So tonight was kinda weird. I almost ran into my ex common-law-partner-guy. I say almost because as soon as I saw him I kinda looked the other way and hightailed it outta there, wondering why things happen the way they do–why events align perfectly to give you that run-in with the ex, for instance.
My ex (who I refer to as the V) and I use to live on the north end of town, (in rush hour it’s about an hour’s drive), and since we split up a few years ago I’ve been living on the south side of town. This means I rarely find myself on the north side. But he still lives there.
We were very unhappy for most of our 7 years together and for a while there we “broke up” every single weekend. Eventually I got to a place where I couldn’t take the misery and I ended it for real. He took it very hard.
Some time after the initial break-up, we thought it would be a good idea to have a much-needed talk about our plans. This was while he was pretending to be all sane about the whole thing. See, he initially freaked out, and then I think I went to visit the parents (it’s all kind of a blur) and when I came back he was calmer. So we thought we could be mature adults and have a meal and talk over our plans and whatnot. Mistake #1, thinking a nice meal would make the whole thing feel more “civilized”. Mistake #2, having that glass of wine with the meal. Huge mistake #3, thinking “hey, that wine was nice, let’s grab a bottle on the way home”.
I don’t remember the exact moment the night disintegrated into madness, but disintegrate it did. We became emotional, and he cycled backwards through acceptance, then denial, then sadness, then anger.
At this point he was wholly drunk, and, being one of those people that should just never be drunk, became violently angry. He took it out on the wall, a television and a mirror. He did this with an axe. Of course it was terrifying, or at least it should have been. But mostly what I felt was anger. Like it was contagious. I’ve noticed over the years my fear can turn to anger in a heartbeat. (Self-defense? Should I continue to dissect this? Should I Psych 101 the shit out of this? Or just let it be?)
Anyway, tangents. Or possibly avoidance. The rest of the story…
Neither of us were injured by this insanity, but as the night wore on, he said he would spend it downstairs in the basement. When I decided to check on him he was making a noose. (I swear to God seeing him tonight has caused me to re-live our whole break-up and I can’t seem to stop the tears.) Again, anger took over. I yelled at him, took down the noose hanging from the rafters, and hid everything and anything I could find in the house that could possibly be used as a weapon. Then when he started passing out on the couch in the unfinished basement, I sat there and watched him for the rest of the night. So angry. And of course immensely sad and guilt-ridden and scared. But it was the anger that saved me I think.
The next day, he blamed it entirely on the alcohol and practically begged me not to tell anyone. He promised me he would quit drinking and that he was okay. I couldn’t bear to disappoint him again, so I told him I would keep his secret. More guilt. Should I have contacted the suicide network? Should I have told his family? His friends?
After this night it was obvious that I couldn’t stay at the house while we figured things out, so I arranged to stay at a friend’s. Before leaving I sent a message to his best friend, telling him that he needs to keep an eye on the V. He didn’t ask questions but said that he would do it.
Fast forward, and the V is supposedly ready to be friends. I had decided that I would be whatever he needed–his friend, his punching bag (not literally) or a distant memory. I should have listened to conventional advice. I should have been the strong one and told him that we couldn’t be friends. But I had convinced myself that he had accepted the break-up and that there was nothing wrong with weening ourselves off of each other anyway.
Eventually I started seeing someone else. When I told V, he cut me off. Completely. I do respect him for that. For knowing at that point that he wasn’t really interested in friendship, that what he was holding on to was the glimmer of hope that the whole break-up could be reversed. After a while, he came around to the point of the occasional text message, like when he went to a comic expo and saw a bunch of Buffy merchandise, or when he was at a Future Shop and saw the Daria movies. He couldn’t not tell me about it. Remnants of me, I guess.
The V eventually found someone else, which finally brings this backstory full circle. Like I said, I don’t live on the north side. But the north side holds something very dear to me: cheap movies. Sometimes, I like to go to the movies by myself. I find it…peaceful, like it silences the monster for a little while. I like sitting in the darkness with strangers munching on popcorn. In fact, I wrote about it in Movie Distraction Goodness.
So, one night, I decided to go to my beloved cheap theatre, vaguely thinking what I would do, if, in the unlikely scenario, I ran into my ex at the movies. So obviously, that happened. I saw him parking his vehicle as I rushed into the theatre, praying to the almighty Gods of Awkward Encounters that I would be spared. So I was standing in line, looking all around me in paranoia, thinking that I’m hiding in plain site with all these people standing in line behind me and…oh wait. I checked over my shoulder like a spy trying to keep a cover, and came face to face with the V — on a date.
I couldn’t hide the shock and embarrassment, or the inexplicably persistent, psychotic smile that took over. I just couldn’t get it off my face. This is not funny. This is not enjoyable. Why the Hell are you smiling like a psycho??
Anyway, A+ for awkward.
Fast forward again. No contact at all for months and months. Me, always wondering how he’s doing; me, wondering if he’s still with whats-her-name with the really long, black hair from the theatre (who looked truly terrified that night by the way).
Then I had to make a trip to the north side for an appointment. This was yesterday. After said appointment I think, “hey, I’m never over this way. I should stop at that tea place I used to go to because, bubble tea”. So I stop there and order my bubble tea to go.
It’s not until later that night, when I’m home and realize I haven’t paid rent yet, that I realize I can’t find my debit card. I call a few places in the morning, and sure enough, I left my debit card at the counter of the tea place. Great. Now I have to make a special trip all the way back there in this suffocating heat.
So after work that’s what I did. I walked straight to the counter, asked for my card, made a joke about how forgetful I am, and started walking out.
And there he was. Reading something and sitting across from a girl with very long, black hair. I couldn’t bring myself to say anything, so I just sneaked out.
From the parking lot I sent a text to him just in case he saw me. He didn’t. I said that “I didn’t want to interrupt”. He said “Thanks”.
Long pause. Then…
“We are here signing mortgage papers for our first house.” Oh. Of course you are. I was there for your first date, I should be there for this milestone too, right?
“Wow,” I said. “What timing I have. Congratulations!”
End of conversation.