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Relationship Allergies

8 Mar

Yesterday was Saturday, and by chance, D and I were both free in the afternoon. We’ve been seeing each other for almost 4 months and our dates have almost always been nightly encounters, in my living room after my Boy went to bed, or on my night off, out at the movies, having dinner, or under the covers, in and out of sexy outfits, or watching a movie curled up with a cup of whiskey tea.

We both have kids, we both have jobs, we both have very limited time to spend with each other. He puts in an extra shift on Saturday to make ends meet, and we have to say goodbye at 6 a.m. on the only morning that I can sleep in. That’s just the way it is for us, and it’s been fine so far.

Not to mention my new rule of no sleepovers when my Boy is home. For the last two months I’ve been pushing it, allowing myself to fall asleep in his arms and waking up at 5 a.m. to sneak him out of the house before my Boy awakens. But last week, he had bad dreams, and came into my room crying at 3 a.m. I jumped out of bed and picked him up. “It’s OK sweetie,” I soothed him and myself, as I put him back in his bed. He didn’t see D, it was dark and he was half asleep but it freaked me out enough to wake D up and send him home right then and there.

So when we found out we would have a free afternoon together, we were pretty excited. I had all kinds of ideas for plans. We could go to the beach, or to the marina to walk by the water and sip beer and look at the yachts. Or we could catch a movie, or get sushi, or try to find an art exhibition to see. “I have an idea too,” D said, and since I tend to be bossy, and I’m working on it, I went with the flow.

D wanted us to go to the park for a long walk. It was nice to walk with him, in the cool breeze by the little lake with the ducks swimming about and the toads croaking loudly and mosquitoes biting my everything. After our walk we went to the grocery store to buy vegetables, and that’s when I started feeling weird. We got lettuce, mushrooms, tomatoes, a red onion, olives and feta cheese for a spectacular salad. D picked out the beers. We left the store and at the car he handed me the keys which he’d been keeping in his pocket for me, and I handed him the groceries to hold while I opened the car door. As we entered the car I felt a familiar yet distant feeling in my gut, a certain niceness, a plainness, a just-another-Saturday-eveningness, buying groceries and making a salad. It was odd.

We got home, made dinner and sat down to eat and watch a movie. I was enjoying the quiet comfort of being together with no expectations. But I wasn’t able to completely relax. My body was reacting to something, sending warning signals up from my feet to my knees and into my gut, making me a little short of breath. This is bad. The last person I shared such intimacy with ended up destroying me. Temporarily at least. I don’t want this. I don’t need this. A walk in the park! Salad! And he sits there on the sofa, and you wouldn’t believe it, scratches his scrotum right in front of me. No. I want to go back to nightly sex sessions and dark movie theaters and drunken silliness. I was so freaked out that I didn’t take my hands off him for the rest of the night, making up for a moment of intimacy with wild sex, until he basically told me he was exhausted and needed a break.

I had relationship allergies yesterday. I had a bad reaction to a moment of closeness that I used to crave. My favorite times with BD were evenings like this one, strolling in the park and making a salad. I used to love going to the supermarket with him. Having him hold the bag as I opened up the car door. I don’t know if I can do that again though. And maybe it’s a good thing that we’re so goddamn busy. It’ll be ages before we have an afternoon like this again.

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A Beautiful Cup of Sun and a Moment of OK

7 Mar

Some things I wanted to tell you, M:

Well, first, D told me he loved me, and since then things have been pretty sweet with us. We haven’t said it again, but we’ve been much closer, acting more like a couple, having fun and sex, and holding each other, and saying stuff like I’m crazy about you and basically enjoying one another. We have these inside jokes going on now, that I know you’d appreciate. And he’s totally up for watching cheesy late 80’s – early 90’s romantic comedies with me and judging everyone but secretly enjoying them. We had a ball with Mystic Pizza and we watched Groundhog’s Day last week, which I’m sure you’d approve of. In the middle of the movie he actually said, “They don’t make movies like this anymore”.

Other than that, I wanted to tell you that we’re going to Santorini in the spring! J, E, G and me. We’ve already bought tickets and everything. End of April. And it’s going to be amazing. My birthday comes up before that, and this year I’ve decided to throw a party, with drinks, music and dancing.  Remember that year, when you first moved to the city, you got all your friends together at a small bar downtown and got really shitfaced? You repeated that tradition in the years to come but that first time was so much fun.

This morning it was hot, way hotter than it should be this time of year and I wore a new skirt I got at that boutique you like, the one I can never go into without spending a fortune because everything is so beautiful. It’s green with white polka dots and little brown-goldish feathers. I wore it with black tights and a black tank top and it looked awesome. I went into town to meet J for coffee at a place that opened up rather recently, when you weren’t drinking much coffee anymore. I love that place. You enter it and are immediately overwhelmed with a craving for the warmth and comfort of a morning’s first cup, and it makes no difference if it’s actually your third.

I sat there with J and we chatted. She told me about a new guy she started to chat with online. As I looked at her I saw a giddiness that I hadn’t seen in a very long time and I asked myself if it’s been that long since we’ve been happy that we might not recognize it when we felt it again. But I totally recognized it. A spark of beautiful around-the-cornerness, anticipation of good things that may be coming. Obviously, shitty things will always be coming too. But I think we know now to look for the good, we’ve learned that we need to embrace it – NOW – because who knows what will happen tomorrow.

As I sat there in the sun, with J, drinking coffee, munching on an oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookie, I felt it. The sun, the warmth, the air standing still, my shoulders and feet bare in my tank top and flip-flops, the ice cream parlor nearby, the people riding their bikes, J’s smile, it felt like it was OK somehow. My first instinct was to jump up and say that it isn’t, defending your memory means I need to grieve you, still and forever.

But no. Instead here I am, telling you about the things that are good, the stuff that works out. I promised you we’d be alright, and I wanted you to know that we sat in the sun and smiled and drank coffee today, talking about boys, planning a party and a trip to Santorini.

It’s been 49 days without you. I miss you so much. Horribly, terribly, devastatingly, enormously, outrageously. I will always miss you. It surprises me that despite that, I am able to allow a glimpse of lightheartedness in, through my exposed toes, in desperate need of a pedicure, through my bare shoulders, soaking up the sun. It wasn’t escapism this morning with J, it was simply good.

He’s Here and He’s Good to Me

24 May

There’s a new man in my life. Unexpected, it seems to me, predictable as hell if you ask my friend M.

M says I don’t know how to do casual, and she’s probably right. Here’s something I realized recently: I started dating B slightly under two months ago, and from the start anyone who asked me about him received the same answer: It’s fun, but it’s not going anywhere. B is nothing like me. We are drastically different in our occupations, interests, preferences, lifestyles, our mother tongues, our cultures, in the way we manage our interpersonal relationships.

Oddly enough though we are eerily alike in spirit. We share similar personal experiences. We’ve been hurt in similar ways. We have similar self-constraints. We’ve overcome similar obstacles. We take pride in our (sometimes overly) high self-awareness. We both basically think we know everything there is to know about ourselves and it takes us by surprise if someone manages to point out something we’ve overlooked.

And there is another striking similarity: We are both fearless. I don’t mean that we know no fear. At least for me, fear is an emotion I have gotten to know rather closely these past two years. But I don’t let it run my life, anymore at least. On the contrary, I am often aware that if something scares me to death, it may be just what I need.

So last night, when I said ‘I love you’, and I felt like I might faint, I knew it was probably a good thing. I could feel myself starting to think fast. What the hell am I doing? I hardly know this guy. He’s probably going to hurt me. Anyway, I’m not looking for a serious relationship now (I bet M will laugh as she reads this).  Why can’t I be a little less impulsive? Why can’t I keep my mouth shut? I bet he’s not going to say it back.

He did, though, about fifteen minutes later.

As we lay in bed hugging after a session of mind-blowing post-I-love-you sex, I remembered suddenly that I was sure things with SG would be casual. I had no intention of falling in love with him.  But what’s even more interesting is what I remembered next. Meeting my friends after a 4th date with BD, nearly 15 years ago. Describing our relationship as a ‘casual-summer-fling’. Telling my friends we were going to take things slow.

So M may be right. I guess I don’t do casual. I guess I’m easy to fall in love. I don’t know if that makes me easy, or overly accepting. Is it odd that the first guy who hit on me after my breakup, became probably the greatest love of my life? That it was more difficult to overcome my breakup with him than with my husband, father of my son? That thinking about him still triggers emotions that I haven’t felt towards BD in years? And is it odd that as soon as I was ready to start something new, the first man I dated, that I intended to lure into bed after months of unbearable loneliness, was able to provoke similar emotions in me? Being as different as he is from me? With all the little things about him that I find almost intolerable? His dog-eat-dog profession? His work stories that make me cringe? His incomprehensible taste in music? His freezer, crammed with frozen pizzas and low quality non-dairy ice cream?

But there we were last night. Laughing about something in bed. It’s so nice to just laugh sometimes. I do that a lot with him. He asks in Spanish how I feel, and I answer ‘bien’ and he asks me that every so often when we’re together, because he really wants to know. He always wants to know how I feel. He respects my boundaries: the things I cannot do, or promise, or say. He remembers what I like and dislike, and it matters to him. He’s here. He’s good to me. So I feel entitled to love him, even if it means nothing more than stating what he makes me feel.

I guess it’s true, I may not be capable of casual. I may be prone to falling in love. But am I capable of just being? With someone who is kind to me? With someone who is there?