Register Wednesday | June 26 | 2019

A Man of His Word

"I have told three people I was in love with them. And I was. I have talked marriage with each of them, in some particular manner. The first was high school marriage talk, the second was college marriage talk, and the third was real marriage talk."

I once loved a girl who loved me back; she just couldn’t see her way to doing anything about it. Well, that’s not exactly, technically, really true. She did at one point. She flew out here to tell me how much she loved me, and when I beat her to the punch, told her that I was totally and completely gone on her, told her I wasn’t going to let a second chance to, told her that I was in, all in, for whatever and however, well, she just wasn’t expecting that part. She thought I didn’t return the sentiment. She was going to tell me and be gone. That way I would know. That way she could take her rejection and move on with her life. Only I didn’t reject her.

It’s funny how these things work out. How this girl, who flew halfway around the world 6 months after we met actually got what she wanted. Reciprocation. I felt the same. I was completely lost on her, completed whole around her. Every thought I had about her made sense, and, as I proved so many times over the past few years, there was nothing I would not have done for her.

So it’s funny how it goes. She got exactly what she had hoped for, but what she did not expect, and, in the end, after a long and drawn out process, she just was not capable of action. She was brave enough to take the risk of telling me how she felt, but not strong enough to complete the circle. In the end, she backed away from every single plan we ever made. I’ve never been able to understand that part.

But everything she said, everything we said together in those times, they are not lies. We mean them at the time. I believe she always meant what she said, every single word. I always did. Just because things don’t end up a certain way doesn’t make someone a liar, it just means the words aren’t true anymore.

Many, many months ago I ended a relationship with a girl who accused me of lying. This was after the relationship ended, while we were having that last, painful, brutal talk. She recounted everything I had ever told her, threw them back in my face as though they were proof of… well, something I’m not entirely sure of. Perhaps they were more proof of her pain than they were of any deception on my part. It’s a moment, not some enduring truth, but in the moment it can all feel so fucking forever that we speak in terms that maybe don’t end up to be so true, looking back that is. Now was I lying? Was the girl who got what she wanted and never did anything about it?

I have told three people I was in love with them. And I was. I have talked marriage with each of them, in some particular manner. The first was high school marriage talk, the second was college marriage talk, and the third was real marriage talk. Now, of course, since none of these things happened I guess I am now a liar again. I could just say that I never really meant those things, sure, I said them, and I said them with such conviction and sincerity, but the overall sentiment cannot be true because we don’t know how things end up in the end.

But I do believe it. I believe it so wholly. I have never been one to trick a woman by telling her things that were not true. And perhaps that in and of itself is a form of trickery, because the things I say, even if the words “I love you” are never said, things are certainly said that carry emotion. But I do believe them. Wholly. As I speak them they are the truth, and they will be in the future, too, even if things don’t end up the way that moment promised they would.

Blame Lloyd Dobler if you want. Or Troy Dyer. Because if I could I always would have been the guy beneath the window with a boombox over my head and “In Your Eyes” blaring to your window. Or I’d walk up to the front door, tortured and bruised, and tell you about the planet of regret stuck in my gut. Because if I could I’d bottle those moments and protract them over time, I wouldn’t want to, but at least I’d hate to see the sequels where Lloyd dumped Diane because she didn’t pay enough attention to him in Europe. Or Leliana went through another bout of feeling horribly sorry for herself and Troy just couldn’t hack it. Or they broke up for more real reasons than the sorry one’s I’m putting down here. My point is those movies end where they do exactly because of the vitality of those moments. And we don’t see what happens next. We don’t see if their relationships made it, because if they didn’t would it really cheapen those moments? Would it make them any less real? Am I really this emo?

(For those of you not following, that’d be Say Anything…, and Reality Bites respectively.)

It’s not necessarily my fault; I meant it at the time.

Ani DiFranco once wrote a song called “You Had Time,” perhaps the greatest break up song ever written. But here’s the thing, she wrote it in the midst of a blissful relationship, when she was perfectly happy. Of course things turned to shit, and at least she had the premonition before hand, and when that person threw all the amazing things she said back in her face, like she had deceived them, she had the perfect response:

“What the fuck are you talking about? I wrote “You Had Time” while we were fucking dating! That’s, like, the greatest breakup song ever! If you ever needed a warning sign, honey, they don’t get any more blatant than that.”

I’ve stopped trying to defend myself when a relationship ends. There is not point in telling the person that everything you said was true at the time, because it just doesn’t fucking matter anymore. The end is the end, and it’s never pretty.

If I had an ideal, it’s not one based on the movies, those are just the easiest examples to come up with. It’s more about Sunday morning, you sleep in, the person next to you rouses and rolls over and it’s just the two of you and the day ahead. And you’re not looking for anything to do; you would just rather spend the day with this person no matter what you do, even if it’s nothing. If you can do nothing with a person, if the silence doesn’t get to you, if you don’t panic or freak out after the honeymoon, I’ve always thought that was where you find out what the relationship is all about, and where you find the little moments that will sustain you for the rest of the time. Those are the times that hopefully add up to make you honest, and not a liar.

Why do so many relationships end when the silence begins? Why is silence such a bad thing? Sure, protracted silence may be the sign of something gone off heading, but silence around someone you’re comfortable with should just amount to comfortable silence. It’s not a bad thing. You don’t always have to talk.

I don’t know what the perfect girlfriend is for me anymore. When things ended between me and the girl who got what she wanted I found out a very peculiar thing.

When you’ve mentally tied yourself to someone else, when you believed all the things they said and all the things you said to her, when you allowed yourself all the little tiny daydreams of future times to come and your life together and what it’s going to be like.

The hardest part is separating yourself from that other person when all of the things they told you, the things that you believed, turned out to be otherwise not as they were. The hardest part is trying to figure out who you are without this future, without this person.

In the U2 song “One,” Bono sings these lyrics: “Did I ask too much / More than a lot / You gave me nothing / Now it’s all I’ve got / We’re one / But we’re not the same.”

Every now and then I will hear that lyric and think that it is somehow true, until I realize that it’s from a perspective I don’t put much stock in, because it would make everything that happened, everything that I’ve said, to her and to others, somehow untrue. It’s not that you’re left with nothing. It’s that you have to start making sense of something that’s still true in a different context. It’s not a lie. It’s just creative repositioning.

I know somewhere down the road someone might read this and interrogate me for it. It’s happened before. Somehow the things I write here seem to be taken out of a context of a person writing a given thing at a given moment and believing it at the time.

But what I say here is true. All of it. 100%. And even if it’s proven to be untrue, the fact that it’s here now means that won’t ever be a lie.