The fog set in

•December 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Several hours later, I awoke next to Jason, feeling much better. Then I realized what I’d done.

Oh dear God, what have I done? There is no way I can look Brock in the eye and not have him know what happened tonight. I awoke Jason and said goodbye, called my friend and headed home. To my apartment. There was no way I was going back to Brock’s house. I called him to let him know.

“Hey – I’m gonna stay at my apartment tonight, okay?”

“Why? Is everything okay?”

“I’m not…I don’t know. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” I hung up the phone and turned the ringer off.

The rain was still coming down, and it was foggy enough that it was hard to see. I felt like I was driving through the set of a movie and something bad was about to happen. I arrived at my cold, dark apartment and turned on the lights. I hadn’t been here in weeks. The place looked moderately abandoned. I turned on the heat and thought back on my afternoon. It was amazing.

When my friend brought my daughter by, the neighbor stuck his head over the fence wondering where I’d been. The neighbors had all been worried that they hadn’t seen me for so long. It felt nice to have those kinds of neighbors. I brought her inside, tucked her into bed, and sat on the couch and just…stared.

I knew that it all meant nothing to him. Sure it was the first time that Jason and I had been intimate since before we quit talking, but it wasn’t for lack of interest on both our parts. But the guilt began to overwhelm me. How was I supposed to face Brock again? He would be devastated if he knew. What did it mean for Jason and I? Was he really interested in going down that road?

Exhausted, I fell asleep on the couch that night. I awoke, knowing what I needed to do.

As I showered, I thought about the events of the previous day again. Was Jason testing me? Was he curious to know if I still had feelings there? What does it all mean?

I was confused. I felt guilty. Here I was, acting the same way that Baxter had treated me all those years ago and all I could think about was if it would happen again, and if it did, how would I handle it the next time? Jason really was my kryptonite — one look with those deep brown eyes and he could have anything he wanted from me.

I got dressed and headed over to Brock’s house. He had already left for work, so I knew I didn’t have to face him when I got there. When I walked through the door, the guilt overwhelmed me so much I couldn’t stand it. I don’t deserve to be here. I have to go.

I packed up all of our things – the suitcases of clothing, bags of shoes, a few boxes of personal items and loaded them into the car. I went through the house several times to ensure that no trace I had ever lived there remained. And then I sat. Waiting. Waiting for Brock to come home and I would tell him what happened and I would leave. This time, for good.

The longer I sat in silence, the worse I felt. I couldn’t take it anymore, so finally, I got up, found a slip of paper in the office and wrote out a note:

I just can’t do this. I’m sorry.

With that, I left the key on the counter and left.

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Learning to trust

•December 3, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Brock and I were talking again, not that we had ever really stopped after the New Year’s Eve break-up. He was frustrated with me and was asking for a second chance. I stood in his kitchen as he pleaded his case to me.

“Your problem is that you’ve been hurt. You were betrayed.”

“That’s an understatment.”

“Hear me out. I know you have a hard time trusting, but I’m asking you, please. Just trust me. All this time we’ve been together you have held back. You refuse to trust me.” Busted. “I’m asking you to trust in this, us, fully and see what happens. If it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But then at least you know you gave it 100%.”

I looked at him. The idea of handing my heart over to him flat out terrified me. But he was right. I was holding back out of nothing more than fear. It was silly, really. Baxter and I had been divorced for nearly three years, I’d fallen in love with another man and had a baby. You’d think by now I could manage the concept of being in an adult relationship.

“You’re right, I know you’re right. But I can’t just decide to do it and go for it, I need time.”

“No, you need to jump in with both feet and just. Trust. Me.” Brock held me close and I burst into tears. As I wept, he stroked my hair and promised that he would not hurt me if I would just learn to trust him.

I told him I would try.

The next day, I brought two suitcases full of clothes, a bag of my daughter’s toys and a few other things from home, determined to settle in to Brock’s house for a while and give it a go. Every few days, I would gather a few more things that we needed, and after a few weeks, the only thing left at my apartment was my furniture.

Over dinner one night, Brock and I were talking about the future and he said, “you should think about giving up your apartment.”

Stunned, I paused, looked up at him and responded, “why would I do that?”

“Why not? You live here now, don’t you?”

“We’re staying here, we’re not living here.”

“You say that like this is a hotel. Why wouldn’t you want to give up your apartment? It’s silly for you to be paying rent on that place when you spend less than an hour a week there.” He’s right. I don’t spend any time there and I could use the money…but no. I can’t.

“Why should I have to give it up? Where am I going to go when this thing falls apart!?!?” I yelled, then got suddenly quiet. There was a long silence in the room.

“You still don’t trust me, do you?” he asked, as though he were surprised to learn this, even though I knew he wasn’t. I just looked at him for a moment, then quietly finished eating and retreated to the bedroom.

The next day, I was at Jason’s house for Beer Monday. As usual, we sat and talked about nothing and everything, drinking beer and laughing. “Brock says I should give up my apartment.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Thank you! That’s what I said. I can’t give it up. I’m just not ready. I mean, that’s a huge commitment. The last time I lived with a guy, I married him and look how that ended up.”

“Well, this isn’t exactly the same. I mean, first of all, Brock’s like your dad or something.” Jason teased. I shot him a look, then punched him.

“I’m glad to see that you find humor in my commitment issues.” I looked out the window. It was starting to rain. Oddly, the rain fit my mood that day. I poured another round for the two of us.”The thing is – I want to be in this relationship. I mean, obviously because why else do I get so torn up when we break up? But I just feel like maybe I’m in it for all the wrong reasons – it’s comfortable. But that isn’t fair to any of us.”

“So then why did you move in with him?”

“We didn’t move in.”

“You didn’t. Where are all your clothes?”

“At his house.”

“Shoes? Toothbrush? Curling iron?”

“His house –” I muttered. “But do I have to give up my apartment? Really?”

“No. If you don’t want to, it’s perfectly okay to keep your safety net.”

“Thanks Jase – I’m glad I’m not totally crazy.”

“You are, but it’s okay.”

I looked at the clock and realized it was getting close to time to pick up my daughter. I grabbed my coat and keys and ran out to my car. I got in, started the engine and pulled away from the curb. I can’t. I can’t do this. I circled the block and pulled up in front of Jason’s house again and ran inside.

“I can’t do it.”

“Honey, it’s okay, you don’t have to give up your apartment if it means that much to you.”

“No, I mean, I can’t drive. I can’t go pick her up. How much beer did we drink?” I looked at the counter and counted the bottles. In my misery, I drank nearly three times what I usually did on Beer Mondays. “Holy shit…how? How did this happen?” I called my friend to pick up my daughter and told her I’d meet her when I sobered up. I sunk back into the couch next to Jason and put my head on his shoulder and started to cry.

He brushed my hair away from my face,  slid his hand to the back of my neck and kissed me. I looked deeply into his eyes, paused for a moment, and just like the first night we met, we had sex.

The birth of a new tradition

•December 2, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I had spent every Monday of the past year with Brock, and now that we were no longer seeing each other, I was at a loss for what to do with my day off. Naturally, I turned to Jason for an answer.

“You should come hang out with me and drink beer.”

“No, Jason, seriously, I need something constructive to do with my day off.”

“I’m serious. You should come hang out with me and drink beer.”

And that was how Beer Mondays were born. Both of us being ultimate beer lovers, we decided that we’d each buy a six pack of beer that we wanted to try and enjoy them together while watching baseball. It was heaven.

Jason has two chairs in his living room: a couch and a wide armchair with an ottoman. He typically sat in the armchair, I’d sit on the ottoman and we’d chat and drink and tell funny stories of the past. We had fun reminiscing one afternoon when he pulled out his old account book and we started laughing about the different clients we’d worked with together over the years. As he started to flip through the book, I climbed into the chair next to him, put my head on his shoulder and giggled as we recalled the mishaps we’d faced at a particular account.

“We had so much fun with that account…” Jason said between chuckles. “…until you screwed it up.”

Me?!? You’re the one that screwed that up with your misdirection!”

“I don’t think so!” He countered. We had an account where he had asked me to quote a product packaged a certain way. The way he described it, I understood what he was looking for, but the verbiage he used confused the manufacturer. It ended up that we had 250,000 bags interleaved with a sheet of paper every 10 bags, rather than packed for retail sale. The order was a nightmare to begin with, but that error left Jason in his garage for a week, repacking all 25,000 packages by hand. To this day, he still blames me for the mistake, I still refute responsibility and we both laugh about it.

He flipped the page and there was the business card of one of the accounts Brock called on and I had met a few times. I pointed to the card and said, “these gals. Love them.”

Jason looked at me and responded, “I never could get anywhere with them. They just loved the guy they were buying from.” He picked up the card and looked at it, then flipped it over to read the notes he’d put on the back. When I saw what he’d written, I gulped loudly. Works with Brock from IDS. They love him. “Well how about that!” Jason laughed and flipped the page again.

We had a lot of fun reminiscing that afternoon, and I looked forward to the next week that we’d get together and do that again.

A rocky road

•October 20, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Jason and I didn’t end up sleeping together that day after his birthday. We messed around for a while before the guilt took over and I left.

Brock and I were still in a weird place after the last blow-up, and we were working through it. I was trying not to mess it up, but Jason was just so distracting. I kept thinking back to all of the good times we’d had – the laughs, the tears, the good, the bad and the ugly. We’d been through it all. And survived.

The holidays were coming and I had to decide if I was in or out on the whole relationship thing. Problem was, I wasn’t sure. Brock was an amazing man who was doing such a great job of taking care of me and my daughter and trying to win my heart in the process. It felt great most of the time, but it didn’t feel right. I tried to push myself to getting on the same page as he, knowing that things could move forward if we did.

I can do this. I want to be in a relationship, right? It feels good now, but what if it doesn’t work out? Then what?

I was terrified of what that meant for me – to commit to an actual relationship again. To let go of fear and trust that my heart wouldn’t be shattered completely in the end. I tried. I brought him home for Christmas to meet the family. My folks had met him a few times before and loved him. The trip out was trying in and of itself, so I was pretty edgy when we finally arrived. We enjoyed a nice Christmas Eve with my folks, but Christmas was a little more than awkward. I knew it and he knew it.

We had a romantic getaway planned for New Year’s. After the weird day that Christmas was, I didn’t want to go. So I met up with Katie for coffee the morning we were supposed to leave, lamented over my life with her, and dragged my feet getting back to the house to leave for our trip. Brock knew before I ever got back that I wasn’t going with him. But, like the gentleman that he is, he waited for me to come back and tell him so. I couldn’t keep up any other illusions that I thought this relationship was going to work out.

As I got out of the car, I think my look said it all.

“You’re not going.”

“I don’t – I don’t really want to.”

“Uh, Ok. OK. Well then I’ll see you later.” He got in the car and drove off.

Maybe telling him I didn’t want to go when I was 1000 miles from home was a bad idea? No, I did the right thing. I don’t want to go.

A few days later, Brock picked me up from my folk’s house and we headed home. It was a long and painful drive. We talked. A LOT. We broke up. It was the right thing to do.

Picking up where we left off

•September 4, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Jason hated it when I just dropped in on him, but I had to see him. He happened to be working that evening at his new “semi-retired” gig as a bartender. So I stopped in to say hi.

I walked in, scanning the place for a sign of him. He looked up at the exact moment I spotted him. We locked eyes and his beautiful smile melted me on the spot.

“Hey stranger. I know you hate the pop-in, but I needed to see you.”

Jason smiled at me, leaned over the bar and gave me a hug. “It’s good to see you. You look great.”

I sat and enjoyed a few drinks while we caught up. It was nice talking to Jason again, just like we had before. I gazed at him while he worked, so happy that he had emailed me back just a few days before.

“So what’s new?” Jason inquired.

“Well, my daughter turns two in a couple of weeks. I’m trying desperately to find a ‘real’ job. My boyfriend just dumped me over something petty and stupid. You?”

“I’m still enjoying my semi-retired life. Nothing crazy.”

We chatted intermittently for hours until he closed up the bar. It was so nice to see him again. I really wanted to go home with him that night, but my better judgment convinced me otherwise. I went back to my place, happy that we were talking again. I started visiting him at work each week between the time he started his shift until it was time to pick up my daughter from school. It wasn’t much, but I was grateful to be spending time around Jason again.

A few weeks later, Brock and I patched things up and life resumed as usual. The summer drew to a close, and Brock took me to a friend’s birthday party where I was to meet most of his close friends for the first time. I was intimidated. Mortified, actually, to meet them. To Brock, his friends were his family, and I wanted to make a good impression. I enjoyed the party, but as the exhaustion of the evening set in, I found a bathroom and called Jason.

Please talk to me. I’m so exhausted being paraded around and judged like a show dog. I have a tall drink and I’m not letting you off the phone until I finish it.”

“Okay, what do you want to talk about?”

“I don’t care. Anything.” Jason and I talked for 45 minutes about sports, life, parenthood, money, work — anything I could think of — just to kill time. I emerged from the bathroom feeling better and drunk enough not to care that all eyes were still on me – the girl that swept Brock off his feet so badly that he was apparently talking about finally settling down. The conversations that were had with his friends were so nice and so flattering, but a little scary too. I knew Brock cared about me, but I certainly didn’t know that he was telling everyone that I could be “The One.” No way was I in a place to get married again.

We went back to Brock’s house for the night, but not before I got sick on the side of the road – a few too many tall vodka-cranberries for me. I passed out on the floor of the bathroom that night, and awoke, sprawled out naked in the guest bed. Brock was upset with me. Pissed, actually. We got into another huge argument before parting ways for the day. Later that afternoon, he called to ask if I had been party to the group of people that was allegedly snorting coke in the basement. Appalled and disgusted, I denied even witnessing such an event, but Brock didn’t believe me. Turns out, he had been looking for me while I was in the bathroom chatting with Jason. When he couldn’t find me, he had assumed that I was with the coke-heads and was shocked to think I would participate in such a thing. I wasn’t sure which would have been worse in his mind – that I had been doing drugs, or that I was finding comfort in the company of another man, so I didn’t mention where I actually was.

It was another few weeks before Brock and I got past that incident.

Jason’s 40th birthday was coming up and I wanted to do something for him. He wasn’t one for birthday celebrations, and this one he was dreading. He took a vacation with some friends and family for his birthday, but when he came back, I paid him a visit at home. As was typical on a Monday afternoon, he was laying in bed, watching sports, so I took off my shoes and climbed in next to him.

Oh how I miss snuggling up next to him. He put his arm around me, pulled me closer and we laid there watching Mike and Mike.

“You still seeing that old guy?” He asked.

“Brock? Yeah.”

“How’s that going? He would probably shit to know you were here right now.”

“Yeah. Well. Uhm. Yeah.” I didn’t even know what to say. He was right that Brock wouldn’t have been too pleased to know that I was cuddling with the one guy that I had loved more than any man in my life. I rolled over and looked into Jason’s eyes. “I missed you so much. You don’t want to know what is going through my mind right now.”

“What?”

I rolled on top of him, straddling him, ran my fingers through his hair and said, “You are my kryptonite. I am here listening to you ask about my boyfriend and all I can think about is how good you smell and how much I want to take off my clothes and fuck you. Right. Now.”

Without taking his eyes off me, Jason reached for the remote, clicked the TV off, and pulled me into him. I felt my entire body go limp before I started giggling.

“What?” He asked.

“We can’t do this. It’s crazy! Right? It’s crazy?” I asked in return.

“Why not?” He put his hands up my shirt and I started giggling again. It was like the episode of Friends where Ross & Rachel finally get together and she can’t stop laughing. For me, it was the nerves that I was here with Jason, paired with the fact that my boyfriend would definitely not approve, that had me in hysterics.

“Noooo! Stop. We can’t.” I climbed off him and laid next to him again. He turned the TV back on. I closed my eyes and inhaled deeply, catching a whiff of his aftershave. With that, I turned the TV back off and started kissing him intensely.

The game changer

•August 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I’m not going to hear from him. Dozens of letters, phone calls, emails, texts, he’s never responded to me. There’s no way I’m going to hear back from him. He didn’t even respond to my ribbing him during football season in November. Let it go.

I went to work that morning, knowing that I wasn’t going to hear from Jason. But I couldn’t get over the prospect of “what if?” What would I do if I did hear from him and he wanted to mend the fences. What about Brock?

Despite the fact that Brock and I had been seeing each other for almost eight months, Jason was my kryptonite. No matter what he said or did, I was putty in his hands. And the fact that he had me so whipped up over a stupid text message only showed me that nothing had changed – even with a two and a half year lapse of time, even with our literal run-in a year before. I was still in love with Jason.

Stop it. None of this matters. Jason doesn’t just want to arbitrarily mend fences with you. Let. It. Go.

I got home from work that evening and checked my email. As I waited for the message list to load, I fully prepared myself to be let down by the lack of a message from Jason. I waited…and…Oh my gawd, he emailed me.

I started shaking. “Becca!” I called to my roommate. “He emailed me back!”

She came running down the stairs. “He did? No way! What did he say?”

“I don’t know yet, I haven’t read it. I’m scared. What if he rejects me all over again?”

“Just read it.”

I clicked the message open and read it aloud:

For the record, I have done that every year. It makes me believe I had a wrong cell number. This year, I did have 2 numbers and sent it to both. Some Jackie Myers replied, “Hey its not my BDay dumbass”

Is that okay? I can stop, or we can talk about how bad the Dodgers are this year……?

Oh my gawd. My heart would not stop pounding. Becca looked at me and smiled, and went back to what she was doing. I just sat and stared at the screen, much like I had a few days before. I didn’t even know what to think. As my adrenaline returned to a normal level, I typed a response and sent it off.

Over the course of the next few days, we exchanged a few more emails and things were just as they always had been. It was like we hadn’t missed a beat. I was elated.

Brock wondered why I had been in such a good mood, so I told him essentially that Jason and I had been really good friends and we’d had a falling out, but that we had picked up where we left off.

“Is he an old boyfriend of yours or something?”

“No, why?”

“You just have this look in your eyes when you talk about him that indicates he’s someone special to you.”

“Hmm. That’s weird. No, we were never ‘a couple,’ just friends.” I didn’t need to get into the whole back story with him. It was a non-issue at this point. I was Brock’s girlfriend, and Jason was just an old friend of mine.

A few weeks later, I moved out of Becca’s place into an apartment of my own, which turned into a huge disaster. Brock and I got into a huge fight that ended with him telling me he needed some space to think. I was devastated.

My boyfriend just broke up with me over the most stupid fight. Are you kidding me? Doesn’t he love me at all?

The spring rains that began that week fit my mood. I was feeling dark and sad, so I did the one thing I knew would make me feel better – I went to see Jason.

A whirlwind romance

•August 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

It was instant chemistry between Brock and me. We chatted on the phone before work, met up at lunch, chatted after work, and saw each other evenings and weekends. He happened to live a few miles from me, so we spent a lot of time together.

“Katie, I met someone. He’s amazing. He’s smart, good-looking, funny. I never thought that I would be genuinely interested in dating anyone but Jason,  but here I am!”

“That’s wonderful news! I’m so happy for you! So tell me more.” The disbelief in Katie’s voice was telling. Ever since the divorce, she would get excited when she’d hear about a new guy in my life, then disappointed when I’d admit to not being ready for a serious relationship yet. I could tell she’d hit that point where I was crying wolf.

“Well, actually, he’s just like Jason! Except for one thing…” I trailed off.

“What? Please tell me it’s a good thing.” Now she sounded concerned.

“He’s a bit…older.” I winced. I think she heard it.

How much older?”

“Well…he’s eleven years older.” I heard her sigh, relieved. “Than Jason.”

“What?!” Her tone was incredulous.

“Look, none of that matters to me. He’s wonderful, he’s amazing. He wants to take care of us! Isn’t that all that matters?” But I knew. In Katie’s book, a 22-year age spread was kind of a big deal.

Despite her protests, Brock and I continued to see each other. The intensity of our relationship was amazing and scary. I even moved in with him for a few weeks in between jobs that fall. We both agreed it was too soon, and I moved in with my friend instead.

In the coming months, we enjoyed each others’ company and I was feeling really great about things – wondering where they were going and waiting for an exchange of “I love you’s.” In the beginning, I never imagined that my relationship with Brock would be an actual relationship. But it was. And it felt really great. He was amazing.

On my birthday, I spent the afternoon with several of my friends, talking, laughing and eating copious amounts of strawberry shortcake. As I went to leave, I flipped open my phone to see if anyone had called.

“Happy Birthday.” The text message made my heart stop. Jason. Oh. My Gawd. The lump in my throat swelled so much that I couldn’t speak.

“You okay? You look like you just saw a ghost.” One of my friends asked.

“Yeah. Uhm, Yeah, I’m fine. Just a text from an old friend, wishing me happy birthday.” I ran out of the house and sat in my car, staring at that “Happy Birthday” on my phone for the next 20 minutes. Why now? What does he want? What do I do?

I did the only logical thing I could do – I called Katie. Voicemail. Shit. This is an emergency! “Katie, call me. Urgent. Bye.”

Later that evening, Brock came over with dinner and movies. As we settled in to watch the flick, my phone rang. It was Katie. “Brock, excuse me one sec. I have to take this. Katie. You’re never going to believe who I heard from today.” I dropped my voice low and stepped into the office so Brock wouldn’t hear what I said to her. Brock and I were not in a place that I could explain to him why it was monumental news that I was hearing from my best guy friend of five years after a two and a half year hiatus. Who I happened to be totally and completely in love with. Not yet.

“Who?”

“Jason.”

“What? He hasn’t talked to you in like -”

“Two and a half fucking years on Friday. Why? Why now? I just can’t believe any of this. I honestly thought that I wasn’t ever going to hear from him. And now? He just sends me a fucking ‘happy birthday’ text? Is that some sort of peace offering? What do I do with that?” I was talking so fast, she barely caught half of what I was saying.

“You ignore it, that’s what. You made your peace with it. He doesn’t hate you, now move on so he doesn’t break your heart again.” She knew how hard it had been for me to get over him. I didn’t need for him to do it to me again.

“Yeah, I guess.” She was right. I knew she was right. I sat back down to watch the movie.

“So who were you so shocked to hear from?” Brock asked as I snuggled up next to him. What, did he eavesdrop on my entire conversation? Geez.

“Just an old friend I never expected to talk to again.” And left it at that.

It ate at me for a few days. I told the whole sordid story to my roommate and asked what I should do.

“I say you ask him.” She suggested.

“Yes! I’ll ask him. No, I can’t ask him.”

“How are you ever going to know?”

“Okay fine, I’ll do it.”  Do I call him? No, he won’t answer. I’m not ready to talk to him anyway. Text him back? What if he doesn’t respond? Well, no matter what, he’s either going to respond or he’s not. But at least I tried.

I sat down at the computer and composed an email:

So…I’m curious…

Please just humor me and answer me this one question and then you can feel free to go on not talking to me for the rest of your life if you wish.

You haven’t spoken to me for two and a half years. Why would you make the effort to wish me a happy birthday after all this time?

I literally fell over speechless when I got your text. So now I’m perplexed.

Send. There. Now I will never hear from him again. He hasn’t responded to me in two and a half years exactly. He won’t respond now.

I didn’t sleep a wink that night. I laid in bed, waiting, hoping that Jason would respond. What if he didn’t? But he remembered my birthday and cared enough to say so. That has to mean something.

What I wasn’t sure is what I would do if  this meant he had decided we should kiss and make up.