Did I Waste My Time?
The first thing I said to my Tinder date, L, was “You’re probably wondering why I called you here today.” I shouted as I tried to elevate them above the dull roar of the Dodgers faithful at the Verdugo Bar, in Glassel Park. I went on, “Becky, in Accounts Payable, thinks you’re ‘a real curmudgeon.’ Needless to say, you have disappointed me for the last time.”
The things I miss most about my time with L was our laughter and irreverent banter. Our half-baked plots to troll her neighbors were numerous. I’d be lying if I told you I still didn’t think about those times together spent laughing. But that wasn’t the totality of our time together.
I was chasing a woman who didn’t want to be caught, a silhouette in the distance—If I was just a little faster I could catch her. I never did.
If I’m being honest with myself, and you, our time together should have ended at our would-be one night stand. But it didn’t. L interested me, she was funny and she thought I was funny, too. She was a Professor and a proud subscriber of ‘Bitch Magazine.’ She knew things, she was intelligent, and outspoken. As much as I appreciated these qualities of hers, I also fetishized them I think.
I waited a couple of days before I texted L back after our date. She didn’t text me and I knew she wouldn’t either. I craved the attention of someone like her, someone who was strong and brilliant, someone who could validate me. I didn’t know it then but that’s what I’ve uncovered now that I’ve put the remains of our relationship behind me.
I was still on the mend from my previous relationship, where my ex declared “No woman will ever love you and accept your baggage like I did.” I wasn’t looking for a relationship, I was looking to prove my ex wrong.
L ran from New York City, fleeing who knows what, pursuing her PhD, and a host of other things I either didn’t know about or understand. She was broken, too, I think.
She was complex and always just out of reach. This aloof pattern of behavior drew me out, made me insecure, and created self doubt as I held ever more tightly to our relationship. Why wasn’t I good enough? What was wrong with me? I never thought about why she was distant, I never considered why L wouldn’t pull the trigger and commit to something deeper. I even told her I loved her, something she never said back during our time together. Although, she would often tell me to fuck off and I always thought that was her rather dysfunctional way of telling me she loved me. She declined invites to my family’s shindigs and I had limited exposure to her little world.
We leaned on each other for emotional support a lot while we were together. L was toiling away at her dissertation, her “diss” as she often referred to it. We’d wander neighborhoods searching for Secret Stairs throughout the city to entertain ourselves.
She would call, crying, frustrated, feeling defeated. I would calm her, give her a pep talk and tell her she had this in the bag and to keep working. L supported me, too. I was into my second year of being a freelance developer. The weight of my work and bills felt insurmountable. Early one morning, I was fighting back tears when I told her I was going to quit and go get a regular job, that I couldn’t do it. L looked me in the eyes, gave me a kiss and told me she believed in me. I largely credit that moment with my perseverance in my work and growing my business.
Even though I knew things wouldn’t work even though we were selfishly using one another for comfort we continued onward heading right to the inevitable breakup. I was eyeballing her dissertation deadline, in my gut I knew that things would be over then.
With a couple of months out, L’s focus narrowed and her stress mounted, I heard from her less and less. I didn’t make her feel bad about it. Things were happening as I thought they would. L left town to defend her dissertation and then to visit friends and family. She was gone for about a month. I heard from her three times. Twice before her dissertation and one more time a week after it was done, when she told me she passed it or whatever someone does to become a legit PhD. I was proud but I was also sad and a bit angry.
When L finally came into town, we made dinner plans for a Sunday. She chose Badmaash, in downtown. We didn’t talk about our relationship during dinner; I held her hand thinking to myself that it would be the last time. Our dinner was met with long periods of awkward silence that I tried to interrupt with jokes that delivered a polite laugh here and there.
We left the restaurant, hand in hand, and got the corner of 2nd and Main, where I heaved a heavy sigh and L suddenly observed, “Hey, you seem like you have a lot on your mind. Do you want to talk about our relationship?” Her question lacked for subtlety for certain. This was it, the last stop, our final moments together and L said, “I can’t be with you the way you want me to and I feel like I just keep disappointing you.” I was angry and I was hurt, if not unsurprised. “For what it’s worth,” she said, “You’ve been so great these last few months.” I put my hands on my head and yelled “YES, I KNOW THAT!!!!” I didn’t want to say something I would later regret. So I stormed away, each of us walking our separate ways at the intersection of broken hearts and future hopes.
We never spoke again but we each moved on.
I was looking for someone to make me whole. I wondered if I had wasted my time chasing that relationship… Maybe. But it also doesn't matter because I learned a few things on the other side of it.
It took me a while to realize that and understand what I really wanted and needed. Now I do and now I am happy and whole. I hope L is, too.
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