He asked, and I said yes.
Not immediately, of course. I took my time thinking about it. It was a huge question, after all. The future of our relationship was riding on it.
I thought about what my life would be like if I said no - and I saw time stretch to infinity. Days spent with coffee, books, writing, and my wandering thoughts of would-could-have-been? Maybe I’d be content. For sure I’d be okay. But would I be happy? Would I spend the rest of my days asking “what if”? He’d asked me before, and I said no then. I always said no. Maybe I was just never ready to say yes. Maybe neither of us were.
But what if I was ready now? What if we were both finally ready to give up the charade and stop acting like this wasn’t the best choice for both of us? Ready to admit that maybe this is what we both wanted, even though we were scared to death of the commitment, terrified of the finality of it all?
So again I thought about my life and what it would be like if I said yes instead - and still I saw time stretch to infinity. But this time, I couldn’t quite picture how my days would transpire. I only saw an endless stretch of road. Possibilities and adventures unfolding before my eyes that I had long ago waved off as silly daydreams. They were improbable and impossible...if I continued to say no.
I sat him down one day after work and we just looked at each other in silence for a moment. I think he knew it was coming.
“My answer,” I said, “is yes.”
“Yes…” he repeated, almost as if it was a question. He seemed unsure.
I told him again, and explained to him why it was my answer. Why it was my final answer.
I also told him I that loved him more than anything in the world. That I never knew I could feel whole. Safe. Loved. I told him I never believed I could care about another person as much as I cared about him and that he was my best friend and my first love. He would always be my first love. And he would always be my only first love - forever.
That’s why I had to say yes. I had to keep him like that forever.
We stood up to hug and as we did he stroked the back of my head in that familiar way and whispered, “I love you,” as we both cried.
“I love you, too,” I managed to whisper.
And then we let go.
ONE MONTH EARLIER
“Do you feel unfulfilled in our relationship?”
“Excuse me…? Why are you asking me that?”
“Do you feel unfulfilled?” He asked again.
We were both at work and talking to each other on G-Chat, like we always did. We barely talked once we got home, but during the day it was non-stop messaging back and forth. I complained about that all the time.
“This isn’t fucking AOL,” I’d say. “We share bills and animals; I’d like to talk to you in person.”
But no matter what I did, or what “rules” we’d feebly try to implement (“Let’s not talk during the day so when we get home we have something to talk about.”) we somehow always went back to our middle-school-esque relationship communication of : Online messaging / No in-person interaction.
“No,” I finally typed, “I don’t feel unfulfilled. Sure, we’re different and it’s hard to be with you sometimes but I don’t feel unfulfilled.”
It was a lie.
“I love you more than anything in the world. You make me feel so safe and sexy and loved. You don’t get mad at me when I have anxiety and you always calm me down. You make me laugh and I love that we’re so kid-like and silly. You’re my best friend. You’re my first love. I love being with you and I can’t imagine being with someone else or without you. We share a life together. You’re my family.”
It was the truth.
Then I went to the back stairwell at work and cried. I wasn’t really sure why I was crying. I guess I thought I was just overcome with emotion. In retrospect I think it’s because I knew deep down the answer was yes, but I couldn’t bear the thought of being without Andrew, of living my life without this person who had become everything to me.
True to life’s sadistic and ironic nature, I received a text from my sister about two minutes after this exchange with Andrew.
Her : Remember when you were 24 and everything was hard and scary and sad?
Me : Lol. You mean now? Yes.
Her : Twenty-four is hard. No direction; hate your job; love/hate your friends; love/hate your gf/bf; want to be alone but feel lonely, you know?
I was pissed all day.
I couldn’t wait to get home and just be pissed there - In front of Andrew. Around Andrew. Near Andrew. Just to really convey what a dick he had been the past few days. Or was it weeks?
It didn’t make a difference either way. It was never really about that.
When he eventually began to feed me half-hearted explanations and apologies I wasn’t having any of it.
“Whatever, Andrew,” I replied under my breath as I made the bed.
As always, it turned into what it always turned into - a heated conversation about how different we are. How we have nothing in common. How neither of us is really getting what the other one is putting down.
How it’s not working.
“We’ve had this conversation before. Let’s just skip to the end,” I huffed, exasperated. “What the fuck…” was all I managed to spit out.
“So, what then? What? I mean, we’ve tried everything before, and we can keep having this conversation, or...” I trailed off, not finishing the sentence. “The only thing we haven’t tried is actually staying broken up.”
He had backed himself into a corner, literally. He stood across from me in the bedroom we shared, in the apartment we shared, hands clasped firmly together and body wedged between the wall and the dresser.
He was within arm’s reach and yet a million miles away.
“What is it that you want me to be?” He asked.
In my head I screamed, “I want you to love me! But I want you to love me properly! You neglect me, and I’m not important to you! Why don’t I matter to you?”
Instead I said, “You know what, it’s my fault. I’m the one who believes people can’t change. That people are the way they are, and inherently, they will always be that way. So it’s my fault, for wanting and then thinking that you’d be...different.”
He just looked at me. I went on, fighting back the inevitable tears.
“What is it that you want me to be? What do you want from me?” I said, asking him the same question he had just asked me.
“I just want you to be happy,” he answered.
“But you don’t want to make me happy,” I spat back.
“No…” he replied.
“You just want me to be happy, and leave you alone.”
He fumbled for the right way to answer.
“There are...other things to me that require...that are more...that I’d rather…”
“That are more important than me,” I finished for him.
“It’s funny. It’s that cliche of ‘it’s not you, it’s me,’ but this time it’s actually true,” he said with a sad, ironic smile.
“Oh I know it’s not me,” I mumbled as I pet Jax.
Andrew went on. “It’s not you. I just feel...unfulfilled. And no woman, no amount of money, no thing, is ever going to change that. It’s just my personality. It’s how I stay hungry.”
You feel unfulfilled? Ha! I thought.
And then I remembered that he had asked me this same question mere weeks ago. Had given me a chance to express my thoughts and feelings and voice any problems I had within the relationship. And I’d panicked. I took the easy way out. The comforting way out. I chose the path that would allow me to keep Andrew, and keep us together.
But of course, in the end, staying together was what was tearing us apart, and tearing us both to shreds.
“Fine then. Tomorrow,” I thought to myself, “tomorrow I’m going to sit him down and finally honestly answer the question of if I feel unfulfilled,” I promised.
“But this time I’m going to say yes.”
He asked, and I said yes.