I Waited for This?
He was so transparent in his actions that I could tell the exact day he became bored with her
If I’m honest with myself, things weren’t great. If I lie to myself, things were on an upswing. I’d successfully convinced myself that we’d had THE discussion that would keep us moving forward, into the direction that we both wanted to go. The direction I wanted to go?
He was a pilot in the Air Force and he was called to duty more times than I can remember in the span of our four years together. This particular year he spent only 60 days at home. The previous years weren’t much better. As I watched him walk through security at the airport I cried and felt my heart sink like it did every other time. He was stoic. “For you,” he said.
It was our routine. He came. He left. I stayed in the same spot. Countless care packages, cards, letters, emails—anything to remind him I was waiting. I knew in my heart of hearts that he was my one. So why wasn’t he so certain? As each of our friends jumped past their next milestone—engagements, marriages, pregnancies, and babies—I waited patiently for our turn. He said he wanted it too, so why was our relationship stagnant? I blamed the deployments. It was easier than examining us.
She posted a comment on his Facebook page, “I hope my eyes are blue enough the next time we meet. And I’ll try to be less intimidating ;)”
The winky face pushed me over the edge and just as quickly as it was posted, it disappeared. The excuses piled high and somehow I became the crazy one who was imagining things. I knew what he was doing. We’d had many conversations about him being overly flirty. This time I knew it’d gone too far.
Three weeks later I buried my Paw Paw and had a blow out fight with my mother. One week after that he spoke the words that still reverberate in my mind, “I don’t want to be with you and I haven’t loved you for the last year of our relationship.”
Three days later he kissed her.
I didn’t learn this until many months later, but I knew. He was so transparent in his actions that I could tell the exact day he became bored with her. He tried to play it smooth when he called—I only answered because he emailed claiming to have business to talk about—but there was a pleading sound underneath. He was shocked by my aloofness and abrasive tone. I was tricked, it wasn’t business he intended to discuss; he had the nerve to tell me that he never said those hurtful words.
Panic ensued at the thought of his homecoming. On previous deployments I would skip class or arrange my work schedule to ensure I was there to hug his neck when he came down the steps. This time I was begging for an excuse to avoid the situation. When someone deploys as much as he does, they tend to not have a lot of friends, or the ones they do have are deployed too. If I were strong enough I would’ve told him to get a cab when he claimed to have no one to call on. I gave in.
The coldness of curbside service was jarring for him. As was the silent car ride home. Banished to the guest room, he decided to test his luck by poking his head in my room—our room—in the middle of the night. I gave in. I love(d) him. But I needed to hear it from his mouth.
“Did you kiss her?”
I’m still surprised by my calmness when I whispered, “Get out. Get the fuck out of my bed. Get out of my room.”
He quietly crawled out of bed, but was in tears confessing his sorrow by the time he got to the door. I didn’t care. I got up and walked to the office and, without a word, retrieved the box of mementos we’d both collected over the years. Birthday cards, playbills, post-it notes that I hid for him, and the paper with the words “I LOVE YOU” playfully dotted on it like stars from when we went star gazing and he told me those words for the first time. All of it.
On the way out the back door—towards the fire pit—I grabbed a grill lighter.
In the middle of a January night I sat on the ground in my robe, numb, and watched our memories float away in the air. I didn’t want the memories and he didn’t deserve them.