OK, I know. The title makes me sound like a horrible person -- and you’re absolutely right if you’re thinking that was an awful thing to do. It was! I guess my objective here is to paint myself as a relatable character, if not a sympathetic one.
When I was 21 years old, I was a mess. My father had died of a drug overdose a little over a year before, and both of my grandmothers passed away that same year. My mother was in the middle of a messy divorce from my verbally abusive stepfather, and I was in the middle of a break-up with my boyfriend of nearly 2-and-a-half years, who had opted to attend exactly none of my loved ones’ funerals.
Having recently made the ill-advised decision to go off of Prozac and subsequently renew my membership in the secret self-cutters’ club, I traveled to Europe to study voice (which had been my major) and to basically run away from my life. Alex was one of the accompanists for the vocal program I attended.
When I met him, I was unsure that we’d have a love connection -- for one thing, everyone seemed convinced that he was gay, but the way I saw it (and still see it), that was for him to say. For another, when we returned home, we would be living very far away from one another: I lived in Connecticut, and he lived in Florida. Still, I undeniably enjoyed his attention, and when he asked me out on a date, I happily accepted.
Things progressed quickly from there. I can’t say for sure why Alex was so taken with me, but I can certainly attest to my own desperate need for approval and love at that time. My bereaved state combined with my unchecked depression was a recipe for codependency. Also, being a Libra (if you buy that sort of thing), I was clinging to some nonsensical notion that life was actually fair. I had already suffered so much in the past year, I reasoned; now my ship had finally come in.
After the program ended, Alex and I both returned home to our respective states. He returned to his job teaching middle school music, and I returned to my mother’s house, where I took temp jobs and “spun my wheels,” as she so helpfully referred to it.
It probably would have been logical to allow my time with Alex to fade away as a summer fling, but being needy and somehow mentally incapable of letting one more person exit my life, I called him. We began talking on the phone nearly every night. He invited me to visit him in Florida, and I did.
Thus began 9 or so months of making monthly trips up and down the east coast for torrid weekend visits. During that time, it is safe to say that I was sickly obsessed with Alex and planning our wedding, while he was probably happy to have a girlfriend kept at arms’ length so that he could focus on his applications to grad school.
I mean him absolutely no insult; I probably should have been doing the same thing! My only wish is that he hadn’t felt it so necessary to spurn me on by insinuating that we ought to go to Iowa to meet his folks, professing his undying love for me, and discussing our future plans to procreate.
Valentine’s Day was the beginning of the end. I felt certain all day that I’d be receiving some sort of token of Alex’s esteem in the mail, but nothing came. We ended up having a bit of a state of the union conversation about where things were headed. Alex had gotten into the graduate program of his choice and planned to move to California, and seemingly wanted to make that move unencumbered by the long-distance girlfriend. I managed to convince him that we would be able to make it work; that I’d happily go with him.
We dragged things on until April, when he finally made it clear that he no longer wanted to maintain this façade of a relationship. He told me that he needed space, to which I responded, “The entire east coast isn’t enough?” I was being a bitch, but I’m still proud of that comeback.
I decided that I needed closure, to see Alex in person to be sure that he no longer loved me. To that end, I drove to Florida. Yes, you read that correctly. I got into my used Honda with over 100,000 miles on it and drove 1,200 more to confront my ex.
My mother (correctly) asserted that Alex was making the right decision; he wasn’t a horrible person, it was just a case of bad timing.
“Besides,” she coaxed me, “really, don’t you think he’s gay?”
The thing is, I would’ve been fine with his being gay (which, again, is for him to say and no one else) if he would have still had me. I had bargained with God almighty: I had to lose my dad, so I got to keep Alex.
Upon my arrival in Florida, I contacted Alex and he agreed to see me. I think he was honestly a bit confused as to how and why I came to be in town. It was a miserable weekend. I cried on his bathroom floor. We had miserable break-up sex….and I purposely stopped taking my birth control pills.
My motivation was not to “trap” Alex in any way. I merely wanted someone to replace him.
I know this was ridiculous logic, but it was coming from a clinically depressed and unmedicated 22-year-old mind. I wanted unconditional love. I wanted someone who would love me best of all -- better than alcohol, or drugs, or graduate school. I wanted a piece of Alex that he couldn’t take back.
A month later, I stood in a Wal-mart bathroom with a recently purchased pregnancy test and saw, when I prepared to use it, that I had just gotten my period. At the time, I was disappointed and immediately began a marathon bender during which I lived off of my dad’s life insurance money and wrote the kind of poetry and break-up songs that only an epic heartbreak can inspire (and for that creative fodder, Alex, I am truly grateful).
Three months later, I somehow managed to pick myself up off of my dirty apartment floor, get myself into therapy, and get a job. As a 30-something woman with a family and a mortgage and all those grown-up things that most 22-year-olds can only imagine, it strikes me sometimes that I’m so normal now. I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t manage to become pregnant through underhanded means.
I’m sure I would have managed to be a good mother (as I am now to my beautiful son, whose father -- my husband -- was a willing participant in creating him), but it would have been horribly unfair to Alex, and it would have been exceedingly difficult for me.
I hear from Alex every once in a great while -- he called me the day of my wedding, and when I was 9 months pregnant (we have no mutual friends, and I derive some perverse pleasure from the knowledge that he must have cyber-stalked me to have found out about those landmark events in my life). I am happy with my life, and I assume that he is, too. I only beg my friends to tell me that I’m prettier than his wife during my very darkest hours (just kidding -- MAYBE).
I don’t want to throw out that trite “everything happens for a reason” adage, but I’m grateful to the universe that I don’t have to live with the intense guilt I would have felt if I’d succeeded in my pregnancy plot all those years ago. I’m grateful to have pulled myself out of my depression. I’m grateful that my ship finally did come in, after all.