On One Hand

May 23, 2006

A Philosophy of Love

Filed under: Uncategorized — ononehand @ 10:33 am
Tags: , , ,

Clay. I will always remember you as the one with the big, sky blue eyes always brilliant under that wavy shock of brackish-blond hair. I will always remember you as the one whose voice had the exact resonating frequency of my chest. I will always remember you as the one with the lanky, boyish grin, as the one whose arms went all the way around my back and made me feel safer than I’d felt since I was young. And most of all, Clay, I will remember you as the boyfriend who dumped me on my twenty-first birthday.

I know, it’s dramatic – how such a thing can come to dominate an entire seven-month relationship filled with countless experiences of both bliss and heartache. I don’t care much for birthdays anyway, so I shouldn’t have thought much significant about Clay’s choice of the day, but this one birthday, being my twenty-first, being my twenty-first birthday on the twenty-first of May, the Golden birthday, the College birthday, the intoxicated birthday, the thing that all decent American teenagers yearn for from their first forbidden sip of alcohol, makes that birthday into a thing that social convention implies – no, convention insists – should be great. And that was when I was dumped. All things are judged not by the way they were, but by the way they end.

To be fair it didn’t happen on the birthday itself. I got the email that closed the deal on the morning after my birthday, when I was still hung over from fourteen free birthday drinks I accumulated at the bars the night before and the lingering toxic residue of the seven drinks I downed after midnight on the night preceding, the moment the actual legal birthday began, and on the first night Clay was there with me. But I read the breakup email right before that post-weekend reflection hour, and you know what I’m referring to: it’s the hour when you sit back and consider all the events that just took place and decide how to rank your happiness those days among the abstract records of all your long-term memories. The breakup was now an intrinsic part of those memories, staining their colors irreversibly dull and gray.

And it may as well have happened on my birthday, because that debaucherous evening was the night I committed the crime that initiated the breakup. It all started with a text-messaged invitation to the boyfriend who recently declared he, quote, “needs his space.”

“Come to the bar,” I said, while my boyfriend’s excuse was that drinks were too expensive. “It’s happy hour,” I argued, “a pitcher of beer for six dollars, and I’ll pay for yours.” I eliminated his excuse and insisted he come. He responded that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to go out, and I replied, exactly as follows, “Well it’s free for you and I’d love to see you but if you don’t want to come, don’t.”

That’s when I was called “the king of guilt trips.” I didn’t think the accusation was a big deal then. I found it a little off-base, in fact, and I put it away to continue my night of chaos, abandoning any expectation that I would see my emotionally-exhausted lover that night. Only the next day did I realize I had somehow broken the last straw and would be duly punished.

There are two sides to every story. I make Clay sound cruel, but there are unmentionable things going on in his life unrelated to me that are tumultuous and heart-wrenching enough to excuse any moral turpitude that ends a relationship. And I, as I was first told by Clay in a text message just before the terrible email was sent my post-birthday morning, am a, quote, “dramatic person.”

I am hard to break up with in person. Clay tried to do it a week before, on the night I cooked him a crab dinner and he started speaking of us in past tense, saying we’d be better as friends because he feels so much guilt when he can’t fulfill my needs. I threw such a fit that night that Clay had no choice but to recant, and soon after our argument we took off our clothes and fooled around. I was savvy, I knew how to play my cards, and that night I won.

Yes, I am dramatic. It’s not my fault, mind you – weeks before the breakup I was sent to the hospital with chest pains, psychological, yes, but seeded by a real, diagnosed accumulation of fluid around the heart and brought to searing emergency when anxiety, in the form of panic attacks, drove me to the doctor’s office to complain. The doctors made me stay under observation that night, against my will but without much protest, and released me healthy the next morning after more tests and said I had an anxiety problem. Essentially my heart hurts bad when I get upset – it’s causes are psychological but its sensation is as real and physical as an anaconda gradually tightening around my rib cage. And that sort of thing can be hard to deal with in a partner. Imagine this; Clay telling me something I don’t want to hear, and then suddenly me, clutching my chest, gasping in a way that the movies insist should mean I am about to die. Now we understand the meaning of Clay’s comment, that I am, quote, “the king of guilt trips.”

There are two sides to every story. Our two sides faced off regularly in bi-weekly, charged heart-to-hearts that were supposed to fix all our many conflicts but almost always ended in me pleading and one of us giving in. And suddenly our two sides were cut apart, Clay’s side spinning off into increasingly-distant space, and my side alone in a darkened room. I no longer had an excuse to demand Clay’s attention, no longer had the ability to say, when Clay wanted out, “can’t we just wait until they give me Prozac and see how things are different then!?” I’d never been to a psychiatrist before, but I was sure they’d give me something when I went, considering my hospital experience still so recent and the declaration that much of its cause was in my mind. Clay was under no obligation to help me now, which was why he broke it off – to be free.

There are two sides to every story. And after the break my side was left alone in bed at nights in the midst of the suffocating darkness, the quivering, the relentless unlocalized body ache, the soon-to-be-diagnosed clinical depression that Clay didn’t want to be responsible for anymore. When you’re alone like that you have only your own two hands and shaky breath to soothe you. When you’re in that place you scream apology for everything you did wrong to mess the relationship up, you scream apology for everything you did right but got punished for anyway, and you scream apology for everything about you that anyone wouldn’t like; any time you stuck up for yourself, any time you made your thoughts known, anything that makes you a real human being. You demean yourself to absurd levels, and you’re willing to beg and plead for mercy from any person, as long as it comes this moment. No attention is paid to consequences – you ignore the fact that your incessant pleading might be ruining the future of the relationship that soothes you. Anything to quell the searing, agonizing pain of depression right away, when only the present matters.

“No one can make you happy,” Clay told me many times when we were still together, “I can’t do it for you. You can only do that to yourself.” But he had made me happy, for moments, I was sure of it, and I thought I knew better than he did that I felt good when I was with him.

Well, I thought to myself smugly after reading Clay’s email, then teach me how you manage to make yourself so happy. Because during the months I knew Clay, he clearly was not.

He said he loved me in the breakup email, many times. I love you I love you I love you I love you – if I’d counted the phrase as it had appeared in the lengthy message I’d have run out of fingers and toes. It was something he rarely told me before, indicating a degree of guilt and the moment of my final weaning from him. It was sweet to read the kind words, and when I first read Clay’s message I was overwhelmed with joy and acceptance by the soothing and compassionate tone, in spite of the awful conclusion. I needed the breakup as much as Clay did and phoned him right after the email to let him know I felt ok. But hours after my last love-fix, the crush began to build around me. Too late to do anything about it, this time I refused to beg for return. It’s time to get back to yourself, Matt, live in your own head again. I finally admitted that Clay was right. There was nothing to do but step into a new world and move on, to slowly begin to paint the dingy, faded colors until they looked, again, brilliant, like they were during those few good moments, when our love was perfect, when Clay was standing beside me.



  1. Any person who would break up with someone after seven months in an EMAIL is a fucking loser. You deserve better. You are an amazing guy, don’t even let this guy get you down. Live and learn, you’re better off.


    Comment by jennafern — May 23, 2006 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

    • It’s not like that. We’ve been talking about breaking up for a long time and the email is probably the best way to do it becuase you can get all your thoughts out without pressure from the other person. Trust me, because of the way our relationship was, email was the best way to do it, and I would have done the same.

      Comment by ononehand — May 23, 2006 @ 5:38 pm | Reply

  2. *hug*

    Comment by lancerboi — May 23, 2006 @ 5:04 pm | Reply

  3. I’ll resist the cliches. But be happy you had this brief relationship. There are many men that have never even had a taste of what you have had or will.

    Comment by mroctober — May 23, 2006 @ 5:15 pm | Reply

  4. I would be pretty upset if the person I’m dating doesn’t want to hang out with me on my fucking 21st birthday, just because they didn’t feel like it.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 23, 2006 @ 5:34 pm | Reply

    • that was from me.

      Comment by alfaiate — May 23, 2006 @ 5:36 pm | Reply

    • Well I promised I would give him space, and he needs it, for good reasons.

      Comment by ononehand — May 23, 2006 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

    • He needs his space for good reasons. He went out the first night and the second night he wanted a break. He thought I was trying to coerce him into coming out and resisted. I understand where he was coming from, given our history. I mean, nobody’s perfect, and I’m not either.

      It’s obviously hard for me, but he’s got stuff going on… I dunno how to explain. He isn’t an asshole.

      Comment by ononehand — May 23, 2006 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

      • But you shouldn’t have to coerce him on your 21st! but yeah, I know nothing about the whole relationship and the context of this situation.

        Comment by alfaiate — May 24, 2006 @ 3:11 am

  5. I’m Sorry

    I hate myself for hurting you. I deserve those things you said. I want you to know, it was never anything you did wrong and I was never trying to punish you. I loved what you did and who you were and I still do. That love and beauty and comfort that you exude only served as a constant reminder of my own short-comings, insecurities, and lack of love. In a sense, it hurt me to love you. I can never express to you how sorry I am for hurting you. You deserve the best. I want you to know that when you went to the hospital for your heart hurting, my heart was hurting just as much, just not in a physical manifestation. I want you to know…this hurts me so much.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 23, 2006 @ 8:06 pm | Reply

    • Re: I’m Sorry

      Clay, you are amazing and I don’t have a seed of resentment toward you. You are good and were always good. The timing was awkward, maybe a failure on tact, but you did what you had to do. I understand what I demanded of you and that was too much. I love you so much, still. Please forgive yourself because I certainly forgive you and want only the best for you.

      Comment by ononehand — May 23, 2006 @ 9:20 pm | Reply

  6. I usually hate when people say they’re sorry for something they didn’t do, but, I’m sorry..

    Comment by uriebaz — May 23, 2006 @ 8:08 pm | Reply

  7. Wow.

    This was incredibly heartfelt and true. True to the bone of what makes love painful so often.

    I hope time allows you to heal my friend. It is often a staggering, for me belligerent, journey to a more stable place to begin anew, but you can.

    Most definitely.

    Comment by timberwolves — May 24, 2006 @ 3:50 am | Reply

  8. Wow. Despite the fact that, outside of your journal, I don’t really know you at all, I really felt for you here. You’ve been through so much. But look for the positive in it all: you seem to be handling this a million times better than your last break up. Instead of depressed and bitter you seem to be dealing with it okay, and still caring for Clay, which is an incredible step. I think what struck me the most, and impressed me the most for that matter, is how much you seem to have grown in that time. Again, even though we haven’t ever hung out, I really hope things go well for you.

    Comment by the13monks — May 24, 2006 @ 4:31 am | Reply

  9. As I’ve never been big on the whole long-term-relationship routine, I’m not gonna dare propose some kind of insight regarding your situation. But I’ve just gotta comment that I loved reading this really beautifully crafted post.

    Comment by not_a_freak — May 24, 2006 @ 6:29 am | Reply

  10. E-mail? Thats fucked up.

    Comment by tempur_tempur — May 24, 2006 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

  11. “And suddenly our two sides were cut apart, Clay’s side spinning off into increasingly-distant space, and my side alone in a darkened room.”

    i think thats definatly the best line you’ve ever written.

    Comment by Anonymous — May 24, 2006 @ 8:14 pm | Reply

  12. Breakups are never fun. And when they’re around special days like Valentine’s or birthdays, that just makes things all the worse.

    I’m glad you’re doing well.

    Comment by bradfordneal — May 26, 2006 @ 3:26 pm | Reply

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