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New Moon Rising | 2011 | Night of the Fungible Cellar Door

06.02.11 5:43 p.m.

Baby, lay your head on my lap one more time
Tell me you belong to me
Baby say that it's all gonna be alright
I believe that it isn't.

-Fiona Apple


On the Bound

Melanie tells me that she is going to pass back through New York on Sunday and would like to see me. I, understandably suspicious, ask her why she will be here again so soon. She answers that she is visiting Boston to see [Miss X]. I tell her that I can't live with myself being a pit stop to the girl for whom she left me and she says "that's legit, I guess". If she were just my friend, if she had never gone farther than a Jinx or a Jacki, it would be easy to give her affection and love just before (or, as she offers, after) she hooks up with some opportunistic near-stranger to vent her identity issues. Instead, I have to keep my guard up so I don't fall into something mutually destructive. I can't be used, I can't let myself feel used, because then I will hate her.

I am forced into setting the boundaries because she will not, to make certain she comprehends what is no longer allowed between us. (Shouldn't it be the job of the one who left to do this?) Yes, I enjoy her company. Yes, I love her as a person, I am glad she exists in this world. I cherish our time together, all I learned and who I became. But I am not hung up on her, I want very much to begin dating again and do not want to be with someone who treated me as Melanie has in her inexperience and confusion. If I encountered a woman extending herself for an ex as Melanie seems to ask of me, I would look askance at the very least. In all probability, I would be forced to shake some sense into her.

She says that I am not a pit stop and that she can refrain from stopping by if that is what I need. She offers that she can come to specifically see me at some point in the summer, if I would like, and she invites me to her parents' house. I cannot imagine the latter, however much she tells me that her parents now like me quite a lot - contrary to what she told me when we were together. (Her mother was happy to hear Melanie had not completely alienated me and is grateful to me for being so wonderful. Perhaps she is aware that my steadying influence is partly to credit with their daughter graduating with such a high GPA, something that would have been trickier with a stream of loveless hookups and their resultant collegiate neuroses.)

Whenever I try to talk to friends about the outline of this to get some insight, everyone (EVERYONE) tells me to just be done with her, to cut her out of my life and heart. I don't blame them, I would likely say the same thing if they were in this situation. I cannot even find it in myself to seek out people who will give me different advice, as I do not know that anyone would.

Melanie says that she doesn't want to do that which could be construed as using me. If I need there to be a period where we don't talk so I can get my bearings, that is fine, but she does not want it to be forever. I remain one of the most important people in her life, even in enforced absentia.

We rule that our relationships with other people and her sexuality are off-limits to our future discussions if we want to attempt a friendship (though she insists she would have no problem hearing about my falling in love with someone else, I do not want this barrier to be one-way permeable. All the same, she admits to reading in chunks what I write, so she will know when you do).

She then admits that her Boston plans are "up in the air" and likely were never going to happen, that she will instead see me at the end of July if I permit. I am grateful, as this gives me breathing room to heal away from her.

Days later, as she reiterates how keenly she misses me, she lets slip (accidentally on purpose) that she is packing to see [Miss X]. I feel our conversation is over, the taboo we set so quickly broken, this boundary tested. She writes "I love you" and I respond "Forgive me, I cannot say it back."

Unlike Melanie (who neglected to break up with her high school girlfriend - who had assumed they were still a couple upon reunion when Melanie had moved on twice over - and went through an severe depression when her initial college hookup told her he was done with her), I've had a few serious breakups and am trying to apply the lessons here. I cannot be perpetually tested for structural weaknesses, snuggled and spurned to see how I will react. I cannot give her what she wants when it comes at the expense of what I need. I think, on some level, she still thinks of me her boyfriend, even as she glorifies hooking up. If she wants me to be her friend, there are a different set of rules.

I remove all files to do with her from my computer onto a spare flash drive, which I lock away. I smudge my apartment with sage to chase away lingering psychic residue, physically giving my apartment a deep clean to unearth any Melanie remnants. I restrict our avenues of contact, though I hate to do it. There is no righteous vengeance for what she did (continues to do) to me. I do not regret the other night, holding and kissing her. It showed me what I needed to know, gave me the strength of convictions. Showed me that I can love her, however much I hate what she presently does in her stumbling, but assuring me I don't need her.

There are still times when I would like nothing better than to have my Melanie back, but I think she is almost a year gone. My Melanie, I flatter myself to think, would never have roamed or cheated. But this Melanie is not so different, perhaps she would have because she did.

I don't want to hate her but I more don't want to regret what I've done and thereby hate myself. I sometimes feel compassion for Melanie, because she is being self-destructive to figure out who this self actually is. When she clarifies, I want her to still feel that I will let her into my life, that I didn't give up on her by taking space. I am eager for Melanie to finally deal with this crisis and I regret how rough this is going to be for her.

Soon in Xenology: Coping.

last watched: Scrubs
reading: Anansi Boys
listening: Cake

New Moon Rising | 2011 | Night of the Fungible Cellar Door

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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