Four or five people now have asked me if I’m going home for Christmas. The answer is no. First of all, I don’t have time. Second of all, I haven’t gotten my first paycheck and I don’t own a credit card that has frequent flier miles. Last, but not least, I don’t want to. Yes, being with my parents on Christmas Day would be wonderful and amazing and all of those things, but flying back into IAH or HOU at this time would make me more emotionally crispy than I really want to handle right now. Not only that, my mom, dad, and sister have all visited me since April (and my dad visited a second time about a month and a half ago). It is a special holiday and I get it, but because of our work schedules, I’ve almost seen my family more since I left Houston than in the two years I lived there. It’s one of the perks of living in a place where people want to visit. Portland was not an easy trip for anyone. It’s so remote and the time change was so great that I hardly ever saw my family relative to the amount that I see them now.
Plus, there’s a lot about going to Houston in and of itself that just brings up bad memories and I don’t want to go there, physically or mentally. I have said before that the pendulum has swung too far in terms of wanting to be around other people, and though I don’t feel that way about my family, I certainly feel that way about Dana. She was my family, too, my primary one, and not even getting a “hello” in months has made me actively fearful of ever running into her again. It’s a strange dichotomy, this feeling in the pit of my stomach that she is the love of my life and I will never meet anyone like her and at the same time, so fearful of even a tiny interaction. I think that’s because I’m bad at small talk. I do not want to hide behind pleasantries while pieces of my heart turn from red to grey to black, color draining from my face as I realize we do not know each other anymore, and the same jokes do not land.
It reminds me of when I was 18, and Meagan used to come home from University of New Brunswick on Christmas break. We’d small talk, and then we’d flirt, and then a flirt would hit too close to home and I would just go dead inside with shock and grief. It was always those moments of “why don’t you want me anymore?” instead of the better question, which was “why do I want you?” She screwed me to the wall emotionally and still, I wondered why SHE didn’t want ME. It took getting a LOT of distance from that situation to even be able to ask myself that question, and by A LOT, I mean ten years. I’m not saying that it took ten years for me to stop having romantic feelings for her, but it did take ten years before I was able to put the relationship in perspective and take back the power I’d lost in always wondering what it was about me that she didn’t like, when there was PLENTY I didn’t like about her.
At least with this breakup, I’ve been able to ask myself that question from the beginning. Do I want to be with someone who thinks I will never amount to anything? Do I want to be with someone who, with our past history, will treat every friend I meet as a potential threat to our relationship? Do I really want to be with someone who has consistently embarrassed me and treated me like my opinions don’t matter? Do I really want to be married to someone who doesn’t get mad in the moment and saves up all her emotional bombs until something small drops the Mento into the Diet Coke and I have to run for cover?
Do I even want a partner at all?
My track record with such things is not great, probably because I haven’t done the work on myself that needed to be done before getting into a relationship in the first place. I met Meagan when I was 17, just about to turn 18. There were three years in between Meagan and Kathleen, but in those three years, I didn’t really grow as a person. I was still that arrested 14-year-old trying to fake it as an adult, pining for both Meagan and Diane as if living in the past was the right answer…. just pretending they were there when they weren’t. I didn’t have the idea then to write things down so that I could let them go….. or as the old joke goes, “how do you release anger?” “You’re supposed to release it?”
Going back to Houston is not only reliving memories with Dana, but Diane, Meagan, Kathleen, Katharin, and Angela as well. Saying that many names makes me feel like a total whore until I remember that you’re not supposed to marry everyone you date. 😉 What does make me feel like a total ho is having two legal relationships in two different states that still haven’t been resolved. It will be a lot easier now that gay marriage is national. The reason that Kathleen and I did not dissolve our civil union in Vermont is that we didn’t know when we married that if you wanted to get a divorce, you had to establish residency for six months before you could file, and neither of us wanted to do it. Had we known the residency requirement at the time, I’m not sure it would have made a difference. We were young, stupid, and needed joint health insurance all at the same time (which is a whole ‘nother story because we learned through The Washington Blade that a spokesman for ExxonMobil told the paper that XOM was going to start recognizing gay marriages from other states. The problem was that I’m not sure the rest of the company knew he’d said it. They had to make a whole new policy just for us. Beat that with a stick.) Because we have not spoken in over ten years, I can safely claim abandonment as reason for divorce and hopefully it will happen as quick and dirty as the wedding ceremony, one of the most hysterical farces of my entire life.
It seems cheap to say that we were only married for 11 months, because the truth is that I married her in an instant. Kathleen’s jealous ex left some information on my answering machine that was DEEPLY personal as a way to get back at Kat for leaving her, and it opened my mirror neurons immediately. There was no way I’d leave Kathleen’s side for anything in the world…. it was as if her flaws made her more beautiful rather than less. For the most part, our three and a half years together were ultimately positive, but our divorce was traumatic. The only truly sweet thing I remember happening during that time was that we had this duvet made from an old U-haul blanket with 600-thread-count sheets wrapped around it and it was my favorite possession in the whole world, even though it had originally been hers. I told her all the time as a joke that if we ever divorced, that was the one thing I wanted. When she cleared her stuff out of 803 N. Van Dorn, my dad and I came up to our media room to start getting out my stuff, and there was the blanket, wrapped up on a chair. It was as if the blanket represented an “I’m sorry,” and even though we haven’t spoken since, I will always remember that even in the midst of our pain, she remembered our inside joke. My kindness to her in return was that her dad used to call her a monkey because she could pick things up with her toes, so I went to the Discovery Store and bought her a huge orangutan that she could use as a pillow, and the feet had velcro on them. I wanted to go out on a sweet note, too.
With Dana, it was a completely different story. Marrying her felt like the most natural thing I’d ever done in my life, because I wasn’t marrying someone I’d been dating for a while. I was marrying someone who had been my bestbestbest friend in the whole world for three and a half years, so there was no way she didn’t know what contract she was signing, and vice versa. The conversation over how to dissolve our domestic partnership in Oregon is not a conversation I thought I’d be having this year, much less this lifetime. I didn’t know how to respond to the words, “I just can’t handle you,” as if my life was a basketcase and hers was any easier in terms of being her partner. I did and still do have some choice retorts for that one, but I don’t focus on them. I focus on the time I fell in love with her sweatshirt with the Canadian maple leaf on it, and when I moved to Houston, in (I think) 2005, Dana drove with me and flew back. She waited until we were unpacked to show me that her sweatshirt was in one of the boxes and I just fucking lost it. It was one of the moments I should have told Dana not to fly back, because when her plane took off, I realized that my entire world went with it. I wasn’t homesick for Portland. I was homesick for her and the “Boston marriage”” we created. At that point, romance hadn’t entered the picture. I felt twinges every once in a while, but they were always manageable knowing that she was married and I was busy with work and trying to find a girlfriend of my own. And if I’m honest, part of the reason I am so mad at Dana over the Argo situation is that she went through the EXACT SAME SHIT with me.
She told me after six weeks of being friends that she had a crush on me, and she was still married and it was her shit to own, because I wasn’t going to be the reason she ended her marriage. I wasn’t even attracted to her, not even a little bit. She never even drew that parallel in our lives, and it is one that should have been at the forefront, considering that my attraction to Argo was mine to own, especially because it was something that the relationship wouldn’t and couldn’t ever sustain. I got over it. Back in the day, I wanted Dana to just get over it, too…… and then….. What changed my mind over time in terms of attraction was that Dana became the face and the mind I loved, to the exception of no one else…. until Argo entered the picture and I struggled with the same issue Dana did…. the difference being that the crush on Argo was because it wouldn’t go anywhere, and I felt safe in the knowing of it. As I have said before, if Argo had told me she was bi or lesbian, I would have run from her like a house on fire, because I could not have sustained a friendship with a woman that excited me that much and stay married to someone else. I wanted Dana to stay my first priority, and I would have disposed of that relationship quickly and easily, instead of over time, starting to torture myself because I knew it was my shit to own and I did not get it handled as quickly as I would have liked.
I now love Argo for everything she is, but that doesn’t include romance. That includes a lifetime of loyalty toward someone I believe deserves it, whether she wants it or not. If she doesn’t, I will just be the angel that sits on her shoulder in times of remembrance. If she does, I am only an e-mail away…. and that’s that.
I also take it as an incredible compliment that Dana thought I was so amazing that eventually Argo would see it and fall in love with me. It wasn’t reality, but at the same time, I was the one trapped in the vicious cycle of wondering how anyone like that could love someone like me, and Dana was sure of it. I know it must have hurt deep into her soul, but the fact that she said it changed me. It made me feel like I had something more to offer the world than my current output, because she saw the way that Argo was overclocking my processor and that I was learning to think about bigger things than I’d ever thought about before and knowing within herself that I could hang (or believed it, anyway…. me, not so much). With Argo, I’d never win a toaster. That was clear from the beginning…. but I could win an amazing friendship if I was willing to let go of the parts of myself that made me think friendship and sex were the same thing, again, a mark that Argo clearly says Diane left on me. It is a mark that deserved an eraser long ago, and now that I know it, I’m doing something about it.
I don’t want to be that kind of friend to anyone.
Just for the record.