Starbucks is too crowded inside for us to meet. I think about when I was a kid, maybe 18, and I would ask boyfriends to meet me for coffee so I could break up with them in a somewhat public place. It lessens the chance of a scene. That is what I thought men were always told, break up in public. But I always chickened out and asked the boy to go for a walk and then chickened out again and hoped that if I seemed crazy enough that the boy would eventually break up with me. It didn't usually work as they would find my craziness to be endearing idiosyncrasies. I had an eery feeling that my past had turned on me. I held my coffee in my hand and thought, God, I haven't been to Starbucks this often since I was 18 and didn't know any better.
"Wanna go talk in one of our cars?" He asks and I think, this is a bad sign.
"Yeah, let's go to mine," I say. We walk in the rain to my car and I click the locks, silently wondering if this was the last time we will get into my car together. Thinking, Dammit, I've been tricked. The other night he knew it was the last time we would spend the the night together. He knew that there was an end coming near and that it would be at his leisure. I am powerless. I hate being powerless. I realize that I am being broken up, in my own ways. In the ways I have broken others. I hear the Morrisey song,"Yes I am Blind," begin to loop in my head, when he sings over and over, "You are just like me."
There is this slightly awkward and high-schoolish moment. We sit in the leather bucket seats. I turn the engine on so that the seat heaters can kick in. I wait for him to say something.
"I'm freaking out. I am just freaking out," he says, his voice sounding a little strained. He looks at me for a second and then continues, "I just need space," he says, looking out the car window.
"Space? Space in a relationship or space out of a relationship?" I ask making sure that my voice shows no concern or emotion.
"Out,"he says, fixing his eyes on the empty Mervyns' building. The rain is coming down hard on my sun roof. I am wondering how well he can see the empty building through the rain splattered windows.
"So, you're breaking up with me?"I sound so matter of fact.
"I guess. I mean I really like you," he says turning his head farther away from me toward the passenger window. He reminds me of the giraffe I saw at the Santa Barbara zoo. It had a crooked neck and when it turned it looked like it must be in pain. I hope that he was in some degree of pain for saying and doing this to me, to us. You are just like me, Morrisey sings to me.
"You LIKE me? What? What happened to, I think I might really love you? Now you kind of like me? Did you mean anything you said?" My face is undoubtedly turning red. I hear my voice wanting to crack. I tell myself not to. I tell myself that I will not be emotional.
"I thought I meant it," he says. I wonder how far his neck can turn without breaking.
"Do you know what the joke has been with my friends today? It is 'how do you break up with a girl with a black eye'? 'Over the phone,' is the answer," I pause for his empty and reactionless face, hoping it will turn to me but it returns to the buildings across the parking lot, "You might as well be doing this on the phone, you won't even look at me." My face begins to hurt. I knew while at the hospital earlier in the week, as I lay there on the hospital bed waiting for the doctor to return and he washed the blood off of my keys, that something had turned. I knew the next day as we drank coffee that walls had arisen, they weren't there before. From the second we talked on the phone there was an amazing lack of walls. An incredible and inexplicable honesty. Something crisp existed between us. And there before me, that day, had been thick and concrete walls. I told him, he said he didn't know why I thought that but that he didn't mean to have them. I told my friends, they said I was possibly projecting, that I was over reacting. They all essentially said that I was being crazy. But I knew I wasn't. I know when I am being crazy.
"It's because I know I am hurting you. I didn't want to hurt you," He looks towards me to make this statement, but not really at me.
"You are hurting me. I trusted you. You knew I didn't trust men. And now you are showing me why I never should again. I cannot believe I fell for your lies. That is what they were right? Lies? It turns out everyone was right, you are a liar? A calculated liar?" All of my calm and cool rational behavior seem to be fading faster than my very breath. I want to stop myself, I look at my breath, it is little puffs of clouds whispering out of my lips.
"I didn't mean to. I really thought it was all true,"he starts to say and as much as I want him to answer I keep talking.
"I think I deserve explanations. I really do, after everything you have said. I deserve them," I say.
"You do. This is all of my fault. I did this. I wasn't ready and I freaked out and now I need to work on stuff in my life."
"You are being selfish right now, not just for breaking up with me, but for doing it this week. This is a horrible week for me. You couldn't wait until I at least didn't have a black eye?"
"I'm sorry," he almost looks at me.
"Was everyone really right? You aren't the guy I got to know? You were just pretending? Lying and tricking me?" I say, knowing I am sounding frustrated and flustered. There is silence, maybe 20 seconds goes by. This feels like forever.
"No. Who I was with you is who I really am," he sounds so sincere. He always sounded so sincere when he said intimate or endearing things. I think of the times he said that maybe three people in his life ever really knew him and that he felt like I was actually getting to know him and that girls he had been with for months and months had never really known or understood him. I honestly believe this is true and it is what I am thinking before I respond to him.
"Look, I want you to know what you want. I don't want to be with you if you don't want me. But I don't understand how you have switched. I just don't get it. I don't," I say and my eyes start to swell.
"I know. I just need to fix some things in my life," he says.
"So what are you going to do then?"
"I don't know," he pauses, "Go on a motorcycle trip. Just go somewhere."
"You're going to run away? Take it from me, if you don't stop and face these things you will never break your 6 to 8 month relationship cycle. I am a runner and I finally stopped a few months ago. That is how I have been getting it together. I faced things,"I say, my voice is getting faster.
"I know," he says, his neck arching back as if he has to see the sky. Maybe he cannot breathe here in the car. I turn the engine off to indicate that our conversation isn't complete. I am thinking that I am proud of him for sticking it out for this conversation. For not getting out of the car.
"I know you want this conversation to end so that you can be done with this. With me. So you can start to erase me. But I am not done and you aren't either," I am watching my tone. I don't want to be demanding. I don't want to be needy. I just want him to be fair.
"I am really sorry, you are so wonderful. This really is all of my fault." Ownership, I think, this is good. He seems to be growing. I ask myself why I am now thinking such nice things for him.
"I know you never feel supported. I know you don't think that women you have been with in the past are concerned about your needs. I am. I want you to figure things out. I want you to be happy. I just want to know if you don't want me in your life at all?"
"I can't be your boyfriend," he says.
"Do you want me in your life in any capacity?" I wonder if I am sounding needy or pathetic, "I don't want to be that girl. The one who is hoping you will love me. But a few days ago you told me you wanted to live on a boat together. You told me you had never felt this way before and that I was perfect for you. And now you don't want me in your life," I feel myself getting sadder and sadder.
"I want you in my life, I just don't in what capacity," he sounds slightly exasperated but more strained with confusion.
"You need to figure that out. And soon. I mean, I don't expect to know right now and I'm not going to be a sucker. I just want to know."
"I would say I want you to be my fri-" I cut him off.
"But that's insulting. We aren't friends and never have been."I am overwhelmed with this one particular thought of him. I am walking into his apartment. He has a green sweater on. He stands up and walks towards me. It is the moment I knew. The moment I knew that it was too late for me. The moment I knew that I had officially fallen and the moment that I became afraid. Afraid that he would leave me. That his perfection was going to fail and it would be over. And then, within days, it was.
"I know," he says, looking at me and then returning to the fascinating outside world. The one that calls him to run away. He is not at ease in my car. He continues, "I will write you. A letter or email."
"Or you could just call."
"Okay then," I say knowing that my flood of tears cannot last much longer inside my head. They are filling from my heart. That means that there are too many to contain. He reaches to open the door. As he gets out of the car, with no hug or apologies, he looks at me. I don't know how to look back or what to say. So I am silent.
6 months ago