Writing101 – Day Sixteen Prompt (Part 3: The one who got away)

The Challenge:  This is Part Three of the “Lost and Found” themed story. 

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So once again, I left you with parts 1 and 2 – meeting and then falling in love with Jacob, a serious man with very fixed ideas of right and wrong.  We broke up over a heated discussion of yes, female genital mutilation, that teetered over the edge.

So we broke up.  It was just before my 40th birthday which I spent with friends, but not with him.  I also spent Christmas and New Year’s alone.

I was in contact with Holly still, but she was keeping mum as to his side of the story – I’m actually grateful for that.  And I made efforts to not show up at any meetings where he might be which, luckily, worked out.

I didn’t see him or talk to him for 16 weeks.  Somewhere around his birthday (in early February), I probably reached out barely, sending him an email to wish him a happy birthday.  And a few days or weeks later, he called.  Almost the first words out of his mouth were, “I’ve missed you.”

My heart flipped and flopped over that one.  We went to dinner later that day and we talked; he admitted he’d gone to a very dark place within himself, a place of a well of anger and that it wasn’t my fault, but that he’d been scared of what he might do at that point.  I was sympathetic, of course.  I definitely caught that he was struggling during our time apart.  As was I.  I missed him terribly and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what had happened to tear us apart so thoroughly, especially over that.

So we began again.  And this time, I told myself I would respect his boundaries more, stay strong within myself.  A few days after reuniting he asked if I would accompany him that summer to India which is how I ended up going on my first overseas trip.

India.  I could write reams about that experience, of course.  Here, I don’t have the time, but i will note that it was yes, a trip of a lifetime, and I was glad he was with me.  He’d been to this part of the world several times, both by himself and with the NGO and he was comfortable with the customs and people.   As Americans who were independent travelers, we were “low to the ground” on second class train cars, overcrowded busses and rickshaws, with a lot of walking thrown in.

Indians are used to tourists acting like tourists and being in tour groups.  More than once an Indian would offer to have his cousin (always a cousin) carry me in his litter somewhere only to be told by Jake that we were walking.  Usually what ensued was a diatribe against my “husband” for making his wife walk, when she, a delicate flower, should be carried instead (for a price, of course.)

It was a great way to travel, but also more stressful.  We journeyed from dirty, dusty Delhi north to the highlands of the Himalayas and the mouth of the Ganges river, Gangotri.  We also made our way to Dharamsala which is the home of the Dalai Lama in India.  Amazingly, we were able to catch the Holy Man on one of his more rare appearances for a local crowd, although since he spoke a mix of Hindi and Tibetan it was a bit difficult to understand (we didn’t have transistor radios with us with the simulcast).  We also had a funny experience of catching a movie at the local movie “house” (fancier word than the reality of someone popping in a VHS and projecting it against a wall), watching “Jackie Brown” a half a world away from our hometown where the movie was set.  Pretty funny.

Mostly we got along, but there were some cracks too.  He was concerned a lot that I would behave as an “ugly American” so I took my cues from him.  Which mostly meant – be quiet.  Not a problem in India, as they are a heavy patriarchal culture and wouldn’t speak to me anyway if he was there.

So we muddled along having adventures and then it was time to leave.  Re-entry into Southern California was a bit difficult, more so for him than me, as it turned out.  He promptly fell into another deep depression, although I didn’t have that luxury, as I had a job and a son to get back to.

We were together for a few months more, but I sensed there’d been a big shift in the energy between us.  For one thing, I was less willing to “deal” with his depression and deep anger.  And I began to sense that, although he proclaimed to love me, he was just not able to be there no matter what I said or did (or didn’t say or do.)

We went on a camping trip a few months later again to Joshua Tree.  And this time, very quietly, with little fanfare we broke up for good.  Or so I thought.  The final nail in this coffin was him telling me he had never really wanted to be with me.

Wait, what?

By now, we’d been together for two years with four months off for good behavior (I would joke that way, but it wasn’t much of  a joke).  He’d called me and wanted to get back together.  He’d invited me to India for goodness’ sake.

Not want to be with me?

Then he finally was honest.  And all those red flashing “stop signs” that I’d not wanted to pay attention to?  They came flooding back, intense and angry with recriminations and “I told you so” all over them.

I remember asking him, pointedly, “If you never loved me, never wanted to be with me, why did you let it go on for so long?” and his answer, pathetically, was “You wanted to be with me.  I wanted the friendship and I didn’t want to disappoint you.”

I wish I could write, dear reader, that I had the self-esteem to say (and mean it) “It’s completely over.  I never want to see or speak to you again!

Instead . . . we tried to be friends . . . for another year.

After the purported “break-up” I remained friends with his ex-wife Holly.  As Jake sensed, she and I had more than him in common.   One thing I had failed to really understand  – why they were now friends – Holly now explained.  It was because they didn’t speak for a long while after their divorce.  They gave each other time to heal (mostly – if you’ve read Part 2 then you know that he rather passive-aggressively was still working out his anger towards her in his novel).  By the time he’d returned to California after being overseas she, at least, was ready and able to be friends.

But of course, even knowing this, I determined to make “friendship” with Jacob work.  It was excruciating.  Luckily, I continued in therapy during this time and my girlfriends were also around and eventually all their ass-kicking took hold.  It took a long time for me to understand that I didn’t want to be friends with this man – I wanted to be his girlfriend or his wife.  In other words, in this iteration of our relationship he was getting what he had always wanted (to just be friends) and I was getting none of what I wanted.  And I never really could feel the pain of loss if we were still in contact.

So after many tears, I wrote a long email, telling him all this.  Or most of it.  Okay, enough of it to communicate that I needed a complete break.

And I finally got to grieve.

But eventually . . . I healed.  And there came the day, years later, when I met my husband, and it was easy, and he was kind and he let me be myself, and he wanted me as much as I wanted him.  And we made each other laugh.   That was over ten years ago.

And Jacob?  Well, he remarried and moved out of state and spent his second wife’s money to get into the cheese making business.  And one day he hired a person to help them and he fell in love with his much younger assistant (who, in pictures, looks like a younger version of wife #2), divorced wife #2, married much younger wife #3 and they just had a baby.  He became a father for the very first time – at 54.  I’m not judging this – it’s cool and he’s going to be a great dad and all that, but . . . I cannot imagine starting parenthood at this time of life.  Perhaps that’s just me.

I found all of this on facebook, which just goes to prove that if you don’t know how to set privacy settings, everything is out there.  Maybe it also proves that you can remake your life more than once.

Of course, I wish Jacob and his family the best life has to offer.  And I hope for wife #3, that he doesn’t go hiring any more “assistants.”

As to me? Although there are no big rules in romance, here’s one I figured out for myself:

If you are more in love than the other person, you’ll be the one who is most hurt in the break-up and you’ll end up being the one who has to cut it off and not be “friends” if you really want to heal and move on.  Sure, you can hang in there, hoping there will be a change (heck, I did that for a year!), but when there’s a huge mis-match of desire and love, it’s like the pitcher and the stone.  Whether the stone hits the pitcher, or the pitcher hits the stone, it’s going to be bad for the pitcher.

In this situation, I was definitely the pitcher – and I got smashed into little pieces.   Luckily, the superglue fixed those pieces and then I met another pitcher and well, two pitchers together – ahhhh, bliss.


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