Isn’t it romantic?

Exes are always hard to deal with. In my family, we sort of collect them in the same way we collect old hair dryers and waffle irons, whenever we have to deal with them again there is always a little bit of nostalgia and longing, but ultimately we aren’t going to use something that only burns stuff when you use it.

I was driving to SLC Airport a week or so ago and was stuck at a strange time of night. I was exhausted and wanted to talk to someone, but my friends in New York were already asleep and my friends in LA were already out for the nightly binge drinking. So I took a chance and called an ex-girlfriend that I hadn’t spoken to in a while, just to sort of catch up and do my bi-monthly guilt assessment.

We spoke for a while, I asked about her new boyfriend, a guy that I like quite a bit but who is nowhere near equal to the task of corralling her monstrous personality, and she said that it was a struggle. I couldn’t really help myself. I told her that this guy wasn’t up to the task, I said, ‘Look, I just hope you get with a guy who is gonna think it’s funny when you screw up. You can’t help but screw up, it’s in your wiring, I just hope you find a guy who is man enough to deal with it..’

She said, ‘You mean, like you used to be.’

I was instantly really uncomfortable. This particular girl, although definitely full of love for me when we were together, has been less than forthcoming since the break-up, characterizing the whole relationship as a series of growing lessons that she eventually outgrew. For her to give me props on any level is extraordinary. But, I knew she was right, she knew I knew, and there wasn’t anything more to say about that.

She asked me about my upcoming nuptials and I went into my dance about the future and my hesitant excitement. She asked me why I was hesitant, and I pointed out that every relationship I had been in before was a failure, including mine with her.

She said, ‘You didn’t fail. I did.’

Um…. what?

‘No, you were always there. I should have tried harder. I shouldn’t have bailed just because you hit a rough patch. I know I haven’t said it before, but this thing was my fault.’

Well, I mean, I sucked. I definitely sucked.

‘I know you did, but, y’know… I just feel like I should tell you that I should have hung in there. I lost you, I fucked up, and now I don’t get you. It wasn’t your fault.’

I don’t know if any of you read this blog besides people who know me pretty well, but surely you can get a sense of just how ridiculously self-absorbed I can get, and I fetishize my depression like a Sylvia Plath addict, and this particular relationship ended on a six month bender of failure and self-hatred. Despite the fact that she began another relationship before we were done with ours, I have always blamed myself for not doing more to keep her.

‘I mean, I’m glad it happened,’ she said, always the pragmatist, ‘but you shouldn’t feel like it’s your fault.’

This probably shouldn’t have meant that much to me, but the break-up was highly contested. Most of my friends chose to end their friendship with her, certainly neither of our families have spoken since, but some of my friends not only have remained friendly with her, but refuse to allow anything negative to be said about her. The implication was that she didn’t do anything all that wrong, or if she did it didn’t really matter, and that is tough to swallow. In the final analysis, if she is straight with me, I guess it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks.

And here’s the thing. I have been friends with her, despite the betrayals, despite the occasional hostility. I have always loved her in my own way, and in her own way she has received that love. It seemed wrong to me that I could love someone so deeply, and then just stop any association with them, just stop any kind of contact. I didn’t believe that I could be capable of that level of delusion, and I still don’t. Although we may speak only bi-annually from now on, although both her style and substance are anethema to me now, the connection that we once had won’t ever be completely forgotten.

And I wouldn’t want it to be. That relationship is what makes me try so hard in my present one. I don’t ever want to be caught again having not done everything I could to make the people I love happy.