were worse. It was like watching an 18 round boxing match, but instead of punches we threw passive aggressive remarks. This is the most memorable.
Jab Jab. Body shot.
I can be kind of an asshole. It’s usually unintended, but I don’t do a great job of taking other people’s feelings into account when I say things. I don’t think through how I can be perceived, just assuming everyone will get my intent.
No, that’s a lot of excuse making. I can be an asshole.
I could tell I was starting to wear on her. She was starting to wear on me. Just keep smiling.
Then we were having one of those moments where I was saying things without thinking about how it could be making A feel. Being an asshole. Trying to convince myself it was definitely better for us to be apart. That it was all my idea anyways. That I was happy for it.
And then she threw a haymaker.
I need to be careful here. I don’t want to assume her intent. Maybe I’d been throwing big punches and she just had a stronger jaw. Maybe what she said was honest, not meant to hurt.
Regardless, I was on the mat.
I got upset. A got upset. She said she was going to leave. Leave a hotel room. I freaked. I fled.
I was gone for awhile. I spent most of the time standing on a nearby street corner. Everything was hitting me at once. The grief was back. The longing. The emptiness. The loneliness.
I stood there and just cried. I let it all hit me so hard. I was at sea in a storm.
I’m not sure how long I was there. Eventually I went back to the room. I slept for a bit and awoke around 3:30 and left the hotel again to stand at the same corner.
Back in the hotel room I took a shower and then, with the water running so A wouldn’t hear I watched a slideshow of Christine over and over again. And wept.
When I finally went back to bed I lay there, my stomach in knots. Thinking and thinking and thinking.
And then Christine showed up.
I mean not really her, but a vision of her. It was clear as day. She stood at the same street corner I had spent so much time at. It was day in the vision. She stood and smiled at me. It was her smile she saved just for me. A calmness came over me and I fell soundly asleep.
Look. I know, OK? I know I could have been dreaming. I know I could have just conjured this up myself. But the outcome is the same.
A and I spent a couple more days together. On the last day we went to the Salem Witch Trial Museum.
It starts with a scene where a lot of people are killed. When we left A seemed nervous.
A: I thought you were going to go running out of the room.
And then I realized, she was scared of me. I think that hurt most of all.
Our plane was late. We got drunk. She told me I was mean.
When we left I hugged her and said goodbye. I’ve barely talked to her since.
Portland, Maine, where a heart can be broken twice. Has a nice ring to it.
So that was a lot. A lot of build up to this next part. I just needed to tell that story so hopefully you’ll understand how I got where I am.
I am not ready to dive into a relationship. I know. Duh. I’m sure you’re there rolling your eyes. But there’s a lot more.
I can be a total dick. I think of myself as a very nice person. That I always have other’s best interests in mind. I still believe that about myself but I can also be mean. Thoughtful in my actions, thoughtless with my words.
It’s my responsibility to not hurt people’s feelings. It’s not theirs to laugh it off.
This one hurts. A lot. I have no idea how awful I may have made A feel. Even worse, how many times did I hurt Christine during our 18 years together? How much pain had I caused her? My kids? My family? My friends?
I want to take so much back.
I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry.
I need to not need a person before I can be with a person. That’s a mouthful.
I need to be able to find happiness without relying on someone else.
I can’t rely on others for validation.
I need to be able to be alone.
Most importantly, I can’t hide from Christine. I need to let myself miss her. I need to feel her loss. This hurts so much. The pain is immeasurable and I don’t want to do it, but I have to.
That might not sound like much. I’ve had more since. I’ll probably revisit them again but this is what being with A taught me about myself.
So here I am. I know I need to be OK with myself. I know I need to be able to survive on my own. I know I can’t rely on others to keep me happy. I know I can be heartless. I know I need to say goodbye.
Knowing is half the battle (G I JOOOOOOE).
Now I have to learn to live it.