Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a Boy who loved me very very much. In fact, this particular Boy loved me more passionately, with more unabashed zeal, attentiveness and dedication than any other man in my life ever did, right up until three years ago. This superior love far outweighed anything I’d ever experienced, including that of The Other Guy I was currently in a long-term relationship with.
It all started out very harmlessly, as these things always do. We went to tiny local concerts together and made mix tapes and wrote postcards for each other when we were apart during the summer and there was nothing romantic about it or evident of any sort of ulterior motive. We both had significant others that we loved and we talked about them regularly, although more often than not his shared anecdotes were more pleasant than mine as I was prone to crying on his shoulder, sobbing about how The Other Guy had lied to me again or had been overheard talking badly about me or was just not giving me what I wanted in general. Over time, however, his words of encouragement and reassurance became more intimate than friendly and I found that mine were following suit. Suddenly, we realized we were in the throes of very deep, very unexpected emotions.
Soon, we were spending even more time together and flirting with the idea of “where this could go” and really becoming overwhelmed with emotion and excitement of new love. And then he pulled out the stops and broke it off with his girlfriend to offer himself to me exclusively. On my birthday that year, he lined all 10 miles of the major highway route to our school with signs that said “Happy Birthday, Elle!” and planted a banner in the front with the same message. He stuffed 20 empty glass bottles with varied hand-written loveletters and gave them to me for Valentine’s Day. He adored my family, he came around whenever he could, he always kept up with how I was feeling, what I needed, what I would need… he was everything I had ever wanted and I was enamored with him.
And there wasn’t much not to like, really. He was one of those kids who came from a rough upbringing and somehow beat the snot out of the status quo. He was more determined and driven than any single person I’ve ever met to this day but, even more importantly, he kept about him this constant attitude of optimism and joy. He was a spiritual guy who always kept that at the top of his list, even though there was no parental figure holding a gun to his head to do so (This was a new concept to me.) and he was proud of that aspect of himself. He even took me to my first and only Christmas Eve Midnight Mass. He was open-minded, healthy, successful, friendly, joyful, spiritual, ambitious, creative, resilient… the list could go on.
The problem, of course, was that I was an emotional wreck of biblical, Jericho-like proportions. Usually, these stories have that pathetic theme: “Girls only want bad guys and nice guys finish last.” but this time it doesn’t apply at all, surprisingly. The truth was that I’d always wanted to be with someone like him; who doesn’t? And, specifically, I wanted him. But I – being submerged and brainwashed with self-loathing and general desperate insecurity – was positive that I was not deserving of this sort of happiness, that somehow I was going to screw it all up and only be reminded of how undeserving I was in the aftermath.
And me, never being one to pass up the opportunity to fulfill a personal prophecy, went ahead and did just that.
(WARNING: This is where the Crazy kicks in. Also, the Pathetic. I sound like a complete, psycho-ex-girlfriend-stalker-type loon from here on out. Just be forewarned.)
So, in unbelievably predictable fashion, I cowardly sprinted back to The Other Guy in the “safe” dysfunctional relationship I was familiar and “comfortable” within. (For those of you who haven’t spent years in therapy and/or 12-step meetings, this is textbook codependent/addict behavior. The more you knooow.) My heart ached as the Boy kept coaxing me to come with him and let him make me happy after I’d told him my decision, but once I’d finally settled on my choice, I transformed into something very very sinister and hideous.
From where I sit now I can only come up with one theory as to how my mind possibly justified my behavior immediately after this, but that doesn’t make it any less excusable or blatantly insane. I guess because I was genuinely ruled by the staunch belief that I was worthless, unimportant and undesirable, my mind concluded that anyone who would bother to try to romance me was a moron. I’ve discussed it before, but for years I had a very Eeyore vernacular, always thanking people for paying attention to me or thinking of me and always wondering why in hell I was included in any sort of social engagements at all. When I started dating The Other Guy in my earlier high school years I was just amazed that any male would find me desirable at all, so I settled for that and assumed that I was lucky to have even obtained that much. So, when I see the Boy continuing to go out of his way to make me feel wonderful and show me his affection and shower me with adulation, I start to think there must be something wrong with him.
Soon, I’m treating the Boy like a pathetic, lost puppy who is intent on over-romanticizing everything and must be desperate to still be pursuing me. I start mocking him and emasculating him, both to our mutual friends and to his face. I ignore his calls, laugh at his attempts to talk to me like a concerned friend, and try desperately to swat away any remaining emotions I may be experiencing.
Jesus Christ, it just seems so arrogant and ridiculous from where I am now… anyway.
When we got to college a number of months later, I found myself feeling remorseful and missing his company but, still tumbling down a slope of self-destruction, my attempts at apologies were always overshadowed by my desperate loneliness and my hopes that maybe he’d come back and try to rescue me again. Any formal apologies I initiated always turned into a weepy, clingy drama fest in which I would be torn between desire and guilt while he would just be trying to figure out what the hell he could do to escape without causing me to implode. Naturally, his resistence in these conversations translated through my insecurity as blatant rejection and sent me into even more despair. (Like I said: I. Was. In. Sane.)
Honestly, I just thank God he had the integrity and self-assuredness to get the hell away from me instead of letting me drag him into a quagmire of Crazy. It’s one of those things that’s rather admirable about him.
Anyway, I left that college after I hit Rock Bottom: Episode I in 2003. We kept in touch here and there but it was always kind of strange and stilted. Frankly, I was so amazed that he’d waste any more time talking to me at all that I didn’t care what our meetings were like, but I always felt that he saw me as some sort of charity effort and I fought not to loathe myself for that.
Presently, we’re both married to people we’re insane about. All he ever wanted was to find someone to love, get married, and start a family and, like with everything else in his life, he did exactly that right after he graduated college. We speak when we can, although conversations are always in that cordial, scripted, “Hi, how are you, I’m doing well, it’s good to hear from you.” kind of language you use on loose acquaintences and your parents’ friends. While I know there will never be any more singing or giggling or sharing absurdities, I am quietly heartbroken at the knowledge that there will never be any reminiscience – happy or otherwise – between us and the realization that this is entirely my fault.
I found myself thinking about all of this after I recently came across a friendly “Hi, how are you…” message from him in my inbox from many months ago. And I realized that, even after all these years of real, intense apologies that I’ve had to issue to pretty much everyone I’d ever spoken to before I got sober, I never bothered to give him one. Yeah, there were a half-dozen of those drunken, blubbering apology sessions I previously mentioned but I’m positive those couldn’t have been taken seriously.
So, after 8 years I sat down and wrote him a letter in which I sincerely apologize as a sober, [mostly] sane, self-realized adult. Truthfully, I really hate doing that sort of thing after all this time because it kind of makes me look like some obsessive freak who can’t let things go and needs to rehash shit that other people have obviously laid to rest and gotten over. Most of the time I feel like I’d be better off just leaving it alone. And heaven forbid if this somehow gets misconstrued as me trying to instigate trouble or something else.
But, as per my Twelve Step practice, I know it’s something I’m responsible for and, even if I never hear from him ever again, he deserves to hear at least one sober, sincere apology from me. And frankly, if I went to my grave knowing that I didn’t grow a pair and give that to him, I’d never rest peacefully.
However, THIS? THIS is what we should be talking about in those government-funded D.A.R.E. programs. “Hey kids, you shouldn’t drink because one day you’re going to have to look at all the carnage in your rearview, pull a U-ey and clean it all up.”