Two days before I was supposed to leave town his name showed up on the reservation list. What had been an overwhelming feeling was 100% confirmed. And I was calm. Ready. And in many ways looking forward to spending time with him, as well as our other friends, in a place where time really has stood still.
Alas, the lives of its graduates have not stood still, and suddenly I was struck with the thought—what if he isn’t alone? I mean, it isn’t unreasonable that he would want to bring his “very nearly wife” to campus with him. Sure, she’d been there before, and their wedding was coming up, but still… I was ready to say goodbye. I was ready to accept all the changes. I was ready to move to friend mode.
However, I was not ready to spend the weekend with his almost wife. I was really not ready to spend the weekend in the room next to him and his almost wife. Because you know that’s how it would work. I had just figured out that the classes closest to each other would be staying in the same building. Which meant that in an act of malfeasance, the universe would have been tapping its fingers together and saying “ah, yes, I know exactly how this should go…”
Needless to say, I sent a very quick note off to a mutual friend to find out. His reply was “he hasn’t mentioned it” and then “he doesn’t know if she’s coming”. He doesn’t know? He doesn’t know? How do you not know these things? Thankfully, our delightful mutual friend offered to change rooms with me if the worst happened.
It didn’t. He came alone.
I had been on campus for about 45 minutes, when I headed back to a lounge to wait for our mutual friend, O, to arrive. I had no idea when The Ex was getting into town, but since he typically arrived everywhere at the last minute when we were dating, I figured I had at least the evening and part of the next day.
I was wrong.
I was sitting there, and I noticed someone come through the first set of doors. I didn’t see his face. But I knew. Something about the way this man moved—his stride, demeanor, something immediately struck awareness in me. I was frozen.
And there he was.
He kept walking toward the elevators, but said hello to me in passing, as any polite individual would. I sort of laughed and said “Hi” (bringing out my big linguistic guns for this one). And then, there we were. Realizing it was me, he dropped his bags, came down into the lounge and then the music swelled. We pledged our undying love and eloped.
Yeah, nice try. In the movie of my life, that will be my choice. The reality, while not cinematic, was still something I’ll replay in moments of weakness, I’m sure. It was a hug—a totally enveloping, pick me off the floor, still feel it in the morning, hug. The Ex is almost a foot taller than I am, and while the man may have his faults, he knows how to hug.
The next sentence out of my mouth wasn’t a declaration of love, or a jump into nostalgia. It was “so, I guess this answers the question of whether or not you’re coming”. It was met with humor, and a good dose of confusion as he did not realize his presence had ever been up for debate, or a subject of concern. He was, after all, off living his life while internal drama had settled in on the west coast. Apparently, he hadn’t picked up those mind reading skills that I often wished he had when we were together.
For the next three days, The Ex, O, other friends and I played. We reminisced, and enjoyed the days like real life, work, rent and aged ovaries held no concern. At one point, before the big gala, O asked me if I was going to try to talk The Ex out of his impending marriage. The answer was no. Nor was there ever a hint of impropriety.
How about awkwardness, you ask?
Yeah. There were a couple moments of that. We didn’t discuss his almost wife for the first day, or so. I could tell that he was trying to keep that low key, presumably out of deference to my feelings. I avoided it because… well, because that’s what I do. You should probably know that he and I had never discussed her. No back and forth—ever. Contact that I’ve had with him by email over the last year has been friendly, but solely focused on his career, mine, etc.
Finally, I decided that not talking about it was getting a bit silly, and it was time for me to stop flinching. So, as we were walking ahead of the group, I said to him “I’ve been avoiding the subject because I hate the idea of you marrying someone else, but tell me about her”. And with a nod of acknowledgement, he did.
And I lived.
To be honest, I do hope he’s happy, and I hope that she is amazing. I’d be hurt if this was just a timing thing. I want her to be the best thing that is ever happened to him.
So, the weekend went on. I was never back in my room before 2 am—shocking given my penchant for being tucked in by 9pm at the latest. It was fun, and for the most part, I just let the rest go.
The weekend was full of new experiences with old friends, and lots of plans, mostly professional ones, for the future. But there was one story told by a new friend, that I have to share.
This girl, who I had never met, knew O and had met The Ex, years ago (probably 5-6 years into our relationship). I have no idea where I was, probably working, but the three of them had gone with some other friends to a baseball game. When O introduced us, she said—“wait, you’re The Ex’s Kate”? At which point, all the people there who knew him, and didn’t know that he and I had dated, figured it out fairly quickly. The girl explained that she didn’t know me, barely knew him, but by the end of the game, she knew all about The Ex’s Kate. She knew I was a dancer. She knew where I had worked. She knew what I hoped to do. She knew everything about me. And she said she was thrilled to finally put a face to a name.
I didn’t really say much, other than that was really sweet to hear. But inside, there was part of my brain that kicked in and started nudging me. I’m not sure why, but I think I had convinced myself that the relationship hadn’t meant all that much to him. I mean, he was the one who finally decided to end it. Part of my brain found it easier to accept that it hadn’t mattered rather than accept that he loved me, but didn’t think it could work. So, to realize that he had been proud enough of the relationship to talk someone’s ear off about it was a bit of surprise. I think at this point, something in me started to shift.
Of course, he is still a guy, so he nearly needed to be smacked regardless of all of his exemplary work to that point. Why do boys speak? Seriously. I can’t tell you how many times over the years when things were going along smoothly only to be derailed because he spoke.
We were walking over to a picnic (O, The Ex and I) when The Ex started telling a story involving me and some campus fun many moons ago. Just as hilarity was about to ensue, he accidentally inserted the name of his almost wife into the story instead of mine. That’s right, ladies, he called me by her name. And he didn’t notice. He just kept talking. Meanwhile, I literally gasped and put my hand over my mouth to physically stop myself from vocalizing my…um…surprise. And O looked over at me immediately to see if he had heard correctly. Actually, he had that look on his face that said – If I weren’t a white, late 30 something, straight male, I’d be yelling “Oh, no, he din’t” and snapping my fingers right now.
Naturally, I demurely refrained from interrupting the story so as not to embarrass him.
Yeah, right! In my new role of friend, rather than supportive girlfriend, I so called him on it! And he was suitably mortified and apologetic. Ha! You better be buddy, if you ….
This one slightly dicey moment aside (thank goodness I was wearing my “so dealing with it” lipstick), I loved the weekend. I saw old friends. I made new contacts, and I played, which I do so little of in my day to day life. But more than that, I got something that I somehow knew I needed—more time. I had the chance to spend three and a half more days with someone I love. I was granted days of hugs, stories and friendship, and I was granted a measure of peace. I realized after days of really listening to him that he wasn’t just important to me, but that I had been important to him.
I’m not saying there weren’t some tears when we said goodbye. But we said the things that needed to be said.
And I let him go.