Monday, April 18, 2011

Why you can't put stitches in a broken heart

I had it all planned out, everything I would say to him. The next time he called, either he would bring up his brother's birthday dinner or I would. A few weeks ago, you asked me to go to that dinner with you, I would say. And then you never brought it up again, which is a pretty subtle way of un-inviting someone, I have to say. I think that's a pretty clear signal. And I can take a hint. So, I'm done, Luke. Done

But as with all the best-laid plans, it didn't exactly work out that way.

Later that very same night, the night of the dinner that broke the camel's back, my phone rang. Now, when phones ring in the middle of the night, it's usually for one of two reasons: either the caller is drunk, or something has happened. In this case, it was both. When I answered, he began talking so calmly, so nonchalantly, that at first I thought he had just called to chat at 3:30 in the morning. My still sleeping brain struggled to keep up; "Why are you calling me?" I kept repeating. Blah blah blah Rochester, blah blah blah emergency room...he said. "But why are you calling me?" I repeated, my brain still working on a significant delay. Blah blah blah emergency room, he said again, and then finally it clicked. "What?" I said. "Wait, what?" 

His brother had pissed him off, he said, and so he, Luke, ended up losing it and putting his fist through a window. Now he was in the ER waiting on stitches and x-rays. Even in my still sleep-befuddled state, red flags started popping up. Uh oh, anger issues, the red flags said. Though this didn't make much sense, because the Luke I knew was a gentle giant, even-keeled and mild-tempered, and I had never seen him approach anything even resembling anger before. And besides, wasn't it better that he punch a window instead of his brother? "Well, what happened?" I asked. "What did your brother do?" 

"He accused me of sleeping with his girlfriend," he said. More and more red flags. I composed my next question carefully.

"Why did he say that?" I asked.

"I don't know," he said. "He was really drunk."

I decided to circle back to that one later. "Ok, but...why are you calling me?" I said again, trying to reconcile this suddenly boyfriend-like behavior from a man I hadn't heard anything from in days, and who had already made it abundantly clear that whatever was going on between us wasn't going to go any farther than it already had.

"I don't know," he said. "I just felt like I should."

I mulled that over. "I don't even know what to say," I said. "That's all just...wow." My mind swirled as more and more questions bubbled into consciousness, begging to be asked. Times, locations, and unifying details suddenly seemed of utmost importance. "Whose window did you break? And who is with you in the emergency room?" I started to ask, going into investigative reporter mode. (Once upon a time I dated a guy who made up an emergency room visit as a cover for having gone MIA on Valentine's Day. I decided I believed him, because who would make something like that up? I finally found out the truth a year later, and if you think something like that won't scar you for the rest of your life, think again.) But before I could give voice to even the first question, the line suddenly went dead. I tried calling him back twice, but it just rang and went to voicemail. I lay in bed wide awake, no point in even trying to sleep now, with my mind racing and adrenaline pumping, and even though it was the weekend I had to be at work at the apartments in a few hours. He didn't call back that night.

He finally called back sometime after noon the next day. I was at work, but the office had been slow, and so I had time to talk to him. "You hung up on me," I accused him. 

"Sorry about that," he replied, "the x-ray machines scrambled my phone." 

I decided to let this go for the moment and move on to more pressing matters. "Ok," I said. "So...what happened last night?"

They had gone out to a restaurant, he said, (perhaps hoping I had forgotten the significance of the event), and then they went back to his brother's house. His brother got really drunk and then just kind of lost it. He started yelling at his girlfriend, calling her a whore, and accusing her of sleeping with all these guys. Then he turned on Luke, saying he couldn't believe he would do something like that, that he was the worst person he knew. He started shoving him. Luke walked outside, but his brother followed him, kept shoving him, and then, at some point, Luke got so upset, he punched a window on the porch. A friend assessed the damage (a seven inch long gash further up on his bicep), wrapped a shirt around his arm, and hustled him off to the ER, where he received so many stitches, they stopped counting after thirty-two. After they left, apparently his brother started to get physical with his girlfriend, who called the police. "This morning she packed her bags and left," he concluded. "I don't know why my brother would say that to me," he then said, sounding genuinely baffled. "Carrie and I don't even talk. We don't hang out or anything. And this morning my brother kept insisting he hadn't done anything wrong. I don't even know how much he remembers of last night. My parents are pretty worried about him."

"Huh," I said. "Wow."

"I'm on my way back to Mythaca now," he said, "so if you want to watch a movie or something tonight, give me a call."

"Ok," I said. 

"Oh, wait, that's my brother calling now," he said. "I should take this. I'll call you back."

"Ok," I said again.

But he didn't call back. I finished work and went home, and thought about things. He had called me from the ER, I decided, because he was confused, and in pain, and probably feeling pretty sorry for himself. It didn't necessarily mean anything. But then again, as Pete said when as I rehashed things with him, "He called you. I mean, he called you." I would go and see him tonight, I decided. We would talk, and I would bring up the dinner un-vitation, and I would tell him how that made me feel. I didn't necessarily expect anything to be different, but then again, sometimes traumatic events change things for people. 

I still hadn't heard back from Luke, though, so at about 6:30 I texted him. How are you feeling? I asked. He took a while to respond. Then, tired, he said. I waited, but he didn't add anything else. 

I bet, I said. Want some company? 

I'm at my parents' house, he said.

I blinked, an old, familiar feeling rising up in me, wondering what exactly I had missed this time. Again, he volunteered no further explanation. But you said you were on your way back to Mythaca when we talked before? I typed. Read aloud, I realized, it would sound like I was talking to a very small child. 

I was, he replied, but then mom called. She wanted to talk to my brother as a family.

In spite of myself, I felt anger rising in me. I tried to stop it. I can't, I can't make this about me, I told myself. I can't get mad at him in the middle of his family drama. But it wasn't about that, it wasn't about what he was going through, it was about him doing the same old things that he had always done. Him flaking, him not calling, and always having an excuse--he had lost track of time, something had come up, he had fallen asleep. I couldn't believe I had actually been thinking about giving him another chance; nothing had changed. I refrained from texting him the choice phrases I really wanted to in the heat of the moment--no point adding drama to drama--and instead said, Call me when you get a chance. But he didn't, of course. How many times had I made the same request over the last few weeks--call me when you get a chance--and how many times had he responded? Not once.

Hours later, I got a second middle-of-the-night phone call in as many days. But I didn't answer this time. He followed that up with a text. Hi, I'm sorry. Just woke up. Soo tired

But I didn't respond. I wondered what I would say if I heard from him again, and I also wondered what I would do if I didn't.     

10 comments:

  1. Wow. That sounds like an insane adventure. Hmm. Um. Yeah.

    All I'm thinking is, "What an asshole, why does he think he can call her and add more drama?" And then not call. Which makes him a bigger asshole. I mean, really.

    How about this for a change? Don't answer. Not his texts. Not his calls. Give him a couple weeks to stew it over and then when your mind has calmed simply tell him you deserve better than someone like who he is right now. Maybe someday he'll be a great guy, but you're too good to wait for someday.

    Asshole.

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  2. This is going to be very hard advice to follow - but stop analyzing this guy. After he started to pull the fade, you had the right to ignore him and write off the relationship. I have no idea what the hell is going on between him, his brother, his brother's girlfriend or anyone else, but it doesn't matter. I picked jerks after jerks and the only thing that helped was analyzing the red flags that I missed in the beginning of the relationship so I could dump those guys before it got too far. Whatever this mess is, it doesn't matter - you should just look at the start of the relationship to see if there is anything valuable you can learn from that. (Please note that I am not judging or criticizing you, since I picked jerk after jerk and this was what helped me break that pattern). Ignore him, block all messages and texts and move on with your life.

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  3. I really don't like this guy, so I have nothing to say. Drama? Flakiness? FEH!

    Totally off-topic: Read the book "Forever" by Pete Hamill. It's totally not my type of book but I just finished it and I'd rank it among my top 10 favorites.

    "This novel demands that the reader immediately suspend disbelief, but if this summons is heeded the reward will be a superior tale told by Hamill (Snow in August; A Drinking Life) in the cadence of the master storyteller. The year is 1741 and this is the story of Cormac O'Connor-"Irish, and a Jew"-who grows up in Ireland under English Protestant rule and is secretly schooled in Gaelic religion, myth and language. Seeking to avenge the murder of his father by the Earl of Warren, he follows the trail of the earl to New York City. On board ship, Cormac befriends African slave Kongo, and once in New York, the two join a rebellion against the British. After the rising is quelled, mobs take to the streets and Kongo is seized. Cormac saves Kongo from death, but is shot in the process. His recovery takes a miraculous turn when Kongo's dead priestess, Tomora, appears and grants Cormac eternal life and youth-so long as he never leaves the island of Manhattan, thus the "Forever" of the title. What follows is a portrait of the "city of memory of which Cormac was the only citizen." Cormac fights in the American Revolution, sups with Boss Tweed (in a very sympathetic portrait) and lives into the New York of 2001. In that year he warily falls in love with Delfina, a streetwise Dominican ("That was the curse attached to the gift: You buried everyone you loved"), and comes into contact with a descendant of the Earl of Warren, the newspaper publisher Willie Warren. His love, his drive for revenge and his very desire to exist are fatefully challenged on the eve and the day of September 11. This rousing, ambitious work is beautifully woven around historical events and characters, but it is Hamill's passionate pursuit of justice and compassion-Celtic in foundation-that distinguishes this tale of New York City and its myriad peoples."

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  4. Sounds to me like he's an attention whore. You take his calls when he calls after not calling when he said he would. This will continue.
    I'm happy you did not return his call and were not readily available to talk to him when he wanted.

    Ingore him. Move on. You're not getting anything out of this. Lonely or not, you deserve better. So demand it by not throwing hissy fits etc, ignore him. That will speak volumes and much louder.

    Good luck. :)

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  5. Wow. I think you'll be lucky to be rid of this guy. Anyone who puts his fist through a window has issues. Ones you shouldn't have to deal with.

    He's not good enough for you, Rachel. I think you should ignore him completely from now on. How pathetic for him to call you in the middle of the night AGAIN. He's a jerk. And you deserve a million times better.

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  6. Oh Rachel..... I'm sorry this happened. You ARE too good for him, but I know that doesn't make it any easier for you. Take care.

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  7. How old is he again? He sounds like 24...too much drama for me.

    And his brother sounds worse!

    you were right not to answer...I think you should keep doing that and let him fade away.

    Is all of this affecting your work and school? If it is it's another sign to let it go.

    Even though I love the gossip and to read about it. I'd love it more if you were happy ;-)

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  8. Je ne dirais qu'une chose Rachel. Quand un mec commence a prendre ses distance avec toi: prends tes distance avec lui.

    Quand un mec te t'appelle pour te raconter n'importe quoi. Laisse le parler et prends tes distance avec lui.

    Un mec comme ca ne merite que ton silence.
    Le silence digne d'une fille qui sait qu'elle merite mieux.
    Essayer de le comprendre et de le raisonner de sert strictement a rien.

    Bon courage en tout cas.
    Blenche

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  9. I don't mean to sound harsh but you would know if he was interested in you and it sounds like he isn't and you deserve someone who is. Let him be, don't text him, don't call him, don't respond to his text messages or phone calls. It sounds very cliched but he's just not that into you. And I mean it when I say you deserve someone who truly, deeply wants you and only you and makes no question about it!

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  10. I know this is tough for you to deal with and amidst it all you just want closure. I think it's wise to be a bit wary because there may indeed be anger issues, as you say. You want to help but you don't want to get hurt either. And by the way, it was VERY lame of him to pull the commitment-phobic thing on you. You deserve better than that.

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