Up to you
ran into the one person I worry about running into five minutes after thinking of him. Since I found out he worked at a Roots store I think of my ex-boyfriend every time I pass one. It has been four years since our break-up; four years since I called my parents asking them to pick me up in the middle of the night ; four years since I sat in the backseat of our car, slumped and silent as though someone had died. I had last seen him sitting on his dark porch, resting his face in his hands. Now, as I hurried up Yonge street late for a class, he walked towards me, in the present tense and unavoidable.
He had always wanted to stay friends. But he had broken up with me, despite my agonizing efforts to keep us together. I had been the one with the self-righteous anger. I was the one who couldn’t stop throwing up every morning. I kicked him out of my life, an epic expulsion that sent long-term ripples through our group of friends. I needed to in order to start a new life. I lay awake at night, consumed with the urge to call him (to accuse him, to yell, to cry), wondering when I would go back to feeling normal. Eventually, I realized that this was the new normal, until I became a person who was different from the one before.
“Let’s be friends” rolls off the tongue like the cliché it is. Once, during a woodland walk at my cottage during our halcyon days, I had even used it with my ex as a pie-in-the-sky theoretical, telling him that even if something happened to us I’d always want him in my life. But what did I know? When a person is your first love, when you believe you’ll always be together, and when they give up on the two of you before you do, can you ever be friends? They’ll always be affection somewhere deep down, but there’s also the constant threat of jealousies, resentments and unearthed anger. “Let’s be friends” may be as fairy-tale as “Happily Ever After.”
So I was nervous as I stood in the shadow of the Eaton’s centre and caught his eye. He shook his head in surprise and smiled.
“Hey. I was just thinking about how I could run into you outside of a Roots store.”
“Yeah. I don’t work at Roots anymore.”
“Oh. Where do you work?”
“Another store in the mall. Are you still in school?”
“Well,” I said, making a conscious effort to sound cool. “I’m taking some classes at Ryerson. And I’ve got an internship at a fashion magazine. And I’m just seeing what the writer’s life is like, you know… You’re doing alright?”
“Yeah,” he said, subtly hinting at the personal dramas which had co-starred in our relationship by adding “mostly.”
“…well, I should go to class.”
“Yeah, I’m meeting up with friends. But Max,” he said, looking me in the eye. “I would really like to hang out sometime and catch up. I’ll leave it up to you.”
“Okay,” I replied. “I need to run. Bye.”
Ten minutes later, I sat outside my Ryerson building, scarfing down a pizza slice and breaking down the situation with my best friend via cell phone.
“What are you going to do?” she asked.
“I don’t know. But I have thought about seeing him again, of clearing the air, for years. And I am pretty happy with my life right now. I’m seeing someone and I’m involved in lots of stuff, and it might finally be the right time.”
“Yeah, I see your point.”
The next day at our cafe my co-worker Cheryl saw it differently.
“No, Max,” she said, cleaning the steam wand of the espresso machine. “If it’s something you want to do, you’re not past it yet. You have to wait until he means nothing. You have to wait until you don’t care.”
“But maybe,” I suggested, playing devil’s advocate. “What I’m agonizing about is whether or not to see him again and try to be friends, and if I just do it then I don’t need to think about it anymore.”
“That’s not what you’re agonizing about,” Cheryl replied, placing a cup on the counter. “LARGE SOY CAPPUCINO. You’re agonizing about what you’ll get out of it, whether you’ll get closure, and that’s not the right attitude to have.”
“I see your point.”
“Only time heals.”
So I let a day pass. And another one. My life continued; I wrote an interview for this blog; I received an introduction to html coding at my web design class (did you know the internet is made of codes?); I picked a fight with a friend over the exclusion of an anti-Israel group from the Pride Parade; and I made new friends at a ‘slutty’-themed party to which I came over-dressed (in a tie and sweater vest) until the female guests forced me to shed some layers.
It is not 2006 and I am not the same person I was when we broke up. The things I have done in the last four years wouldn’t have happened if I was still with him. While I would love to catch-up with him over coffee sometime, and have a sweet nostalgic moment like the one at the end of Annie Hall, in which I realize what a terrific person he is and how grateful I am that I got to know him, its time hasn’t come yet.
Maybe in another four years.