First a note to you, dear reader. I can’t believe the traffic on the blog has hardly slowed since last I posted. Thanks to those who know me “in the real world” for taking care of my fragile ego and kicking my ass when I needed it. Secondly, I apologize to you for leaving you hanging. I have no real excuse other than I felt overwhelmed by the crushing weight of deadlines I set for myself and froze up. So, instead of posting by midnight every Sunday, I’ll be posting whenever I feel like (but not to the extent that I will go months without posting again). I started another major project that put me in the mood for writing so I will keep up with this as best I can. Thanks for your love and support. Without further ado, Part 6 in a very long story about my twisty love life.
Here’s the problem with expirationships: they really don’t work in real life. Love/relationships/companionships beyond a casual status cannot bear the weight of a “sell-by” date. But I didn’t learn that until things were long spoiled. Anyone could probably deduce such a thing if one used a modicum of logical reasoning. That’s not my style, though. I love to wallow in mistakes, nearly drowning before that “aha!” moment sparks, revealing my path of destruction. Thus, in true form, I barreled forward into a ridiculous situation any sane person would avoid.
A month before college graduation, I moved into a gated community apartment complex mostly inhabited by those transitioning out of the workforce, not into it. I moved in with Ryan, my boyfriend for all of four months. We shared the two-bedroom place with a mutual friend. I have a bad habit of moving in with boyfriends too soon, but I thought this particular breach in rationality would be different because of my newfound low-stress way of living in the face of the inevitable. Surely, I could live with a man I hardly knew, since we had no real commitment to each other?
After graduation, I spiraled into job-searching hell while attempting to make a home in our apartment, a full time job on its own, akin to being a single mom of two teenage boys glued to their computers playing video games for hours on end. It made for a less-than-ideal issue of “Good Housekeeping.” The fact that Ryan and our roommate also didn’t have jobs, coasting along on disability and parents’ good graces, respectively, left the financial responsibilities to me. Spending every dime gifted for graduation on furniture, bedsheets, and towels didn’t transform the hovel into a dream house, though. Failing at that, I took up baking cookies almost every day. Instead of the desired domestic tranquility, I gained weight and lost money. The cherry on top of the already melting domestic bliss was in the form of a lump of flannel and torn jeans, named Adam, occupying the couch.
Adam was a friend of Ryan’s who was in need of a place to stay while he (surprise!) searched for a job and a place to live of his own. Two weeks after we arrived at the apartment ourselves, Adam moved in with only one trash bag of clothes and two pet rats in a cage. I repeat: TWO PET RATS IN A CAGE. Oh, and guess where that cage sat? In the goddamn kitchen. The kitchen where food was made. It was already bad enough we had Ryan’s long-haired black cat running around shedding so atrociously that I often found hairballs of my own in the back of my throat. Now I had rats to cope with. Rats that would sometimes tussle with each other, rattling their enclosure, and emitting lovely screeching noises. Rats that would eat the nose off my face if given the chance–an opportunity they never got because I slept with my face covered in case they broke out, scurried into the bedroom, scaled up the blanket, and gnawed on my delicious face without waking and enticing the house cat. Yes, I thought about it constantly.
Living in a land of zombies, with their faces lit only by the blue lights of the infinite universes in front of them, I suffocated in the vacuous space and dull noises of magic spells, repetitive dialogue and explosions. Once again, the cold and dark weight of my illness fit like a comforting butcher knife finding a home between my ribs. This time, though, I experimented with a different form of chemical therapy: boxed wine. I kept them propped up on the coffee table and, with the wine glasses Ryan gave me as a graduation present,drained them until the warm fuzzies consumed the arctic crushies. Filling my time with glasses of wine and submitting resumes and cover letters fifteen times a day, trying to keep up with the rejections, I emptied myself of any joy or hope for the future. Ryan didn’t even seem to recognize my transition from enthusiastic home making graduate to a drained, lifeless drunk who would’ve clawed at the drywall to get out if she thought it got any better.
One particular evening, the lethal cocktail of alcohol, depression, loneliness, and restlessness was too much for my mouth to bear and I lashed out. I asked Ryan if he wanted to spend some time with me that didn’t involve video games or sex: a walk, dinner out, or even just grocery shopping. I loathe grocery shopping, but I was desperate for contact with a man who scarcely left the bedroom in two months, let alone the apartment, leaving me to do the errands (including that deplorable grocery shopping). However, he declined in the most severe petulant child-manner a rotund bearded man could muster. Furious, I attacked him verbally. My memory of that moment is a bit fuzzy due to the constant wine-veil I was sporting at the time, but I believe I said something about him being a loser and wasting his life. He retorted by skulking away back to his cave to play more video games. He never wanted to confront issues verbally. He was more of a “gestures-and-grunts” type, living in moments of short-term gratification strung together by 4-hour bouts of mind-numbing PC games, cursing at nobody in particular about pixels, load times, and frame rates.
So, I followed him into the bedroom and leaned down into his face, “Why won’t you talk to me?” I had him pinned to his high seat in Valhalla. I was determined to either have a meaningful conversation that would fix us or an all-out fight. Still I got nothing from him.
“Just go on and play your game and run away from what is real,” I slurred into the side of his head as he looked away. He continued to do just that, sucking on his bottom lip, eyes darting across the electric field,
“I think you’re really mean and really drunk,” he managed to say with a vacant look. Instantly enraged at the hot-button insult (considering my family’s alcoholic heritage), I spat back, “Haven’t you noticed that my proportion of alcohol consumption and depression is directly linked to how much you ignore me? I’ve tried making this a home, spending all of my graduation money on this place, and I feel fucking neglected, disrespected, and invisible.” His emotionless face was more infuriating than if he had yelled back. Standing there for two whole minutes of silence so wide I felt a truck could drive through it, I just stared at him, pleading with my eyes, wanting to yell that I was trying, really trying, harder than I ever have. I was drowning in an ocean of love to give and wasting it on someone reveling in his own spring. His eyes never left the screen, completely ignorant of the open-veined woman before him. I stormed out landing back on the couch, scared and trapped between my boxed wine and a blissfully snoring Adam. I had no car, no job, and nothing left of the respect I’d had for Ryan.
A few days later, I hadn’t made any plans to leave opting to do nothing for now. Ryan and I had never settled or discussed anything. We were sharing a bed, but that’s about it. My diet still consisted of wine, potato chips, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. It was during glass three or four, I realized it was Rob’s birthday. My five-year-relationship-Rob. I logged into Facebook and sent him a simple, private message: “I know you hate your birthday, but I thought I would tell you to have just a good day. Not a good birthday.”
Alright, it wasn’t simple. It took me about 10 minutes to craft that greeting/bad joke. I proceeded to stalk his profile, scrolling through his photos. He had lost some weight and had lots of pictures of himself hanging out with some of our friends back home. He looked happy, but mainly he looked like he was over me. He looked like the kind of guy who wouldn’t reply back to an ex-girlfriend. And why would he? The last time we saw each other, I’d told him in a crowded cafe that after two months apart, I was with a new guy. I started closing my laptop to go refill my wine, when I heard my Facebook Messenger ping, and for the first time in months, my heart thawed, sputtered, and coughed like it had just learned how to beat again.
He thanked me graciously without the venom I deserved. We exchanged pleasantries and “hey, how you’ve beens.” What should have been a quick birthday catch-up session turned into six hours of talking, joking, and laughing, reminiscent of our origins to be perfectly honest. A few times, Ryan silently walked through the living room to the kitchen. Not angry, just self-absorbed as he gathered much-needed soda and snacks to aid in his digital quests.
Rob and I continued our online friendship for a week and found myself explaining to Ryan that this wasn’t going to work out. I cited that we had too many differences and clung to the opposition we had regarding kids and told him I decided I didn’t want to be in an expirationship anymore, that I was wasting my time and his. He seemed more pissed off than hurt and told me to stop using “that stupid fucking word.” Not aware the milk was spoiled, he tried to shake it off and asked for “break-up sex” as a parting gift, which I declined as politely as I could.
…Next up: will Rob and Alicia get back together? Does anything really change? WHEN THE HELL DOES THIS END?!…