K skyped with me this afternoon briefly. When they can get into the city they get on skype, otherwise they email every week, which is nice, but sometimes it just feels like they’re so far away… Which they ARE.
I have been trying to keep the happy face on because… I don’t want them to worry about me. They need to focus on K, but, miserable failure that I am at everything right now, I fell apart and started to cry. I turned away from the camera so K wouldn’t see it but he knew and actually shouted out loud at me to look at him. He doesn’t use his voice lightly. Hell, he doesn’t go on camera lightly… He made me explain and I gave the light version… M and I have ended our relationship and we’re trying to be “just friends.”
K and I had that conversation once upon a couple decades ago. I could see that memory on his face… the way his eyes shifted, the way his mouth turned… the pain never goes away completely, just fades to a little ember that you can usually store somewhere in the back and forget about but… it’s never too far from flaring again with the right puff of air…
Unlike M and I, K and I didn’t try to be friends. We said we wanted to be… someday. We said we loved each other. He said he’d take care of me as long as I needed while we sorted our living arrangements…
I remember the awkward and agnozing process of disentangling our lives. I remember him telling me that last day after he took my face in his hands and kissed my cheek that he was always there for me, just a phone call away. And I remember nodding and thinking that I had to never call… I had to be strong, even as I felt that I would crumble to dust right there on the driveway under the crushing weight of my pain.
I had planned not to cry, to save him having to leave me crying because I knew that would hurt him even more than we were both already hurting.
I cried deep, wailing, shuddering sobs as he walked away. He couldn’t hear me, but when he turned to get in the car, he looked back at me. I remember that moment, too. The look on his face was a lot like the one on skype today. That sharp flash of pain. He came back to me that day, gave me another hug and held me for a long time while I fell apart in his arms and felt guilty for making him comfort me when I was the one who had finally said the words we both knew had to be said and ended our time together…
He cried that day, too. I could feel the tiny tremor in his chest as I clung to him. He controlled it better than I could. I had nothing, no barriers, no pride, just sobbing until my knees went weak and I would have sunk to the ground if he wasn’t holding me.
Strangely I don’t remember him actually leaving though I know that he eventually did. I don’t remember anything until I stepped back into the house and closed the door on emptiness and leaned against it and slid to the floor. It was a paneled door and the ridges gouged my back but the pain helped a little as I sat on the floor and wrenched out my guts until finally a blessed detachment settled over me.
I wish I could find that detachment again. Seeing that look on his face this afternoon brought everything back, that pain, this new pain… the loneliness, the… everything.
I wouldn’t have been able to speak if I’d tried, but bless him he managed to sort out what I was signing as I said, “M didn’t understand… He was my best friend and he knew me like only maybe you… and all he thinks is that we fought all the time and that I never trusted him… I just want him to be my friend… I just want my friend…”
K waited, sort of… he started to respond twice but paused as I doubled over again with spasms of crying. Finally he asked if I was paying attention and I nodded, gulping air and self control.
“He’s not your friend. He’s your ex.”
The words seemed so harsh that for a second I just stared at him, disbelieving. He asked me if I understood and I felt like my heart had finally had enough and bolted. I just stared at him feeling empty.
“I love you, precious, but you have to hear this, you have to pay attention. He is not your friend right now. He is your ex. You can’t do this to him and expect him to give you rainbows and teddy bears.”
“You’re my friend…” I finally said, my hands feeling weak and numb.
“Now. Not then. Then I was your ex. You were my ex. Do you know how many times I wanted to call you to come over, to pour out my heart to you about this terrible breakup I was going through and how much it hurt and how miserable I was and how much I missed my girlfriend? But I couldn’t do it because you were that girlfriend. It sucked. I lost you as my lover and I lost my best friend all in the same package that left me needing you more than ever. But you were my ex and I couldn’t cry on you about missing my ex. Do you understand?”
Suddenly the sobs were back and the tears were spilling faster than they could drop from my chin… “I’m sorry… I didn’t want you to hurt…”
“See? See that guilt? It’s been so many years and still just me telling you has got you apologizing and crying and what would it have felt like back then? Don’t do that to M, precious. Don’t make him hurt like that. He’s not your friend. He’s your ex. You can’t tell him about the terrible breakup you’re going through. He’s not your friend anymore. He’s your ex.”
“But I don’t want to cut him off, and he said he doesn’t want to cut me off, we want to be friends… we don’t want to be apart like you and I did… we want to make it work as friends.”
K looked off camera and I knew he was listening to J. I wasn’t sure when J had come into the room or how much of the conversation he’d seen. It didn’t matter. K would tell him everything later but as K turned back to the computer I knew that J had seen enough to have a strong opinion. I saw it on K’s face, a struggle and a careful choosing of his words.
“You’re choosing a hard path. You’re choosing black diamond and you can barely ski the bunny hill.”
I contemplated pointing out that I had gone through enough relationships to have at least graduated from the bunny slope, but I was too tired to be indignant, even half-heartedly.
“I just want him to be my friend…”
“Then fake it. You fake it. He fakes it. You both pretend you’re okay until finally you both are. But it has to be fake. You can’t go crying on his shoulder like he’s a real friend instead of your recent ex. If you want to get to friends in the future, you have to fake it now. If you try to cry on his shoulder now you won’t make it to friends.”
“Are you still my ex? Is it unfair to be crying on your shoulder?”
His mouth quirked a little in an ironic smile.
“Part of me will always be your ex. Part of you will always be my ex,” his eyes shifted toward the camera. “You hid it well but it hurt when I met J. I knew. Some part of me feels bittersweet when you meet someone. Even being with J and even with all the years. There’s a little twinge. Always. Isn’t there?”
I didn’t answer, I was watching his face on the screen, wanting to reach out and touch his image, to have even that much closeness, but I was afraid that the cool, smooth surface of the screen would bring home how far away he really is and I would crumble again.
“I love you.”
He smiled slightly. “I love you, too.”
“Even though you’re my ex?” I tried to smile but I’m afraid it was pretty ragged.
He pressed his palm to his lips and kissed it then brushed his fingers across the camera lens in brief blur. “You’re going to be okay. It is darkest before the dawn and some bullshit like that…” His mouth quirked into the first genuine grin of the conversation. “We’ll be home in a few months. Think about summer, on the lake, introducing us to your new man you are madly in love with so we can judge his worthiness.”
He winked and gave me another kiss before we signed off.