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After my last entry I realized that re-living through some of these moments… it brings new life to the past. There is pain in the past that I never acknowledged.

As much as I don’t regret not reaching out to Justin in high school, I still wish I had been bold enough to stand up for myself. Now all these years later, I have changed myself, but it seems that my passive behavior is still existent either in bouts or for particular situations. For me, this passive behavior is unnecessary, and I know it, which is why it still hurts that I have not yet changed my ways.

My Junior year of college – following the summer I spent silently hating flirtatious men and anything that remotely looked like a chance to be in a relationship – I regret that I let a friend talk me into being friends with Henry for his sake of being able to hang out with both of us.

Before this request was made, there was one truth that I had yet to acknowledge, which started to emerge after seeing Henry again after moving into the dorms for the semester… the same dorm Henry was at so it wasn’t a meeting of two estranged souls. It was a spotting by both sides of the other and the clear refusal on my side to acknowledge him. I had no intentions of being wrapped up in a warped friendship with him as I knew where that would go. If he dared approached me, I was ready to be as abrasive as need be to keep him away.

However, he wasn’t about to approach me and within the first week of being in the dorm, I would come downstairs and find him hitting on new women. He would slightly hesitate as he saw me. I continued about with what I needed – if it bothered him that wasn’t my concern. In my mind it was just a further confirmation that he was not mine. That I should be moving on, but the thought of moving on made me pause. I knew I deserved better than what I had got last year – the back and forth, the apparent lack of care he had towards my feelings, his selfishness, and the fact that somewhere in the middle of it he had told me that he had never intended for our relationship to last as long as it did.

The plan had always been to break up with me.

And most importantly, as we fell apart I witnessed the reality of the relationship – that somehow, I only knew some fictional version of him – that the man I fell for did not even really exist. That the confidence he exuded when we first met was nothing more than talk.

However, the breakup had remained like a fresh wound upon me. I had told myself it was because he was my first, but the reality was that I had put renewed hope in that fictional character – that that man would return and I hated the man he was right now because he was hiding that man from me.

What was really before me was the need to grieve.

I had never given myself the chance to let go of my perfect man – the man I had fallen for – the man that didn’t exist even though his body was a few feet away from me. He had existed to me as any other human, and he had picked me over all others. He was never the man before me or on the other side of the phone when the other one ended things. The one that ended our relationships was always this other man, this broken pathetic man. The only way I could reconcile the truth was believing that Henry as he was now was Henry and that the Henry I loved – had loved – had died.

To say that Henry had just quit loving me… I don’t know why I couldn’t bring myself to that thought at that time, but I think part of the reason was because if I went down that route I would then try to pick out what I had done wrong – as if all of it had been my fault when he was the one who broke. I just didn’t want to pick through it all.

The reality that I believe all these years from then is that he was a weak hearted man. He was a typical man without any prior relationship experience and his lack of experience meant that he entangled himself more than he meant to in the relationship we shared because he had found himself actually really enjoying it. However, he was supposed to live up to expectation of his father – he was supposed to date around so he would know who he wanted to be with. He had thought about throwing those thoughts out the window until his ego and pride crashed to pieces during the second year of our relationship. The moment those broke is when all hope of us making it vanished.

I was too nice – too easy a target for flattery. I was sincere, which made it inviting to stay. However, I was too smart for my own good. Altogether… there was nothing about my behavior that needed to be changed – at least not at that time.

Later, when I spent three more years on Henry, that hope that he would return was rekindled as that man appeared in spurts. The most memorable being when he went to see family on the east coast and he spent a crazy amount of time picking out sea shells for me. However, my memory remembered how hurt I had been over his inability to handle my intelligence. My remarks were sometimes hurtful because my subconscious wanted to weed him out sooner. My heart wanted to wrap my arms around him and tell him he was just fine.

It was my half in and half out behavior that hurt him and myself. Either I wanted him gone or I wanted him. I couldn’t have it both ways.

At the time, I just told myself that I wasn’t hurting anyone by letting it drag out and that it was nice… and that the longer it went on the more likely he would just come back to me. However, the only form of the man before me was the weak man.

It reminded me that I had grieved for my loved one.

It reminded me that I was chasing a fool’s hope, and sooner or later he would prove that was the case to me.

And he did.

In late October, he let me know that he didn’t believe I had feelings for him, that he believed I didn’t really want him around when I was with my friends, that I had intentionally met up with other friends I had just bumped into, and overall thought lowly of him.

If I didn’t have feelings for him, then why did I keep dragging myself through every hellish moment of the second attempt of the relationship? More than half of it was me waiting for his weakness to pass and for him to talk to me again. Every other week it seemed like something new would worry or bother him and he wouldn’t speak to me when he was free.

I still carried hope that he would return. Even when I believed the hope was gone, it was there. I sabotaged every single relationship I had tried to start without him, I dreamed about him, I worried about him, I cooked for him when he needed it, and more. I let him walk all over me for the chance to be with him. I wanted to marry him and his craziness until that day.

That day when he questioned my feelings, my character, and my belief in him it just broke me. I cried in his arms and he never once let me know anything was going to be okay. He just sat there like a vindicated unfeeling statue. I had unintentionally hurt him, and I told him that I had not meant to – I explained the whole thing. And it meant nothing to him.

He only saw me as a woman who didn’t love him, who looked down upon him, and was laughing about him with others.

I had never pretended to be anything I wasn’t. He knew that, so why was this his view of me? When I poured myself into him, did he just toss those feelings aside?

It was too much.

I couldn’t do it anymore.

I couldn’t marry him. I couldn’t bring myself to stay. I wanted out so badly, but I didn’t know how to do it without hurting him at a time he was actually doing okay with his courses. I couldn’t be the reason he didn’t finish, so I stayed.

I stayed with him through November.

I stayed with him through December.

I watched him graduate.

I typed up an email to break up with him. I typed up text messages and letters.

 

I found myself unable to send any of it. We talked every day while I worked on my graduate degree. Finally, things came to a head. I was slipping. Every inch of my mental self was spiraling out of control. The work I did was half-hearted. The results that were produced showed that truth. At the rate I was going, I wasn’t going to make it through the program.

I had moved to an apartment that was far from the college and on my way home, I was exhausted and having trouble staying awake. But I just needed to be home. I felt like I was being chased by my personal demons. To help fight them off I called him.

He didn’t get it. He only showed concern when I called him out on it because he was about to hang up on me after sounding so unconcerned. I told him I was tired and driving, and instead it was as if it didn’t matter, which reminded me of October.

I had to end this, but first I had to make it home.

It was late. No one would be awake.

But one name came to mind.

Justin.

 

Almost three years ago from that moment, I had messaged and found out his number had not changed. He couldn’t believe it was me. We fell into easy conversation – straight to our personal lives. And he had asked me out. I had gone out with him once only to find out he had been damaged by more than one weak hearted woman. When I asked him what he wanted to do, he said friends.

I didn’t have the heart to fight then.

And in this moment, I remembered how I intentionally quit talking to him as I reconnected with Henry. I didn’t think he would answer, but he was the only one who would be awake and possibly willing to talk.

I pulled up his number and hesitated. Tears brimmed in my eyes and then subsided.

I made the call.

It rang for a long time and then it connected.

“Justin?”

“Ellen? Is that you?”

“Yea, it’s me.” My eyes were moist.

“I’m sorry for calling so late. I didn’t even know if you’d pick up, but I just am driving and I’m really tired. I’m so close to home that I just need to talk to someone for a little bit and I’ll make it.”

“It’s no problem. I just – It took me a few minutes to get over the surprise. You’re driving? Isn’t it late there?”

“Yea, from the university to my apartment in the boonies. And yes, it’s a little late, which normally isn’t a problem, but I didn’t sleep well last night.”

He talked softly to me for close or more than half an hour. By this time, he was in the military and everything he did was according to what the military needed him to do.

“They got an early morning planned for us. Are you going to be okay? Need a few more minutes?”

“No, I should be fine now. And, Justin, thanks for picking up the phone.”

“I’m happy I did. Be safe. Text me when you get home.”

“I will. Good night.”

“Good night, Ellen.”

I made it home and crawled into bed and made the one decision I should’ve made back in December after Henry had graduated.

No matter what I was going to end things with Henry, but I couldn’t do it by myself.

The next day I messaged Cindy. I told her my plans and then did it.

No hesitation. Cold blooded.

 

I told Justin what I did a few weeks later and that I would most likely need some help keeping away from Henry, which wouldn’t be so hard now that I would never bump into him. As the conversation drifted to other things, I mentioned that I had terrible dreams. He asked if I wanted to talk about them, and I readily did.

He listened and somehow, he made things easy to let go.

The dreams lessened and when they were about to worsen, he would appear in the dream and prevent them from worsening. I began to sleep soundly.

I also re-organized my efforts toward grad school.

I was going to make it no matter if I had to drag myself through just that now I wasn’t having to fight my mental state in addition to the other challenges.

 

A month later, Henry messaged me and I broke into tears. I stayed firm in my resolve and Henry left me one biting comment.

That me leaving proved I had not loved him.

I didn’t let it sink in, but over time it did. A month after it sunk in, I was talking to Justin about the situation when he pointed out that there was no way I couldn’t have not loved Henry. I hated it and appreciated it. I hated it for the simple reason that I let myself get hurt all over again for the same relationship. To which Justin said:

“But you at least learned from it and left – on your own.”

“I had help.”

“You asked for help, but you left. None of us can do that for you. And what’s more is that you’re doing good slowly but surely.” There was a hint in his words and tone of voice he believed himself to not be as strong – that this was almost herculean of me.

“It’s easier with help, and it definitely took everyone I knew. You made it through your own troubles.”

“Not as together as you.”

“You are doing better than you think.”

 

I completed my master’s degree and began job searching. Part of me was now determined to keep Justin as a friend forever and another part of me wanted to push flirting – what little we did past the unspoken limits of what was just friendly and ego boosting.

I ignored my feelings. We had already gone out the one time years ago, and that had gone nowhere. It would be best to be friends.

 

Looking at the job postings made me excited over the possibilities in my future. There was the possibility that a coworker could be cute. But I quickly scratched that off my list. From a previous experience, I promised I wouldn’t ever go out with a coworker. This was to keep my life simple and easy. As it turned out with my job, I was actually safe from this concern as most of my coworkers were married.

There was the possibility of meeting a neighbor in an apartment complex, at a store, and more. When I got my job offer, it was in a far off state. I accepted it for the adventure it would provide. I picked my apartment, which was somewhat promising for that chance encounter except for that I moved into a reasonably affordable place. Most of the residents were college students who were there because their parents paid their rent or older men that would not be able to share some of my life experiences. For the college aged guys, they were just young enough to make me feel very disconnected from them. I had grown up with the technology improvements, and most of them didn’t know some of the names of the tech I had used because it was that outdated.

Moving into the area I did, also meant a low possibility of running into someone at a store as it was all the same demographic as the apartments.

As time went by, I came to realize a few things. First, that the guys my age had serious flaws in the area. Second, that the well touted dating apps made me feel weird and that most of the people on them used them to waste time. Third, I hated apps and the concept of online dating. Fourth, on the rare occasion I talked to a guy through the app, I found my heart and mind wandering to another gentleman and a date three or four years ago.

There was some part of it that I couldn’t remember if it was a dream or real. I had been drunk at the time – at a level of drunk that I had only been once before. If it was real, then after he had said friends he had almost taken it back.

I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t pursue this, especially now that it was a year since that October day that killed my feelings for Henry and it was over a month of my heart and mind being settled since I broke up with Henry. None of this was fueled by a need to fill a void. What was before me were feelings that had grown over the other conversation we had had.

The conversation that let me know how he enjoyed the way I said good night… that bolstered my self-confidence from the flirting that bordered on too much… that covered serious topics and the silly letting me know we had similar feelings about most topics… and that at the very least I felt an overwhelming desire to not hide from him anything and that there was no need to hide anything as he remained calm as if everything was normal.

I dream of him. I tell him. He doesn’t feel weird about it… because he actually dreamed of me too. So then the conversation turns to what did we do in your dream? And normally it goes in a flirtatious way, which means that we’re both on each other’s minds.

But to what level?

I don’t know… I’m not sure of anything because I walked away those years ago and returned to Henry. But what’s confusing is that even if I loved Henry first, I had always compared Henry to Justin and Henry had never measured up. In fact, the standard in my mind of who I should be with was always Justin instead of Henry.

If I had loved Henry even though he didn’t meet the standard conjured up by Justin for three years, how different of a love would it be with Justin?

Would it be passionate? Would it be sweeter? More trusting?

What would he like? But I actually know some of what he likes….

I even know how it felt like to be kissed by him….

From one kiss… I knew that there was so much more to be experienced. That what was conveyed in it was more than what I had felt in the last three years, and that was when Justin felt conflicted. But even now, Justin isn’t looking to be in a relationship. He’s seen so many in the military come together and fall apart that he doesn’t want to be in one while he’s in.

I don’t care. I don’t care.

I have to let him know even if he can’t do anything about it or won’t decide to do something about it. I have to let him know. I don’t want to be the person that lays in wait for a chance only to let it go by because I was too afraid of this and that.

 

I let him know.

 

He couldn’t give me an answer, which I expected, but there was something…. Some part of me felt sure. I hadn’t felt sure of anything in the last six years.

Even if he couldn’t give me an answer, which to me was a no, then I wanted to at least see him in person again. Maybe if I saw him, this would go away.

I was lying to myself. I just wanted to surrender to the desires in my heart.

I also wanted to throw myself fully into this. I would believe that the part of the last date I couldn’t remember was real because there was something about it that felt more like a memory than a memory of a dream. If it was real, then it would take time to be with him and I believed I could do it. He had been hurt, and though his advice to me had been sound, he isn’t fully able to reach out to another. Even if he doesn’t pick me after what’s ahead of us, I hope that it’ll be enough for him to have faith in relationships. If nothing else, I want him to be able to have love for he is a sweet man now that his wild younger years have settled.

He’s really been sweet even when he caused problems that freshman year… which he only did out of jealousy. When I left for college, I had boasted about Henry and it had irked him. He had believed he was losing me and so he was trying to step aside, but he found it difficult. He won’t admit it, but I know that’s how it was. Just from the look on his face.

If he doesn’t pick me, I know I’ll be hurt, but I know I’ll have no regrets and that I’ll know when to walk away so as to not cause him trouble. And above all, I promise to take care of myself first.


Submitted: April 16, 2018

© Copyright 2022 Ellen P Luto. All rights reserved.

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