I had gotten my bearings together and decided once and for all that I needed to end things and go back home. The only problem was I couldn’t do it that day. I couldn’t even do it the next day. Our schedules were so different and he was working late both nights. I would have to wait almost 3 days before telling him that it was over. In those 3 days I had no ideas how to behave. After all, I still lived with roommates (his close friends) so I felt that I had to go on pretending everything was okay, less they catch onto my sentiments before I had a chance to discuss them with him. Putting on the charade made me sick.
The night of my big announcement I sat in the train station, bawling my eyes out while on the phone to my mother, terrified not only of talking to him but of telling my new roommates that I would be splitting on the lease while simultaneously shattering their friend’s heart. I cried and cried into my phone. My mom offered to use her air miles to fly me back, but I had already decided to make the drive back with my car filled with my clothing and personal belongings. I begged my mom to fly out and make the drive with me to which she gladly agreed.
When I sat down to talk to him I felt as if I might projectile vomit. He was shocked at first, definitely a little in denial and then immediately demanded that I go upstairs to tell the roomies, perhaps thinking it would scare me into changing my mind. When I sat down and told them, they were in shock, but understanding and compassionate, telling me that they realized what a hard decision it must have been for me and assuring him that they would lower the rent or find a solution to help him through the transition. The two of us retreated downstairs and tried to talk it out, but he was so stunned that I left him alone with his thoughts. Soon enough the shock turned to anger. He stormed in and demanded to know how I could be okay with throwing 5 years down the drain. He accused me of wasting his time and throwing him head first into financial ruin. I tried to make him understand why I felt that way I did, but the truth is, I didn’t really understand it myself. Although there were always some doubts in my mind it was as if after that night at the Drake concert, someone had flicked a switch and suddenly I just knew it wasn’t right. I tried to talk him down and his rage subsided to sorrow and the tears began to flow freely down his face. We climbed into our bed to escape the cold of the basement and talked all night. Finally, he understood what I needed to do and why.
“In a way, I’m so proud of you for being brave and independent and I’m so excited for this new chapter of your life,” he explained, his voice strained with emotion. “I just wish I could come with you.”
I told him I needed to retreat to the spare bedroom to sleep and that I would find somewhere else to stay for the remainder of the week.
“Noooo,” he wailed in desperation, “Please stay here, at least for tonight!”
I was too drained to hurt him more by saying no and so I stayed although neither of us slept and I would not return to spend another night in the house.
The next day I slept in to avoid seeing my roommates and put in my notice at work. Desperate to avoid the house I texted a friend who I had recently reconnected with and briefly summarized the situation, begging her to join me in a girls night out. She asked me to meet her at a well known downtown bar and then preceded to tell me she was running late as I stood outside, desperately inhaling my cigarette. Shit. It was too cold to stay outside in the -40 weather, so I begrudgingly entered the beer hall. The place was packed to the gills with suave-looking business people noisily networking while enjoying happy hour. I made my way through them in my hoodie, with my greasy, unwashed hair thrown haphazardly into a bun, no makeup, lips raw and bleeding from crying and eyes swollen and red. I took the only available seat directly at the bar and threw my many winter layers onto a pile in the floor. I had never felt so ugly and out of place in my life. But that all changed not 5 minutes later when a group of guys next to me bought me a shot of tequila (they could clearly see I needed it). Now I usually don’t drink tequila, but I was too damn cold and depressed to pass it up. Finally my friend arrived (looking gorgeous and put together, of course) and we got to talking. The drinks from attractive business men kept coming and by the end of the night we were dancing completely alone and my confidence had skyrocketed and in that moment I knew, I’m going to be okay. She dragged me into her husband’s car and insisted I spend the night at their house. In fact, she insisted I spend the week with them in, something I will always be grateful for. Without their kindness and generosity I don’t know how I would have made it through my last week in town.
The next day I arrived back at the house while he was still at work and I immediately set to work boxing up my things. Even though I chose to only bring my personal items and rid myself of more than half my clothes, I realized that I still wouldn’t be able to fit much into my tiny hatch back. I lamented the loss of my old textbooks and beloved novels as I struggled to decide what to bring and what to leave. I fell into hysterics while pawing through my box of Christmas decorations, choosing to save a single ornament: a hand-blown glass ball that a friend had made for me the previous year. I couldn’t believe that not even two weeks ago I had dragged the box out of storage with plans of decorating and celebrating with my man. I called my brother for moral support.
“They’re just things,” he insisted, “You own them, but they end up owning you.”
“Isn’t that from Fight Club?”
I tried not to be materialistic, but I felt sunk when I thought about leaving behind my pillow top Queen size bed and brand new bedroom furniture, but what could I do? My new room at my mom’s house would barely fit an air mattress and I didn’t have the money to move the furniture much less store it. When he returned home he seemed genuinely shocked to see me nearly packed up. He told me I had to phone his brother and brother’s fiancé and tell them why I would not be participating in their wedding, he also insisted I break the news to his parents. When I refused, he forcefully insisted.
“NO!” I bellowed, “YOU don’t get to tell ME what to do anymore! That’s the whole point of all this!”
Instead I had to listen while he called them up.
I left my stuff in a pile and retreated to my friend’s house with a week’s worth of clothing in tow.
When I returned to load up my car before leaving to meet my mom at the airport, he met me at the door and helped my bring my stuff outside. His one roommate and best friend wouldn’t even look me in the eyes. To both of our amazement we managed to fit it all and when I slammed the trunk closed, he turned to me and said, “I just want you to know, I’m not mad at you and I support your decision. You’re the love of my life and if you ever decide you want to come back, you’ll always be welcome.”
Tears streamed down my face and I whispered, “I never wanted to hurt you.”
He kissed me quickly and softly on the lips.
“Sorry. I just had to do that.”
Off to a bad start
My mom and I left first thing in the morning to begin our treacherous drive. To my shock and horror, my mom had no intention of driving any of the 12 hours it would take to get back to the West Coast, saying “You know I don’t drive in snow.”
All night I’d been fretting about the road conditions and even considered going through the states, but my mom kept assuring me it would be fine. Of course she was! She wasn’t going to be driving!
I drove white-knuckled through the icy pass and breathed a sigh of relief when we finally stopped for gas.
“Can you drive for a bit?” I begged. “The roads are clear here. Unless… you’re not comfortable.”
My mom confidently announced that it was time for her to get over her fear and that she could and WOULD drive. I prepped her on what to do if the car started sliding: hold the wheel straight and gently tap the brake. I made her promise that she would pull over and let me drive if ever she felt nervous. We passed through some sketchy areas, but my mom kept her cool like a pro. When we reached a stretch that had a thin dusting of snow, my mom got cocky and careless. Suddenly she screamed out, “WHAT DO I DO?!” as my car slowly started drifting across the lane.
“Hold the wheel straight, tap the breaks,” I encouraged calmly. “HOLD THE WHEEL STRAIGHT.”
“I don’t know what that means,” she wailed as she wildly cranked the wheel from side to side. There was seriously 5 solid minutes in which she could have corrected, but instead we crossed into the other lane and hit a barricade. Hard.
“I am so sorry,” she moaned.
I burst into tears. I knew in my gut that this would happen. I hated myself for asking her to drive, I hated my luck, I hated my mom for crashing my car, and then immediately hated myself for even thinking such a thing about the woman who was doing all this for me.
“It’s okay,” she insisted, “let’s get out and take a look.”
I wailed even harder when I looked at my car, the front was completely a skewed. I could’t even get the hood open to see if the engine was okay. But the airbags hadn’t gone off and it was still running. I lumbered into the front seat and insisted we continue on, much to my mother’s protests.
“Don’t you want to stop and collect your bearings?” she asked.
“No!” Tears continues to stream down my face and I drove. The conditions became so bad that I was literally driving on a sheet of ice. I drove 40 clicks under the speed limit while a multitude of vehicles followed closely behind. “I can’t do this!” I would wail every so often as cars whizzed past me, yelling obscenities. Then the snow began falling in large chunks and we retired to the next town, checking into a cheap motel then immediately walking to the closest pub where I downed caesars and deep fried pickles and tried to forget my troubles.
The next day the roads were bare and we set off, soon meeting falling rain and high winds. Yet, the grey, gloomy conditions filled me with joy. It didn’t matter, because I knew I was home.