[Note: This should probably be the last entry in the RealLife™ Dating Guidelines, but it's on my mind, so I'm adding it now. I'll get things in order later.]
I recently wrote about my last conversation with Tim. I felt stupid sending him the email and even more stupid calling him. I knew that I should have no contact with him. I'm a firm believer in the clean break. No pretense of friendship--and no actual attempts at friendship until many, many months have passed. I called him anyway. It turned out to be the right thing to do because it gave me that elusive thing called "closure."
I'm often able to engineer a dramatic moment that helps me put a cap on a relationship. Once, I turned on my heel and marched across a muddy field to end a long torturous flirtation (I wrote a rather long short story about it last year). But sometimes a breakup is a lukewarm affair--either a deliberate, non-dramatic decision (like with Tim) or a simple winding down of enthusiasm. When that happens, I like to have a post-breakup debriefing (read: create a dramatic moment) to help me reconcile myself to the end. I see the guy in the new "not my boyfriend" light. It makes it easier to accept the situation--usually. The danger is that the meeting might prolong the pain.
This is a story about the first time I did something that seemed stupid that ended up giving me closure.
When I was 16, I moved into the dorms. (I entered college early and I was beginning my sophmore year.) I became close friends with Thomas, who I knew from when he dated Tracey. I spent a lot of time with him and joined his circle of friends, one of whom was David. All the girls, and at least one of the boys, liked David. David was extremely handsome. He was a quiet poet, except when he drank, which was frequently. He would often drop what he was doing to write in a little notebook he carried.
I fell for David immediately and spent as much time with him as I could. I knew my behavior was foolish, but I was 16 (almost 17) and I figured I got to make a fool of myself at least once (it's happened many, many times since). I would come back to my room after class, do my homework and then go hang out in David's room. My mother said, "Don't worry if your grades aren't that good this quarter." I just laughed. "I'm probably going to get an A this quarter." And I did. I was determined not to let a boy get in the way of school. I didn't want to be the girl who let go of everything to run after a boy. I took care of business (homework) and then spent the rest of my time running after David.
The problem with my crush on David was that he was sleeping with another girl in our group. I was spending the night in David's room (fully clothed), kissing him in elevators and talking to him until 4:00 am and he was sleeping with Danielle. And Danielle hated me. I could tell, but I didn’t know why. I knew David and Danielle had dated, but I thought they were broken up. Danielle's best friend, Lisa, hated me too. Lisa dated David before Danielle. The rumor was that David broke up with Lisa because she wouldn't sleep with him. Lisa continued to hate me long after Danielle forgave me. While it was going on, I had a sense that I was in the middle of a big mess. When I figured out that everyone thought I was sleeping with David, I was horrified. I apologized to Danielle and told her I wasn't sleeping with David. She said she knew and that it was ok. I said I hoped we could still be friends. She changed the subject. I also tried to remain friends with David. (This saga became the subject of two distinct short stories.)
That spring, after I turned 17, I thought that David and Danielle had broken up (again). David and Thomas dropped out of school and moved to LA to work in a door factory that David's step-father managed. (You really can't make this stuff up.) When I heard that our friend, Kathy, was going visit them for Spring Break, I decided to go too.
I was in LA for five days. For three days, Thomas and Kathy were there and we had a good time going to the beach and driving around. But Thomas and Kathy went back to Seattle two days before I did and I was left alone with David's family while he went to work. His mother took pity on me and invited me to go to Target with her and David's sister and the sister's new baby. One day I went bowling with my cousin from Pasadena. It was a lonely couple of days.
The night before I left, David bought some beer (he was 19 but found a store that would sell to him). I drank one and he drank five and we made out. The encounter was a mix of horrifying and hilarious, but I did not remove any of my clothing. The next day, we had an emotional goodbye at the airport and I left thinking that we were a little more than friends. I did not think David was my boyfriend, but I did think we were going to stay in touch.
A month after I got home, I ran into my bad friend, Stella at the snack bar in my dorm. (Stella also figures in this story, which happened the next fall, after I moved out of the dorms). She asked me if I knew that David was back in town. I said I didn't know and I didn't believe her. She told me he was staying in Danielle's room. I said that if David were in town, he would surely get in touch with me.
Later, I learned that Stella's story was true. This was when I figured out that I should act like I already knew whatever it was that Stella told me. It was better not to let her see how hurt and confused I was; she would only use it against me. (Stella told my friend Audrey, "The problem with Jamy is that she lives in her own little world." I laughed and laughed because I'd made exactly the same comment about Stella many times.)
After waiting a few days, I knew that David would not come to see me. At first I thought he might since he knew that I couldn't go see him in Danielle's room, given all the bad feelings. I lived in an adjoining dorm. He didn't even have to go outside to get to my room. All he had to do was take the elevator down seven floors, walk 100 yards through a corridor and take the elevator up another six floors.
I still hadn't heard from him a couple of weeks later when I had to get on a redeye flight to go to a family wedding in Massachusetts. The plan was to hang out with Audrey, eat dinner and maybe catch a movie before she took me to the airport. For whatever reason our egg-shaped friend, Ken, joined us.
There was a party that night. A party where David would be. Part of our plan for the evening was to "not go" to the party. We were in the car, driving aimlessly, and I said to Audrey, "You know, I think we should go to that party."
"I thought we weren't going. The whole point was to not go."
"We should go."
"It's a bad idea."
Ken said, "There's a party? I want to go!"
Audrey said, "I'm not so sure, Jamy. You know David will be there."
"I know and that's why we're going. We won't stay long."
Ken said, "I want to go to the party. We have to go."
"Are you sure?" Audrey asked me.
We headed to the party.
When we got there, Tracey greeted us at the door and felt the need to warn me, "David is here. With Danielle."
I said, "I know." I had already learned my lesson.
I went upstairs to drop off my coat and there they were--David, Danielle, Thomas, and a few others, sitting on the floor. I said hi and went back downstairs. My heat was racing. I got a beer and waited. I knew he would come downstairs eventually.
My moment with David came in the middle of a crowded room. Danielle left his side and she smiled at me. I walked up to him. My tone was more bemused than petulant. "Hi David." I gave him a big smile. "How are you?"
"Hi J. It's been a while."
"How long have you been in town?"
"About three weeks."
"Really. Why haven't I heard from you? Were you going to call me?"
"Well, I, uh, I figured you would hear that I was in town."
"I did hear, but didn't you want to see me?"
"Sure, of course. You knew where I was. I thought you would come visit."
"Really? You know I can't visit you in Danielle's room."
"You know why. Anyway, I'm not far. You knew where to find me."
"David, I thought we were friends."
"But we are. We are friends."
"Sure we are." I laughed and walked away.
When he said he thought we were friends he really meant it. That's what got to me. What kind of friend was that? Not the kind I wanted. It was what I needed to know and I got over David right then: the end, goodbye, no more looking back or feeling regretful. It still makes me smile when I think about it.
Sometimes the best thing to do is go to the party.
Grateful for: closure.