If you were to sit back and take a long objective look at your life, is there one moment, just one, perhaps a choice you made, that you would change? Or that you would recognize for it’s significance and be proud of it, wanting to leave it exactly the way it was?
I know exactly what my moment was. I was 16, and I didn’t know it at the time, but I was battling my first major instance of depression. I had lost interest in everything around me, including and especially school. I withdrew for nearly all of my friends, except my boyfriend, who I spent every possible minute with. Even then, I just couldn’t shake the overwhelming indifference to everything around me. I was a junior in high school, and he was a college freshman. He used to pick me up every morning and drive me to school, and one day I asked him to take me with him to the college instead. He tried to talk me out of it, but I insisted I could just sit in the cafeteria and read a book while he was in class. In all fairness, he really did try to talk me out of it, and wasn’t overly thrilled about it, but I finally wore him down and he took me with him. And so I made him take me every day for 2 weeks.
About that same time, rumors got back to one of my favorite teachers that I had been contemplating suicide. I wasn’t really serious about it, but I had made a few half-ass attempts at cutting, and one of my friends, worried that I hadn’t been at school, had said something to the teacher. The teacher called my dad. She never said anything about me missing school, but she told him about the suicidal thoughts. He was waiting for me when I came home that night, which was really rare - most days I didn’t see him until he stumbled home about 8 or 9, from the bar. He told me he had gotten a call from the school that day, and asked me if I wanted to talk about it. So I spilled everything. I told him about how unhappy I was, and how I had just stopped going to school. I told him I had been spending the days with Romeo, but it wasn’t his fault, I had begged him to take me. And I blubbered all over him for about an hour before I realized he was really, REALLY angry. That was when it occurred to me to ask what the school had said. That was the first time I learned the all important lesson to always get the full accusation before you start confessing. My dad called my mom. She was even madder than he was. She had been looking for an excuse, any excuse to yank me back to Colorado with her, so she informed him that she would be calling the school herself and getting it all straightened out. Well, according to my dad, the school district only allows you 10 consecutive absences per semester, or you are essentially expelled. And since that day had marked my 11th absence, the only way to save my grades for the year was to transfer me out. And so Mom got me a plane ticket, and I had 2 days to say goodbye to everyone.
I can’t say how Romeo felt. He had a small circle of friends that we essentially did everything with. They were all pretty upset, and one of them in particular wanted me to run away. He said he and Romeo could hide me, and would take care of me. I thought at the time Romeo was as devastated as I was, and while he was a rebel in many ways, there were just some lines he wouldn’t cross. He wasn’t happy about me skipping school, and he was even more unhappy with the thought of me running away. He promised me he would do everything he could to get me back to Alaska the day I turned 18, or even sooner if my mom would let me leave as soon as I graduated (I didn’t turn 18 until 6 months after graduation). He went with me and my dad to the airport, and he held my hand the whole time. He told me he loved me, and that he would get me back as soon as he could. I cried all the way to Colorado.
My mom was so disgusted with me when she picked me up, she just looked at me and told me if I screwed up one more time, I was on my own, and I wouldn’t be welcome around her any more. She didn’t hug me, or tell me she had missed me over the last 2 years I had spent 3000 miles away from her. My depression went from bad to worse. I went from just occasionally thinking about suicide to planning it out, researching various ways to do it. I cut my arms constantly, trying to get used to the feel, trying to work up the courage to go deeper. I talked to Kevin occasionally, when Mom would let me. And then came the day that broke my poor little 16 year old heart. Kevin told me he had spent the night with his ex-girlfriend. He said he wasn’t interested in her, that he loved me, but that “a guy has needs” and he just couldn’t wait for me for 2 years without having sex with SOMEONE.
I was absolutely devastated. I don’t even remember most of the next few weeks. I can’t even remember what I said in response. I’d like to think I told him to go to hell, but I think it was something more along the lines of, whatever you think is best, and then I just never called him again. He never had been a big talker, especially not on the phone, so I don’t think he ever called me after that.
At that point, I went through a phase where I just didn’t care about anything. I showed up for classes, did the minimum to get by. I let my old friends introduce me to new people, and I floated along, not the center of attention, but part of the picture at least. And then I met The Jerk. He was the absolute antithesis of anyone else I knew - he did whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. He didn’t go to school. He stayed up all night and slept all day. His parents gave him pretty much whatever he asked for. He had a car. And he wanted me. And even though I thought he was kind of a jerk, and that he was controlling, and something about him just didn’t really mesh with anyone around me (friends, family, etc.), I went along for the ride, because I just didn’t care. I wonder now if I didn’t have some idea just what kind of devastation he would wreak on my life, and I embraced it because of it. I think I knew I didn’t have what it took to kill myself, so I looked for destruction any other way I could find it. And boy did he ever fit the bill.
My life pretty much went downhill from there, skipping school, running away from home, staying out late at night, stealing money from my mom, and just generally being a nuisance. I’ve mentioned before some of the places life took me after I met The Jerk. There’s more, but even the highlight reel is pretty massive, so we’ll just leave it at that. Every now and then, though, I would stop and think of Romeo. I would wonder, what if I had given it a chance? I knew 18 year old guys only thought with one brain, and really, at that age, it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea of monogamy, especially when in order to achieve it you have to abstain for 2 YEARS. I’m not trying to make excuses, because, yes I know there are some guys out there who would have done it. But the reality is, those guys are few and far between. A long distance relationship is difficult for adults to handle - for a couple of teenagers, I’d have to say it would be impossible, especially under those circumstances. I certainly don’t blame him for what he did, any more than I blame myself for what I did. I just have wondered, often, what would have happened if things had been different.
Shortly after my divorce, I called Romeo, just for the hell of it. I don’t know what I wanted or expected, but I was surprised to learn he had moved to Colorado. His mom passed my message along to him though, and he called me a couple days later. We talked for a long time, catching up. I was just about to turn 21, and Princess was almost 2. My dad had moved to Texas, and he drove up for the weekend to visit me for my birthday. Then one night, a couple days after talking to Romeo, I get a knock on my door, and there he is. He had driven down from Colorado to see me. Talk about a shock. My dad was there, and recognized him instantly. I had just started dating a guy I worked with, and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. Romeo had told me he was actually still with his ex-girlfriend, living with her in Denver. I’m not sure what either of us expected at that meeting, but I know it was incredibly awkward. My dad told me I was an adult and I could make my own decisions, but if Romeo slashed his tires again, he’d kill him (the friend that had wanted to hide me from my parents? He slashed my dad’s tires twice after I left. Dad always blamed Romeo for it, because he didn’t know the other guys in our circle.) Dad stayed in his camper most of the time that Romeo was there. Romeo slept in the bed with me that night, because I didn’t have a spare. We didn’t do anything, just talked a little. He left the next day, and that was that. I broke up with the guy at work shortly after that, and a couple weeks later I met John.
And all through these 9 years I’ve been with John, I have thought about Romeo. I don’t know why. I don’t know if every girl does that with her first love, or first sexual partner. He was both for me. I don’t know if it’s because there was so much left undone and unresolved between us. I don’t know if it’s because I’m still in love with him after all this time, or if it’s just that I’m in love with the idea of escape from whatever current situation I find myself in. I do know that every time I think of him, I get that shivery, happy, heart-racing feeling. I felt that at one time for John, but not since the first 3 months we were together. I don’t know if it would go away if I was to find myself in a relationship with Romeo or not. I know I miss him, miss talking to him, spending time around him. I miss working on that old beat up Ford of his, and surprising him by remembering how to put the parts back in when he and his friend forgot. I miss watching him play the guitar, knowing he preferred his electric guitar, but he would play his acoustic just for me every now and then. I miss that stupid mouse of his that would run on it’s squeaky wheel all damn night. I miss his parents, who always treated me like I was a part of the family, who never acted like I was a burden to them, even though I know I must have been. I miss eating pancakes with him in the kitchen, and discovering that peanut butter on pancakes is the best thing ever. I miss being a part of his life, every aspect of it, good, bad, and indifferent. And I wonder constantly what would happen if I just walked away from my life, and put myself back in his.
When I moved back to Alaska, I knew there would be the possibility of seeing him again. I found one of our friends on MySpace, and talked to him every once in a while. He told me Romeo was in a relationship with someone(not married), and had 2 kids with her. He said he was living back with his parents. He said he didn’t have email or anything, but told me over and over to call him. For me, email would have been easier. I have changed a lot in 14 years. Mostly, in weight. That, and most of the time I just don’t really give a damn how I look, so I haven’t really made much of an effort to keep myself looking young or pretty or anything. I don’t use fancy moisturizers or have complicated beauty rituals. One the rare occasion that I even wear make-up, it takes me less than 10 minutes to apply and run out the door. My hair is starting to go gray, and I am 50-75 lbs over weigh. I have glasses I wear mostly full-time, and while I don’t have a lot of wrinkles or anything, I just look tired all the time. I’m embarrassed to be seen by anyone who knew me back then. Someone who I was in love with and who I might think about starting a relationship with again? No way in hell do I want them to see me like this. Not to mention, if he was in a relationship, I don’t want to do anything to mess that up. I know from LOTS of experience that it’s one thing for an old girlfriend, or even girl FRIEND, to pop up and leave a comment on MySpace. It’s a whole other matter for that same person to start calling your house. Not knowing anything about this girl, or about his current situation with her, I didn’t want to take the chance. Just because I think about him all the time and wonder what if, doesn’t mean I want him unhappy. And if he’s content in his relationship, I am content to leave it the hell alone. So I didn’t call. I didn’t try to contact him in any way, other than to tell his friend that if he wanted to give Romeo my number, he could, and that I would gladly take his call, anytime.
A couple weeks ago, I went to pay my insurance bill. I always deal with the owner of the company, but by some fluke, her other agent was in the office that day and available. And who should it be but Romeo’s mother. Who recognized me. And we proceeded to chat for over 45 minutes about Romeo and his brother, and just catching up in general. Come to find out, the girlfriend is no more. (And I got the distinct impression from Mom that she wasn’t very pleased with her son’s choice.) It was a weird vibe, overall. It almost felt like she was saying she wished he had stayed with me, but I might have just been over thinking and projecting again. She told me he was working out of town, 2 weeks on, 2 weeks off. She gave me his cell phone number, saying that it didn’t work while he was out of town, but he would be back in a week. And then she dropped the bomb - she told me he was coming back just long enough to back and head back to Colorado, that he was seriously thinking of moving there and that he was going down there to basically get everything set up and figured out so he could move. So knowing this might be the last chance I had to talk to him again for a long time, I went ahead and called. I caught him just as he was getting on the plane, but we’ve been texting each other all day every day since. He is cutting his trip down to just a week and flying back in a couple days. (I think he gets some pretty good travel deals - he works for an airline.) He wants to see me, and I want to see him. And therein lies the problem.
First of all, the body image hasn’t changed. I’m still seriously uncomfortable with seeing him, looking the way I do now. I also know that it shouldn’t matter, because I am married. I don’t know why it would matter in the least that he finds me attractive, because the most important part of the problem is I have a husband, and a relatively strong, committed relationship. I just bought a house, I have 3 kids, and I’m currently actively trying for another. So Romeo being attracted to me should be really really low on my priority list. But it’s not. Because I’m running through various scenarios in which I leave my husband and start a new life where I left off with Romeo. And I think I might be losing my mind a little.
It’s not much of a secret that I have been unhappy in my marriage for quite some time. It’s not that we fight much, or that he’s abusive, or controlling, or anything bad. It’s just that I don’t feel like I love him any more. I feel trapped all the time. I hate having to defer to anyone else in any decision. But more than that, I hate the thought of divorce. I know what happened to me the last time I went through one. I am not really capable of taking care of myself. I have horrible money management skills, and when I spiral into a depression, I really start to lose it. I don’t want to go through another custody battle. I don’t want to have to split my kids in half. I don’t want to lose my home. I don’t want to have to fight over all those little details, the stupid and the mundane, and the complicated and important. And there are times when I wonder if I even really have an understanding of what love is supposed to be - maybe it’s supposed to be like this, after time. And there’s no guarantee that it will be any different if I find someone new. Then I wonder if I’m just settling. And I go back and forth, around and around until I’m sick and dizzy, and I just give up and accept.
I might feel differently if I could pinpoint just what was so wrong with our relationship, but I can’t. With The Jerk, it was easy. He controlled everything I did, from the clothes I wore to the friends I was allowed to have. He wouldn’t even let me get a driver’s license, I had to go behind his back to learn how to drive at 20 years old. He was abusive, mostly in the earlier stages of our marriage, and when I found out he was being abusive to our daughter, I left. Simple as that. And no one has ever told me I was wrong, and that I just misunderstood, or that I didn’t try hard enough. But with John it’s not like that. He’s good to me, he really is. Just because I wish he was more romantic sometimes, or that he wasn’t so rigid with the kids, doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with him, or our relationship. It’s just that every day, the little stuff weighs heavier. And I constantly question myself about whether I’m doing the right thing. And I think that’s what angers me so much about our marriage - I don’t know where I stand in it. It’s a constant battle within me to just decide if I’m happy or not with what is. I know some of that is the depression talking, but not all of it.
It scares me, because I don’t want to think about throwing away what might be the best thing in my life for nothing. I’ve done it once. If I had known more about depression then, and sought real help for it, I wonder if I would just gone to school, instead of skipping. If I had understood what was happening to me, would I have thrown everything away like I did back then? And I wonder if I’m strong enough now to make the right decision, not knowing what the answer is. I am so afraid to let the depression win again, but I don’t know which side it’s playing from. And that terrifies me, to the point I can’t sleep at night sometimes. I have learned from past mistakes that just ignoring the issue and hoping it will resolve itself just makes it worse, but how can I make a move if I don’t know what’s real and what’s depression-induced fantasy? I don’t know if I should be fighting to save my marriage, or if I should be fighting harder to end it.
All I know at this point is I’m going to meet Romeo for lunch a few times, talk to him in person, catch up on each other’s lives, and see if the puppy love feeling is still there. And then I don’t know where to go from there, but I guess I’ll figure it out as it comes.