He was avoiding eye contact with me & was pre-occupied, pushing the food around on his plate with his fork.
He was an avid yahoo article reader. I knew this because I, occasionally, took a peek at his Internet history. A recent selection: (Nearly!) Painless Breakups; How to End it Without Being the Bad Guy. I saw it listed in his history, I'd even opened it & skimmed for a moment.
How did I not know? Everyone in the restaurant could feel the tension and anxiety. Everyone there knew: he brought me somewhere neutral. To dump me. To make it easier on himself after; he could just pay the check & leave. So clean, so easy.
& I was too busy fawning over him to see it coming. Quite the opposite, actually.
"So, I'm applying to law school this semester. UT's my top choice right now. Wouldn't it be cool to FINALLY live in the same city? We could see each other everyday!"
"Don't base your decisions off me," he interrupted.
"I'm not! UT's a great school. But I mean, of course, you're a factor."
He looked worried.
"What's wrong? Is everything okay?"
"Listen Lauren, we need to talk..."
& that was the time my pot head boyfriend dumped me. In a TGIFridays.
My pot head boyfriend: He hadn't successfully held down a job for as long as I knew him. He didn't own a single piece of furniture save one lawn chair, his tv, and a blow up mattress. & he wasn't even poor; these were all life style choices!
But I went home and cried about it anyway.
More than that, I laid in bed no fewer than 9 days in row sobbing under the covers and watching sad movies.
& then, I came to Jesus.
Well, really Jesus came to me as a 4 foot 10 Filipino girl who I've known since I was 11. My best friend called, more or less, curse me out for being pathetic. & aside from reminding me of (let's call him Cheech) Cheech's terrible apartment, she also reminded me that Cheech was not a great person. More than once I'd caught him responding to W4M personal ads on Craigslist. More than once, I'd met girls he was cheating on me with--he'd actually introduce me & then hold full conversations about cheating on me in front of me, like I wasn't there & like I wasn't his girlfriend. He'd outright forgotten my birthday one year, and the following year, went out clubbing with his friends instead and came home that night drunk and sweaty and belligerent. These are just highlights. There were other things, worse things. Things that are too horrible & personal for the likes of this blog. But one by one, Darlene mapped them out for me; an inventory of inexcusable behavior.
It's not like I'd forgotten or even that I'd somehow managed to turn a blind eye to it all. No, every betrayal stung. And each one subsequent was rendered more painful by the ones preceding. Loving Cheech was excruciating.
This conversation wasn't the magic eraser that completely wiped away all my feelings for Cheech, but it did plant a seed. For the first time, I asked myself, "why do I love him?" It wasn't that I'd never questioned it before but it was the first time where "because I do" wasn't going to be sufficient.
It was some time later that it hit me; I didn't love Cheech. At one point, I had. I had violently and sincerely loved him with every cell in my body. But somewhere along the way, things had changed. Maybe with that first betrayal and less for each after. Maybe it happened without a reason, just a gradual and organic shift. I can't honestly say. But something had changed & I wasn't in love with a man anymore but instead, I loved an idea.
We should never underestimate the power of ideas. It's said in political discussions all the time. For some reason, we leave it there. But an idea can be personal, can be romantic. & I had fallen in love with one.
Before Cheech, I was in a wildly dramatic relationship. We loved hard and fought even harder. There was never an aspect of our dynamic that wasn't cloaked in intensity. & then we broke up & I felt like I'd just been tossed around by a twister.
Along came Cheech & I realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore. Cheech was perpetually high. Our entire relationship was eating really great food from his favorite restaurants while watching rented movies and then fooling around on his blow up mattress. Things were so easy, so laid back. & the times I did get angry with Cheech, I'd fucking explode & he'd be so casual, so cavalier; "why are you yelling?"
"Because I'm fucking upset!"
"Hey, I get it, you don't have to yell or curse. Just talk to me about it. Let me apologize."
& this is what I mean when I say I fell in love with the idea of Cheech. I loved the levity of our relationship. I loved eating breakfast tacos on his floor and watching silly movies. I loved how he never said things to hurt me when he was mad. I loved the way he marveled at everyday things (which were made magnificent by the various substances he consumed). I loved the simplicity of him.
I realized what I loved & let go of Cheech. There was no longer a need to hold on to him or cling to the hope of someday reconciling once I realized that what I loved were things I could find in any of a number of people. Levity, simplicity. & I took those things with me.
After Cheech, I knew I didn't want a boyfriend who would tear me down when he was upset. I knew I didn't want a boyfriend who would convolute things or fill my life with drama. & I knew, because of Cheech, that I didn't want to be that kind of girlfriend, either.
Who is this post for? Somewhere out there right now, there's a beautiful & fiercely intelligent person who hasn't realized that they can move on past the relationship they've been agonizing over for the last several weeks/months/years. But they can, they should.
If it's you: pack up what you love & take it with you, leave the rest behind.