Driving back from Ocean City on New Year's day, he checked his voicemail. Again. This time when I looked over I saw the four-digit code he had just entered glowing on the screen. I repeated it in my head once, remembered it.
A week later, I was at home, waiting for him to call. He didn't, and I dialed his number. No answer. I waited an hour, tried again. Where could he be? Why hasn't he called? I waited longer, and called again. Voicemail. I hit #. Entered a four-digit number. Listened.
"Hello, this message is for..." Skip, next.
"Hi, I'm calling from the..." Skip.
"Hey, it's me." Hold on...
"I was just calling because I was thinking about you, and I miss you, and I wanted to see if you were coming over. I wanted to talk to you...Call me."
Your own voice always sounds unfamiliar when you hear it played back, but I was willing to accept this digitized voice as my own. Only, I didn't remember leaving that message. When did I leave it? How long ago?
Options : save, delete, reply. Hmm, reply.
"Reply to...Jane Krandall."
Panic. Hang up, fast. Hands go numb, can't breathe, heart beating fast, so fast, sick. I sit in disbelief and quietly freak out. I call his number again, one last time. Heart beating fast, so fast, I can't breathe.
"You're a bastard and a pig and I never want to see you again." Click. Done. I turn off my phone, go to bed, and don't sleep at all.
The next day I'm at a wedding. A wedding! The injustice. I still feel sick. I turn my phone on. Nothing. I turn it back off.
"Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?"
I nearly leave, nearly drive to his house, an ambush. I know she's there. Remembering how I had planned to meet him for a movie. His insistence that we meet at the theater. But that's silly, I said. I can meet you at your house, we can drive together. It's so messy, he said, I'm embarassed. I want to ambush him, I want to see the strange car in the driveway, storm in. But I don't. I know it would only make me feel worse.
I turn my phone on. New text message: i'm a what? and a what? fine, have a nice life. Well. I guess that's over.
Ten days go by, and nothing. I leave my parents' house and fly back to Boston. No one calls. I'm all alone and it's awful. Then one night, another text message : so are you going to tell me what the hell happened? I text him back : I think you know. -what do you mean, what's going on? -Why don't you tell me? -can we just talk? I make him call me.
"I know you've been in contact with your ex," I say, avoiding details.
"What? How do you, I mean, where is this coming from?"
"Look," I say, "why don't you just start talking. For once in your life, why don't you just tell me the truth."
"I..." he falters. "Can I write you an e-mail? I can't...I can't talk to you about this right now. I need to get my thoughts together."
Fine, I say. Fine. And he sends an e-mail, and it says,
I have had contact with my ex infrequently...my mother is good friends with her family...i have been home when she has come over and we have gone out for lunch...sometimes the three of us, sometimes just her and i...I am a bastard and a pig for not telling you, BUT i have NEVER laid a hand on her or harbored thoughts of such...she would call me and want to know if she still had a shot and i would say no, but she never listened...again, i have no attraction to her...i know i am a fraud but i was too weak and stupid to do anything about it...please don't go back to being as defensive and closed as you were when i first met you, not everyone is as bad as me...you will make someone very happy someday...you deserve much better than me and i know this now. you were the best thing to ever happen to me."
He follows the e-mail up with a text message, and it says, I know I have a problem. I have to live with it...but everything I try to make myself better I fail at. i am so sorry. I wish i was not who i am.
I feel sick. I'm skeptical, but I decide that I do believe him. That he "never laid a hand on her." So many lies, but for some reason I feel like he's telling the truth this time. It's already over. What would he have to gain by lying? It's done.
I lie awake at night, every night, and it eats at me. It's over. What good would it do to go digging around, to find out if he's really telling the truth? There's no point. But I know her name. I know how to find her phone number. #, four-digit code, voicemail, reply. But no, I can't, because he'll see that I called, or what if he answers? Ok, I still know her name. Now it gets a little more difficult. Google. Jackpot. The white pages. I have a phone number. Her parents' home phone number. Oh, lord. Here I go.
"Hi, I'm really sorry to bother you and I know this may sound a little weird, but I was dating your ex-boyfriend and I was just wondering when you guys broke up?"
"Wait, what? Who is this?"
"Like I said, I'm really sorry to bother you, it's just that we just broke up, and I was wondering when you guys broke up...?"
"Wait, when did you guys date?"
"Well, like I said, we just broke up and..."
"I'm sorry, I'm just having a little trouble understanding this, because we have been together for the last two and a half years."
"No, I'm sorry, there must be some mistake, because we've been together for the last year and a half."
"Hold on just a second, I'm calling him right now on the other phone..."
"Oh, no, please don't do that. If we can just talk for a..."
"Hold on, one second...Jason? Jason?! Why the hell is this girl calling me telling me you guys were dating? She called me at my house, Jason! At my house! Well you better get over here right now. Right now!...No, I don't care, you get over here! Ok, bye."
We talked for over an hour. She seemed to adapt to the news remarkably well. Though, she was going to kick his ass! she shrilled repeatedly. Meanwhile I was shell-shocked, dumbfounded, temporarily stunned into silence. We traded holiday stories. I had Christmas, New Year's eve, his friend's wedding. He told me he wasn't allowed to bring anyone! she wailed. She had Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day. He told me he was in the hospital, I said like someone you see on the news at the scene of some catastrophe, wrapped in a blanket, eyes wide and staring, their voice flat and affectless.
His family, his friends, they all knew. His mother, who claimed to love me and loaded me down with gifts each Christmas and sometimes out of the blue, for no reason, she knew too. They all knew, all along, and they never said anything. It was his life.
They had never broken up. He told her that we were friends. He told her that one night at school I came on to him, I told him that I had never had a boyfriend, and I wanted him to be my boyfriend, just for one night. He felt sorry for me, and he kissed me, but that was all. He told her she had nothing to worry about, because I was going to school in California now. That we didn't talk anymore. He told her he was going to job interviews in Boston. She drove him to the airport. I picked him up, we went home, we went to my bed. I took him back to the airport, and she picked him up. He ran to her and kissed her and told her how much he had missed her.
I wanted to tell her, leave him. I tried, I did tell her, knowing already that she wouldn't. Don't you see? I wanted to scream. How can you not see??? I wanted to say, you deserve better. Everyone deserves better. Except him. He deserves nothing. He certainly doesn't deserve to come out of this with a clean conscience, a weight off his shoulders, and a girlfriend who has decided to stick by him. He was in this because he couldn't find a way out, and all of a sudden a way out was handed to him, like a gift. Now he's free from the lies and the cover-ups, and he still has someone to sleep next to at night. He comes out of this better off than he was before, while I'm the one trying to piece my life back together. Wondering how I'll ever be able to trust anyone ever again. Doubting everything I once thought I understood about people, the world. Pouring out questions to the cosmos...Where do I go from here? How do I fix the broken parts of myself? Will I ever be ok again?
There's no moral to this story, at least not yet. I still have questions without any answers. But maybe I will be ok, someday.
A form, cloaked in a dusty canvas shroud. A sign : work in progress.