...when you're young and in love.
Alex was a handsome 26-year-old Cuban immigrant. He worked for Bacardi as an events coordinator and bartender, and was especially charming; but more than that, he was responsible, kind, honest, and seemed the complete opposite of Voldemort. My parents met and loved him, just as I did. I had also quit working for Expedia, finding a position with my father as an admin at the refrigeration company where he was supervisor.
Every once in a while, I get lost in the blues and the greens in his eyes. I get lost in the love and sincerity in his voice. Every once in a while, I drown in the warmth of his skin and the creases of his arms. I get lost in the person that he sees in me, when I'm lost in him.
A few months into my new relationship with Alex, he presented me with the opportunity to get out of my parents’ house. He was buying a condo, moving out on his own, and asked me to move in with him. I agreed.
It’s not a very big space but the rooms are barren, making it seem larger than it really is. There is a soft light and a sweet breeze coming in through the open windows. I take a sip of my red wine and continue to analyze my surroundings. The light from the outside dims and the radio continues to play as the sound is absorbed onto the white walls—all white except for one, which is covered in smoothed yet jagged rocks, in no particular pattern—like the pile of garbage sitting by the door, with every intention of leaving, but nowhere to go. There is a bed with no frame in the middle of the living room, a TV with an unsteady table as a stand, and some colorless pictures on the floor—leaning up against the wall. There is one lamp hanging from the ceiling, with a stained glass look, and a brass chain wrapped around the cord. The tile is dark on the floor, painted with browns and greys, making the room look dark and depressed—lonely. The balcony has a layer of dust and dirt glazing the tile, with a small pile of leaves sitting in the center, attempting to look organized. I light a cigarette and make the shy smoke dance with the wine—slightly hypnotized by the lyrics “Brighter than sunshine,” in my little dark space—our space.
During this time, along with finally enjoying sex again, I began to feel comfortable with the idea of getting high. Alex liked to drink socially, and he smoked cigarettes along with the occasional joint. I was developing a pack-a-day habit, on top of my taste for wine, and felt ready to give weed a try. Alex did not have a dealer—due to his irregular usage—and the little bit of bud he had stashed away was running low; but I immediately knew who could help us find more. That was when Voldemort and I rekindled our friendship.
After over a year with Alex, on July of 2006, my parents invited him to join our family in Las Vegas for their 25th wedding anniversary and vow renewal—which took place on the 20th. During the trip, my parents had a caricature of themselves drawn that still hangs in their living room today. I thought it seemed like a cute idea and asked Alex if he wanted to have one done of us. He did not. Alex claimed it was a waste of money and while disappointed, I agreed. My father, noticing my disappointment, offered to pay for us; but Alex was proud and refused to take my father's money. That was the tipping point.
That night, my father asked Alex into their hotel room where he berated him, loudly enough for the whole floor to hear—calling him controlling, selfish, and manipulative. A resolution never came, and Alex left their room feeling embarrassed and foolish. He said he never wanted to be put in that position again; and having been at the receiving end of my father’s anger my whole life, I understood. We returned home, and my family and I did not see much of each other after that.
It came out of nowhere, like a storm on a clear day, and took me away. Now I'm lost, somewhere I've never been—and there’s a struggle to try to rescue me from this place—from this place that has become my home—this place that I don't belong in, but don't seem to want to leave. I sink deeper into the storm, and shy away from my rescuers. I hope to be lost forever.
At first, I made a point to attend all of Alex’s large and tight knit family’s gatherings. They managed to find reasons to have parties nearly every weekend; and being from a small and antisocial family, I was excited to be a part of it. After a while however, my introversion got the best of me and I stopped going. That paired with Alex’s irregular work schedule—mostly late nights—left me feeling not only lonely, but also trapped in our one-bedroom apartment.
Things have been going badly for a while, like the bananas bruising on my kitchen counter; but I figured I’d eat them eventually. Sometimes they’re sweeter when they’re not perfect; but things weren’t getting any sweeter. There were more black spots between the norm. “It’s nothing,” I tell myself. “You’re just being silly,” I say, as the memories continue to bruise. Eventually, I would have to throw them out, but for now, the bananas fill the empty basket next to the toaster; and some rotting bananas look better than leaving it empty. “Empty, silly girl. It might as well be empty. The bananas would never be eaten anyway.”
Alex was nothing like Voldemort or my father; he was everything I thought I wanted. Still, what I longed for most, he could not give me. I had yet to return to school, unsure of what career I would pursue, but motherhood was a certainty to me. I had wanted to be a mother for as long as I could remember; but Alex was not ready to take that step with me. In fact, he did not believe in marriage and was unsure if he would ever want children. He married a woman he had met once in Mexico—in order to escape his communist home—and did not feel the urgency to make that commitment to me; so we remained roommates with benefits.
I found other ways to gain control over my life. After Alex had made a misguided comment about my weight, I began an eating disorder, which included constant exercise, little to no food, and an excess of 20 laxatives a day. At my lowest point, I got down to 98 lbs. on my 5’4” frame, and felt better than ever—but was slowly dying.
She’s tragically beautiful and she knows it—he’s just tragic but she loves him anyway. She sold herself short and he never told her otherwise, but then again she never asked. She never knew she was supposed to—as if men just recited sonnets to the women they loved on a daily basis. So she left and he never knew why. Or she thought about it, but was always too weak and too comfortable.
Furnishing the entire apartment to his liking, I had purchased most of the big-ticket items at West Elm—thanks to my overpaid admin position; but the money was running out. The refrigeration company was going under and I had not received a paycheck in months. No longer able to pay for my half of the mortgage, I made sure to take care of everything else. The apartment was always impeccable, and Alex always had lunch to take to work and dinner when he got home.
Nevertheless, the tension grew thick in our small condo. Alex had left his position at Bacardi for a job as a FedEx driver. He had hoped to save enough money to buy his own truck and route—a future he expected to be lucrative. I had my doubts, but decided I would go back to work with my mother at For Eyes. I accepted a position as optometric technician, and while I was not receiving as much as with my previous job, I was able to start paying for my share of the expenses again. I had also enrolled back in school, knowing I could not depend on Alex and work at For Eyes forever.
The space between Alex and I is filled with silence—not anger—not sadness—just silence. Sometimes I wonder if anything else would be better. The silence is deafening. I wonder if he can hear it. I doubt he’s happy. How could he be? I mean maybe he’s not unhappy, just bored. Bored is not the right word but it’s the only word that fits the silence. I might be saying too much. I’m not exactly comfortable in the silence but perhaps he is. And maybe it’s enough for just one of us to be. It’s normal. But I’m getting tired of the quiet. I crave noise.
On the first day of my History of Life Lab, I was befriended by Rizi and forced into his clique. He was a freshman while I was a returning junior; but he dragged me along, instant friend-on-the-first-day-of-kindergarten-style, and I followed willingly. I had lunch with him and his friends a few times that semester. Immediately accommodating, the group shared inside jokes and anecdotes. I laughed along and offered tidbits of my own personal life, staying mostly tucked behind my false social exterior.
Making my own friends for the first time in years, gave me the confidence to confide in Rizi; but it was not until I asked him to meet me at an off campus bookstore, and cried on his shoulder while venting about my rapidly deteriorating relationship, that I was able to see him as an equal. I felt connected to him, but all of my subtle cues and signals fell short. When he had invited me to have dinner and see a movie, what I had hoped was a date, was in fact a group outing. Instead of friendly flirtation and intimate conversation, I had irrational jealousy over his playful interactions with his other female friends. Once the semester was over, Rizi and I lost touch, and the group continued without me.
They say unrequited love is the worst kind, but in actuality, I think it's the second worst. You see, the worst kind of love is in fact unattainable love. Unrequited love is when you love someone but they do not love you in return. Now I know it sounds bad, but at least you have the comfort of knowing that there is nothing at all that could be done to make this person love you. However, unattainable love is a love in which whether or not it is mutual is not at all relevant. It might be mutual, but it is out of one’s reach for one reason or another; and those reasons are not usually very significant—distance, timing, or maybe the love of another—but are difficult for one to change; especially when you’re taking a chance on someone that may or very well may not feel the same way. In the grand scheme of things, I would much rather be in love with someone who could never love me, than someone who loves me but stands far behind life’s hurdles—making it seem impossible to ever really seek out the affection my heart demands.
Eventually, after suffering through the sexlessness and silence of my dying relationship, my newfound self-esteem led to a mistaken attempt at rekindling a romance with the ex before Voldemort. Not only did it not lead to anything, it enabled me to get over him finally, and made it painfully obvious that I could no longer pretend things with Alex would improve.
Three years in, the relationship had decidedly run its course, and I needed to move out. We had an amicable break; and I recruited Voldemort to help me with the transition—but refused to return to my parents’ house, instead using my mother’s credit to lease a studio loft in South Miami.