Monday, March 21, 2016


Let me get this off my chest in as eloquent a way as possible.

I was sitting on a concrete bench, and there were ants, not a lot of ants, but a few, crawling around on my fingers, and I remember being able to see the moon. It must have been one of those afternoons when you can see the moon before the sun goes down. It’s never a full moon, rather, it’s a moon in transit, close to the beginning of its cycle, thus closer to the earth (or something like that). I remember looking just past his ear as I tried to explain myself and seeing the half moon in the light of day.

I had done a bad thing, he told me. We recently spent the weekend together at our future home out west with our future church, and I had rudely rushed him out Sunday morning while he was being admired by one of the members of the church. I can barely even remember the moment.

The first time we met the members, in December, we had instantly fallen in love with them, and they had fallen in love with us. He told me that he believed he would not have been hired without my charming personality. I remembered him as generally happy and usually admired wherever he went, but he always felt a little awkward and nervous in interview situations. That was where I came in. I was the warmer, the joker, the one to find common ground. I was not, however, much of a lady about it. Ever. Oh how I hated and loved that about myself.

Now it was March, and the preacher and his wife were leaving, waving to us, and calling back that they would go ahead and get a table at the restaurant, but we were surrounded. A shy gentleman had been speaking with us for longer than anyone was comfortable. He wasn’t a bad guy, just one of those guys that keeps nervously talking until whoever is listening cuts him off to escape. My love was too nice to walk away, so I cut in to remind him that people were waiting for us.

Seems like a normal thing to do, except that I, apparently, am abrasive. The way some had described me to myself at that point in my very early twenties, my voice and words must've gone over like a rusty bucket of soggy diapers.

He told me that he was so embarrassed by that particular interaction that he was listing it as reason for ending our engagement.

We had been together for almost four years, three years when he proposed. We were performing a David Ive’s sketch for the current group of young Christians with whom he was working. It was in Sunday school. Asking me to marry him was in the script, written years before we would ever even read it, but actually having a ring was not. And he had a ring.

Then suddenly, there we were, almost a year later, sitting outside of the laundry room, in the shadow of impending doom. I, shifting my gaze from the ants on my hands to the early moon, was half listening to him explain how inappropriate my behavior had been over the past weekend. He had driven to Dallas from Abilene to tell me all of this. My dad and I had run into him at my place when we got back from dish shopping, for the wedding registry, for my wedding registry.

When I think back to that weekend and turn it around the folds of my gray matter, I remember having brunch at the home of a young married couple from the church. They were quiet and reserved but very intelligent. We talked about politics (within the church) as well as lifestyle, since we were planning a big move west and were looking forward to slower, warmer living. It was dull conversation, if I’m honest, too polite.

Somehow we ended up talking about film, and that conversation made its way to the topic of curse words and sex (or "biblical fornication") in film. He and I were all too familiar with this conversation. We’d had it with each other a million times, and a million times we had been in agreement. Movies were our thing. We went to see so many movies and rented or purchased enough VHS tapes of our favorite films to satisfy the nerdiest of obsessions. We had crossed the bridge from VHS to DVDs together. We saw the rise and fall of Circuit City, and we shopped at the liquidation sales. We basked in our haven of electronics and entertainment like the excellent Americans we were.

This couple was not a fan. They liked movies, but they preferred the ones that didn’t barrage them with unpleasant violence, sex, and language. This was not uncommon among church goers. Entire campaigns to show the world we stood behind our word included pledging, as a Christian, to walk out of movies where the Lord’s name was taken in vain, and I fancied myself one of them for a moment.

Unfortunately, the creative madwoman in my head wouldn’t let me avoid seeing the films that received the highest accolades which were always the films rife with sin. I was a snob and a junkie. We were, together. So I argued as I believed, that if art is to be a reflection of life, it must reflect all of life, even the parts we don’t like.

She (I don’t remember her name, but she was a nurse or something because she was wearing scrubs...or she was just a person that liked wearing scrubs...which is worse, not that being a nurse is bad...just...scrubs) argued that she did not want to fill her mind with such images. I said I couldn’t imagine denying myself knowing how the world works, and what life without church would look like. This was an important moment along the timeline of my relationship with my first love.

And he was my first love. With him, for the first time in my life, I realized that love was easy. That falling in love was something that couldn’t be stopped or controlled, and that the amount of love I had to give was greater than I had ever imagined. I loved him so much it hurt, every single day.

Relationships, on the other hand, were tricky. They required immaculate communication and compatibility. He and I were very young, and he had, I would learn, a few expectations about marriage that I would have never expected. Namely, he had never seen his parents argue, and we argued all the time.

When asked his opinion of “unpleasantness” in film, he surprised me with an about-face and agreed with our new “friends.” It would do us all some good to protect ourselves from having to hear and see, to consume, such violence, such harsh realities. 

Looking back on it, this was the moment I should have known for sure. There were many times before when I should have known something was wrong. He talked about different women, "amazing" women in his life, and I should have seen the lust behind those words, but THIS moment should have thrown me a lot further than it did at the time. 

He, whom I had known so well, was not himself...any more. At least, he was not the man I loved, my heart, my best friend, every night with our feet up laughing about farts and debating the validity of the Best Picture win for Titanic, eating buckets of fries from McDonald's (literally, they sold buckets for a short moment), and laughing our equally unique and ridiculous laughs. He was not himself.

He had not been himself for a long time. I just didn't see it.

I fought him, tumbling into the hole that I didn't even see coming. We wrestled, and I raged. He just wanted it to be easier, and I guess I always knew it wouldn't be...for me. 

A year later, I was in Europe, an overfilled and heavy backpack strapped to my back. It started as motivation, my first effort to build the best revenge: a better life, but revenge is usually misguided, and the most painful breaks are often born of circumstance. We were both victims. 

I don't want to be a victim any more.

I remember a tiny piece of the pain that day every once in a while, when I look up at the sky before the sun has finished setting, and I see the moon. I used to hold onto it like a talisman, a metal of honor for taking it in the face. 

But I had to let it go. I had to stop fighting...without losing my pluck. This is tough to say, but I used to tell people, "I'd rather die than have my heart broken like that again." I'm glad I haven't yet... died, that is.

I was thinking about trying to tie the ants in here at the end, talk about how I don't mind them any more, and how they can't hurt me...but ants are gross...and I will dance on their graves. I will delight in their demise. Is what I'm saying.

Thank you for listening, and pardon me if it seems like I'm abusing our friendship.

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