“When we were good, we were really good,” my ex told me recently.
Occasionally, we still talk via text message. Usually sparked by a glass of wine (or three) on my end; a happy hour on his.
So, I texted him back with a simple emoticon smile.
Do I miss him? Of course. Just as I might miss a long-lost friend. He was dear to me; my bestie. I often say that. I miss my friend and I mean it.
During this particular chat we make Beltway jokes. I can feel his smile and remember the way he used to sit next to me at a restaurant bar. His arm wrapped around the back of my chair as he leaned in and beamed. Everything was an inside joke and by the end of the evening the bartender was a member of our secret club.
These bits of nostalgia (the ones where I am smiling and not crying while watching Love Actually) are far from how things ended. I was 24 at the time and like many 24 year olds, I was prone to hyperbole. I still remember our first “this isn’t working” conversation. I wanted to be the chill girl, willing to go with the flow. Instead, I was the opposite. I am a passionate person — though some might refer to me as “tempestuous.” I want to tell the whole world how I feel at all times and I want to express and discuss these feelings and then discuss them some more.
I picked a fight because I wanted one in return. But you can’t flip a switch on or force passion on a person who is not expressive. He spoke to me sternly, admonishing my behavior and sent me back to my hotel room in Washington, DC. When I arrived, I found the cheapest bottle of wine in the mini bar and slid down the wall, my face covered in tears. I buried my head in my knees and sobbed. I felt broken and made promises to be a better person. This would be the first of many times during our relationship when I would feel that his loss of faith in in me would be the worst thing to every happen in my life. See? Hyperbole.
There was another night when we were sitting in hammocks across from each another after one too many and I told him I wanted children and to spend the rest of my life with him. Because I was absolutely, madly in love. (See also: drunk; see also: in vino veritas). As usual, he beamed and I smiled back through tears. I loved him for so many reasons: he was smart, funny, witty. He appreciated me, and thought I was the brains and talent of our operation. And he respected me. It’s so easy to fall back into this hole of memories and smile when thinking of the good.
It’s amazing how memory evolves as the tears fade. What is left: extra pounds from months of Cold Stone Creamery for lunch and wine and cheese for dinner and a profound sense of loss. I heard stories of disastrous break ups and became convinced that I would be forever broken. See? Emotional and full of longing.
On nights out with girlfriends we each tell our own stories of break ups — or make ups. We tell the stories from our point of view and forget that there was another person involved. It’s quite easy to do. In between the “It’s Complicated” phase and “The End,” my friends and I match our various moments of pain and anger. But each story ends the same: two people cared for one another but for some reason were unable to make it work. Fitting perfectly in one another’s arms has nothing on fitting into one another’s lives. We were two people in two different places. No matter how hard we tried, our complicated, individual puzzle pieces would never fit into place.
The day after the “when we were good” conversation, I told my ex that I would be writing a little something about our break up. Nothing too scandalous and without naming any names.
“I can’t think of a reason why you shouldn’t write about it,” he said. “In fact, you should. I really can’t think of a reason why you’d ask or even let me know, and I am so very grateful. Really.”
“So, it’s OK?” I asked.
“I figured some day I’d read it. And it would make you tons of money. “
“I will never publish anything without you knowing. I loved you. You deserve that. Besides, it’s not just my side of the story.”