I rarely discuss the sordid details of “Here and Now.” But today I realized it was time to dig into it just a little bit.
I was walking up Baltimore Avenue–on my way to Satellite–when I saw him about twenty feet ahead of me. He has finally stopped using the messenger bag I gave him years ago. He’s still wearing pants purloined from American Apparel. He has reinvented himself as a West Philly punk with a bleeding heart of gold (and a sudden undying love of Dungeons and Dragons).
In Portland he was tortured and bookish, with a penchant for old man clothes. An almost infinite collection of indie rock and odd West Coast noise bands. Night after night spent at the Clinton Street Pub playing billiards and tossing back countless whiskeys. I’m more of a fan of pinball and hip hop, but otherwise he seemed like the perfect match for me. More fun than the broody fellows of the past few years. Significantly more forthcoming with his feelings. I left my clothes and shoes on the bank, diving in without the slightest apprehension.
And then we got to Philadelphia. The loose thread was pulled around the time we unloaded his records and t-shirts from the car. Everything unraveled faster than I would have imagined.
I’ve spent the past two years feeling confused about what exactly happened.
One day he was there…and quite suddenly, he was not. The next year or so were filled with his late night drunken phone calls and a few awkward physical interactions that left me reeling for weeks. And that was it. I never asked him to explain it to me (even in the nights we spent together last summer), because I suspected I would not hear the truth. Whenever I had the urge to call him, I considered throwing my phone in the river. I have/had to much pride to finally confront him.
And then abracadabra: the magic of social networking sites!
She sent me a message on Facebook.
“you were ____’s girlfriend a while back..? i recognize you ! and i’m not sure if you knew i was an ex of ____’s but i haven’t talked to him in over a year so that besides the point…anyway, i’m sure we have a lot in common (because isn’t that how it always is) and i hope there isn’t any awkward feelings (if there was any).”
To tell you the truth, I was relieved to hear from her. I had seen her around work on an almost daily basis. And I would leave bars after catching a glimpse of her, lest too many 7&7s compelled me to confront her with a barrage of accusations and questions.
I was relieved that he was gone. But the unanswered questions made me feel crazy. I just wanted to know what had really happened.
I suspected she was a reliable source. Little did I know how much he had duped us, and everyone else around him.
Everything she told me stunned me, despite the predictability of it all. He told her that I wasn’t his girlfriend. We were both looking to date new people in Philadelphia (despite moving here together and sharing the same bedroom). She had no reason to question this; he seemed so sincere and sad. They got together. When she pressed for more details about me, he said that he could never speak about/to me ever again, because of someone unknown action on my part.
Meanwhile, I was wondering why he could no longer say “I love you.” And then he disappeared.
Long after “they” were over, he denied any involvement with me. I’m sure he extended this propaganda to his friends, even as he continued his routine of slurring three a.m. phone calls.
She and I both realized the truth we had always suspected: he was a skilled liar, spinning a new story tailored for each audience. Lying to her, lying to me, lying to all of his friends and acquaintances.
For the past two years, I could not allow myself to hate him, even as my friends urged me to summon up some animosity. “You have to protect yourself. This will help you.” But in my mind, he was still some kind of innocent wounded animal. His bites were only the result of confused self defense.
But this Facebook penpal changed it all for me. Suddenly I wanted revenge. I fantasized about smashing his teeth down his throat. Expensive orthodontia rendered pointless. Irreversible testicular damage.
Then again, I could take the complex and infinitely more damaging approach: embarrassing him in front of the friends he tries so hard to impress. Revealing his lies in excruciating detail, with charts, graphs, and hard evidence.
Lying to me. Lying to others about me.
Painting me as a pathetic, obsessed ex-girlfriend (when he wasn’t describing me as a brutal, controlling taskmaster with a heart of ice).
Portraying himself as the innocent victim of his evil, yuppie ex-girlfriend.
Manipulating me. Manipulating her.
Shedding his skin with each zip code change.
I could not decide which of these angered and hurt me the most.
She contacted me about a month ago, right before I went on vacation. All of my scabs were ripped open.
I thought about it on several airplanes. While walking around downtown Portland. While sleeping on various sofas. In bars. At the grocery store. Any moment when I wasn’t actively engaged in conversation.
Poison seeped into every moment. I could feel my cells mutating.
Hate is ugly. I don’t want to be “that person.” The lust for revenge elicits an ache in the pit of my stomach. I want to hurt him…teach him the proverbial lesson. I’ve weathered the higher road all this time; it would be foolish to jump down to the lower road (despite its promises of satisfaction and vindication).
This afternoon, as I watched him posing and posturing ahead of me (and no doubt, pretending that he had not seen me), I fantasized about tripping him. While he was sprawled on the sidewalk, he would watch my black fringed cowboy boot kick him over and over again. He would finally say the words I’ve been waiting to hear: I’m sorry. Then I would skip to the state store for a celebratory bottle of champagne. Janelle and I would spend the early evening in our backyard, laughing and exchanging victorious high-fives.
Instead I crossed the street.