The cinematic masterpiece Fatal Attraction has taught us a number of things. Firstly, never keep a rabbit in your kitchen. Secondly, when it comes to relationships, there is no such thing as a clean break. This example may have anticipated the wrong tone for this story, but it makes my point: just because you are 100% certain that a relationship is over, does not mean that that person is out of your life.
I met Dawn June of 2010, when she visited Chicago from Kansas City, Missouri. She was a gorgeous, petite blonde nurse and, for some reason, she was into the puffy, sweaty brunette handing out (awesome) L Stop business cards at the Gay Pride Parade. When the night died down, we began talking. She had mentioned how she thought about finding work in Chicago, but so many people say they want to move to Chicago and they want to believe themselves when they say that someday they will.
She asked for my number, and once the weekend was over, we continued to develop a friendship via video chats and night-long phone conversations.
She wanted to develop a romantic relationship but, despite the fact that I was crazy about her, I knew long distance could not possibly work. So I told her that could not give more than friendship. She seemed to respect and understand this. Two months later, she mentioned how it was more likely that a nursing job was available to her in Chicago. So I caved and told her that I wanted to be with her.
She visited three times before we broke up: the weekend before Thanksgiving, for five days before Christmas., and for New Years.
My relationship with Dawn began to feel like a loose baby tooth, hanging from throbbing gums by only a few pathetic roots of hope. Anytime she threatened me with a breakup, it was if she was wiggling the tooth just enough to make me cry and maybe pluck a root. I wasn’t making enough time for her. I got angry when she said I was selfish or didn’t care about her– which apparently is me being too touchy when given constructive criticism. We also wanted different things: she wanted a wife and kids; I just wanted to graduate college. But I tried to say and do whatever made her happy for the duration of a phone conversation.
I lost count of how many times she got me to the point of tears and pleading and apologizing like some blubbering moron. But I do remember the day I realized she did this routinely, what I bitterly called a negotiation tactic. It was the penultimate time we had one of these conversations that I promised myself that the next time she said good bye would be the last. I told her that I would schedule at least an hour to her nightly and she seemed pleased with that. This seemed to work remarkably from December 26th to January 17th.
One night out of nowhere I received a text saying that it still wasn’t enough and that even though I was a great girl she couldn’t stay with someone who “made her fourth priority.” Shocked and hurt, I called her to ask if we could talk about this, but she said that she just didn’t feel like she was getting enough from me. I apologized and said that I hoped she found someone who gave her all that she felt she didn’t get from me.
She got upset. “So that’s it?” I heard after seconds of painful silence. “You’re not even going to try anymore. All I want is like 15 minutes more of time….” I realized that she was just wiggling my tooth again. What she didn’t realize was that she had finally worn it down to its last root.
The phone conversation ended early that evening. She kept wanting to talk. I received several text messages saying “I just need my best friend right now.” I couldn’t respond.
This is when I realized why we were not meant to be together: she was not truly satisfied with who I was and I was not proud of the person I was becoming.
By the way, if you cannot find a single friend who thinks that a particular relationship is good for you, it is not.
A few days later, she started texting me asking obnoxious things like “Do you hate me?” or “Will we ever be okay?” They are obnoxious questions because they cannot be answered three days later. I’m not clairvoyant and if I had to assess based on
how I felt in that time I would have answered no. But of course she didn’t want that response. She wanted validation that she did not crush my spirit and shatter my confidence. When I told her that it hurt to talk to her so abruptly she told me all the things I heard weekly in our relationship – that I was selfish, and so cowardly that I pushed her away. After a day or two of ignoring hate texts, she would apologize and I’d tell her it’s fine, just to end the conversation.
For two and a half months it was fluctuation between forgiveness and casual small talk friendship to her suddenly hating me again to her needing to talk to me (and sort of re-forgiving me). Normally I would advise people to take this re-forgiveness with grains of salt and ignore the phone calls, but she always had a crisis that would make me a monster if I ignored her — her son fell and she felt like a terrible mother, a girl attacked her in the middle of nowhere, she was very ill, she got married, she got an annulment, etcetera.
She eventually found a girl who really values her and who she really loves, so the fights have stopped. I did not feel as though we truly broke up until she found genuine happiness. Before that I was still being punished for the same things. So I wish her and her new love all the happiness in the universe, because if they do not find it, I am back to being the punching bag.
Now comparing Ex 1 and Ex 2, why was it so much harder to maintain a friendship with Ex2 than Ex1? My guess is that Ex1 dumped me by telling me that she just saw me as a friend. Ex2 seemed to break down everything wrong about who I was and
she never seemed to forgive.
When a girl who you love (for that matter, even a girl who a you aren’t crazy about) breaks up with you, it triggers a long period of devastating self evaluation that often makes us scared of the next one that comes along. With Ex1, since she didn’t give me a solid reason, I assumed the usual reasons, that I got fat or I laughed too loud. With Ex2, I didn’t have to speculate at all because I got the same bullet point (and I use the word bullet point because each time was as infuriating and painful as a bullet to the knee cap) each time she decided to hate me.
I don’t know why I fought so hard to keep a tooth intact. Maybe because I knew that once it was gone, I would look and feel stupid every time I saw myself in the mirror, but I guess I forgot that when a dead baby tooth falls out, in time, it allows for the right one to grown in.
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Casey is a creative writing student at DePaul university. She enjoys reading, writing, and taking long walks around the city of Chicago.