Mr. Fix-It: Part Two

Prepare yourself, gentle readers of Northern California, for a life-changing experience. I hope you are seated, but not too closely together to another chair.

On Monday the five of us (me, my mother and father, my brother R and his girlfriend) had traveled up north to go on a cheese tour. On our way back from goat cheese and wine pairings, we stopped at a Peet’s Coffee in north Santa Rosa. I hadn’t had coffee all day and felt deprived; it isn’t their coffee I love so much as their espresso.
I ask everyone their order except my father because what he says he wants is not what he wants; he says hot coffee with steamed milk, but at the ratio he considers perfection (i.e. when he won’t complain and ask the barista for hot water or to microwave it), what he really wants is a latte. I order everyone’s drinks while everyone’s taking turns at the restrooms. I put together two round tables and bring together five chairs for us.

For whatever reason, when my father sits down, he grabs another chair and pulls it close to his own even though we already have enough. I go up and grab our drinks as they come out.

Everyone is enjoying their drinks, even my father. I help my brother with his phone because he couldn’t figure out how to get Pokémon Go working. (I still don’t play it, but I knew what the issue was.)

My father decides his drink needs one more Splenda, so he moves to get up but immediately sits back down. There is a look of pained horror on his face that I find baffling.

“What’s that face for?” I ask. “The Splenda is right over there.”

He hangs his head down and shakes it.

“What?” Now all of us are turned and looking at him, giving our full attention.

After a long pause and more head shaking, he says:

“These chairs were too close together, and when I moved,” here he lowers his voice, “I pinched my scrotum.”

If any of us had anything in our mouths at that moment, I am certain we would have either choked or spit it out. Instead, we all began laughing, me especially because if he hadn’t pulled in the unneeded sixth chair to begin with, there wouldn’t have been a problem.

When he finally got his Splenda, he stayed standing a while, hovering over us.

“Why aren’t you sitting down?” My brother asks.

“He’s still in recovery from his chair incident,” I say. More laughter.

I shall never be able to visit that Peet’s ever again without remembering this story. And if you, gentle readers, should find yourself at that Peet’s in North Santa Rosa, be careful where you sit, knowing that two chairs there once pinched an older man’s scrotum.

The Letter

To: JL
From: F
Date: Friday, May 20, 2016, 3:23pm

Dear JL,

I know the last few months have not been easy for both of us. I appreciate your thoughtful apology. I would like to know why you did what you did, but I realize that in some way it doesn’t matter. Things are what they are now.

I hope by now that you realize things have changed. It’s not the kind of change you can undo, but more like a glass vase that’s been shattered. You can pick up the pieces, but you can’t put it together. Even if you manage, it is not the same.

When I describe our relationship to people, this is how it goes:

The first three years were wonderful. We were very supportive of each other. It was a very symbiotic, harmonious relationship. You helped me deal with grad school; I helped you with escaping Gracepoint. You were very sweet. We had a lot of fun together; you made a lot of silly jokes that made me laugh. We understood each other so well that it almost felt as if we could read each other’s minds. I am very grateful for what we shared and all the wonderful moments we had together. I felt very loved by you in those 3 years.

And then somewhere, something got off track. A switch on a train track was flipped in error, and we didn’t catch it. We moved forward side by side for a long time but didn’t notice that we were slowly veering off from one another.

The last three years were the trains veering off. It’s too late now to correct the course. You are a train bound for Chicago and I’m a train headed to New Orleans. Communication broke down, and it seemed like we fell into a pattern of having a serious fight, some agreement, but then nothing would change. Empty words, empty promises. And all the while, I began to feel bitter. I started to feel ignored, neglected, and rejected by you. Then the next year, another major fight. More words, more promises. But nothing changed as we continued to grow apart. It became more rare that our minds were aligned and it stopped feeling like we understood each other.

The bitterness and pain I felt kept growing. It was a slow drip over time, and I tolerated it. I let it go and said nothing, but it was always present. I became more resentful. You made me feel unloved and invisible. At times I felt you cared more and did more for the cats than you did for me. You would buy me things, but it wasn’t what I wanted; every time I tried to express what I wanted, it seemed that you couldn’t give it, or you got upset at me for asking. It broke my heart. And I tried so hard to do so much for you. I went along with your agreements. I hoped things would work. I knew you loved me, and I loved you too.

In February, my team did a disagreement style workshop at our offsite, and I suddenly realized my disagreement style at work was accurate for my personal life, too. Two of my top three reactions to disagreement were 1. Maintain the status quo (do nothing) and 2. Release (let someone else decide.) I suddenly realized that the past 3 years I had tolerated but had really been unhappy. I had let you make the decision for us both, and I had to fight crying in the middle of a team meeting when it all clicked.

I became interested in being more social and began doing things on my own because I felt so neglected and lonely with you. I wanted to meet people who wouldn’t make me feel that way. I hated feeling invisible when you sat less than 20 feet away. I hated feeling as if my existence didn’t matter at all to you–and you were supposed to love me. The only time I seemed aware of how much I meant to you was when we fought, and then I could see you fighting so hard to keep me.

I became hurt so much that I felt numb. I didn’t think it could get worse. I had really tried to end our relationship in April. I had been thinking about it for a long time. I felt it was already over, but you fought so hard, and I hated seeing you so torn and broken up. It hurt me to see how much you were hurt, and I agreed to try again even though I was doubtful. I want you to know that I did give it an honest shot. I was trying to make it work, and I was doing my best despite how hard it was for me, but then the Vicodin incident made me feel as if our agreements meant nothing again and it was the same old pattern: argument – agreement – failure to uphold agreement.

I know you said you felt at times as if you suspected I wanted you to fail, that I wanted things between us to fail. But I was just tired. I was tired of fighting. I was tired of fighting you, tired of being hurt, tired of waiting for changes that didn’t come, tired of my own tolerance for being unhappy. I had been hurt so much that I no longer could expect to be happy with you. I had been so hurt and miserable for such a long time that for me it already felt as if it were over. I didn’t have any hope left that things could get better.

Don’t you remember when we fought in January, I asked what you wanted? I had already been hurt enough then. I asked if you wanted an open relationship because I could no longer understand you. I had no idea what you wanted, but it seemed to not be me, and I wanted a chance to be happy with someone, anyone.

I had waited over a year for you to live up to our promise of our previous fight. I can’t tell you how much it hurt me every day when I wondered if I mattered to you, if you even remembered that promise. I cried myself to sleep many nights because I was so deeply hurt. I would lie awake in torment asking myself if you would ever remember, disappointed as the weeks passed to months and then a full year. Ultimately, it wasn’t important, I wasn’t important enough, to remember.

And maybe that’s not true, but there isn’t a way to take back that it was how I felt for a long time. I realize now that your depression was so deep that you couldn’t see what I could see. Every time we fought, it felt as if you couldn’t understand me. We were speaking different languages and not understanding each other.

Please know that I love you despite how much pain you have given me, but we cannot stay together after the incident at Caleb’s. I want what’s best for you, and I want you to take care of yourself. I want you to get better–emotionally and physically. I know you are bright and creative and can do great things if you dedicate yourself to something, but I cannot be more than a friend to you.

As long as we are together in a relationship, I am a crutch: having me means you can convince yourself that nothing needs to change. I do not want us to fall into old habits. I do not want to continue tolerating what I have in the past where nothing will change. I can’t let that happen. I can’t keep letting myself be unhappy. I would rather be hurt by a thousand people than be hurt again by you.

You need to change for you, not for me. If you cannot love yourself, you cannot love me or anyone else. You have done the best that you can, but you need to take care of yourself first before you can be in a relationship. Please don’t ask me to wait for you or set up any expectations that this is a promise we can be in a relationship again; after everything that has happened, I cannot promise either of those things to you. As long as we live together, a relationship beyond friendship is not even possible.

I know this change makes things very difficult. Please understand that I am not judging you in any way. It didn’t work out, and I am not blaming you. Both of us made mistakes.

I know that the rent market is ridiculous and it would be hard to find a new place. As long as we live in the same apartment, we will have to remain friends. You can live your life and I will live mine. It is too easy to fall into old habits, and I can’t let that happen again. I can’t fall back into a relationship that makes me tolerate being unhappy. If you need to move out, I will not stop you. If you find a place that allows cats, you can take them with you; I know how much they mean to you, and I want you to have support, no matter what your decision. Only my name is on the lease, and I will make things work on my own.

I can support you and share things with you as a friend, but please understand that you have broken my trust. You and time are the only things that can change that. I cannot invite you out to the social events or friends I go to, and you must take responsibility for the consequences of your actions. Some things you will need to do on your own. I cannot make you welcome in a place where you are not welcome.

I realize this information is a lot to take in. If it hurts too much that you don’t want to see me, I can try to stay away for a few days, or if you want to stay with Adam or Kristina, that would be okay. If you can’t stand being so close at night and need a physical separation, I can sleep downstairs on the blowup mattress. I guess I should have let my Dad buy us some stupid futon. It would come in handy about now.

I know this all hurts. It hurt me writing it, but I knew I needed time to collect my thoughts and make sure I said everything I needed to say. Please remember that I love you and want you to be happy, but understand that we cannot be in a relationship. I need to be happy too.

If you want to talk about this in a few days, I have Monday and Tuesday off, or we can talk Sunday after my cooking class. I will be volunteering at Railsbridge this evening, and all day Saturday.

When you finish reading this, please call someone–Kristina, your mom, your brother, your sponsor. I don’t want you to be alone. I want you to have support. Please don’t do anything foolish. Hug the cats, especially Diego. They love you so much. I love you too, but right now the only thing I can offer you is friendship.