Dating Blogger Amy: “To The Left, To The Left”
The end of any serious long-term relationship comes with two phases: rehabilitation (think Lindsay Lohan) and reconstruction (think New Orleans). Rehabilitation is for yourself: healing a broken heart, dispelling animosity, retaining lessons learned instead of regrets, regaining confidence to enter … Read More
The end of any serious long-term relationship comes with two phases: rehabilitation (think Lindsay Lohan) and reconstruction (think New Orleans). Rehabilitation is for yourself: healing a broken heart, dispelling animosity, retaining lessons learned instead of regrets, regaining confidence to enter the infinite world of Singledom. Reconstruction is for your life: strengthening friendships and making new ones, accustoming yourself to sleeping alone every night, dating new, hotter people.
Last week I wrote about my longest relationship a.k.a. the most traumatic 2.5 years of my life. Although I dumped my ex, Evil A, almost nine months ago I recently realized my rehabilitation and reconstruction periods are not as nearly close to completion as I had thought.
I was having a glass of wine with Spaniard at a Spanish wine bar around the corner from my apartment. He was talking about traveling. He’s been to every continent except Antarctica. He’s lived in China. He jets at every opportunity. He has, at 26 years old, seen a considerable chunk of the globe.
He told me I should live abroad. I had mentioned moving abroad to him on our third date, when I was at a frustrating point in my life, about to exhaust myself entirely from the NYC party scene, and my first week cast-less after a broken foot. I hadn’t talked about moving abroad again in a while since a finally healthy foot gradually alleviated a lot of living-in-New-York-sucks frustrations. Spaniard returned to the issue this night, suggesting I live for a year in Europe. London would be nice, he said, since it’s so close to Amsterdam, Paris, and Madrid. He said he’d live there, but personally, I think my skin is fair enough and needn’t become more wan from London grayness.
But then, as we sat at the bar and he kept talking about where he’s been, and where I should go, and what I should do, his olive skin looking sexily bronzed from his most recent international jaunt in the dim red-hued light, I thought about the opportunities I missed because of my relationship with Evil A. I didn’t study abroad, something many of my NYU friends have done, which I now regret. I chose instead to stay by Evil A’s side and move into an apartment with him, sapping any chance for personal growth or increased confidence.
I always say I don’t have regrets because there’s always a lesson to be learned. But I couldn’t help feeling regretful as I listened to Spaniard talk. I starting thinking about how awful my relationship was, berating myself for putting myself through that instead of studying in Paris, which I would have done if I were single.
I felt tears surfacing and became quiet.
“What are you thinking about?” Spaniard asked.
“Nothing,” I said and faked a weak smile.
“You are thinking about something. Tell it to me,” he persisted.
“It’s nothing,” I insisted.
“I know you are thinking about something. Why don’t you tell me?”
I thought for a while before I asked, “Do you ever read anything I write?”
“No,” he said.
“Oh,” I answered, content to leave it at that.
“You are thinking about something you wrote.”
“I just wrote something about my ex boyfriend. And I was just—I was just thinking about how I never studied abroad because I was with him.”
“Well, you may not have studied abroad but there must have been something good about it.”
“No,” I shook my head. “No. There was nothing good about it.”
“No, come on. There was something good about it,” he said.
I paused to find the most honest answer. “No. I can’t remember anything good or happy about that relationship,” I told him. Truthfully, as much as I think about it, I can’t recall any happy or joyous memories from that time. Every contender for the “happy” category is tainted by a lie or a fight or my tears.
“You are very sad now because you loved him,” Spaniard said.
“No,” I said. “I don’t think I did.” I believed it. How could I after the blizzard of drama, fighting, and lies that made up our entire relationship? You’re not left with five feet of love, you're left with five feet of hate, regret, and self-loathing. “Do you know why we broke up?” I asked, aware I had told him two months ago on our third date.
“No,” he said.
“He gave me a black eye.”
“What’s a black eye?” (Language barrier. Normally they’re cuter and make me giggle.)
“He hit me in the face,” I said.
“He hit you?”
“Yes, he hit me in the face and that’s why I broke up with him,” I said. “But we’d had physical fights before.”
Somewhere in the ensuing conversation, Spaniard drove this stake through my heart: “Well, it’s his fault for hitting you—he should never hit you, I would never hit you—but it’s your fault for staying with him.”
I looked at the wall. I wanted to burst into tears. I knew if I spoke I would start crying, so I just sat and stared while he kept talking.
Finally we got the check and left. I was getting angrier the more I thought about what he had said. What the hell does he know? He didn’t know where I was in my life, which obviously deep down was not a confident or stable place. I didn’t deserve to put myself through that kind of blame and self-loathing again.
I stormed ahead of him on the sidewalk, while he kept talking. I finally managed to tell him, “Don’t speculate on my past relationship when you have no idea what happened.”
We went back to my apartment, I still trying to hold back tears. I lied on my back in the middle of my bed and thought, suppressing the emotions with increasing force as I felt them gain momentum in the back of my throat.
Spaniard tried to kiss me, comfort me, but I couldn’t respond. I continued to think and stare at my ceiling. I wanted to say a million things to him at once, but I knew if I did I’d become an emotional, red-faced, bleary-eyed mess. I also knew I wasn’t ready for him to see that side of me. Those were emotions I wasn’t ready to share with him.
“I know you’re upset but how am I supposed to make you feel better if I don’t know what’s upsetting you?” he said gently. I thought for a good five minutes and suppressed a little harder before I was able to give him a short answer.
“You know what you said that really got to me,” I began.
“You said it was my fault.”
Whatever he said next was just the right thing and I can’t write it too accurately from memory, but it went something like: “The reason I say it’s your fault is because you should not put up with that. You should have walked away the first time he hit you. I’m not trying to speculate—I don’t know what happened with you and your ex-boyfriend.”
I lied next to him, my head resting on his shoulder, my arm around his waist, listening, still suppressing. He continued, “You feel sad because you loved him. You are not over him. But you have to open up more. You have to tell me things. I don’t know what you’re feeling.”
I squeezed him a little harder. I felt like I really, really liked him. More than I had ever felt I really, really liked him, which has been since our first date. But I was also angry, misunderstood. I was over my ex… wasn’t I?
“Let’s go to bed,” he said.
I went to my bathroom to wash my face. As soon as I shut the door behind me my face wrinkled into silent sobs. I put the lid down on the toilet and sat down, covering my face in both hands as I cried. I was upset with myself. Why did I put myself through all that abuse? Why did I do that to myself? It made me so sad to know that I had. And Spaniard had caustically reminded me of those emotions.
But I knew Spaniard didn’t know the whole story, and he knew he didn’t know the whole story. I wasn’t ready to tell it to him and I’m not sure he’s ready to hear it. The last thing I need is to make him think I’m crazy.
But should I be ready to tell it to him, I wondered? Does he need or deserve to know how I’m feeling? I can’t share something so personal with him if we’re not even official. Especially when I’m certainly not ready to make anything official, not wanting to sticking any labels on the wonderful thing we have going right now.
At the same time, I don’t want him thinking I’m not over Evil A. I am most certainly over Evil A. I was more than over Evil A when he came to move his things out. I was like Beyonce, but clothed and fiercer: “To the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left. And get the fuck out of my house.”
I’m not over what I went through, I’m not over the place I was in when I put myself through it. I’m still in rehabilitation.
I looked at my tear soaked face in the mirror. I may still be in rehab, I thought, but I have come a long, long way. I made over my life, and I’m damn proud that I did. The reconstruction’s not quite done, but I’m so glad it’s down to hanging the pictures on the wall and not drawing up the plans.
And in the next room was a man who treats me better than any other ever has, who really seems to care about me. He spoke before he thought, understandably clueless to my emotional triggers, and that’s something I can’t blame him for. Nor did I deserve to blame myself for a situation that I ultimately emerged from as stronger and happier than I ever could have imagined.
After I good hard look in the mirror, I washed the tears off my face, brushed my teeth, and changed into glasses. I went back to my room, curled up in Spaniard’s arms and fell asleep.