This piece is a follow-on to several pieces, which you can read in this order (each piece stands alone): Once Bitten, Live and Learn. Or Not., Better To Have Loved and Lost?, and Death of Scheherazade.
I’ve been thinking I might be ready to date again. It’s been almost two months since my promising but brief relationship with Mike ended abruptly when his ex-wife, finding that being divorced wasn’t as much fun as she thought it would be, asked him back. Desperate to reclaim some vision of “family,” Mike decided to give his marriage another try despite the small odds for success and his feelings for me.
I’ve resisted putting myself out there, though, because of the chance that Mike will come back to me. He never asked me to wait for him—and theoretically I’m not—but I have been harboring the delusion that our breakup might not be permanent. I thought I should send an e-mail telling him that if he was near a decision, now would be a good time to tell me. I didn’t want to find myself torn at some point in the future and take someone down, as he did.
I knew there were some sensible reasons why sending this e-mail wasn’t a great idea. First, I wasn’t convinced it was necessary. I probably knew as soon as he said he was going to try that he was going home and staying there. He had 20 years of data; surely he knew whether he could be happy with his wife. Based on what he’d told me, I didn’t think he could be, but he was kicking the tires on that old jalopy anyhow. That’s because, since his divorce, he’d been Dorothy, lost in Oz, and now his ex was telling him how to use the ruby slippers to get home.
I also didn’t love the idea of chasing after him. But it seemed more important to get his status than to worry about my dignity, which had gone out the window long before. I’d already sent many e-mails and text messages against pretty much anyone’s better judgment—dignity wasn’t really a factor.
So, as I always do before writing, I started to think about how I might phrase the message. But then a strange thing happened: a nagging little voice inside me said, “Do you really want this guy back?”
What’s this? Hadn’t I been wah-wah-wah-ing about him for months? I loved him, after all, and had been so happy when I was with him. Ask anyone whose shoulder I’d been crying on.
It was an epiphany, as if I’d been fiddling incessantly with a pair of binoculars and finally got the damn things to focus on the tree right in front of me. The fact was I had a major problem with Mike that predated the breakup. I had even been willing to walk away from him because of it, and told him so just before this reconciliation business came up. He drank too much for my taste; I had an inkling he might even be an alcoholic.
Hold on. What? That’s what my friends said when I told them about my new perspective. Somehow I had failed to mention the drinking problem—and other deal breakers—to several of them.
I had also known since the breakup that Mike was capable of lying. His ex had asked him back days before he told me about it, but he continued to see me—and be intimate with me—without saying a word.
Perhaps most telling, he hadn’t seriously considered his ex’s offer until I pressed the point about his drinking. It was hard to deny the correlation (and believe me I tried): if he went back to his wife, an even heavier drinker than he was, he wouldn’t have to change his habits.
I came to realize that the voice was telling me that a relationship with Mike was a high-risk proposition. Maybe I was the one with the ruby slippers, because I had known the truth all along; I just had to go through a lot of trouble to see it clearly. But after going so long without the good stuff I felt when I was with him, I was left with only the facts. Not only was he not coming back, even if he did we had a major challenge to overcome. Plus I would never forget the lie, and probably never forgive it.
Being the ultimate fool when it comes to love, I can’t guarantee I’d hang up on him if he called tomorrow. But I don’t think he is going to call tomorrow and, now that I’ve clicked my heels three times, I really don’t care.