This could have been titled “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch” or “Don’t put your cart before your horse” just as easily, but because it is really a follow-up, or more accurately, a finale, it made sense to tack onto last month’s title. So, last time we found our hero (me) in the throes of butterflies, what-if’s and impending departure. I asked if I might have an interesting last two months here in Portland before leaving the left coast for the right coast, and well, it doesn’t look like it. No, that’s too non-committal: I won’t. I had been hanging out with this gal I met at a show for a little less than a month, and we covered good ground, had a great time, and seemed to be riding on the moment. No better place to be when you’re counting down your days to move on, and quite possibly a lesson in itself: maybe we should always be in the moment. For if that is where true happiness is (even though happiness is a state and not really sustainable; ask Camus, Sartre or Beauvoir), then maybe that is all that has value. The absence of pretense.
While I had cued her that I would be leaving this summer, and the topic came up once or twice in passing, I had finally established my living situation and my moving logistics, so now the plan was set in motion. I thought it fair that I tell her. The last night we met would be 5 weeks to the day from my departure. I thought it would be taken well. Our informal plans for the evening (her choice) was a “white trash” picnic at Laurelhurst Park: greasy pizza, beer and a little people watching. From there we’d hit up a brewery and then hang out at her place. Nothing fancy, but it didn’t need to be. We had fun just hanging out no matter what we did. As we walked from her car to the park, I got butterflies. And not the kind that prove just how smitten you are with another person, but as in how nervous I was. Maybe this wouldn’t be as easy as I hoped. Maybe this wouldn’t be taken as well as I thought.
We ate a little and had a beer, and I waited for a lull in the conversation to mention it. She looked at me and said, “We’re just having fun anyways, right?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Okay then.” She smiled and then stuck her tongue out at me. I told her I just thought it was only fair that I let her know. That was that. So I thought. We went to a brewery and had a beer and then I found for the first time that I didn’t have anything to say to her. I think I was sad, or maybe simply the reality had settled in on me. It must have hit me a little faster than her. But it would hit her soon enough. We went back to her place to “hang out” and listen to music and stuff. We talked about what we would do in the next 5 weeks: concerts, hikes, dinners and all the other stuff you do with a significant other. She had to pick up a friend at the airport at 1am who was coming back from Coachella, so I went home.
The next morning I reminded her via text to ask off for a concert we were planning on going to. She didn’t respond. Now, I wasn’t expecting a 1-minute turnaround on the reply, but 5 hours or so passed and I wondered. She was usually pretty active on her phone. I didn’t give it too much thought and went to work for a few hours, leaving my phone in the car. When I got off, I looked and saw 5 messages from her, the first one saying she wouldn’t be going to that show with me. The second saying that she got to thinking about the “5 weeks” comment. The third saying that she didn’t want to get too attached to me. The fourth saying she knew this was not an ideal way to handle this sort of thing – by text. The final one saying she was sorry and she wished it could be different. The silence in my car was deafening.
I immediately responded that I understood. I mean, I did. She was making the rational, pragmatic decision. But when are relationships ever founded on rationality and pragmatics? I didn’t immediately think this, but the thought eventually came, maybe I shouldn’t have told her so soon? I mean, she did know I was leaving, why did I feel like 5 weeks out was the right time? Why not 3 or 2? I know, that would have been a real jerk move; I did the right thing. I told her when I knew for sure I’d be leaving. As much as my hopes blew up in my face because of that, I did what was best for her. Unintentionally selfless, and certainly not what I hoped would happen, I did the right thing. Wait, I just said that – why is the right thing so hard sometimes? But what did I really think was going to happen anyways? How much harder would have I made this on myself if I’d been able to make this run out the last 5 weeks? At the time of writing this article, it was 4 days since she sent me that text. Here’s what happened in the interim.
When I got home from work the night she sent me the “breakup” text, my first thought was to write a letter; I guess I felt there were some things I wanted to say to her. I wasn’t trying to make a last ditch effort to get her to spend time with me for the next 5 weeks, in fact, I didn’t mention that. I just told her a lot of things about how happy I was to have met her and spend time with her. I won’t go into any further specifics, but I just wanted to make sure she knew how I felt. I think she did without that letter, but I wanted to be sure. I also sent her a book, one that we had talked about the first time we met. This was a Tuesday, it was to arrive on Thursday.
She texted me on that Thursday – before the package arrived – to send me a picture of a tattoo she had gotten that day. I responded that I’d sent her the book, and she just happened to be getting the mail then. She thanked me for it and the letter, and we exchanged pleasantries, both lamenting that we were sorry it was over, but neither of saying that maybe we should throw caution to the wind. I would have, that must be clear to you dear readers, but she wouldn’t have. While she was several years my younger, she was clearly the more responsible and mature one when it came to relationships and emotions. I’ve always been an act first, think later person, and that was my instinct here. Sort out the damages later.
And that’s it. Poof! What started on a whim ended on an intention. And while it is as much a story of feelings, it may also be a story of power. Is it possible that since the end didn’t come at my doing that is why I am feeling bummed? I don’t know, I don’t think so, but I do believe it is something to consider. I’d like to think I’ve at least reached the level of maturity that the games are years behind me, in fact, I know that to be true (I hope). I think it really boils down to bad timing and a good connection. Right place, wrong time. The jam band Perpetual Groove has a song called “Three Weeks” about a breakup. I don’t listen to much of their stuff, but there are a few songs I do really like, that one possibly being my favorite. But I’ve never listened to it as applying to my life – until now. It opens, “It’s been about three weeks now since I laid in her bed, no rest for my soul, I need a little soul rest for my head.” Time. It takes time. The ephemeral crush indeed….