One Six, Two Six

He wanted to tell me that he's seeing someone else. Cue the punch to the stomach. Followed closely by a wash of relief.

Sometimes, Jeremy makes me feel like I'm sixteen again. Upon re-reading that sentence I realize it sounds like a positive thing. But what you have to understand is that I spent my sixteenth year mired in devastating heartache. I remember one particular day that I was sitting on the porch roof outside my bedroom window and my mom actually came to tell me to stop crying so loud so the neighbors wouldn't think she beat me. Melodramatic? Hey, I was sixteen.

His name was Daniel. He was a year and a half older and totally gorgeous. Tall, wavy brown hair, killer blue eyes, pouty lips. He wore leather jackets and loved eighties rock. After the breakup until I moved to go to college I would look out my window every time I heard skateboard wheels on the sidewalk.

We used to lie in my twin bed and kiss for hours. He would look into my eyes and say "God, I love you." He told me I looked like a Victoria's Secret model. He made me feel something that I hadn't felt before. It wasn't love, exactly, it was more like utter adoration. For a girl who had been bending over backwards her whole life trying to please with little approval or acceptance in return, it was intoxicating. So when things started to sour, I turned a blind eye for a while. I overlooked the slights in front of his friends, the occasional demeaning comment, the rumors of cheating. And there's more. Things in my bedroom went from innocent stumbling fun to pressure and manipulation more quickly than I care to remember. He convinced me that we were teenagers and we were supposed to be exploring our sexuality, and that my reluctance was abnormal. He would force himself on me while tears streamed down my face, and his friends still called me the Sexual Anorexic. It didn't make sense to me, and I spent a lot of time feeling confused and coflicted around him. Until one day I didn't and I was just repulsed. We were sitting on my bed and he went to kiss me and I turned my face. That was the day I broke up with him. He was furious and hurt and he made me say the words "Daniel, I'm dumping you" before he would leave my house.

After a few weeks, the phone calls started. He would call in the middle of the night and we would talk for hours. He sent a dozen red roses in a white box to my door. He wanted me back. Beyond all reason and good sense, I was thrilled. He had seen the error of his ways and things would go back to the blissful way they were. All the unpleasantness, the confusion, the tears, it was all just a misunderstanding. I resisted actually dating him again though, and I couldn't really explain why. Then one night he called me begging, saying he would do anything to have me back, he'd change his friends, his clothes, his music, anything. I told him I didn't care about his friends, his clothes, his music. But there were changes that I would need. No more cheating. No more only hanging out at my house. No more acting dismissive of me in public. He was all about it and the promises poured forth. Then the last caveat: no more sexual anything for a while until I knew that I could trust him again. Silence. And then, "oh." And then he hung up. That was the last phone call. I stared dumbly at the phone for a while. And then I started to sob. Wracking sobs, heavy with rejection and shame. Sobs that returned to overtake me again and again that year.

Daniel went on to date a pretty blonde named Jessica. It seemed to me that he had moved on suspiciously quickly, and it seemed unfair that I was still moping around feeling terrible about myself when he was apparently having a great time of it. I heard later that he and Jessica had an even rockier relationship than he and I did, and he ended up dropping out of high school and taking copious amounts of antidepressants as a result. This news did nothing to lift my spirits.

Flash forward ten years. Now I'm twenty-six, and the more recent ex is Jeremy. Of course, a lot happened in those ten years. I had several other serious boyfriends, many of them wonderful people who are now my dear friends. In fact, before this week, I can't remember the last time I had even a passing thought about Daniel. Maybe when my mom told me she saw him working in the parking garage on Water Street about four years ago.

Jeremy works as a bartender at a popular local bar. He's shorter than me by an inch or so and a year and a half younger. He has dark hair and a beard. His lips are on the thinner side but he has the sort of smile that makes you so happy to see that you always want to make him laugh. And the kindest brown eyes. In looks, he is like the anti-Daniel. In personality as well, fortunately. He's a highly decent and respectful guy, and yes, things in the bedroom were always completely consensual and completely amazing, thanks for wondering. But things didn't work out, as things mostly don't, and in the last few exhausting months of push and pull, hot and cold, on and off, I found myself occasionally wondering if this was yet another case of overinflated infatuation that would leave me feeling used and empty-handed. And in the last two days, while I was sitting with the silence of another unanswered and unacknowledged phone call, I found myself unexpectedly thinking of Daniel. In fact, while I was writing this I noticed a few similarities between the two: the music mixes (though Jeremy didn't use tapes and would have died before including Warrant or Jeff Healey), the little love notes, the late night phone calls...and the sinking feeling that somehow, somewhere along the way, I was being deceived.

I just got back from meeting Jeremy for coffee on my lunch break; a regular thing we do since our schedules are quite often opposite. He texted me this morning which was the first I heard from him since the ignored call. He wanted to tell me that he's seeing someone else. Cue the punch to the stomach. Followed closely by a wash of relief.

I used to have this fantasy that after enough time had gone by, Daniel and I would reconcile, that one day we'd be able to laugh at all that had happened between us and that our original friendship would still be there. Needless to say, that never came to pass. In retrospect, I'm not sure there was ever a friendship worth going back to. That final phone call made it pretty clear what his intentions were. Jeremy, on the other hand, didn't only tell me about his new lady. He told me that he was sad too, that he had been nervous to break the news, but that it was really important to him to do so because of all the conversations we've had about honesty and the love we have for each other. As I biked away from the coffee shop, I noted a significant absence of wracking sobs. In their place was a lightness, an emptiness, a sense of pride. It was over, but we had done our best.

Both relationships had their fair share of craziness; in turns achingly crazy with attraction and with pain. Now I truly feel ready to let it all go. Oh but Jeremy, I'll get coffee with you any day.


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