...when you fall in love with a cheater - part 2
I thought, that having lived for the majority of my life in Miami, I would be accustomed to city living; but in reality, Miami was never an actual city. There were aspects of it that resembled a city: Miami Beach, for example—with its ample sidewalks littered with shops, restaurants, and hotels; as well as Downtown—with all the bars and clubs. Brickell and Coral Gables, outside of the residential, resembled the Upper West Side blocks of Manhattan—with their manicured trees and posh establishments. Other than that however, Miami was no city—merely a tangle of suburbs connected by the most convoluted highways, and featuring the worst public transportation system.
New York City was quite different. Exploring was infinitely easier than in Miami. One could step outside and walk a few blocks to the closest subway station, and take that to wherever. Stepping out of the train, there always seemed to be a new playground, park, or neighborhood, and endless things to see—street performers, beautiful architecture, and the many different faces of the New York City residents.
I had been in New York for just a couple of days; and having sent out dozens of emails while still in Miami, had hoped to have a few interviews lined up. Unfortunately, The New York Times had not shown much interest in my resume. I only had one promising possibility to work as a writer for an online women’s publication.
On Monday, July 29th, arriving at a Madison Avenue office building earlier than anticipated, I made my way towards the restrooms to give myself a once over. The ladies’ room had been locked, so I opted for the men’s after confirming that it was not in use. As I stared in the mirror, steeling my nerves for my first New York City interview, the bathroom door swung open. The approaching man noticed me, quickly miss-assumed his mistake, and turned to walk out the door.
“The ladies room was locked,” I called back to no avail.
The interview room was empty. As I sat at a large conference room table, fidgeting with my purse, a figure appeared in the doorway. I looked up and found the same face that caught me in the men’s room. “It’s you,” he said, “the one that didn’t let me use the bathroom.”
Blush crept up my neck and into my cheeks as an uncontrollable smile lit my face. “I’m sorry,” I responded. “I had tried the ladies room but the door was locked. I didn’t expect anyone to walk in.”
“No, don’t worry. I’m only teasing. I’m Jourdan.” He took my hand in his and smiled handsomely. The interview then went as expected. I was confident I would not get the position, knowing I lacked the professional experience—and my obvious trepidation could not have helped.
I spent the next few weeks sending out my resume and going on interviews, while sharing a two-bedroom apartment in Astoria with my ex, my crush, his girlfriend, and my three-year-old son. I hardly saw or spent time with Thomas, and the rare instances I did, were the only good moments I had while staying with him. I spent the rest of the time feeling like an intruder in his space. Nat’s unhappiness with the living arrangements was palpable—putting Thomas and everyone else, in an increasingly uncomfortable position. I tried in vain to be a good houseguest—nothing could counter the tension.
Voldemort and I commiserated over the awkwardness of being guests in a home where we were no longer welcome, but could not leave. We wanted the friendship and company we had anticipated being a part of, but instead were shunned. The four adults could not share the space. The living room was not ours to claim, but when we would exit the bedroom, Thomas and his girlfriend would leave the couch and hide in their own room. We followed their example; but Thomas insisted we not be like roaches scampering to hide. He fully unleashed his frustrations one night; and I was hurt as I overheard him—loudly insulting us. I agreed with Voldemort when he said that we would never see them again once we found our own place. We bonded over our mutual discomfort and the stress of finding jobs and homes, and slowly began to discuss reattempting a relationship.
Countless staffing appointments, and only a month in New York later, I had finally found a position I liked—working in the Wall Street Plaza for an architectural firm. I was essentially a glorified secretary, but the position paid well, and—due to my marketing and writing skills—promised to allow me to exercise my creative muscles on the occasional brochure and award submission.
By the end of August, my son, Voldemort, and I had moved into a newly remodeled two-bedroom apartment in a private home in Astoria. Our lives had changed, and we hoped that we could be a family again. I wanted Voldemort to be a constant in my son's life, and knew that I could learn from our relationship—patience, mainly—if I let myself be open to it. I was fine—not particularly happy, but fine.
Meanwhile, Thomas and Nat’s whirlwind romance was coming to an end; and, after a couple of silent months, he and I picked up where we left off—finding excuses to chat each day. He let me vent about what ended up being a rather dull job—where I was never challenged, and only expected to arrange daily meeting meals and itemize expense reports every few weeks—and I listened and encouraged him when he told me that he wanted to pursue voice acting for animation in California.
Voldemort, as it turned out, had not changed. He was managing restaurants again—staying out late every night, and staggering in drunk and belligerent just before I went out for my morning run at 5am. I had enrolled my son in preschool; but since it was Voldemort's responsibility to take him, he hardly ever went. His inconsistent routine and lack of discipline made his behavior intolerable. I was feeling that old familiar anger rising up within me, and unfortunately, my son was usually at the brunt of it.
I hate that I get so angry and don’t know how else to react sometimes with my son. I hate that I feel so bad. Shake it off. There’s no use carrying this around all day—it’ll sour today when it’s only just begun. I lost my temper a few too many times yesterday. He’s just a boy. I don’t know how to handle him sometimes. I don’t know how to keep my cool. Stop, count, and breathe. That’s what I have to do. “I’m sorry, son. Mommy’s sorry for being so quick to anger.” I’m done beating myself up about this. I will talk to my son when I get home, and apologize again for my bad temper. I will tell him how I’m working on curbing that anger, and will play with him until bath time and then again until bedtime. I will read him two books before bed, and sing him to sleep.
I was working towards improving myself. All of my efforts to better my relationship however, were met with the same old obstacles. There was no respect, just take and no give, no communication, no compromise, no compassion; and sex was just another burden on my long list of obligations. I would let him have me whenever I could stomach it—hoping that if I pleased him, he would work to please me by being a better partner and father.
I feel empty. I feel like I’m living a meaningless life to a point. I am a mother and that gives me purpose. But I feel like I have little else. I know that’s not exactly true. I have a job—albeit boring and unfulfilling—and I have a partner that loves and desires me—even though I can’t bring myself to feel anything when he passionately kisses me. I have a home. I love where I live, but I hate how I’m living. I don’t know how to change. My passion is gone. I feel anxious at the thought of accomplishing anything other than the day-to-day. I look forward to dulling my senses with wine, and little else. What kind of a life is that? I look forward to reading, and coming home, and seeing my little one’s face, and laughing, and seeing new parts of the city. I look forward to one day having friends, spending time with them, and having dinner parties again. I’m in a rut but I will get out. I have to maintain a clear perspective. I’m healthy, and employed, and loved. I’m young and while I don’t feel beautiful, I am. Just breathe. Just smile and try not to focus on your sad emptiness. Please.
Then one night near the end of November, I awoke at 3am to my usually empty bed. Checking my phone to see if Voldemort had messaged, I was disappointed but not surprised when I noticed that he had not. I did however, have a recent unread email from Rizi. In the dark, feeling lonely and annoyed—a vague flutter in my chest—I read his letter.
I haven't written in a long time. I haven't had the time to internalize everything that has happened between us. I finally sat down today, cleared my head, and put on Sinatra. It has been a cold and unforgiving day. I've sat at home while I’ve gotten texts from everyone I know, wishing that I could join them in their celebrations. The simple fact is, I’m alone up here. It’s never been so apparent, but something about the silence in this house is terrifying to me. This doesn't mean that I’m unhappy; I’ve simply realized how alone I really am. Terrible thought. Thirteen hours later, I'm writing this email. Anyway, I’m writing to you to fill you in on everything, I mean the entire story.
When I came down and saw you, I was still attached to Dani. You asked me multiple times why I didn’t want to be with her anymore, and I couldn't give you a solid reason. The truth is, we are genuinely different people; we want different things and I couldn't imagine spending the rest of my life with her. So I did what I thought was best; I broke up with her. We broke it off and it dragged on a bit, but it all officially ended on October 20th. We're over, and I honestly want to thank you for making me realize how unhappy I was and how much I had been missing out on. Dani and I were not good together; our differences and my inability to do anything about it, is the reason why I was driven into your arms. And such amazing arms they were. I did wrong by you—I admit it. I'm genuinely sorry. I not only lost someone who I was romantically interested in, but I lost a friend—someone who I have grown to care about for the last five years. Whether you'd like to admit it or not, you mean a lot to me and I know that you know you do.
I have changed a lot in the past few months. I've really started to focus on myself and the areas of my personality that I would like to improve. I think that over time, I’ll start to finally figure myself out and what I want. Losing you was hard. Not the sex or companionship, but the friendship that was the railroad foundation to our crazy train. I hate that it ended this way. I have to admit; I wasn't ready to see a future with you. I didn't know how I was supposed to pick up where you and Voldemort left off. I didn't know whether or not I could handle the baggage you came with, and I wasn't ready to be a part of you son's life. You did the right thing by distancing yourself from me, it was the right decision for the both of us. I was so close to your fire that I had eyes for nothing else, but I hadn't asked myself the hard questions that needed real answers. And now that I look back at it, I wasn't ready for you; I don't think I’d be ready now.
Once I lost you, I reeled backward and realized just how far your light had pulled me away from anything I have ever known. I looked around in August and realized that I was with the wrong person, for the wrong reasons. I didn't know who I was and I didn't know what I wanted—I still don't; but at least now, I know what I don't want. I don't want to lose our friendship. And I don't think I ever will; someone very wise told me that, "No cause is lost if there is but one fool left to fight for it.” Well, call me that fool. I truly want our friendship back. Nothing more. I have this theory that we are trapped in parallel universes and that those universes intersect at certain points but our romance was always a doomed one. I’m doomed to watch you from a distance, a two-way mirror, far, far away from you, yet close enough to see the intricate details of the life that you're building in New York.
I met a girl. She's a great one. She makes me happy, and she lives in Miami. I can't say I share the kind of passion for her that I did for you, but I don't believe that I have had the opportunity to confront those emotions with her the way I did with you. My feelings for you were the byproduct of longing for you for years. I suppose I won’t ever come into contact with that kind of long-lost passion again.
I decided on a job in Miami. I’m being paid to do corporate securities litigation, and it's a dream come true. With everything that's happening, I feel like I can finally afford the lifestyle that I've always dreamed of living. I was offered four positions in New York, and I almost took one just to be closer to you; but I'm tired of making the wrong decisions for the wrong reasons. Miami is where I need to be—it’s where my family is—it’s where all my friends are—it’s where my girlfriend is—it’s where my life is. Yet, I find it shocking that I was willing to overlook all of that for a chance to be closer to you at one point. Crazy.
I hope this message finds you well. I hope you're happy and that you've finally become unstuck from your sticky situation. I don't know if you'll ever read this message. I don't know if you'll ever write back. I hope you do, but if you don’t, I understand. If I don't hear from you, I wish you nothing but the best and look forward to the next time that our realities intersect. No matter what happens or where you end up, I will always be proud of the person you are because I will always care enough to find out who that person is.
He was happy and wanted me to be happy too—but in that moment, I was self-pity personified. A couple of days later, on November 29th—my father’s birthday—Voldemort failed to come home until nearly 8am. He had fallen asleep on someone’s couch and had left his phone in someone’s car; and I did not care anymore. I was grateful for my life, and with each gratitude expressed, I found something more to be thankful for; but Voldemort was not trying. I knew a line of mutual respect and kindness had long since been crossed in our relationship, and there was no way to uncross it. I knew I would be happier alone than faking it for the rest of my life.