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" Caliber | 2008 | Interregnum "

01.10.08 12:37 p.m.

cause we both know what i've been doing
i've been intentionally bad at lying
you're the only boy i ever let see through me
and i hope you believe me when i say i'm trying
and i hope i never improve my game
yeah i'd rather have these things weighing on my mind
and at the end of this tunnel of guilt and shame
there must be a light of some kind
there must be a light of some kind

i must have blown a fuse or something
cause it was so dark in my mind
she came up to me with the sweetest face
and she was holding a light of some kind
and i still think of you as my boyfriend
i don't think this is the end of the world
but i think maybe you should follow my example
and go meet yourself a really nice girl

'cause we both know...

in the end the world comes down to just a few people
but for you it comes down to one
but no one ever asked me if i thought i could be
everything to someone
there's a crowd of people harboured in every person
there are so many roles that we play
and you've decided to love me for eternity
i'm still deciding who i want to be today

-Ani DiFranco, "Light Of Some Kind"


A Light Of Some Kind

I would like to preface this entry with a simple request, which does not feel so simple. If you can possibly avoid it, do not insult or disparage Emily in front of me. You are allowed to hold whatever opinions you wish of her, but I am frankly exhausted with hearing people tear down the life I had for seven years and the person with whom I built it. I know you all had doubts and questions you felt I could not hear when I was achingly in love with her and you were probably right to think it. That doesn't mean I have the slightest interest in hearing them now. I am not asking this for Emily, I am asking this for me. Let me keep those seven and a half years intact, those lovely memories like gems in my head. Immediately after dumping me, possibly before doing so, Emily said she put a similar prohibition on her friends and family because it was nothing she wanted to hear. While I needed your sympathy and for you to be angry for me, I now have emotions enough and don't need anymore added to this tumult. Thank you.

I called Emily because it had been days without talking. There were letters, though, emails of cute pictures and habitual conversations. We still care deeply for one another, after all. She said that she was about to text me, seemed eager to hear from me. I will not try to recreate the conversation, but the rub was that one of Emily's friends Tim, a man with whom she had been close since attending NYU, left his girlfriend soon after hearing of Emily's newfound single state. He drew strength and resolve from it. You can likely draw the inevitable conclusions, though I didn't have to. She spelled things out, that she was directly one of the main reasons. They had email conversations to the extent of their mutual attraction, possibly they discussed it face-to-face. Within 12 hours of Emily leaving me, they were cuddled together in a bed. While I could barely function, Emily had physical solace as though she were the one left. His erstwhile girlfriend found the emails while snooping through his account to justify her suspicions and raged through cyberspace, defacing and destroying what she could of his accounts. Emily was concerned that this girl would send me a message detailing M's crimes against her, the romantic and tentative letters Emily and her friend had been exchanging since leaving me. (And yes, I have to believe that these exchanges began only after she left me. To think otherwise is to head down a road that could taint the memories I have of the last seven and a half years, a road that ends in enmity.)

I told Emily that I was not well pleased by this news, obviously, and couldn't promise that I wouldn't read the letters, but I wouldn't reply and would come to her with any revelations. I was more than slightly hurt that she explicitly told me that she didn't want a relationship and quickly began to the rebound process of transforming her friendship into one. The line that stings me most is not that she spent a night snuggling against this man, but that she wrote to him, "I always prefer to spend my time with you, I have for a long time but I don't want to come across as needy..." because it suggests premeditation and I am reminded that she returned from spending the night at his apartment because she was training late the night she decided she could no longer be in a relationship. I confront her with this and she says that he was not the reason for leaving me, but he was the catalyst. He made her realize that she wanted to be single and living in the city, that the life I presented to her, the future we would have had together - even though it existed largely because of her wishes - was nothing she wanted. When I, stung again, ask if he might not have had some ulterior motives for advising her as such, she tells me that she won't let me badmouth her best friend.

She says that she is still not over me, which seems an understatement so soon. She spent so much of our early relationship loving me more than I did her, more than I expected and deserved, that it made her safe to finally love so much that my every breath whispered her name. True, I said immediately after she left that I wanted to have some friendly girl slide next to me and just hold me until dawn, but our positions are hardly the same. I didn't do the leaving, wouldn't have done the leaving. She tells me and repeats with tears in her voice that she would never have cheated on me, that she hasn't cheated on me. My choices are to believe her and breathe easier that this process won't have that hitch thrown it, or doubt her and suffer through that doubt metastasizing. So I choose to believe she is as she ever was, because she spent so many nights in the city crashed on his couch and I have to believe in her fidelity and goodness for now.

We are trying to be friends, as difficult as the rest of the world sees that proposition, and I would hope she would do the same were the situation reversed. But, I also realize, the situation would not be reversed. I couldn't stomach it.

After Emily left me, more than one associate proposed the idea of rebound sex. I politely declined every offer, inwardly feeling disgust where others found flattery. I referred to these women at The Vultures, those who were just waiting in the sky while I loved someone more than I ever had before, while I stood on the threshold of legal marriage, for something to go wrong so they could swoop in on my vulnerabilities. I am not broken, am not something to be scavenged. I do not appreciate something thinking they are doing me a favor by trying to take advantage of me in a moment of weakness. There is no woman in my immediate social sphere to whom I would consider even socially dating and would greatly mistrust someone who popped up and offered me sex. I would doubt their motives and wonder if they hadn't been silently hoping my relationship with Emily would die an unnatural death so that they could see how I am in bed.

I am going on dates, that's true. Dates with strangers, with people who don't know me but for my words and first impressions. With all but one girl, I see dates as merely a way to associate when I have otherwise been cut off from polite civilization by continuing to work in Anemia. The exception is named is Jenn and she is an artist about 75 miles away from me. We found one another through OkCupid, I made some flip remark about something in her profile and was surprised to find the reply on MySpace within the course of two exchanges. We talk almost every night, an hour past when I usually go to sleep. Though she vaguely shares an attraction with me and tells me that I inspire her to talk more than she usually does, she also knows my history (she has read scattered parts of Xenology and I have unfurled my pain to her more that was likely prudent) and says that I need her as a friend, that I should date or not date as I see fit but that she won't see me hurt by her. There is no tact that could have worked better, since I was overt and she told me that she already cared about me (and obviously about herself) too much to allow something to happen. I am not saying she will become anything more than a friend, but she secured a purchase in my heart by caring more about me as a person than as a "hot commodity" (Emily's description of me after the Hello, My Future Girlfriend entry, to which she wanted to comment that she thinks any girl who gets me will be very lucky). She won't become my friend when I can touch her for the first time on Saturday. Even having known her a week, she is my friend now.

Unfortunately, even prior to this new revelation of how quickly Emily found physical comfort, I was thinking that I didn't much have a taste for social dating. I will vacillate on this issue, I know, but it isn't really what I want to be doing. I will honor my commitments so far and still very much want to make my friendship with Jenn into something that occurs outside of our words, but my soul doesn't like the idea. I wish I could say otherwise, but I am not ready. I don't think I ever want to date, just find someone and slowly fall into love as into a fluffy bed or a pile of autumn leaves. Like I have always done, like has resulted in lovely relationships. Maybe others can do that by dating a lot of people over an extended period, but I have never been for the well-trodden path through the forest. I find it a good deal more frightening and unsteady than slipping on leaves and tripping over roots.

It seems a cruel irony that I want an intimate relationship in my life at this point, am ready for the stage of my life where I am married, and have to keep myself single because I have a lot of emotional work I need to do before I can again be a good partner to someone. I don't want to repeat the callous mistakes I made when I started dating Emily, no matter how fortuitously they turned out. Emily, who wants to be single, had physical comfort and affection when I was still dreaming of reconciliation.

I will admit that Emily rebounding onto her friend Tim and him dumping his girlfriend to indulge Emily screws up my process. It was easier to work through my issues when I thought Emily was keeping to her promise in leaving me that she was doing it because she didn't want to be in a relationship at all, that she needed to know what is was like to be single in the city, to discover who she was without someone else's arms around her. I believed what she told me was true because I needed to believe that she wouldn't lie to me even in breaking my heart. I know that I have a lot of work to do, almost by definition. I don't want to have to think about why I was left, beyond that Emily had work she needed to do. She told me that I had been a spotless boyfriend, that I had been unfailingly everything she needed and I believed this even more. And I want to keep believing it, but I can't quite get that thought to gel with her sharing caresses with another. This dumping gave me more than enough that I needed to sort through, and I was doing a good job filtering and straining so far. I don't wish to discover what it will take to overload a system that has been so far commendable at keeping me on an even keel. After confessing what has truly been going on before her friend's ex can, Emily sends me a text message reading, "I am so glad you are a reasonable adult human being with a conscience". The man's ex-girlfriend shredded a cherished Christmas present. I still wear the watch Emily gave me on Christmas, look at it and watch the gears spin, but don't see her face in the mechanism, only the steel and brass. But maybe both his ex and I are processing in the only way we can when we have been left by the person that we (wrongly or rightly) suspected would be sharing our beds well into the future. Confronted with the fact that our partners to this point are making moony eyes at one another, her rage is justified even if her methods are not. She has little to lose in this, her identity just peeking above the waters of her teenager years. She can scream and become a harpy and people will understand. I cannot, I have to talk and discuss and use a dozen ears as my sounding boards before I can come to my truest feelings in this matter. I have to write all this out, so I can see it before me, so I can read a story in which I am now the central character. I cannot turn into a beast - not even for a moment, not even when I am shaking it hurts so much - because I will regret it and because I fear I will never fully return from that.

I am not going to die from this, that is crucial. After the first two days of this breakup, the dawn of the Post-Emilian Period, I was semi-catatonic. On that third day, New Year's Eve fittingly enough, I awoke and still hadn't died so I started living again. I am spending the rest of my life with me, so I needed to start on that life. What was seen as a curse in my relationship with Emily, that she was always so busy and I was often on my own, has turned out to be a small blessing. I had all the scaffolding in place, I had experience with keeping myself occupied outside Emily's company. I never lost touch with my friends, as so many in my position of a lengthy relationship do, and now I don't have to prostrate myself to them to help me heal.

When she left the first time, or maybe one of the others (she hasn't ceased leaving), I asked if this would have been different had we stayed in our apartment in Wappingers Falls, surrounded by friends and my family. She said she didn't know. The question should have been if she would have been leaving if we lived much closer to the city. It tears at me to think of our relationship as having conditions, that the commute was simply no longer a commitment she was willing to bear. I loved her when she was on other continents. I had made a careful practice of waiting for her, of loving my live-in fiancée from afar because I saw the light of June when our adult lives would have begun together in earnest. She will have a thousand protests, but in them will be one agreement. This was no longer convenient for her. That was not the entirety of her reasoning, certainly, but it is the one thing I could have done differently so it has become a quiet part of my dissection.

I want to know the truth and I want closure so I can move on. I am exhausted by my life feeling like a Telemundo soap opera. I am fatigued by the omissions where things could have been painful but honest. She says what she does with her friend is none of my business, because she has to claim this in her position, but I can't help but feel that it has been made my business. I had asked her if there was someone else, and there was. This was about Tim and she lied to my face, even lied about not lying. I still have faith in love, it is the cornerstone of my lifestyle and religion, but watch as the house of red-pip cards begins to fold in on itself. She says she does not want this to diminish her in my eyes and, since I live honestly, I cannot tell her it hasn't. In fact, it has diminished her quite a bit.

In ending the conversation, she wishes me luck with Jenn the Artist and seems to mean it. She wants me to fall in love with someone else, though it would hurt her, because it would also be easier for her to know that I was happy and comforted. I do not wish her luck with Tim but I have hope that she will work through her process in the least painful way.

Soon in Xenology: Coping. Dates.

last watched: Juno
reading: Portable Darkness
listening: A Light of Some Kind

" Caliber | 2008 | Interregnum "

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.

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