Friday, December 17, 2004

Why Am I Single? Let Me Count The Ways

Twelve: Love Hurts

Love hurts
love scars
love wounds and mars
any heart not tough
nor strong enough
to take a lot of pain
Take a lot of pain
love is like a cloud
holds a lot of rain.

Love hurts
love hurts

I'm young
I know
but even so
I know a thing or two
I've learned from you
I've really learned a lot
really learned a lot.
Love is like a stove
burns you when it's hot.

Love hurts
love hurts

some fools rave of happiness
of Blissfulness, togetherness
some fools fool
themselves I guess

But they're not fooling me
I know it isn't true
No, it isn't true.
Love is just a lie
made to make you blue.
Love hurts
love hurts.

Love hurts
love scars
love wounds and mars
any heart

Well, you knew it was coming didn’t you? The end? The part where my heart gets flattened like so much road kill and handed to me on a tarnished silver platter? Smashed, hammered, crushed, stomped on, blown to smithereens, cut out with a dull knife and then handed to me with a bottle of Elmer’s Glue, “Here ya’ go. Sorry I couldn’t find all the pieces. I think I washed them in my jeans and a few of them got vacuumed up out of the truck. Oh, and you might find a few of the pieces in the parking lot down at the Rose. I think the waitress at the diner is holding some in the lost and found. You might try looking under the cushions of the couch. I think a few fell down in there. I found some old change there once. Don’t forget to look under the bleachers at the rodeo. I dropped some down there the last time we were hanging out. Maybe, Lisa can help you look? No? Okay. Just a thought. Nice knowin’ ya’. Gotta go now. Call ya’ sometime. Really, it’s been great, but, ya’ know, it’s over. See ya’.”

Yeah, I’m not bitter or anything. Really.

I suppose it’s been difficult to get to this place, to say it because, I remember all the in between times and just how fantastic it all was. I didn’t even relay half of the wild shit we did. Maybe some day those will be a separate series: stupid crap you do when you are young and immortal.

Like racing down I 476, the windows down, hair flying, Garth Brooks’ “What ya’ gonna do with a cowboy?” jamming on the radio, laughing our asses off, the truck packed full of people, Lisa right beside us straining her little Escort for all it’s gutless worth, seeing the exit sign ahead and hearing one of the guys yell out, “One mile to the exit, call the ball.” Which is aircraft carrier speak when the jets come in for a landing at night and see the little red ball light on the end of the carrier to let them know where to land.

Or, hanging out in the parking lot of the rodeo, cooler full of beer, me with my guitar, Craig with his and everyone singing along and Carlos giving me a big kiss because it was…cool.

Or, lying in my bed on late Sunday mornings after dancing all night, the blinds pulled, my head on his shoulder, holding hands and talking quietly about our future. A future where we talked about living in Texas (but not too close to his mom since I wanted to have at least a twenty minute drive between us and the potential for her to lecture me on what I did or didn’t cook right), about having children, about what we would name them, about where we would marry and who would be the best man or maid of honor and on and on and on.

A future that was not to be.

I’m not sure why or what precipitated it, even today. I never got a satisfactory answer. Maybe it was when, after he re-enlisted, he found that he was going to Panama for a year and he wanted us to get married before he went and I wanted to wait until he came back so we could do the big wedding thing and give our families time to come. Or, maybe I was just scared about leaving the US and going off to Panama or leaving this really nice life we were leading. I don’t know, but I wanted to wait.

He tried to get me pregnant. I am not shitting you. We actually had a big argument over it because I was not using birth control. We were using totally exterior means. He didn’t on one occasion. I got upset and then he had the nerve to tell me he wished I would get pregnant so I would marry him sooner rather than later. I was so pissed off. I did not want to be “forced” to get married even though we were planning it. I had a romantic idea of what the ceremony would be like and it did not include me with a little round belly trying to hide it with the flounce of my dress. Not to mention the complete disappointment of both of our parents I think.

We argued some more about getting married right away. I remember asking, “Please, can’t we wait until you get back?”

Maybe he got some bad vibe from me or something. Maybe, he had seen way too many of his friends get married, leave the wife behind during deployment and come back to find she’d been partying without him. That happened quite a bit in our Navy town. Not to mention the air force and army base that were neither far away.

I don’t know, but it didn’t end exactly before he left. I thought we had settled everything. While he was down there, we’d call and write. I’d get my passport and come down to visit. When he got back, we’d arrange the wedding. It was only a year, right?

We still talked about where we would live, what we would name our children. The only thing I was down on was the name “Juan”. I don’t know why, but I never did like that name. I wasn’t completely adverse to Hispanic names, just that one.

He had to go to “A” school where he was to become a certified welder because he was going to be a “Hull Tech”. His “A” school was down in Virginia, which was only about a five hour ride by rail and three and a half by car. He came up every weekend from “A” school and we spent long hours together. We didn’t even go out dancing as much. Just hung out on the couch, had dinner with some friends, it was slowing down into that “old married couples” thing. But, it was…nice.

I recall going to the movies during that time. He was spending money every weekend to take the train, so, when I suggested we go to the movies, I was planning on paying. He was still very courteous to me. He always opened the doors, opened my car door, held my chair, ordered our dinners, all the things that are so out of style these days. Do any guys know how to do this anymore? Is anybody teaching the young?

We parked at the theater. He was getting out and I started to swing the door open, “What are you doing?” He had stopped with one foot out of the door and was looking at me.

“Uh…opening the door?” What the hell did it look like I was doing?

“Wait for me to get around there, will you?” He was looking very irritated and I was a little confused. I know he was always opening my door, but it didn’t mean I couldn’t do it once in awhile, did it?

“I can open the door, you know.” I hadn’t totally lost ALL of my independence dammit.

“No. That’s my job. Just wait.”

I sat back with a huff and watched him walk around the truck to open the door. Mind you, I’m not adverse to this kind of thing. I love it as a matter of fact, but I never thought I’d actually get into a little tiff about doing it for myself once in a while. Of course, many years later, I’d kill to have a guy like that again. Where are they?

Anyway, we went into the theater, walked up to the booth and asked for two tickets to the movie. I don’t even remember what it was, but I reached into my pocket and started pulling out the money to pay. “What are you doing?” Again with the questions.

“I’m paying for the movie, what’s it look like?” I started putting the money under the window.

“No, you’re not.” He grabbed the money from me and stuffed it back in my pocket, pushing his own money under the window.

“Carlos, dammit, I can pay for one damn movie, you know.” I was exasperated with the “I must take care of you” thing. Just a little. Like I said, now I’d kill for it. Then, I didn’t really know how good I had it.

“No, you can’t. I’m the guy. I pay for things when we go out.” He wasn’t even looking at me as he stuffed the change in his pocket.

“You’ve been paying to drive up here every damned weekend. I can pay for one movie.” I said as he pulled me along towards the theater.

“I can afford it. I don’t mind and I want to take care of you. Is that so damned hard to understand?” Now he was looking irritated.

“No.” Even at twenty four I knew when to shut up eventually.

You see that was about the extent of our arguments. Nothing grand and flamboyant. Nothing horrible.

Right up until the last weekend before he left for Panama. Tally and Jason were over. We were having dinner. Some how, the subject came up about Tally and Jason possibly getting married. Of course, Jason was planning some double wedding thing with Carlos and I and I was not having any of that. The guy could have his own damned wedding. It just seemed so odd that everything Carlos did, Jason had to do. Believe me, it got weirder as Carlos’ time to leave came on.

Carlos asked Jason if he’d signed his divorce papers since he was planning on getting married. He didn’t say it to be mean, I think. It was like he was just asking a general question he thought everyone knew.

You could have heard a pin drop. Tally was like, “What?!” and so were Lisa and I. We had taken Tally under our wing because she was so much younger than even we and, even though we thought that Jason was a bit of a bonehead and a bull
shitter once in awhile, we had no damned idea just how much of a bull shitter he was.

The funny thing was, I don’t think Carlos even realized that Jason had not shared this very important detail with the girl he thought he was going to marry. All hell broke loose. Tally started yelling and getting in his face (she was not a small woman, she was about six foot tall and weighed at least 180). Jason was trying to explain. Lisa and I were trying to get things to cool off and Carlos was somewhere between anger at his friend and embarrassment that he had told something that, essentially, was between Tally and Jason. On the other hand, it was probably a good thing because bull shitter Jason probably would have married the girl and committed bigamy just so he could continue to live his lie.

Tally started crying then and stomped off towards the bathroom. Lisa was following making comforting noises. Carlos was staring at Jason who was looking red in the face. I was staring at him hard, myself, “Jason, what the hell is wrong with you? You never told her you were married?” I was angry for Tally. Women stick together.

However, friendship is just about worthless in certain situations and Jason was about to prove it, “What? You think your world is so damned perfect?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Now I was looking back and forth between Jason and Carlos.

“He never told you where the hell he was when you couldn’t find him that weekend you were moving, did he?” Jason was looking somewhere between smug and angry. “Tell her Carlos, you think she’ll understand.”

Now of course, I was staring at Carlos with growing wariness and anger, “Yes, tell me what I’m supposed to know here.”

“It was nothing.” Oh, here we go. Now, after all this time, he was going to go “all guy” on me and tell me that something was nothing.

“What was nothing?” I could feel my blood pressure rising.

“I’ll tell you if he’s too chicken shit,” Jason was deciding that, if his relationship was going to hell, somebody else’s was going with it, “He got drunk and went home with some red haired woman from the bar.”

“What?!” That’s why I couldn’t find him that weekend. When our relationship was just getting started and he went all funky on me. Something had happened with that red haired woman that Dawn had seen him with.

Lisa came back into he room just about then, “Kansas, I’m sure there’s an explanation. Tell her Carlos. There’s an explanation.” She was staring hard at Carlos and sounding very desperate, too. Two women on a crying jag in he house would be more than even she could handle.

“Yes, there is,” he didn’t approach me, probably because he knew I was about two seconds from going ballistic, “I told you the day I came over here and you finally talked to me, I was falling for you and you kept telling me you just wanted to be friends and keep it light. I got drunk. I don’t even remember half of it except I passed out at this woman’s house and didn’t wake up until almost noon time. I was on her couch dammit and nothing happened. I called Hank and made him pick me up.”

“Right. Nothing happened.” Uh-huh. I was pissed off. I mean, he was right that I had been putting him off, but dammit, was that some reason to go off half cocked, get drunk and sleep with some other woman, because I really didn’t believe the couch story.

He was starting to get desperate, “Nothing happened. I swear to God. I was too damned drunk to do anything. When I realized that I’d messed up, I didn’t know what to do and that’s why I didn’t call you right away. I was hoping the rain had changed your mind about moving.”

Uh-huh, and he’d have enough time to concoct some cover story. I could feel a raging anger coming over me. I had two important criteria: not being left and fidelity. I was getting hammered on both in one weekend and I was miserable.

Now he was looking at Jason, “Jason, what the hell is wrong with you?”

I couldn’t even speak for a moment. I just turned and went outside on the patio. I didn’t even want to see his face. Part of me realized that we were not exactly “in” a relationship at the point of the incident, but he had been trying awful hard to get me to commit and I couldn’t believe that he’d do that, just because I hadn’t been quick enough to commit as well. Another part was telling me that it was a long time ago, almost a year and half and wasn’t important to our current relationship, but it was. He was leaving and the trust thing was getting hammered right there. How was I going to trust us being apart? Our first real test, when the truth about the beginning was turning out to be a lie?

I heard Lisa telling Jason that he needed to go. Tally was still in the bathroom crying. Jason stomped out of the house and slammed the door. Lisa and Carlos started some conversation that I couldn’t hear, mostly because I was too busy having my own pity fest out on the patio to pay attention. I was so damned mad I could have hit something, so it was a good idea that they stayed in there for a few minutes and I stayed on the patio. Otherwise, I would have broken rule number three and started beating the crap out of him.

Eventually, I realized that it had gotten quiet in the house and Lisa was standing just outside the door, “Kansas, you wanna talk?” I just kept staring off at the trees that lined our house in the back. I realized that Lisa had decided to play referee again. “Kansas, you know it was a long time ago and that he loves you. He’d do just about anything for you.”

“Lisa,” I finally said, “you know how I feel about this kind of stuff. You know. Why did he have to do that?” Now I was starting to cry. Again.

She came over and put her arms around me. I had my arms crossed and was trying to be somewhat stoic, “Kansas, it was over a year and a half ago. You were still going hot and cold on him. He didn’t know what you guys were going to be. He’s been here every minute since then. Every minute. Don’t throw it away because of something that happened before you guys were together really.”

I wanted to be convinced that I was over reacting. I really did. My illusion was coming crashing down. The perfection of our relationship was ending.

There are some things that I realize now and that is that there is no perfection in love. None. If a love is “perfect” it’s not because the people are perfect. People, as previously noted, are inherently flawed. Even me. I’ve got my hang-ups, my pet peeves, my little jealousies. I’ve never been perfect and never will be. Neither will the people that we meet and fall in love with. They will always and only ever be themselves, just as flawed and imperfect as we.

When you put people up on pedestals, they will fall. Guaranteed. It can’t be helped because nobody can balance forever on the little tabletop so far above the ground with only room for their two big toes to hold them up. They’re bound to sneeze or lean too far one way and fall off, crashing to the ground along with our illusions. Perfect love is not about perfection. Perfect love is about the imperfections and love surviving them.

Of course, some things are even too horrendous for love to survive. I won’t take the time to list them here because most of them don’t play a part in this chapter, but I would say that infidelity can be a killer. Trust is the most important thing in a relationship because in a relationship you are giving something away. Something very precious and very personal. We say our “hearts”, but the reality is, we are giving away much more than that. We are giving away some of our freedom, some of who we are. We aren’t a “me” anymore but an “us” and it takes a lot to become “us”.

I had been learning that for a year and a half and didn’t even realize it. I was getting a crash course in wake up calls right then. Hello, you are part of something. Wake up. It’s more than just you in this thing.

Lord knows, when I think about that time, I recall that I was pretty demanding and fairly selfish on a number of occasions. I can even see it in some of the stories I wrote here. I didn’t write about changing the bandage on his leg twice a day, or the time I hired a limousine to pick him up at the train station, or picking out certain clothes that I thought he might like. I had done those things, but I also remember telling him to make his own damned coffee at 6 AM because I was NOT a morning person and don’t expect me to be all cheerful and see him off at the door when he was going to work. There were some things I had not been willing to give even of myself.

How long did I make him wait to hear me say “I love you” because I was afraid?

These are the things that go through your mind at those times. They also stick with you later on when you are looking at your future relationships and how you act.

Then again, maybe it’s just a girl thing and that’s what we do: over analyze everything.

Well, we still weren’t over if that’s what you were wondering. He came back from talking to Jason in the parking lot. I never did learn what he told him, but when he came in, he was insistent on talking to me. Probably the smartest thing he ever did right then. The thing I warned all men about in a previous post: don’t let your woman go to bed mad. Unless of course, you do the thing that has completely killed your relationship, then you probably have no choice, but your best bet is to find it out that same night and not let her sleep on it without getting your two cents in. If you don’t, you will find out the hard way when she wakes up the next morning having decided what she was going to do without you and don’t say that I didn’t warn you. By the way, this applies to women with their men. Don’t wait to discuss your problems. If you do, it’s guaranteed that you are already too late.

It worked on me. He apologized profusely, said nothing happened about two thousand times, said he loved me and would never do anything like that again now that we were together about five thousand times and insisted on holding me even though he was close to getting his balls kicked up to his chin. A very brave man, I tell ya’.

We stood outside for a long time and I finally told him that I loved him, but if he ever did that to me again, we’d be over. No questions, no second chances. Just over.

The next day, we just stayed at my apartment. It was raining. How fitting was that? He gave me the giant Texas flag that had been hanging on his wall at the old apartment and a little box. In it was a three patches: a Texas state flag patch, a Kansas state flag patch and a patch of a yellow rose. The yellow rose was to remind me of my past birthday when he bought me a dozen of them. He wanted me to sew them on my jacket to remember him every day. I still have the little box and the three patches. That and a few pictures is all that I have as a reminder of that time. Every once in awhile, when I’m cleaning or moving, I find that box and smile a little bit.

I tried to give him a ring I had bought for that occasion. It was a gold man’s ring with a blue star stone. I wanted him to remember the blue skies up north and the stars we fell in love under. I told him I would marry him the day he came back if not sooner if he wanted. I had changed my mind, I said. Whenever. Just say the word and I’d drop everything and go.

When I look back at that time, I think he was leaving me even then. Maybe he hadn’t totally decided on it, but I look at that moment now and see that there were little signs and, blinded by that burning white light of that first, intense love, I couldn’t see that some things had a deeper meaning. Or, maybe I’m just over analyzing it from a distance and it was all a coincidence. Either way, he refused to take the ring. He told me to return it and get my money back for it and use it to pay for the telephone bills that were going to come when we had to talk long distance.

I can’t tell you how much that hurt. It really hadn’t cost that much by today’s standards, but he was always doing something for me, buying something and I wanted to give a little back. Or, maybe that selfish part of me wanted to stake some sort of claim while he was away. I don’t know, but he refused to take the ring.

I finally walked him to his truck. He was driving down to Texas where he was planning on leaving it and from where he was departing for Panama. I don’t know if I can describe to you the utter sadness of that moment. It was miserable. I didn’t want him to go. He didn’t want to go. We stood in the parking lot for a long time just holding each other and me, once again, crying, trying to be brave and all that, but it’s awful hard when the person that you love is going away for a year and you know there will be little chance of seeing them until they come back.

I think that’s why I have empathy with the families of soldiers today. I really do know what that feeling is like, except of course, the danger part because he wasn’t going to war. That would have been even more intense and thinking about it, I don’t know how people can do it. There are some incredibly strong people in this world.

He finally left and I sat around the rest of the day morose and crying. Lisa walked around on eggshells with an occasional attempt to cheer me up. She rented a comedy and got Chinese food. It didn’t help.

I was depressed for about three days until he called me. We talked for nearly an hour. He told me that he loved me about a million times. We talked some more about getting married, where we would live. I swear to this day, that it wasn’t me that brought those subjects up. He was always talking about it. Not that I was adverse to the idea of course. I’m just pointing it out because, even today, when I look back, I could never figure out how we went from there to where we ended up.

We talked every couple of days on the phone. He would even call me at the office sometimes because he was off of shift by 3:30pm and he wanted to hear my voice. For two weeks I slept in a T-shirt that he had left. It still smelled like his cologne. He always wore Lagerfeld Photo. Finally, I had to wash the damn thing, but I remember buying a small bottle of Lagerfeld to make it smell like him, but it didn’t. It was missing an important ingredient. Him of course.

For several weekends, I didn’t go out with the rest of the gang. I just wanted to stay home and seeing all those people made me depressed. It wasn’t like it used to be. On the third weekend, Lisa finally convinced me to go out and do something. We went down to the club and everyone was very solicitous and telling me that he’d be back in no time and then I’d run off and get married. The guys were laughing about losing a dance partner.

One of Carlos’ friends, Cruz, was down at the club and he kept insisting on dancing with me. At first, me being caught up in my own little world of pity, I didn’t realize just how insistent he was being. I thought that he was just being nice because I was so depressed. Eventually, as the night wore on and he drank a little more, his persistence was becoming a bit alarming. I finally turned him down the next few times he asked. I realized that there were still a bunch of guys that Carlos knew from the ship hanging out at the club and I did not want to give any sort of appearance of doing what all those other girls did. Party with whom ever the minute the guy left town. I was definitely not going to jeopardize my relationship with even the hint of stupidity.

Of course, I didn’t know that I was already going to be stupid, but then again, how can you tell how some people are going to react to some things?

The next weekend, it was a repeat of the previous one with Cruz being insistent except this time I wouldn’t dance with him more than once. That was all he was getting, one dance as a friend of my boyfriend, nothing more.

Carlos and I were still talking every three days. My phone bill was already outrageous. Maybe he’d been right about using the money to pay for the phone? We talked on Sunday at my house. Long hours of just gooey eyed, cow eyed “I love you”, “I love you more”, “no, I love you the most”. Blah, blah, blah…all the things you do when you’re in that white light, burning light and you can’t see the eighteen wheeler coming.

We were laughing about the people down in Panama. I was harassing him about the girls that I had heard about that hang outside the gates looking for a “date” from the soldiers and sailors. He was insisting that they were all too “dark” for him. He liked women with slightly paler skin (yeah, that would be me). I told him he’d better be keeping his eyes down when he passed them (yes, I was laughing when I told him that). He said something about there being nothing to look at. I told him he’d better keep his nose clean or I’d run off with Cruz…..RRRRrrrrrrtttttt.

“What did you say?” His voice came across the line.

“What? What did I say about what?” I was still laughing and contemplating telling him about shaving my legs. He found that strangely erotic. Must be a guy thing.

“What did you say about Cruz?”

“About Cruz? Nothing. I was joking about you looking at those girls.” I was still not getting the picture.

“Where did you see Cruz at?” He sounded kind of irritated and demanding.

I finally got a little more serious, “Oh, down at the Rose. I hadn’t gone out or anything for awhile, you know, and Lisa was getting depressed going out by herself so she asked me to go with her and be her designated driver.” Which I had been, both nights we went out. “Everyone was asking me how your were and stuff. Craig said to tell you “hello” next time we spoke and so did Dawn and a few others.”

“What about Cruz?” Actually, I still wasn’t getting the picture.

“What about him?” I was still puzzled. He had just been a joke in our little conversation.

“What was he doing?” He was becoming the interrogator, but, hell, even I knew not to say anything too stupid because things from a distance can have a very different appearance than what they actually were.

“Nothing. He just asked me to dance a couple of times. He was tearing the rug up with the girls down there and getting drunk.” Which was true.

“Is he hitting on you?” Now he was sounding pissed.

“Hitting on me?” Well, yeah, he had been, but I had taken care of that as far as I was concerned, “No, not really. He was just drinking and making an ass of himself with all the girls.” I didn’t add “as usual” on the end, but it was true, too.

“Stay away from him.” He was definitely not sounding like the guy I had just been seeing for the last year and a half. The guy who had, on a number of occasions, teased me about other men hitting on me and told me he would run off with my friend Lisa if I left him for somebody else. All joking of course, but he wasn’t joking now.

“I’m not going to do anything with Cruz. I’m with you for God’s sake. Why would I want a dog like that?” I meant “dog” as in a guy that dogged all the girls of course because that is exactly what he was. Male doggy. Horny. No woman was really safe with him.

Oh, damn. Now I was getting the picture.

“Just stay away from him, okay?” I couldn’t tell, but I think there was a little anxiety in his voice and I quickly went into re-assurance mode. I mean seriously, it had been a joke and Cruz was a joke as far as women were concerned. He had been a joke between us before and that’s why I had felt rather relaxed about saying his name. Of course, I was totally unaware that Cruz had made comments to Carlos about me, or us breaking up and him not minding getting “with me” should that happen. Stupid guy things that they said to each other while they were drinking beer and at least one of them didn’t know the first thing about relationships.

I found out while we were on the phone. “Look, I swear, nothing happened, nothing is going to happen. I’ve got you and I would never look at a guy like that. Okay?” Wow, talk about role reversal. Now I was on the hot seat.

After much more re-assurance and a return to gooey eyed “I love yous” we hung up the phone and I learned my lesson about not mentioning ANY guy that was not my brothers or Craig or Lisa’s boyfriend and definitely not anyone that might even have a possibility as looking at me as a potential “girl on the prowl”.

Tuesday, he called me at work and we had more gooey conversation where we talked about marriage, naming our children, where we’d live, etc, etc, etc. He kept insisting that he was going to name our first son “Juan” while I was unconscious or other wise incapacitated. I laughed and told him he’d have to pay me in very large diamonds should that ever happen. We hung up the phone, laughing, saying a bunch more “I love yous”.

I was still happy. I had been sad when he left, but I thought that this was going to be the quickest year ever or the longest. Either way, I was going to make it through and I couldn’t wait to see him again. I was already making arrangements to have my shots updated so I could get my passport and go down to see him. I was saving up my vacation time and the money would be next.

Thursday, he called me at the office again. I was very happy and animated, talking about seeing Tally again and that we had gotten her a job at our office. Jason was still coming around trying to win her back. We were desperately trying to get her to not do it, at least until he came clean about the whole marriage thing. I realized that he was not as happy or animated as I was.

“What’s wrong?” I thought that something had happened to his grandmother or something. She was in her 70’s and had not been in good health.

“Kat, we need to talk.”

“Well, we are. What do we need to talk about?” I was worried, but not about the right thing. I thought he had gotten bad news.

“Kat, I think…uuhh…I think that…uh…we shouldn’t see each other anymore.” He sounded like he was choking up.

I felt like I had just been hit by an eighteen wheeler. I couldn’t speak for a moment. “What…what do you mean?” I really couldn’t take it in. I really couldn’t.

“I think that we shouldn’t see each other anymore.” He repeated without giving me any explanation.

I thought something had happened and he was just panicking, “But, why? Why are you saying we should break up?” I hadn’t started crying…yet. I was still trying to get the dirt so I could turn this thing around.

“Because…I just think that it would be for the best.” He was not opening up. He was refusing to give me a reason.

After a year and a half, I was not going down without a fight, “Why? Tell me why dammit? I just want to know. Did you meet somebody else?”

“No. I told you that there’s nobody down here to meet.” He sounded very convincing.

“Then you don’t love me anymore? Is that it? Just tell me, okay? I can take it. I just need to know. I need to understand what happened.” Now I was starting to cry. I don’t know if I could take it, really. I just wanted to know. There I was at work getting a “dear Jane” call. It was shaping up to be a hell of a day.

“No dammit, I still love you. It’s just…I can’t see you anymore. Can’t you take that as an answer?”

“No, dammit, I can’t. We were just talking on Tuesday about getting married and what we were going to name our children and now you want to break up? How the hell am I supposed to take that?” Thank God I had my own office, because I was really crying in earnest then. “Why do you want to break us up?” He was quiet for a long time, “Answer me dammit, don’t just say that and then not say anything. What is it?”

“I don’t want to break up.” He finally said, quietly.

I wave of relief broke over me, but I was still confused, “What’s happening? What do you want to do? I don’t understand what’s going on. Is it because we’re apart? I told you I’d wait for you.” He was quiet again. It was frankly driving me crazy, those long silences. Out of the two of us, he’d never been the one to not say something straight out. Finally, I determined that I was going to be a wreck and needed to get off the phone, “Look, I can’t talk right now. I’m at the office. Can you call me back tonight at home?” I was sniffing back the tears and trying to get a hold of myself. I did not want to lose it at work anymore than I already was.

“Okay. I’ll call you tonight. Kat, I love you.” He was practically whispering into the phone and I could barely hear.

Why the hell did he have to say that? Why, right after he told me he wanted to break up? I really couldn’t understand what was happening. It didn’t make any sense. I sniffed several times and then answered back, “I love you, too. I’ll talk to you tonight.”

I hung up the phone and then sat there staring at the wall for a long time. I don’t think I was even thinking. I couldn’t think. It was so damned devastating. It was almost time to go home so I went into the bathroom, washed my face and tried to get a grip. Lisa came out of the clean room and met me in the hallway, “Kansas, what’s wrong?” I could see that the pharmacists were coming out and getting ready to go, too, so I just shook my head.

When we got into the car, I broke into tears again. I know I was sobbing out of control and could hardly speak. Lisa kept asking me what was wrong as we drove the five minutes to our apartment. We were parked in the parking lot, me staring out the window and I finally told her that Carlos had called and said he wanted to break up, then he said he didn’t. I didn’t know what the hell he wanted. I felt everything inside of me was shaking. I couldn’t hardly open the car door my hands kept shaking so much.

We got into the apartment and I just burst into tears again. I really can’t describe the devastation I was feeling. My heart hurt. My stomach hurt. My mind couldn’t comprehend anything. I told her he was going to call later, but right then, I needed a few moments to try and collect myself. I went into the bathroom and cried some more. I don’t know how long I was in there. I remember looking up in the mirror and seeing my face. I almost didn’t recognize it. My eyes were bloodshot and puffy, my face was red and blotchy and my lips looked like somebody smacked me right in the kisser.

I finally came out and sat curled up on the couch, staring out of the sliding glass doors and the gathering evening. Lisa must have called every one of our friends because they all showed up at our house. Dawn arrived, very solicitous, “Oh, Kansas,” she put her arms around me and I lost it again. I was a complete mess. Craig showed up, but he was a guy and really didn’t understand what to do. He just kept making noises about kicking Carlos’ ass. Which, eleven years later, is funny as hell since Craig, although six one in his stockings was about 140lbs, a string bean really. At the time, I could barely appreciate that he was trying to give his sympathy in the only guy way he knew how.

Tally arrived with Jason in tow. Of all the people I could have done without seeing that evening, Jason was one of them. For once, though, he seemed more concerned about somebody other than himself and was offering to talk to Carlos. They were all well meaning and I know Lisa had called them for moral support, but I really, really did not want to see anyone. The more they talked the more horrible it was. I finally asked Lisa if I could go into her room and lie down for a while. I didn’t want to be in my own room, in my bed, in the place with all the pictures and mementos from my crashing relationship.

I laid down and fell asleep for about an hour. I was emotionally exhausted. Sometime later, I woke up and I could hear Lisa talking very forcefully into the phone. I don’t remember the entirety of her conversation, but it went something like, “How could you do this to Kansas? I helped you out and now look what you are doing.” Pause. “Well she’s a wreck, what do you think?” Pause. “I think you need to figure out what you’re doing.” Pause. “If you loved her you wouldn’t be doing this.” Pause.

I stumbled out of the bedroom. The lights in the living room seemed to be too bright. Everyone was staring at Lisa through the little cut outs in the kitchen wall where she was talking into the phone and waving her hands around energetically. When I came out, their attention switched to me and I was wishing very much that they had gone. It was like people at somebody’s house having a deathwatch. Like they couldn’t leave until they knew they were dead. It was me they were waiting to see, to see if I was going to live or die and I think I hated them right that second. I wanted to be alone with my pain, but they just wouldn’t go.

I shuffled into the kitchen and stood there for a moment while Lisa listened to the other end, “Well, here’s Kansas. Kansas, do you want to talk to him?” She held the phone out to me.

I nodded my head and took the phone. I was standing with my back to the cut outs in the walls. I didn’t want to share right that second. I wanted them to disappear. I wanted to disappear. It was all so damned tragic. They were like rubber neckers at a fatality wreck and the wreck was me. “Hello.” I even sounded like I was dying.

“Kat, how are you?” He said very tentatively.

“How do you think I am?” I started crying again. I put my hand up to cover my face because I didn’t want them to see, my friends who were trying to be supportive, but, in reality, were just adding to the pain of the moment. “Tell me what you’re going to do.” I whispered through the tears.

“I don’t know.” I think I knew even then that he knew what he was going to do. He just didn’t want to tell me because I was a wreck. He was making me a wreck and, I suppose, after a year and a half, anyone with any sort of heart would still feel some compunction about wrecking the person that they’d just been with.

It didn’t make me feel any better to hear him start crying on the other end. It just added to the whole bizarreness of the situation. If it was like that, why the hell were we breaking up? I croaked back, “You don’t know? You’ve had four hours to think about it. Four hours of me being a wreck and you don’t know?” I was angry, but not a good, cleansing mad. I was to broken up to have that right then. “Just tell me that you don’t love me anymore. Tell me something.”

We were going in circles, “I do love you. I just think it’s for the best that we break up.” I could hear him sniffling on the other end.

As soon as he said the words, I felt my legs start to go. This was for real. I couldn’t stand anymore. I wanted to curl up in a ball and hide someplace. Hide away from the people in the other room and hide away from what was happening. I sat down in the kitchen floor with my back to the cabinets and my knees raised. I buried my face in my knees and sobbed my heart out with the phone still to my ear.

After several moments, he said, “Kat, say something.”

“What? What do you want me to say? That my heart is breaking into a million pieces? That’s what it feels like.” I couldn’t go on because I was crying so hard. That is what it felt like. The only time I had ever felt anything close to that was when my grandfather died. It was that devastating.

“Don’t say that.” He still sounded like he was crying, too.

“Don’t tell me what to say! Don’t tell me what to feel! What the hell do you care?” Now I was crying AND getting angry.

“I care, okay. I don’t want you to be sad.”

Men, what the hell do they know anyway? I almost started laughing at that last part. Laughing and crying together, because, that had to be the funniest thing anyone had ever said right in the middle of breaking up. “Don’t be sad.” What the f* else did he think was going to happen?

“I can’t…I can’t talk anymore.” I croaked. I really couldn’t. I didn’t want to hear anything more about not being sad or non-existent reasons for breaking up.

“Let me talk to Lisa.” He said. Not even asking, just demanding. I think now how funny it was that she was the first person he demanded to talk to when I was giving him the cold shoulder and he wanted her to help him win me over and now she was going to be the last person that he talked to when he was breaking my heart.

“Lisa,” I called out in my sobbing voice. She wasn’t far away and she came around the corner quickly. I held the phone out to her. After she took it, I put my head down on my arms propped up on my knees and started sobbing in earnest. Gut wrenching, shoulder shaking sobs. But I wasn’t wailing. There were still people there in the other room and I was trying to hold in it. It was more like the gasping sobs.

“Carlos, it’s Lisa.” Pause. “Uh-huh.” Pause. “No.” Pause. “I really can’t believe you’re doing this.” Pause. “What did you think was going to happen?” Pause. “No, I really don’t understand.” Pause. “You know we were friends, but right now, all I can think about is how much I regret helping you.” Pause. “She’s a mess and, frankly, I need to hang up now and take care of her.” Pause. “Alright. Good-bye.” She hung up the phone and then knelt down beside me on the cold, hard linoleum of the kitchen floor, putting her arms around me and rocking me back and forth like a baby. “I’m sorry, Kansas. I’m so sorry.” I think she was starting to cry, too.

You know, I think I said it too her at some point later on, but I wanted to say it again, now, in writing, if she ever read this. She never had anything to be sorry for. She was my best friend. Probably the best friend I ever had. And, it was always my decision. No one really could control what I was going to feel for someone, not even me. At the most, she precipitated what was the inevitable. That he and I would have gotten together. But, it was a very small part to play. In the scheme of things, looking back on the whole time, there was nothing to blame anyone for. It was one of the most fantastic times of my life. For that, for her small part, if I could find her now, I would thank her for giving that to me.

After what seemed to be an eternity, I raised my head, “Lisa, could you please ask everyone to go?” The patient was dead after all, they could go home now, “I don’t want to see anyone right now. I can’t. Okay?” I was pretty damned pathetic right then.

She said, “Alright,” got up off the floor and started ushering everyone out of the house, except Craig. When she was done, she came back in, grabbed my hands and pulled me up off the floor. “What do you want to do? Do you want something to eat?”

I shook my head. I couldn’t have eaten anything if my life depended on it. “I think I want to lie down, but I don’t want to sleep in my room. Can I sleep in your room? Please?” Yes, pathetic. Like Bambi that had just seen his mother die.

She walked me to her room and gave me a big t-shirt and sweats to put on then I laid down on the bed. I felt so emotionally drained. My mind seemed to have quit working. I couldn’t think about the past or the present and definitely not the future. It was like being in a room where the walls were covered with nails and you only had a foot in any direction to move. You were afraid to move because you knew you’d run into the walls and it would hurt.

Lisa came in and lay down on the bed with me. At first she didn’t say anything, then we slowly started talking. Just a little. A few horrible laughs about what a mess I was. Some more crying and talking. After about an hour, there was a knock on Lisa’s bedroom door. It was Craig. He had insisted on staying when the others were leaving and, since he was our adopted brother and he lived on the ship, Lisa had decided to let him crash on our couch. “Can I come in?” He was standing in the doorway with his pillow and two blankets.

Lisa waved him in and he laid his pillows and blankets on the floor beside the bed and lay down. Lisa said teasingly, “Craig, were you feeling lonely out there?”

I could hear him blushing in the dark, “No. I just thought Kansas might need something later and I could get it or something.”

You know, I always knew Craig had a crush on me. But, I never could return the feelings more that just being a friend. I hate to say it because the men will be rolling their eyes, but he was a really nice guy. It’s just that I met him when I was with somebody else and I never did look at him that way. Eventually, Craig met a very nice young woman, too and they were married and have two children by my last contact with them. He was also one of the best dancers I ever danced with. We actually did contests together. Later, after I was recovered from my broken heart and we all hit round two of our party life. But that was later. Right then, Craig won a place forever in my heart when he said, just as I was drifting off to sleep, “Kansas, if I could find Carlos, I swear to you I would kick his ass, whatever it took, even if I had to hit him with a chair first.”

I smiled some through my tears, “Thanks Craig.”

Well, what is left to know? That I cried everyday for two weeks straight? That I couldn’t listen to the radio because every song had a special moment, a special meaning? That I refused to see any of our friends, take any calls? I certainly did not want to go out and party. Even after two weeks, I would cry at the oddest moments, when a particular song came on, when we went somewhere that I’d been with him before, when somebody mentioned his name.

How about, two weeks after we broke up I realized that I was missing something. Something very important. I thought I’d find it in a day or two, but it wasn’t showing up. Finally, in a panic, I told Lisa, “Oh God, I think I’m pregnant.”

“What? Kansas, are you sure?” She was probably wondering if I was turning into one of those girls that would try and get her boyfriend back with that word, “pregnant”.

Believe me, getting him back with that word was the furthest from my mind right at that moment. All that kept going through my mind was, “Oh God, I think I’m pregnant.” Over and over and over. “No, I’m not sure. I’ve never been pregnant before. How the hell would I know? I just know that I’m late and I’ve never been this late before.”

“How late?” Now she was starting to get worried, too.

“Two weeks.” I burst into tears. Again. I was a mess, no doubt about it.

“Well, you’re gonna have to take a test and find out for sure.” Always pragmatic was Lisa.

“No, I don’t want to know.” Irrational, I know.

“Well, you’re going to find out sooner or later so you should do it and get it over with. What are you going to tell Carlos?” We were sitting in the living room with the TV down low.


“Nothing? Kansas…”

“Lisa, I don’t even know yet. I’m not going to say anything until I know for sure.” Until I knew for sure what the hell I would do. Besides, I didn’t have his direct number. At most, I had his mom’s number and I did not want to call and tell her I needed to speak to Carlos about this subject.

“What if you are?” She again, with the scalpel, picking at it because it wasn’t done bleeding yet.

“I don’t know. I’ll cross that road when I get there.” I really did not want to be an unwed mother, but I would prefer to be an unwed mother than the wife of some guy that just wanted to marry me because I was pregnant. Besides, I was making good money and was sure that I could support myself and any child I had. Not that Lisa would have let me do it that way. She would have tortured me until I called you know who. As it was, I was saved from disaster. Lisa took me to get a test. It was negative. I recovered my lost item. On that day, I cried again because, in the end, all my bluster aside, I would have taken even that.

Two weeks after that was Thanksgiving. I was still not myself, but I was starting to be able to talk to our friends and joke a little. Lisa’s family was coming from Illinois and they were going to go up to New York to see the sites and catch a play or musical. They wanted me to go a long and I was contemplating it very much. I was ready to leave the house just for a few minutes. Maybe something without any pressure. Something where I could relax and nobody was going to ask me a lot of questions.

The phone rang and I answered it, “Hello?”

“Hi, Kat. It’s me, Carlos.” He seemed almost shy.

I was almost instantly devastated again. I had just been pulling myself together when he called, “hold on. Hold on a second, okay.” We had finally gotten a cordless phone. I never wanted to be in the position I had been that night, doing my private business in our very public kitchen, so we had bought a cordless telephone. I took it into my bedroom, “What’s going on?” I asked tentatively.

“Nothing. I just wanted to call and see, you know, how you are.” He was sounding already like he regretted giving into the impulse.

I was actually in no condition to try and hold some “now we’re just friends” conversation with him, “How do you think I am? Is that why you called? You wanted to know how I am? I’m a mess. How about you?”

“I’m okay, I guess. A bit of a mess, too.” He was trying to be witty or light or something, but I just couldn’t take it. It was too close, too soon. It was too everything.

“I can’t talk like this. Like we just met or we’ve only always been friends. Are you calling to tell me that you want to get back together?” I was hopeful, but not very. By then there’d been no calls nor letters, no nothing. “What do you want?” I was quickly on the verge of tears again.

“I just…I just wanted to call and see how you were.” Why do men think that is good? Do they think it wins them extra browny points with the man upstairs? Do they really think that women just want to be friends with them after sharing something like that? Do they? Men always laugh at women for confusing sex with love. Deride them for not being like men, unable to separate their emotions, unable to “just be friends” when something is over. Yeah, wouldn’t it just be grand if women cut off everything that made them women and became like men? I’m sure there is just a line of men who are really looking to find some women like that, some women that remind them of men. Isn’t there something fundamentally wrong with that?

“Look, I can’t do this. If you want to get back together and go on from there, we can work on it, but I can’t do this. You understand? Please, if you don’t want to be with me anymore, please stop calling me.” Those were probably the hardest words I had ever said up to that moment. Even admitting I loved him so long ago was not near as hard as telling him to never call me again.

“I’m sorry.” I think I heard him crying, but I couldn’t be sure, “Good-bye, Kat.”

“Good-bye.” I hung up the phone and sat on the edge of my bed for a while. I was crying, but not like the heart wrenching sobs from a few weeks before, just some tears streaming down my face that I tried to brush away a few times.

I didn’t go to New York with Lisa and her family. I was too miserable and I didn’t want to ruin their time together. Lisa brought me back a T-shirt with a big apple and the silhouette of the World Trade Centers emblazoned on it. A week later, Carlos’ mom called. At first, I didn’t know why she called. We talked about how things were in Texas, how the weather was, how the elder Mrs. C was. I thought she was just being nice. Well she was, but her intent was to ask me what I was getting Carlos for Christmas. Talk about getting kicked when you’re down. I realized that he had not told his mom that we were broken up. So I let her know it had happened in October.

She was, shall I say, surprised? She informed me that she had talked to Carlos every Sunday at the same time and he never mentioned it to her. What could I say? How could I explain why he hadn’t told her? The same reason I hadn’t told any of my family? It was too private, too personal to share with them? But, she told me, she had called me twice in between and mentioned both times to him that she had and he had never corrected her. I hadn’t corrected her either at those times because I assumed that he would eventually tell his mom and it wasn’t my place. Who really knows what was in his mind?

I know that I did not want to tell my parents. After all that, all that I went through with getting my dad to like him and all the other pain and angst of that meeting, I didn’t have the guts to tell them. But, eventually, under near the same circumstances of Ms. C calling me, they had to find out, too. My mom was sad for me and my dad wanted to kill him for breaking my heart. Actually, my dad wanted his phone number. He said if I wanted him to, he would call Carlos and set him straight, see if he could convince him to give us one more try.

Did I ever tell you that, whatever, whenever, how many ever times I wanted to be an orphan, there were just as many times that I was glad I wasn’t?

Of course, I didn’t let my dad do that. There was nothing for anyone to do. It was over.

Frankly, it took me months to get over it all and get back to anything resembling “normal”. There was no “normal” after that. Eventually, I had more times out with friends, I had other romances, but I never had another one like that. I am sure there will be another, sometime, that I fall in love with, but it won’t be like that. How can it be? That was he and I in a different place, with different people. I know we are different people now. I am different. He, I know, is married and has two children, I believe, as of six years ago.

Writing this was, I suppose cathartic in a way. I hadn’t actually thought about it in years, but, having done so, I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy remembering, just for a moment, what it felt like. The first time I was in love, the joy of being with someone like that, the thrill of living those times, having friends like the ones that I had, dancing my legs off until dawn, waltzing under the stars, kissing for endless hours, the angst, the embarrassment and, finally, the pain. Even that has its important place. How would I have known how good it had been if I didn’t feel the pain in the end?

And, while writing the ending here, I felt some of it again. Just a little twinge in my heart, one small tear in my eye. Maybe because I’m nostalgic for those times, back when I was young and invincible, when living every moment was more than worrying about a house payment, the credit cards, the car payment and making it to work on time. Back when I could go on three hours of sleep and still function.

I’d be a liar though, if I didn’t say that part of that little twinge in my heart was because he really did break it into a million pieces and, somewhere, in a little scrap book, or on a key chain, or tucked into his hat band, he’s still carrying some of the pieces around. I used to think I wanted them back, but I realize now, that they are his to keep forever. I don’t want them back. They were a fair exchange for what I had, just for a moment.

Besides, if I had them today, I wouldn’t be me.

Looking back
on the memory of
The dance we shared
'neath the stars alone
For a moment
all the world was right
How could I have known
that you'd ever say goodbye

And now
I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end
the way it all would go
Our lives
are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance

Holding you
I held everything
For a moment
wasn't I a king
But if I'd only known
how the king would fall
Hey who's to say
you know I might have changed it all

And now
I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end
the way it all would go
Our lives
are better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
But I'd of had to miss the dance

Yes my life
is better left to chance
I could have missed the pain
but I'd of had to miss the dance
- Garth Brooks


Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files said...

Are you sure that Lisa was really your "friend"? She was the one pushing you toward dating Carlos back when your instinct had been 100% spot on about him. Instinct would have protected you but Lisa brushed it away, and like a "friend", made you put your heart through the ringer.

The G-man said...

I have to admit that I found myself glued to this set of posts. I couldn't pull myself away from them. Thank you for sharing such an intimate memory. By doing so, you at least momentarily re-awoke some of my old nostalgic "baggage"... You know the stuff that makes me the man I am today. That is after all what we are: The sum of all of our joys and sorrows, successes and failures. It never fails kiddo, I always come by here for a good read and invariably find one.

Kat said...

Honestly, Ciggy, I don't believe people can "make" you do anything. I fully believe that I wanted it to happen or else it wouldn't have, no matter what Lisa did. Besides which, she was just one of those people that wanted everyone to be "happy".

Of course, I won't lie and tell you that we often rely on our friends to give us some little hint as to whether the person is decent or not. We think they know us so well. But human psyche can be tough to figure out.

G-Man, glad you enjoyed. It is interesting to try and look back on these episodes with something like "maturity". Not that everything is anymore fathomable sometimes, but you do realize that things that were possibly disconnected may have been connected after all.