~Friday, August 21, 2009

DTPR - Defining the Previous Relationship

Christopher and I were sitting on the edge of the dock with our feet skimming the water. The sky outside was gray, matching the water and the distant islands like a muddy watercolor. In the last hour, we've sunk about a foot in height as the tide rushes back out to sea, exposing a group of barnacles on the posts flanking either side of us. Between us is a cooler of beer. In the last hour I've had at least 2 of them.

I took another sip. "So tell me about the girl that broke your heart," I tried. He never alluded there was one, but it would explain a lot of his closed-natured behavior.

"What girl?"

"You know, the one that broke your heart," I tried again.

He chuckled, "There is none. I don't let them."

I pointed at him with my beer in hand, "Ah, but there has to have been one for you not to let them. That's a lesson you learn the hard way."

He tells me some story about some girl in high school who, from what I could gather, cheated on him with his friend. And by cheating, I'm pretty sure we were talking kissing. He said it "sucked" but then he got his vengeance by starting to date some other hot girl, I think. I really wasn't paying attention. As soon as he finished, I voiced my thought.

"High school doesn't count."

Christopher insists that this could be the only girl to hurt him.

"All right. Well what about the last girl you were dating? Why did you two stop seeing each other?" I pried.

He smirked at my continuing attempt. "I can't remember," he paused. "Why do you want to know?"

"I dunno, Christopher. Might be mildly relevant."

"It's not."

I kicked a toe in the water, making a ripple in the otherwise silent ocean. I took another sip of beer and shrugged. "That's fine," I playfully teased. "I don't remember what happened in my last relationship either."

Christopher flashed his eyes at me and smiled, all of a sudden having an interest in this conversation. He took a long sip of beer. "I already know," he said as he looked back out on the water. It was dolphin-feeding time and we were on the watch for gray dorsal fins.

And then he said it. Or at least pretty close to it. Apparently I made one or two offhand comments over the past few months and it was enough for him to piece things together.

I should have known. This time around, he pays really close attention when I talk, and when I mention something revealing about myself that he didn't already know, he would slowly repeat it. I should have known he's been quiet while I've been talking, figuring me out.

So I told him. I refuse to tell him about the verbal or physical abuse, or about a lot of other things about that relationship, but I told him about the alcoholism.

Christopher, probably like most others, thought I was being dramatic with the term alcoholic, but then I filled him in on the DTs, the hallucinations, the foaming-of-the-mouth seizures, the trips to the emergency room for overdosing, the amount he would drink a day and when he would drink.

"That's bad," he said.

"So that's why I go to your fridge when you go to the bathroom and count your beer," I admitted.

"You do?" he asked, not upset.

"Old habit," I shrugged.

"And the time you yelled at me for saying I wanted a beer and you made me stick out my hands?"

"Checking for DTs," I said sheepishly.

Christopher was pretty non-reactionary, much like he is most of the time. He had told me before he doesn't really get upset, but that doesn't stop me from placing my fears on him.

"Are you mad?"

Christopher took another drink, "No. I told you I don't really get mad."

"I just didn't want to tell you because I didn't want to look bad." I broke eye-contact with the horizon and looked over at him, "I don't want to look bad, not to you."

"You don't look bad," he confirmed.

I go dorsal-fin hunting again and relapse back into my thoughts. "So that's why moving was so hard on me. I had to give up my apartment and independence to get away from him."

"You lived together?" he repeated.


"How long were you together?" he asked.

"Two years."

"TWO YEARS?!" he repeated again.

I guess Christopher doesn't have me all figured out then.

~Thursday, August 20, 2009

Crossing State Lines

Christopher and I went away together last weekend to my father's beach house in rural South Carolina. It didn't really occur to me the significance of being comfortable with someone you're going to go away with because:

  • You're about to spend 5 hours locked in a box on wheels together. This could create all sorts of conflict if one person doesn't like the other's driving, car temperature or choice of music.
  • In rural South Carolina, there's not much of an opportunity to look at another face for 3 days unless you drive 15 miles into town. So you better really like the person you're with.

Fortunately for the both of us and our sanities, this turned out not to be a problem. I think we both have pleasing and agreeable personalities, so nothing was a conflict. It basically went on where one person would make a request and the other would agree. If he wanted to stop for the 5th time in 4 hours to go to the bathroom yet again, I could have probably used another drink from singing along with radio. And when I made wrong turns (twice) and got us turned around, he never said a word.

We basically played house. It's easy to play house when you're in an actual house with house items. Christopher would grill amazing dinners for the two of us and I'd set the table. Back home, Christopher's kitchen table is actually a foosball table (a la Friends) and mine is pushed into a corner to hold my bags from shopping.

I would open up a kitchen cabinet and pull out tequila! margarita mix! a blender! none of which are in my apartment, and we'd make a pitcher of margaritas to drink on the beach. It was just so easy not having to plan things and just being able to use what was there. Having margaritas at my apartment would involve going to two stores and buying an actual blender.

There were a lot of firsts. The first time Christopher hooked up a trailer to a pickup truck. The first time we ever dragged a trailer behind the truck because it fell off during one unfortunate bump in the road. The first time I ever backed a trailer down a boat ramp. It was stressful situation and I kind of got frazzled (losing cargo on trailer or pickup truck into the ocean would have resulted in penalty of death, not to mention loss of access to free beach house). But we worked well together.

There was also a relationship first: it was first time we didn't go to bed at the same time. I'd go in early and he would follow when he was ready. The world didn't crumble.

We prolonged leaving on Sunday as long as we could, and when we finally pulled away, Christopher applauded, "Great weekend. Bye beach!"

There will be a few more stories, but I might just keep the details to myself. Feels more special that way.

~Monday, August 17, 2009


My mother kept her promise to me and did not serve my step-father with divorce papers until I moved out. She waited two days after I moved out.

She packed a bag and kept it in her car for emergencies. Hid extra sets of car keys by the garage door and made plans to stay at a friends house after he was served. She wouldn't step foot in the house unless someone was with her, so I found myself driving out to the suburbs on a regular basis to be there with her.

When we stepped foot inside the house, a handwritten note awaited my mother on the counter.

Sorry it didn't work out. Let's divide the assets without wasting money on ambulance chasers.

Bottom line: he didn't care. He checked out of the marriage long ago and my mother felt like even more of a fool for staying as long as she did and being so worried about him smashing the house.

He still doesn't know we know about the affair. It's supposed to be top-secret, confidential information until the end of the divorce proceedings when my mother demands most of the house my step-father already declared was "legally half [his]."

We knew he was partially checked out by having the affair. But when I got the last of my stuff on moving day and leashed up the Femme Fatale to go to my new apartment, my step-father did not say goodbye to me. My step-father loved my dog so much that he would insist on walking her to the car and petting her in the backseat and saying his goodbyes. Afterwards, he'd hide around the back of the house to mourn her leaving. This time, however, he didn't acknowledge either of us even when I stood at the door and called goodbye to him. And this was a week before the divorce papers were served.

I climbed the steps to my childhood bedroom. All of my afghans didn't make the move and still laid folded on a shelf in my closet. I walked in my now-empty bedroom and saw a single frame sitting on my barren dresser. It was the frame of the Femme Fatale that had been sitting on my step-father's bathroom counter since she first lived with my parents the summer I came home from college with a puppy. He returned the picture of her. That's how done with the marriage he is. The things he used to care about—me, my dog—aren't even worth a paper memento to him anymore. I already ran it by my therapist last week and she agrees he just doesn't care.

And it kind of sucks your father figure for the last 17 years can't be bothered. Just like your real father couldn't be bothered and found a new family. Like, what's so wrong with my mom and me? It's stirring up some deep-rooted rejection inside of me. Because when it's a family, you're not just leaving your wife. My mother may have filed the papers, but she was not the one to leave.

~Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beautiful New

This morning I woke up in my beautiful new bed in my beautiful new apartment with my beautiful new man. I opened my eyes to his freckled rectangular back with my pink shabby-chic quilt tucked across him. I smiled. If anyone had told me back in May that life would work out this way, I would have called her a liar and slapped her in the jaw for being so mean.

I still can't believe that this nice apartment is mine. I'm not used to the largeness of it. I also would have never been able to afford the furniture with the old boyfriend because I was always financially rescuing him with 0% interest. And zero credit reporting when he failed to pay me back. I've never known what it is like to have money and not have it tied up in someone else; the jobs I've had before him barely paid enough for me to live, much less save.

When he initially saw my apartment, Christopher walked around and inspected everything. "This is nice," he said. "Nicer than I imagined." He then sat on my new couch and picked up my TV remote like he had been here 1,000 times.

He looked at me. "I remember the last time you did this."


"Move into the city."

We've done this before. Christopher hardly ever brings up last time unless it's to his advantage, but I'm glad he's chosen now to do so. I'm glad he remembers.

And Christopher. He came back. Not only did he come back but things have turned out how I always hoped they would. I keep thinking back to this post and I see the same Christopher was always there. I just didn't know how to deal with it.

I had my therapy appointment this week and, among a whole lot of other things, I updated her with Christopher and me. And how most people in my life aren't exactly thrilled with my status update. Some want to see me date multiple guys. Others, I think, don't trust my judgment. Most just don't want to see me get hurt again, especially so soon.

"I disagree," she said. "You need an example of a good man in your life. Between your father, step-father, and ex you don't have one."

I softened, the worry lines melting off my forehead.

She continued. "And you are approaching it the right way: you are not hiding it because you told your friends. You're still spending time away from him with your girlfriends. If you two were living and breathing each other, I would be worried, but seeing him as you are- a couple of nights a week- is good.

"Don't your friends want good things for you?" she countered. "This sounds like a good thing and you deserve good after having horrible for so long."


So that's how I woke up this morning to his freckled back. Happy.

~Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Disclaimer: You are probably not going to understand this post. Details have been left out to protect my privacy. And that's okay with me. I know what it means and that's all that matters at this moment.

One of the most helpful exercises my therapist gave me was to sit down and write out every lie he told me. I tilted by head back and gave the first belly-rolling laugh I have had in months.

"Do you know how much ink and paper that will consume?" I shrieked.

She smiled.

"Just lies, or lies that I think he told, but have no proof?" I asked. I'm still not sure she knew what she was asking of me.

"Both. Even if you think he was being dishonest, write it down," she confirmed.

Once again I laughed and laughed and laughed.

The exercise took a week to complete. And several sheets of paper (front and back with no spacing to be exact). And both a blue and a green pen. It was like a floodgate. I started with something minor and simple (He was out buying gas) and soon my handwriting became jumbled as I tried to write as fast as the lies came to me. As fast as he told them to me.

She didn't tell me to do this, but I wrote the lies exactly as he told them. I wrote "My coworkers stole money out of my purse," not "He stole my money." And after I was done, I read what I had mostly believed for the past several years. Seeing it on paper in my own handwriting helped me to provide clarity at a time when I lost faith in that deep, important part of myself that feels appropriate feelings, senses truth, and has confidence in my ability to handle life's situations*. Lies that I unknowingly written on this blog and yet couldn't see the truth through the true-type font.

With the recent revelation, I pulled out a new sheet of paper and began to write the lies out yet again. Version 2.0. The original sheets are supposed to be burned/flushed/buried or destroyed as a symbolic way to release yourself from the lies, but I kept them because I wanted them to serve as a reminder of what I refused to believe again.

To not repeat myself I re-read that first list, and there are a few but distinct instances where I inadvertently added a single word to the lies. And the word I had added made the need for a new list redundant. I already knew. Somewhere deep inside me, I already knew the truth.

When I cried to my mother why when I found out this weekend, she told me that I ended up lying to myself as a survival tactic. "You were living in such deep denial because if you knew the truth at that time, you would not have been able to deal with it."

Looking back at that strategically placed word, I know my mother was right. I've never understood how some people can black out memories or information or fail to draw that fucking line between the dots like I did, but it happens. It happens and it's real.

*Codependent No More by Melody Beattie. © 1987.

~Monday, August 10, 2009

And then

I thought I was done hurting. And then I find out something that yet again shook me down to the core of Everything You Thought For the Past 2 Years Was WRONG. And I hurt in an entirely new and different way.

I'm not hurt by him. I'm a little angry, but I'm not crying any tears for him. The hurt and the anger and pain is directed mainly towards myself.

But there is no way you could have known, they tell me. Because you are good, you could not have known. And isn't it better to be GOOD and KIND and CARING than to know?

At this moment I choose not to forgive him. It is how I am choosing to deal with it.

A Million Little Pieces

I've been in my new apartment for a week and I still find myself tracing a finger along a granite countertop in the bathroom thinking this place is mine with a hint of I don't deserve this.

I think about Scott with regularity. Not with any emotional feeling or attachment. But I think of my apartment I previously rented and how he moved in and screwed everything up for me and I somehow think I still must be punished in my new life. I should pay penance; I shouldn't have bigger and better.

It's been quiet. It's been a bit lonely. But things have been good.

I'm in love with my new refrigerator. It's the most kick-ass, high-tech thing I've ever seen. I opened the freezer to load in my groceries and after a moment, the motor shut off and the refrigerator made this loud, annoying beeping sound until I closed the door. That's new.

I also love my central air. I set it at a pre-determined 78, just cool enough for me and the dog without making the power bill high. I still find myself shivering and looking for a blanket at night. I also cannot tell when it kicks on because the unit is completely silent. No clicks on the thermostat. No gushes of air through the vents. No tell-tale hum.

There are some downsides to the new place. I miss my valet trash service and don't really care for lugging garbage to the shoot. There isn't a designated area for the Femme Fatale, so I must walk her through the city neighborhoods instead of the safety behind building gates. The elevator is kind of slow. But really, these are minor inconveniences.

The other day I went grocery shopping. I walked down the aisles of Aldi's and put one of everything into my cart. I mechanically walked to the dairy cooler and grabbed the sticks of butter that I've had to buy for years. Then I remembered Scott wasn't here anymore and I was free to make my own butter choice. I put the sticks back and grabbed a tub of low-cholesterol margarine and smiled.

Scott pops up in my life as a reminder of things that were. When I stacked my favorite goblets in the cupboard, I saw the swirl in the glass and remembered last Valentine's Day when Scott got mad with me and smashed one of my glasses against the wall. I remember picking the broken shards off the floor, trying to determine what he broke until I saw the swirl. In my new cupboard I counted and confirmed I have one less. Seven instead of eight. My mother had felt bad for me and bought me a new box of goblets for my birthday. "11 instead of 12," I had said.

I imagine the same will happen come Christmas when I'll set up my collector's alma mater santa that he smashed in a million pieces after an angry swipe off the counter. My mother and I sat on the floor of her living room and spent an entire weekend gluing it back together, her shaking with rage the entire time. "It's always your things he breaks," she said.

My things. An absent goblet, 2 broken bowls, 2 shattered plates, and 5 smashed wine glasses. A cracked santa. We're all a little worse for the wear.

But we're still here. Well at least the santa and I are.

~Friday, August 07, 2009

Kicking the Horse

Even with the fella confirmation, I just don't trust a text DTR. I guess I'm not so with the world of technology and Facebook tagging and camera-phone shots of nipples. A text DTR simply would not do. I felt the need to pick at it like a scab.

I stopped by Christopher's the next afternoon to jump start his car battery. We locked his car and left it running for the next hour and headed inside. Again, I stared hard at him on the other end of the couch.

"You my fella?" I asked. Again.

"I guess," he said. Again.

"Is that all the enthusiasm you can muster?" I teased.

Christopher smiled at me. It reminded me of the very first moment we reconnected this year when we rode the elevator up to his apartment and just grinned at each other like idiots, having not laid eyes on each other for so many years. From my end of the couch, I gave him a huge smile back. I knew where the conversation was going, but my Christopher was not going to go gentle into that good night.

He shrugged. "I don't like labels," he tried. When he saw me open my mouth to protest, he quickly amended himself, "We're dating."

I am a single girl of 28 years old. I know all the bases and I know all the possible definitions of dating lingo. I remember actually going through each term one night at a bar with my German guy friend in college.

"No," I corrected. "Dating is a public annunciation of intent, but it does not encapsulate exclusivity."

Christopher playfully rolled his eyes at my formality. I had just gotten off work and hadn't switched off the vocabulary yet.

"We're seeing each other," he tried again.

I nodded. "Seeing each other is a step up from dating, but exclusivity is not implied."

"I'm a friend... who's a boy."

"Absolutely unacceptable!" I cried.

He was silent for a moment. I zoned out and started paying attention to the story on the news. "Fine, I'm your boyfriend," he conceded. I looked back at him, surprised. That wasn't much of a fight at all.

I cheered in victory and kissed him on the cheek. Christopher, despite acting non-committal, was smiling too. He was playful during the conversation and never actually protested. I think he was just as pleased.

I felt like the fat girl who lost all the weight and all of a sudden got the guy. You know, the guy. Mr. Heartthrob. This should be a huge victory. But I feel surprisingly ordinary.

It's like a birthday. You'll expect you'll feel different once you're X years old and when you get there, it's like any other day. I thought I would feel different having previously emotionally unavailable Christopher as my real, live boyfriend, but I don't. I guess I thought I thought I would feel special. I'm still me with all my problems and flaws. And goals and aspirations.

So we'll see.

~Tuesday, August 04, 2009


This isn't the first time Christopher has tried to come back into my life. The last time—wait, let me stop and laugh here—was right after I met Scott. And I chose Scott. My heart literally hurts because of all the pain that decision has caused me. I remembered Christopher's closed nature and in front of me was a guy I didn't know that was promising the world.

I am now of the belief it's better not to fall for the guy who promises the world. I'm sure there's a song written about it somewhere that I just didn't get around to listening to yet.

I had asked Christopher recently when is last relationship was.

"Relationship? Um, er," he stalled.

"Last time you said 'girlfriend,'" I clarified.



He paused, "Of 2007."

I mentally calculated the difference in time. It was a few months after he called me. He called me when he was ready. And maybe I would have been ready had I chosen Christopher in 2007, but it turned out I wasn't ready for him. Perhaps it took all of my pain and heart ache to get to the good place that I am now. When I started dating after Jack, it was solely to run away from Jack (I really wished I used real names on here because I'm having a hard time remembering who's whom). I got rid of Scott on my own. It's probably the only decision I've ever made for myself in the dating world.

The fact that Christopher contacted me after two more years of silence makes me think he's ready again. Christopher and I are going away for the weekend in a couple of weeks and I woke M-Joy up to take my frantic call over the great debate of birth control. "You can't do sexy things at the beach with condoms," I justified.

"Do you trust him without a condom [but on birth control]?" she asked.

"Yes, but I already told him I wouldn't be on it unless we were exclusive," I whined.

And she gave me some breezy Cosmo answer. I don't have to stay on it after this month; I can get back off of it. It's not a big deal. I am in control here and can make the decisions. As if it were that easy, and it was to M-Joy.


I stared down Christopher on the other end of his cream-leather bachelor's couch. "You seeing anyone else?" I blurted, the tone of my voice a little more accusatory than I meant.

He faced me, wild-eyed. His green eyes were a lot darker than they appear in my head. They looked dirty, not to mention a little scared. I think we were both shocked at my verve.

He was silent and we had unintentionally entered a staring contest trying to gauge each other's intentions. "No," he admitted. "Are you?"


We turned back to watch TV. It was an answer, but one that really meant nothing. We're not seeing anyone else currently, but it didn't promise anything next week.

The next afternoon I get a text message from Christopher.

CHRISTOPHER: "You getting on birth control?"

SARAH: "You going to be monogamous?"

C: "Umm, yeah."

S: "Good. I already called the prescription in this morning."

C: "Yeah? LOL"

I stared at my phone. Was that it? Did we just have the DTR over text and I now had a boyfriend? My old self would have obsessed over it for 6 weeks before finally getting really drunk and asking him what the hell that meant. My new self typed back.

S: "So you're my fella?"

C: "I guess. LOL only not laughing out loud."

S: "Now what does that mean?"

C: "Defense mechanism."

And that's probably the unsexiest conversation I've ever had.


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