It Doesn’t Go Away Just Because the Ring Goes Back
Last night at 6:30 I walked in to Tonic to finally see exFiance. We’d made and broken plans to do this a few times…well, that is to say that we’d made and I’d broken plans a few times. For whatever reason, when the time came for us to sit down, I just found that I wasn’t ready. But earlier this week, when she’d asked me about meeting up (in an email) I decided to put my foot down with regards to my own (fear? insecurity?) and set a date and keep it.
6:30. At Tonic.
Understand this before I go on;
I don’t get nervous. I never really have. I’ve stood calmly at the free throw line with time running down or come around a screen knowing that I was about to take a “big shot”…I’ve sat, realxed and joking before huge business meetings that I was going to run when my company absolutely had to have the revenue…I’ve run lines with shaking actors minutes before the curtain rose without a quiver in my voice and I’ve run chords with guitar players with nary a shake in my fingers…that isn’t to say that I’ve hit the big shot, nailed the big meeting, or rocked the house every time. But if I didn’t execute, it was not and has never been due to nerves.
So, with that in mind I can now tell you that I honestly thought to myself “I’m coming down with something” as I sat on the Metro due to the sick feeling in my stomach…that when I noticed there was a slight tremor in my hand I felt completely certain that I’d caught some bug. It wasn’t until I found myself thinking that I should cancel this meeting because I don’t want to get her sick that I realized (only due to the aforementioned foot downing against backing out) that I wasn’t ill.
I was scared.
Scared of all 5′ nothing of exFiance.
Scared that I was going to somehow walk in there and go right back to freaking out in taxi cabs; hyperventilating and feeling most UN-INPY-like. That somehow there was something else that she could do to me that I hadn’t already been put through with some other right hook that I didn’t see coming.
Did I back out? No. I walked down Irving to Mt Pleasant, took a deep breath, hooked a right and started walking towards Tonic. I had consciously stayed out of this area to avoid chance meetings…and here I was, plodding towards an intentional one while I wrestled with making it to the door. And that’s the right word; wrestling.
It’s AMAZING to me how many excuses your body can physically throw at you at the behest of a mind that does NOT want to do something. Upset stomach. Headache. Sore feet. I noticed everything, and I did not stop. Lots of deep breathing accompanied every bizarre realization (Oh GOD…I’m carrying the leather messenger bag she gave me for Christmas! Does that mean anything?!) that hit me as I got closer before I actually thought to myself; “That’s ENOUGH” and I actually said out loud; “This is NOT going to be as bad as you’re making it out to be”.
And really, it wasn’t.
When I walked in I scanned the room and figured that she wasn’t there…only to have her pop out from behind a guy sitting at the bar not 3 feet away from me. Which scared the shit out of me, incidentally. I mean, it wasn’t like she jumped out at me and yelled “Surprise!!”, but it damn sure did feel that way. She smiled warmly, said goodbye to her friend (who I suspenct she had brought for some moral support…funny how it didn’t occur to me this would be hard for her, too) and hugged me.
We took a table near the door, and over the just-this-side-of-too-loud P-Funk started our awkward conversation. It started with my upcoming vacation to Maine and how my job is going…and then she started telling me about her work which has become, essentially, everything that she does these days. How she’s up and in the office before 8 every day, including Saturdays…about long hours and commitment levels. Side projects and volunteering, too. About commissions and tax schedules…and through all of this I sat calmly while feeling just flat out dumbfounded.
This was not the same person I’d asked to marry me. That woman couldn’t get out of bed for anything. She had quit every job she’d had as soon as it became difficult, or even just inconvenient. She didn’t go in for side projects…she didn’t save money…she wasn’t this…this…together.
And I don’t say this as a knock on the “Artist Formerly Known as Fiance”. Hell no. I loved that woman. I say it as a point of fact that needed to be recognized…by me. Here was proof positiive that she had done what she needed to do for her. I knew it was there even then, but it never occured to me that she’d find it without me.
Which is my own ego talking, really. And, yeah, I’d have liked to have contributed to it…to have been a part of it. Que cera.
I sipped diet cokes while she drank beer (for real) and we veered gently in to “how is this for you?”. We both answered honestly; that it was not easy. That we cared for each other, and wanted very much to remain friends. That this was just the first step in making sure that happened. I told her that I wasn’t really crazy about her timing, and that I really, really wished that she’d left me before we got engaged, or at least said “no…but here’s why” when I asked. She said that understood.
exFiance told me that being here was hard for her, too. That she had been nervous all day about seeing me but she was so happy that I’d come. That we were talking. She expressed shock and admiration for the fact that I wasn’t drinking to get through the meeting as she was, and we laughed a bit about the irony.
It felt good to laugh with her.
I told her getting engaged represented a massive mental shift for me…and that getting back from that proved harder than I’d hoped. But, that it didn’t preclude me from being really, really happy to see her so…together. Succeeding in the way that she is, that I always knew she had in her.
And then we talked about I Now Pronounce You. She told me how she’d heard about it, through a friend. That she read it and it was hard for her to see her life in print for eveyrone to read. I reminded her that it was, in point of fact, my life that was in print for every one to read. That it proved to be tremendously cathartic to write, that I’d never bad mouthed her, and that no one could ever possibly discern her identity from anything I’ve written…
She told me that she doesn’t read it anymore. I don’t know that I felt more relieved or disappointed, to be perfectly honest. For all the noble and petty reasons you can think of without me running them down for you, I’m sure.
The topic of INPY proved to be the end of my energy reserves. I could feel myself wanting to go home, close to door, and hit the couch. To do nothing. Say nothing. It wasn’t depression, but exhaustion. Truly. She was gracious about my stating, “I need to go”. Maybe even a bit relieved. It had been an hour or so, and I think we had both gone as far as we were prepared to go for the first time. Her friend was still at the bar and I assumed she would then turn and give her own recap to him once I left. I knew that I would write mine…but not when I got home. I was too tired for that.
We hugged a little less awkwardly than we had the first time and agreed to see each other again, soon…and it was not lip service. There wouldn’t be any more ducking it. Through it all what did indeed come through was our genuine and shared desire to stay friends somehow. We both recognized, consciously at that, the size of the footprint we’d left on each other.
It doesn’t go away just because the ring goes back.