by Amelia Kanan
It’s been quite a while since I’ve written on this ol’ blog of mine. I won’t bore you with the reasons for my absence, but I will bore you with a story.
Remember, the genre is called creative non-fiction. As for the truthful parts, it happened so long ago that I can’t even remember his name…
Technically, I broke up with him…in a voicemail the day after Thanksgiving.
Yet, that came as the result of when he had abruptly moved across the country and only called me to complain about moving across the country. Granted, his dad was dying of cancer. Allegedly.
Three weeks prior to his move, he put his possessions up for sale on Craigslist and told me that he was thinking about temporarily moving back to a place that he so despised, to take care of a man who he equally despised. Naturally, that rekindled the flame I had initially felt when we had first met. How noble a man to sacrifice his successful career and loving relationship to nurture his cruel, undeserving father on his death bed? Swoon.
And, oh how I swooned. Easily comprising my precious alone time and personal space to fulfill his never-ending need for my physical presence. My quick to surrender behavior wasn’t due to new love, but rather another smooth tactic he used in wooing me, very early in our relationship. Some women are attracted to ambition and perseverance, but not me. I like the man who tells me, on our second date, that his mother never held him as a baby. That’s when the swooning began.
He was the youngest of five and his homeschooling mother was too burnt out on child-rearing to pay him any attention. His abusive father wasn’t any help, either. Luckily, he was a child prodigy who taught himself how to read, do arithmetic and start a business at the age of 8, raking lawns. By the time he was 10 years old, he had saved enough money to buy a lawnmower and at age 12 he was successful enough to have finally won the approval of his family members, aka his new dependents. While his parents and siblings relied on him for money, domestic duties, and decisions, he started public school. There he found comfort in teachers who were eager to mentor the young genius. It was their faith and support that encouraged him to attend college, where he discovered how bored he was of education. The physics major dropped out when he sold his first feature screenplay to Paramount and moved to Hollywood. His quick rise to success brought him the stable, predictable and quiet life he had always wanted, as a screenwriter in Los Angeles.
What can I say? I’m a sucker for a good story, especially when it involves an underdog (go, Cubs). The funny thing about underdogs though is that they have to fight, not complain or feel sorry themselves, in order to get to the top.
Although he hated being alone and we slept together every night, his future fantasy of us included separate bedrooms. Nonetheless, in spite of his distaste for sharing a bed, he had to be physically connected every other minute we weren’t actually sleeping. Do you know how difficult that makes things when you’re doing laundry? Don’t get me wrong, I’m an affectionate person too but, I was constantly scolded for pulling my hand away too quickly when I needed to use it to pay for something…because his AMEX card had been declined.
The list of problems was endless:
- He only had an AMEX card
- He was skeptical of every male in my life, including my brother (gross)
- He didn’t like to travel
- He didn’t like when I traveled without him
- I was never giving him enough attention
- I gave everyone else too much attention
- He thought I was secretly in love with his best friend
- I had to apologize for giving everyone else too much attention (especially if it was his best friend)
- I had to apologize if I didn’t laugh when he said something funny
- I had to apologize if I laughed when he said something serious
- I had to apologize for falling asleep during movies
- I was always apologizing
- He never apologized
Why, you may ask, did I stay?
Shamefully, it was the shameless, dirty, uninhibited and, at the same time, incredibly kind and gentle sex.
In the back of my head, I knew it was just sex and even when I loved him at my hardest, I had never wanted to marry him. This newfound detachment between my heart and body was quite liberating. I felt powerful, knowing I would be the one to leave him and that my heart wasn’t all in like in the past.
I’m sure it was due to the fact that I never trusted him and I am not the kind of girl who has trust issues, I’m actually the opposite of the girl who has trust issues (obviously).
One day, his 1984 BMW stopped working and months went by without any real sign of a new car on the horizon. He felt torn, he said. Wishing he could just buy a shitty car (which I supported), but feeling “business” pressure to buy something more luxurious (which I also supported). These little
conversations out loud ponderings often happened as he comfortably rode in the passenger seat of my car. Which, by the way, was another red flag. My driving style is quite commonly a point of real contention. No one, especially any man, has been that content as my passenger.
Anyway, there we were, sailing through a yellow/maybe red light when I casually asked, “So…what are you thinking? ” Well, my tone wasn’t aloof enough because an explosion of accusations blew up in my face. How dare I question how much money he has? How could I be so insensitive about his childhood poverty trauma? He also managed to throw in the whole in love with his best friend stuff, too. Who for, by the way, I had zero attraction and was only overly nice to him because I wanted him to like me enough to stick up for me when/if my boyfriend ever doubted my commitment. Which, evidently was the case.
I could more than understand when he explained that his modest upbringing made him feel very uncomfortable spending money on himself or us. This was fine. I’m not a materialistic person and don’t look to boyfriends to pay for me in any sense, but this was weird.
Just as he questioned my attraction to him, I couldn’t help but question everything from his past to his present. Sometimes I wouldn’t even realize my skepticism until he would defensively react to a quizzical gaze or a question that prodded too deep. Why didn’t he have to go into his office – ever? Why did he only have an AMEX card? I was forced to pay for things too often and, I’m sorry, but “paying” me back by covering my portion of concert tickets gets really old, really fast. Specifically when it is a concert that I didn’t even want to go to, in the first place.
And why, if his family had treated him so awfully, did he talk to them almost every day? I mean, compared to his upbringing, my parents were gold and I only talked to them, maybe, once a week.
Combining this ever-expanding collection of suspicions along with our incompatibility, I was right on the verge of calling it quits.
Alas, things got more complicated when he decided to tell me that he had Asperger’s.
What was I supposed to do? How was I supposed to respond? “No, you don’t” or ,”I think we need to break up?”
That next week was brutal. I was so consumed, tracing every memory with a fine tooth comb hoping to find hard evidence to concretely prove to him that he was a liar, that I could barely look at him, let alone sleep with him. But, I did.
Towards the end of that week, he told me that he needed to tell me something.
I just kept thinking, please break up with me, please break up with me.
His dad had 6 months to live.
Was he lying? Was this real? Was it bad that I felt like everything was all about him? When was the last time he took care of me?
Call me old fashioned, but I can’t abandon a person’s heart once they’ve told me, “No one, including my parents, has ever loved me,” or “I have Asperger’s,” or “My dad is dying of cancer.”
When we said goodbye at the Burbank airport in August, he made me promise that I would come visit for Thanksgiving. Considering he had a flare for theatrics, he asked to communicate mainly through hand written letters and only Facetime twice a week.
A normal person might have wondered if he was going to jail. Or they may have felt relieved. Or, most likely, a normal person wouldn’t even be in that situation. Unfortunately, I’m not normal and I felt abandoned, even heartbroken, by someone who I never actually loved or trusted.
To make matters worse, he didn’t write me one letter and barely Facetimed. His phone calls were infrequent and I couldn’t help but want more. In the times that he did call, I would stop anything I was doing to find a quiet spot alone to talk to him. He hated when I was with other people, especially when those other people tried to say hi to him and wish him well.
The conversations revolved around him being a hero to his family. He spoke about how exhausted he was from taking care of his irresponsible sister and her out of control kids, his brother who had just been arrested and their needy mother (his adjectives, not mine). All of whom, he was also financially supporting.
Mindfully masking my doubt and contempt, I would ask, “How’s your dad?”
He would groan in response, “He’s fine, just creating more problems like usual.”
Then, he would say something dirty, instigating phone sex.
Being the devoted, distant girlfriend I was, I would comply.
I felt emptier after talking to him. The worst of it all was that he never once asked, “How was your day?”
One night, a few weeks before I broke up with him, I went home with someone who I had known for years. He was smart, funny, attractive, and most meaningful of all, he actually enjoyed talking with me. Something my absent “boyfriend” saw as an obligation, even when he was present. After we started kissing, I awkwardly stopped and fled from his apartment in the middle of the night, knowing this was a betrayal of some sort that I couldn’t commit, even to my nonexistent, lying boyfriend, who didn’t like talking with me.
It’s embarrassing to admit that I cried when I ended things in that voicemail. They weren’t sad tears for him, they were angry tears for me. I’m not an angry person, so I was also just angry that I was angry, in the first place.
I’ll never know why he actually moved. Did he want to break up with me, but didn’t know how to actually do it? Did his dad really have cancer? Could he not afford to buy a car? Was his family actually very loving and insisted that he move home due to his Aspergers and finances?
And, then I think, “Did he even move?”