They were both looking for safety in houses with cracked foundations, rotted out roofs and termites of the past eating at the beams.
It started out innocent enough, two first loves reconnecting through an Instagram post of an old song that was once their favorite. He was in the midst of a divorce. The battle field was hot and violent. She was only one year out of the turmoil that leveled her soul. Three thousand miles between them and 25 years since they last saw one another, but yet they never felt closer than they did as they exchanged love memes, text messages and sweet loving phone calls throughout each day. It was as if they were kids again but with better technology.
It was the first time in a long time that she was able to open her heart willingly and without second guessing, even though his life was full of chaos, baggage and dark roads ahead. Her dark roads were behind her. Or so she thought. She had overcome adversity and was on a new career path, feeling positive about the future that lay ahead, and ready to move back east to start a new life with him.
He was in the fight of his life but this new, old love made him believe that any thing was possible. And that God had a plan for him and that plan led him back to her. Although very hasty and still not physically seeing each other, they laid the foundation for the future. It was romantic to pick out wedding venues and talk about the kind of home they would buy, the trips they would take, and the parties they would throw, the matching tattoos they would get above and below their hearts and how they would spend their evenings cooking and being lazy on the couch. They talked of the past and how the choices they made led them down busted roads with bleeding hearts and broken souls. They wondered what would have happened if they had stayed together as teenagers and went the distance. He told her that no one had loved him or looked at him with loving eyes the way she had. She sent him a picture of the diamond promise ring and name plate he bought her over 30 years ago. She kept it with her all of these years as a reminder of what true, innocent love and passion were. Never before and never again had she had that. Until now.
He was her safety and she was his or so it seemed.
The trip was planned and for three months they talked about all the amazing things they would do together. She even downloaded an app with his kissy face as the background with a count down until they could hold each other again. It might as well have been 1986 because that is how they acted, even though he was hiding her from his ex and his children. Timing is everything and according to him, it was not the time. So phone calls were made from work or from random car rides to get coffee. She was his secret, he was her world. She gave all of her for part of him. They reasoned that laying a strong foundation was what was best for when the dust settled. Only then would it be the right time to meet his children.
But the best laid plans…
His daughter found text messages on his phone with hearts and kissy emojis and his ex was informed. The tornado blew. Tensions and emotions were high. He was stuck in the thick of it, but she could feel the backlash of the turmoil. Once so sure about what he was doing and where they were heading, now you can hear his footing slip and the rocks tumbling down the cliff. Funny thing about secrets is that they always leave behind a path of destruction that is impossible to find your way back from.
He insisted that he had it handled. She was not so sure. Once so confident, old feelings from relationships past crept in. She thought that she had worked through those security issues, especially because her confidence was so high in the last six months. She was in a high frequency place and things were going better than she ever expected. But then the insecure dreams of not being in control started to creep in her bed at night. The dream of trying to fly but not getting off the ground, trying to scream but nothing comes out, trying to hide but being found, trying to do your job but everything is in the wrong place and you can’t get the job done. They were back and she was frustrated.
LaLa land had dark clouds looming and old patterns from both sides were stirring the storm.
He felt torn between protecting his family and loving her. He longed to see her especially since his ex knew of the plans and didn’t want them to reunite. She could feel the shift and told him that even though it would break her heart, she would understand if he didn’t come out at this time. His children didn’t want him to take the trip. She wanted their time to be special. To be about the two of them and their love. She didn’t want him worried about his children’s emotional state. Maybe now was not the right time. Maybe they should wait until the dust settled. He vehemently disagreed. He said that his kids wouldn’t be home while he was away. He would be left home alone when he could be cuddling with her. He said he had been waiting his whole life to be with her. Insisting that when the time came and his kids could see the love they shared that they would understand and get over it. He said there was no way he would let his ex stand in the way of his happiness again.
His ex wouldn’t have to.
She asked him if he was sure and he said without a doubt. She told him that she was nervous, that maybe they had built this meeting up to this fairytale story. What if it doesn’t meet expectations. He assured her that there was no way it couldn’t.
“It’s you and it’s me. It’s us.”
She hesitantly trusted him. So even though the butterflies that once floated free in her belly now had their wings tangled in knots, she agreed to have him come out to visit. It is not the first time she ignored her gut and it’s not the first time her ignorance has destroyed her.
The day had arrived. She rented a sweet cabin on a farm in the middle of no where. She drove to the airport filled with nerves, anxiety, happiness and insecurity.
“What if he didn’t think she was pretty enough?”
It had been 25 years after all. What if her body was not fit enough? What if he got there and didn’t want to stay? What if she wasn’t attracted to him? What if his kids called non stop and made him homesick? What if they had built this up and it comes crashing down?
She was sick with excitement and got to the airport an hour early. She waited, rattled with nerves, for him to get off of the plane. He hates to fly and the innocence of him not knowing where to go made her love him even more. She could see him through the glass doors. He smiled with his mouth closed as he did as a kid. The sliding glass doors opened. He dropped his bag and opened his arms and she jumped into them. He hugged her so tight that it looked like they were one, and for a minute they were.
They held hands. Hands that fit perfectly into one another just as they did on October 27,1986 at CYO where they shared their first kiss. She was 15 and he was 17. But now they were in their mid forties. His hand felt exactly the same. How could that be?
As soon as they got to lunch, reality hit in the form of his lawyer calling. He tried to shake it off but the weight was too heavy. They headed to the cabin. Just sitting in the car with him and holding his hand as she rubbed his arm was the happiest she had been in years. She didn’t need much more than that. He was happy to be touched in a sweet loving way. It was like no time had passed and the hurt that others had inflicted on them had disappeared. After all, each one of them was a step in the staircase that led them back to one another. In that moment the the years of anguish were worth it. All of it.
They got to the cabin and unloaded the car. She put down her bags and as she turned around, he put her face into his hands and pulled her close to his mouth. She didn’t have time to be nervous. She kissed him long and hard. He lifted her up and walked slowly to the bedroom. He laid her on the bed and fell on top of her and they began to peel each others clothes off. All she could think about is how he was the one who taught her how to really kiss. He taught her how to love. He taught her how to drive and how to explore a body for hours. As she closed her eyes and kissed him she could smell the leather from the back seat of his Cadillac. She could see the steam on the back window and the Italian horn hanging from the rear view mirror. She could hear “Show me, show me you really love me,” playing from one of his homemade cassette tapes.
But they weren’t kids any more. They had a bed and a whole romantic cabin to themselves. They made love. It was a little awkward at first. He seemed nervous and she was shaking. Everyone she ever loved had hurt her, had deceived her, had put their needs before her, had lied and cheated and treated her as if she didn’t matter. She knew in her heart that he could never do that. It was HIM. And although she broke his heart as a kid it would be the first and last time she would ever do that to him. She had every confidence that with communication and all that they had been through that there would be no way they would lose this a second time. It was too important. He had lived in a cold marriage for 19 years. He longed for the day to have a gentle touch and someone to cuddle with at night. No, there was no way they would ever lose this a second time.
And then the phone rang.
She heard him telling his kids that he was on a farm with horses and cows. When they asked who he was with, he lied and said with an old friend’s family. Her stomach sank to her ankles as she listened to him lie to his kids. He had told her earlier that that’s what he told them but to hear him actually lie in his own voice struck a chord. If he could lie to them, he could lie to her. Why was he lying? They knew about her. His ex knew he was coming to see her. If he had to lie then why did he come? She had lived through so many relationships that were riddled with half truths and falsities. She couldn’t do that again. Her heart began to beat so hard that she could feel it in her ear. She sat on the bed, numb, wondering what is happening.
She whispered, “This is not good.”
He came back inside as pale as a ghost. He asked her to help get him back home. It was the first time he was away from his kids and although they weren’t home and wouldn’t be for two days, he said he needed to be there. They weren’t sick or in trouble or hurt. They were highly upset that he was away and that he didn’t take them with him. He felt guilty for leaving, for lying and he had to go home to make it up to them. In a month their whole world was going to change by a court order and he felt like he had to be there for them. Not once did he ask her how she felt about it, or what she thought about it. It was not their decision to make together. She had no say. She just needed to be the chauffeur and she needed to understand.
She felt weak, emotional, scared, and unsure. They had only spent a few hours together and most of that was driving. What was happening? Did he really need to get back to his kids or was he not feeling what she was feeling between them. The rest of the night was awkward and distant even when they made love again. There was a disconnect.
That night he slept with his back to her as he watched the Honeymooners on his phone. She laid on the opposite side of the bed listening to an anxiety meditation to get out of her head that this was happening to her yet again. At three thousand miles away she felt closer to him than three inches away in the same bed. And then it began. The tickle in her throat that she would get whenever her ex would lay down next to her. It always led to an uncontrolled cough which would lead to her sleeping on the couch to give him “space” when in reality it was her own physiological way of putting up a wall. She knew then that the only honeymoon they would experience together would be the one that was playing on his phone.
She hardly slept a wink. Neither did he. She wanted to be there for him. Comfort him, Console him. She rolled over and laid her head on his chest. He stroked her hair as she listened to his heart beat erratically. He started to cry. She had him lay across the bed so that she could comfort him by rubbing his head but within two seconds he jumped up and ran away. A part of her died inside. Fear and old patterns were whispering in her ears. She didn’t trust that he was telling the truth. She didn’t trust that he still loved her like he did before he saw her again. She felt hollow, unattractive, unsure and so frightened that she didn’t know how to be all of those things for him and not melt into a puddle of emotion for her. All she wanted to do was run. Running is what she does to escape the fear taking over her cells. It doesn’t matter if it’s 4 am or 10 pm, when she puts headphones on with her playlist blaring in her ears, there’s no stopping her. She will run until she’s too tired to be afraid and the music has drowned out her negative thoughts.
So as he showered, she ran. Before she knew it she was 6 miles away and he had to pick her up. The tension between them was so thick. She didn’t want him to go but she didn’t want him to stay either. She could feel her heart take up her entire chest.
He said, “I’m sorry I know this sucks but my goal was to touch you and I at least got a chance to do that.”
She was beside herself. Did he really just say that as a way to comfort her?
And then it got worse.
“Please don’t be selfish and make this any harder for me than it already is.”
She was selfish? This was only hard on him? Who is this person? What was she doing? She felt as if she was in a time warp. She could hear each ex blame her for their cheating, their lying, their ill intentions. She had to get out of the car. And so she did. She jumped out at the next light and ran down an alley where he couldn’t follow. She left him with her car in a strange town across the country and couldn’t bring herself to answer his calls. She burst out into tears. How is this happening?
She pulled her self together even though all she wanted to do was fall apart. He had to get home. He wanted to be home. He didn’t want to be there with her. Her issues would have to be put on hold. Pull it together. She texted him her location. He texted back that he was lost. She asked if he was lost in life or just in the town. He responded with “both”. She felt guilty and selfish. She knew once he got home it would be a matter of time before it was over. Their love was a figment of yesterday’s imagination and she fell for it hook, line, and sinker. Every girl wants the fairytale but her’s were always written by Edgar Allan Poe.
They were both too damaged, too broken, too scared, too messed up to pick up where they left off. He took off that day but it was never the same. Her walls were up. His walls were up. He blamed her. She blamed him. They were both too stuck in their former battered armor to do what they promised to do. To communicate. To work through their issues together. To love each other no matter what. To listen, console, comfort and be there for one another. To be a team. To find balance. To protect and love one another. To not make the same mistake twice.
The pain body is a funny thing. It rears its ugly head when you least expect it and it lets you know that you are not in control. Your pain is. Your hurt is. Your exes are. Your father is. Your grandfather is. Your kids are. Your past is. Your fears are. It will tell you you’re right when you are clearly wrong and it will make you push good things away when all you want is for them to stay.
Her biggest fear in life is that she doesn’t matter. He knew that and whether it was an unconscious thing or a deliberate one, he wrapped it up and left it on her door step. He is left to fight his battle, not realizing that the fight with his ex is the least of his troubles. She is left with old demons disturbing her sleep, disrupting her mind and a second time to regret what might have been with the love of her life.
You can’t build a steady foundation on top of the past’s rubble, no matter how much you both deserve it. Everything will eventually come tumbling down. Who do you point the finger at? Who is to blame? Does it even matter? Next time maybe they’ll both be smart enough to sweep away the rubble and start from scratch. Wise enough to keep their promises and have empathy for their partner. Everyone comes into relationships with their own baggage. It’s callous to think that yours is bigger or more important. Or maybe they’ll blame each other or someone else, repeat the pattern and build something even more unstable. Time, reflection, and healing will tell.