Hardly Knew You

It’s early.

I’m awake because my day job is on Eastern time, and my boss is on UTC. Had to get up for a 5:30 AM meeting with her yesterday. I get two weeks off (unpaid) to recover from my surgery on Monday, and the prospect of sleeping in each morning seems like a glamorous luxury. It’s the only part of this experience that does.

In a few hours I’ll actually get up, put in hour or two more of contract work, clean the apartment, shop for food, and drive to the hospital and back for my COVID test, all before my aunt gets here. I also need to take down the link to this blog from my Twitter and Facebook (the only places it can be found) and remove some of the more personal content, but I’ll wait to do that until after the surgery has a successful outcome.

I think a lot about you, and about us. I think about how I took you for granted at times, and about how shell-shocked and broken I was when we first got together. I wish I could have been more present. There is something about having to rent out your home for an academic year because you are completely out of money that changes your outlook on life. Mind you we were still going to festivals on my company’s dime. I was driving into NYC to see shows with another old flame from time to time. Traveling and pitching whenever I could.

It’s easy to keep up appearances when you have grown up a scholarship kid from an upper-class family. You know the cheapest thing to order on the menu. You know how to buy groceries each month off the float from your maxed-out credit cards.

I have paid off all that debt several times. Using credit as income was a neat trick while interest rates were low. You see, you didn’t have to pay taxes on what you borrowed. Same with the proceeds from eventually selling my home (primary residence). I do well when the rules of a system are actually consistent and rational. Precious few of those systems around.

It’s still easier to talk about me than you. You were self-effacing. I mispronounced your last name for years, because you never told me the right way to pronounce it. (Should have known to ask, I guess.)

The one thing I feel genuinely bad about is losing the cd you gave me with your album on it. I still have the case. It wasn’t intentional. I try to be careful about things. But a lot of stuff got lost or jumbled together in that move. And of course all of the songs are still on the streaming music site that we launched together.

I am trying to figure out if me taking you for granted and being careless with your heart makes up for you lying to me about something really big and important for the last three and a half years we were together. I don’t think that it does.

Yeah, we were both checked out but some of that was cause and effect. We got engaged. You broke it off. You wouldn’t tell me why. Well, now I know. But at the time the effect was just to make me retreat further.

I never did a lot of dating while I was living on the other side of the country from you. Why would anyone in their right mind in Portland? I had my friend with benefits (who was mostly just a friend) and every so often I would try a lesbian dating app, or go to a queer party at a club by myself.

Would I have stuck through our open long distance relationship if not for the Pandemic and the fact that we were coworkers and cofounders?

Yeah, actually I think I would have. I had a few more years of perspective by then. The yearning for children had passed. I knew how hard it was to find and keep a good friend. If things had gone a different way, my current wages would be going toward private school and eventually college tuition, instead of to pay off debt. 

I tried really hard to be there for you, but you didn’t need that much from me. I don’t think anything makes up for your Big Lie—the way that trusting you constrained my actions, my words, and my choices, up to and including the night that I got raped—but there are two factors that I think explain it.

One is the fact that you were an in an emotionally abusive relationship for your entire adult life with a woman who still had financial power over you and with whom you still shared childcare arrangements. I get that. That’s heavy.

The other is your alcoholism. You are a functioning alcoholic, like my grandpa on my dad’s side. It never got in the way of your work and I wasn’t sure our relationship could survive without it—you only came out of your shell when we were both drinking. But I noticed the broken capillaries around your nose. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. Also the crates full of empties in your laundry room. How you raced to get your prescription for medical marijuana a year before it became legal to buy in stores.

I am not an alcoholic. Or at least I don’t think I would have been able to stop drinking for three months for health reasons if I was. But now that the lab tests for anemia are finally coming back negative, over these last two weeks before surgery I have dipped back in and it gives me pause.

Two beers in a single night? A glass of whiskey on the rocks with ginger ale? It’s not the road to ruin. It’s a social habit. I’ve always gotten along better with drinkers than nondrinkers. But what surprises me now is how easy and effective it is to numb the pain. So much easier and more predictable to just keep drinking than to change your life.

Arguably alcohol is less toxic and habit-forming than antidepressants. But regardless, I am sorry that we never talked about this while we were together. I wish I’d had more courage to bring it up.

For what it’s worth, I’m willing to do whatever I can to support you now. That includes giving up drinking myself, should we ever end up living in the same place.

Do you even like Led Zeppelin? Impossible for me to know. You like plenty of early metal and 70s rock, but I’ve never seen you “Get the Led out” from your album collection. I could tell you about where and when I first heard “Stairway to Heaven” another time, if you ever want to hear the story. It’s safe to say I know the band better from the reference in Almost Famous than from their discography. Nevertheless this song is what comes to mind, first thing this morning.

The fact that I don’t know whether you will love or hate this dedication is a testimony to the ambiguity of our relationship.

There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

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