Ten years ago:

The girls in Syracuse broke up. It had been building for a while, but one day it finally broke apart. I got phone calls from both sides of the breakup, running all of the facts through me in an attempt to get me on one side or another. I tried to be understanding but neutral about the whole situation, comforting but detached. It was very difficult to try and contend with their feelings from so far away.

I have theories about the inner nature of their relationship that I have brought out from time to time, and all of them have to do with jealousy and strange types of manipulation. In some theories I am a victim, and in some I am a foil. The one constant is that their relationship was doomed to complete failure from the beginning, and as the years go by these facts become more plain. Regardless, their relationship had life-changing effects for me, and I still carry some of that around with me even though so many years have gone by.

In the turmoil of that static, my most recent ex and I started talking about what all that meant, and how she thought now that she might want me back. Whatever defenses I had build up over the previous months to defend myself from that pain evaporated at the merest suggestion that we might get back together. We talked on the phone about how things had been, and what the future might hold for us. I knew that I was being pathetic even then, but I fell into the trap I had set for myself.




Even typing that name out seems irrationally dangerous, like it might summon her back into my life. Perhaps that is why I've been avoiding calling her by name even when I've been writing about her for months. It took a lot of effort and a lot of time to comprehend how completely fucked things were with her. I am so far removed from the life that she used to represent that I am embarrassed to still feel this way about calling her by name. But some people can attach themselves so strongly to others that the aftershocks are felt perpetually, and this is the kind of situation I am in.

Perhaps being young is a good enough excuse for the way our relationship worked, and I should be able to wash my hands of the whole situation without feeling guilty or stupid. Inexperience can lead us down tricky paths that we are not equipped to deal with. I would really like to think of it this way, but I'm not able to do that. I feel like I should take responsibility for things, even if I didn't necessarily see them coming. Yes, she bears a lot of the responsibility for what happened between us. But I was the idiot that kept opening the door and letting her in whenever I found myself in a position to do so. It would be so much easier to lay the blame at her feet and walk away, but I know better than this. I injured myself just as much as she could have, and I hate having to recognize that.

The comfort that I find in this are the lessons that I pulled out of it at the end. By the time I stopped talking to her, I had figured out certain things about myself and how I relate to other people. I was a less tolerant of perceived mistreatment in relationships. I knew what I wanted and what I needed out of a partner were not necessarily the same thing. I was stronger, in the same way that exercising makes one stronger; the repeated problems we had made me better able to deal with other problems.

But I was scarred by what had occurred in our relationship, and I took time out to be sure to reopen these scars from time to time. Any relationship I had between 1996 and 2001 was tainted by her shadow on my heart, and sometimes it drove people away from me just as quickly as they had arrived. People would tell me that I wasn't over her, and I would try to dismiss these thoughts as silly. But everyone was right then, and I was the the one that was irrationally dismissing what my relationship with her had actually done to me. It took many Earth-shattering emotional breakdowns over her before I finally learned my lessons and tried to reconstruct myself.

Calling her by name in this place somehow brings forth the irrational idea that she could do that still. I am flinching for a blow that is no longer coming.



I do not do well when I am single. I tend to feel that I am floating in space when I am on my own, goalless and lifeless and without any good sense of direction. I don't like this about myself, but this seems to be hard-wired in me somewhere and I didn't really get a chance to work it out in my youth. My brothers seem to operate under the same set up, and I don't know where any of this comes from. I assume it had to be something to do with my upbringing somehow, but I have not found the component parts for that mindset sitting in the little of my childhood yet.

Three weeks of beating myself up over the way things had been with Isis took a lot of stamina out of me. Maybe I was still reeling from the close encounter with myself I had two weeks before. I was lonely and tired and I needed something familiar to hold on to, so when Amy started with the suggestions I was lulled by her. Somehow I was able to look past the way she had broken things off with my ex-girlfriend only days before, and accepted this situation as not only acceptable but desirable. We were somehow meant to be on this path again, and I embraced it with a foolish heart.

We talked on the phone into the late hours, negotiating a new pattern for us to work off of. In my defense, I did talk about the shitty way she left, and how I had different ideas about who I was. The fact that she didn't seem to absorb any of this must have washed off of my somehow in the hope that I was reconnecting with her. We talked about being together, and where we would be and how we would work it out. I didn't want to move again; I had a good job and a steady place to be and I didn't want to risk all of that. She said that she didn't want to be so far away from her family, but she was willing to come out and visit and see if there was something there for her to work off of.

I was genuinely elated to hear that from her. I had set the terms for an aspect of our relationship, and she had agreed with me. I felt this way even though I could then think of several times previously when she had made such a commitment and completely bailed on it. But I wasn't listening for that. I was holding onto the hope of us getting back together again, and how things would be so much better once we restored the world to the way it obviously should had been all along.

I was an idiot. I walked right back into that mess.


Notes on a life in exile: A retrospective
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