by Cali Falling
Learning Experiences with Opposite Personalities
|Crying in an airport has some anonymity you don't realize until that time comes. People assume that’s why you are traveling. They know that you could be going to a funeral, leaving behind beloved family, or returning from a visit at the Holocaust museum where you stared at a pile of teeth. It would have been easier had I not been texting him back and forth since I got to the airport, already unable to follow through with anything. I was scrolling through Facebook, trying to think about something, anything else, besides him. Anyone that noticed my tears might have guessed that I was either remembering mass genocide or that I had just let someone go. Someone that was never mine to begin with.
Three days earlier (Spongebob narrator):
I was on my way to Los Angeles, again. I’d been invited to see Slayer's last performance and I was thrilled to be able to negotiate first class seats with the vouchers I was saving for a rainy day. Ironically it almost never rains in L.A. I also couldn’t have picked a better person to have sat next to if I tried. A school teacher who was leaving New Orleans after having partied her ass off for her 50th birthday. She was still drunk from the night before and had every intention of keeping her buzz. I had every intention of seeing how much the steward would serve her before cutting her off. He drew the line after she started talking about how hot the high school soccer players in coach were. When we landed, she made me promise to DM her when I got laid.
When I got to the hotel room I put my stuff down and went straight to the window. I wanted to see him arrive. Tinman. The anticipation was delicious. He didn’t disappoint, humming around the corner on his orange ninja. I refer to him as Tinman because he is logic>emotion. A master actually. I loved to joke with him about his lack of emotion and once I requested that he let me put him in some roller skates to see how long it would take him to laugh. He declined, predictably. When I let him in to the room he walked past me, a quick verbal greeting, and began to set all his stuff down. For someone who didn't mince words he never got straight to it either. Laying there talking on the hotel bed for a while until there was nothing left to do except the inevitable.
The concert was that evening and we took a quick shot of ourselves at the venue before going in. I sent it to my now hung-over plane buddy. Seeing a last concert by a band that had been playing for the good part of 40 years was semi-traumatic. After a two hour set that took no breaks and before Tom Araya finally walked off stage, he took a last long look at his audience. I recognized that look. He wanted to savor every last moment and understood the significance of it. Of the love and devotion of thousands of screaming fans that mirrored similar sentiment back at him. I didn’t know him and am not really a fan but for a moment I had his number. It was time to let go. After this final moment of sheer affection that filled the Forum like smoke in lungs. “Time is precious,” he said “so I want to thank you for sharing that time with us.”
We walked out. A crowd still in surreal mourning of what we had just witnessed, not yet sunk in but materializing as we hit the streets. We walked for a while, him and I, intermittently hand in hand. An aimless “fucking Slayer!” ringing out every so often. In my other hand, a bag of t-shirts meant to commemorate a final concert and, for me, a final weekend as a play-toy. Or so I thought. I was, in truth, only in Los Angeles for him. I've never been much of a metal enthusiast but his enjoyment became mine. Like the joy of giving a gift.
The next day was a blur, and my anxiety steadily increased as I anticipated executing my plan. We ate fried chicken and the worst red beans imaginable (inside joke) and decided to go bowling. I was thrilled because, from the beginning he'd been trying to convince me that he could bowl. But I always beat him. His form was awesome, however he just could never put the ball where he wanted it. After yet another brutal beating we decided on billiards (where he completely redeemed himself) and then to check out a bar around the corner. My best friend back home called to remind me what I was actually there for just as he was returning from the bathroom. I know I told her as I looked into his eyes and then hung up. He gave me a quizzical look and I shrugged. At some point into my third martini (on top of billiard and bowling beer) and while talking shit about elf on the shelf, I blacked out. I guess my stomach was not carrying enough to manage my level of fuckery and I would remember nothing from that moment until waking up later that night.
There’s little more frustrating than blacking out on what might be the last night you spend with someone that you really care about. I startled awake, hoping to Christ it wasn’t almost 4 am. I still had to tell him. Somehow I knew that I hadn’t when I was drunk. I promised I would make myself do this. 2 am, yay. He was always such a light sleeper I didn't have to do much more than put my arm over him before he was awake. I waited for the pleasantries he always spoke to escape his lips and when they did, I turned our discussion to the one I dreaded so much.
It took what seemed like forever to get it out; the reasons why I couldn't handle our arrangement anymore. I spoke slowly, thinking very carefully about how I wanted to convey my feelings, yet still everything came out vague. As many times as I had swore he could read my mind before that I wished so much that he actually could at that moment. If he knew how much I didn’t want to say it I thought he might actually stop me. Tell me that he needed me; that he felt the same. What I got was a reminder that he could not be in a relationship. That he’d lost previous friends for similar reasons. It stung as if it meant that I was just like them and regarded as they were. He tried to lighten it by mentioning I was being much more mature about it than they had been. Tinman, through and through. Not comforting in the least. Still, the tone between us stayed positive and we embraced until he had to go. I was glad for it because I was already crying but I needed a good ugly one that no one needed to see.
A few hours later and I was flying back to my home. My cage. Events like this can put a person off things they would normally enjoy. I ignored the person next to me on the plane. I wanted music but felt sick to my stomach when I tried to play anything. I’d lost my appetite. I told myself I would remove all traces of him when I got home. Called my bestie and told her the same, for accountability. Then at home, the anxiety set in. I had picked up my children and I was happy to see them but the house still felt so ....damn... empty. I knew I couldn’t go through with it. Not without his help.
Let me break this down.
Why couldn't I go through with it? Over the last 8 months of the "friendship", I had increasingly and subconsciously obsessed over him until I was completely infatuated. Though he seemed to have no actual feelings for me, he was sure to engage in steady conversation every day. He respected any boundary I had and always acted like a gentleman. It sure didn't help that he was strikingly handsome, tall and soft-spoken. Fit as a fiddle although not if you asked him. Completely another matter that he was incredibly mature and responsible when it came to his work and finances. I tried to tell him how rare those qualities are to find all together. I still don't think he believes it.
It was the nerd in him that mostly peaked my interest. It wasn't enough that he rode a motorcycle and jumped out of airplanes. He also loved anime, obscure movies, dark humor (like a good soldier), and spoke in fluent cat images. And then, the pies de resistance, he played my body like a fine instrument. The first time he tuned me up and raised me to his lips I felt like I was made to be played by him. If later I find out that he was a secret government project, created to turn all the women in America into lunatics, I won't be surprised in the least. He was fucking me up in every way I had never been fucked up and I wanted more.
I let weeks go by until I decided it was time to finish what I had started. Over the last few months, I had told him how I felt about him but he did not yet understand how it was turning me into someone I didn't want to be. A lovesick fool. I still couldn't understand why he didn't help me end it during my visit. Maybe he was enjoying it too much. Perhaps there really was a heart inside that cold exterior. I needed to know for sure. I decided to make a recording. At first, it was supposed to be for my personal reflection but once I had bared my soul for ten solid minutes I decided to just send it to him. In short, expressed how one-sided it had all become to me; how I was beginning to feel used. As a person of principle, that was what he needed to hear to justify shutting it all down and I knew it. He told me over the phone that he was waiting for the right time but there is no right time for things like that.
The realization came to me finally that he had no feelings for me at all. It was tragic but, as a result, I learned more about myself than ever before, being exposed to the healthiest unhealthy relationship I had ever taken part in. Which is precisely why I didn't see it as toxic. Nothing seemed off at all about letting someone who was 1800 miles away shoot the shit with me on the daily in a loving and mutually respectful way with an occasional visit/fuck fest every 2-3 months. He offered me nothing but what he said it was, a true friends-with-benefits situation for as long as it didn't become anything else. What could go wrong?
So there I was, freshly dumped, except not. Nothing had been defined. What were we?
The next few weeks weren’t as awful as I anticipated. Though the first days were painful, the presence of my father that had just arrived was an enormous help. I dreamt of him (not my father) more than ever and woke up in tears more than once but I had to get my shit together to save face in front of my Dad. I tried to stay busy but random things would bring him to mind. While reading about what one woman does to fuck with her spouse (she leaves a furiously happy taxidermied raccoon in random places for him to find) and it reminded me of his sense of humor. He probably sent me the same pic of caveman Spongebob a hundred times as a reference to his behavior. That was a great episode, by the way.
A few practices went on hold for a little while; gym selfies, any metal music, red beans, and Korean BBQ. Pikachu went into a cabinet I don’t use. Also, anything having to do with the word "Wonderwall". Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet “When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in battalions”. This was especially true as I felt as I was being attacked in waves that would subside and then return later when I thought for sure I was alright.
Gradually I began to feel better. Something interesting happens when a relationship ends abruptly, without animosity. I couldn’t be angry because no one had been wronged. Instead I chose to focus on the lesson; not to allow such damage to be inflicted on my psyche through a voluntary, daily and consistent dopamine release; the result of constant stimulus from another human being. Classic conditioning.
What Tinman never said to me, and what I thought I wanted to hear so badly, was what I needed to be saying to myself. Relying on another human that much will ruin your relationship with you. I had the key to my own happiness all along. The ruby slippers were on my feet. He told me, during that last conversation, that he didn't regret our time together. I, however, have a single regret; that I never saw his serious butt in some roller skates.