I put the box on the counter. There we are. I finally followed up on the ‘you should come get your stuff’ text. Now that I have ‘my stuff’, I realize that there is nothing in this box I need, or even want to keep. I’ll just bin the whole thing on my way out tomorrow.
I should have saved myself the embarrassment, really.
But then again… at least I didn’t look completely weak. Yes, he dumped me. Yes, I cried. Yes, I begged him to stay with me. But at least I was strong enough to face him with a polite smile, get the box from his apartment, and wish him all the best.
Then we both said we should stay in touch, be friends, although we also both knew that we didn’t mean any of those words.
But all things considered, I think today turned a pathetic breakup into something somewhat dignified. I think it will also help me move on.
I jump when Kate sits next to me. I swear, this girl is quieter than a ninja.
“Memorabilia from the dead relationship?” she asks pointing at the box.
“Something like that. You can also call it trash.”
“Ooooh, does that mean I can have a look and take whatever I want?”
“Knock yourself out.”
She pulls the box and starts snooping while I make us green tea. “Any chance I’ll find something sexy or creepy in there?”
“Maybe that’s why you two broke up. Every relationship should have some dark secrets.”
“And maybe that’s why you haven’t had a boyfriend in a year.”
“You know, we could solve all of that very quickly. All you have to do is become straight and I’ll marry you in a heartbeat.”
“Become straight. Why haven’t I thought of that earlier?”
“Would you? If you could?” Once again, her ridiculous ability to jump from light to serious topics in one sentence startles me.
“I don’t know. It’s not like I’m that great at being gay…”
“No, no, no. We’re not doing self-pity anymore. He was just the D. You have twenty-two more goes!”
I’ve had a few relationships, but four of them truly stood out. In high school, senior year, I completely fell in love with Adam. He was sweet, had the cutest nose, was smart, and I think I was in love. It felt like it. Or maybe it was just the whole thing about being a teenager and discovering sex for the first time. He broke up with me before college because he said I was unfair for moving away. I did feel guilty at the time, but I now see that it would have been ridiculous to turn down Yale for someone who wasn’t even ready to come out.
Then came Ben. Not that we had much of a relationship. I think I knew all along that Ben still belonged to someone else. I could feel it. But I thought… I don’t know. It felt so right to be with him, and I thought that with time, it would feel right for him to be with me too. I think there were two issues with Ben: we couldn’t ever get our timings right, and he had clearly already met his soulmate.
After that came Clark. Clark was… almost like a drug. He made me feel different and I couldn’t stay away for too long. But he also made me act like a different person. I changed my hobbies for his, I neglected every other relationship in my life, I wasn’t always comfortable with what we were doing in bed but I did it anyway, I partied way more than I was supposed to, and… I think I tried to stay in this very specific light he was projecting. And he cared for me. I know he did. Until I wasn’t enough and I found him in bed with two other guys. Part of me wanted so badly to believe that it was alright. That we were young and experimenting and that being with someone doesn’t mean tying them down. But I also knew that it would have been a completely different situation if he had talked to me about it before it happened. And I also had to face the fact that I wanted a relationship where even if I weren’t the one, I would feel like it.
Then came Damian. And oh my God did he make me feel like the one. Damian and I were so compatible on paper. And in life too, I guess. He comes from a family of successful doctors and he wants to become a neurosurgeon, he plays the piano, he was a very talented tennis player, we used to go to the opera together, we revised together, he was smart, fun, and charming, and the sex was out-worldly.
But then as I was applying to medical school, I couldn’t shut down this voice in my head that had been talking for years and who kept telling me that this wasn’t for me. This wasn’t the life I wanted. Sure, being a doctor seemed great, and it most definitely is a fulfilling job, but… I shouldn’t have to force myself into a life I don’t want simply because it’s what everyone expects from me. Or because it’s respectable.
That’s when Damian told me that he used his connections to get us both an internship at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Nothing fancy. Just observing. Still. Most pre-med students would kill for an opportunity like this one. That’s when I told him that I was willing to go for the experience, but that I was going to withdraw my application to medical school, and probably take a gap year after college to figure myself out.
I’ll always remember the look in his eyes. Like I disappointed him. As if I weren’t who he thought I was. And the thing is: I sort of get that. He envisioned this ambitious power couple climbing the ladders of medicine together. But I must admit that even when I thought medicine was something I wanted to pursue, I envisioned family medicine or pediatrician.
I think that’s when Damian started to see my lack of ambition. I love music but don’t want to become a violinist. I love basketball but even before my knee injury, I didn’t want to become a professional. I love that I went to an Ivy School, but I’m not sure I want the sort of career that usually goes with that.
I don’t know if I changed or if I just accepted who I am. All I know is that in his eyes I did change and he didn’t want that version – the real version – of me.
With Adam, I thought that I was meant to be a secret.
With Ben, I thought that I couldn’t get the guy.
With Clark, I thought that I could get the guy but not the boyfriend.
With Damian, I guess that I had to come to terms that I can get all of that, just not keep it. Not if I’m being myself anyway.
Maybe I want too much while offering too little.
Anyway. Kate has been teasing me. Saying that I went from A to B to C to D, and that now I must find my E. That I am not allowed to give up until I’ve reached Z.
As tempting as it sounds, I’m not planning on dating the entire alphabet. Actually, I think it would even be better if I just stayed away from boys altogether for a while. I just graduated from Yale, I have just picked up my stuff from my ex-boyfriend’s house who is about to leave for Minnesota for an internship in one of the best hospitals in the country, and I just need to figure myself out. I can’t drown myself into another boy. Or a string of flings.
Plus, worst-case scenario, I can apparently just become straight and marry Kate…
The apartment door opens and our other roommate joins us. “It this tea? Is there enough for me?”
“Absolutely,” I answer, getting another cup from the cupboard. “How was your day?”
“It was hell. You know what? I know I gave you a hard time about it, but you might actually have been right. No one should be crazy enough to join medical school…”
Grace is finishing her second year of medical school and she took it as a personal betrayal when I told her that I wasn’t going to do the same. I think it might be because Kate and I share an interest in music (we met while performing in the Yale Symphony Orchestra), but the only thing Grace and I have in common – in her eyes – is our interest in science. It’s fine, though. I am still interested in science, and after two years of living together, we have other things to talk about than the human body.
“What’s in the box?” she asks.
“Stuff that Boyfriend D doesn’t want because it belongs to Andrew, and that Andrew doesn’t want because it reminds him of Boyfriend D,” Kate replies.
“I liked him better than the drug addict,” Grace comments, “but he still wasn’t right for you.”
“Clark wasn’t a drug addict, and I thought you loved Damian.”
“No. You loved Damian. I thought that the two of you were cute, and that it was so easy to picture you guys with a white picket fence, a dog, and three children that you would have saved from an otherwise terrible future. But you’re not that guy.”
“What am I then?”
“Aren’t you throwing away your future so you can figure that out?” She adds a smile to silently tell me that she doesn’t actually think that I am throwing away my future. Even if I know that a little part of her thinks so. A little part of her, and one hundred percent of my mother.
I don’t want to think about my mother right now. I can only face one person I disappointed per day. But her discontent follows me everywhere and seems to be particularly tenacious when I’m feeling down about myself.
Maybe she is right. Maybe I am being spoiled and dramatic, throwing away what was perfect for me just because I am going through a late rebellious phase…
I groan. “Girls, what am I doing with my life? Damian… Medical school… It was all perfect, wasn’t it?”
“Clearly, it didn’t make you happy,” Kate comment. “And if Damian doesn’t like it… you shouldn’t have to change who you are for a guy.”
“Or for your mom,” Grace adds, inciteful.
“For anyone,” Kate agrees. “Andrew, regardless of your career choice, you’re kind, smart, funny, hot… Honestly, your only big flaw is that you’re gay,” she adds with a teasing smile.
I think this is what I need: find a way to trust those words again. I have to get to a point where I feel like I am enough. And that feeling can’t come from a guy. Actually, that feeling might never come from a guy again.
I need to get to a point where I am enough for myself because I might not ever be enough for anyone else. And that should be fine. Just as I realized that a respected, ambitious job wouldn’t bring me happiness, I have to come to terms with the fact that I might not find that through a relationship either.
“Okay, time for some me time. I’m not going to worry about my future, I’ll just do many little jobs until something clicks.”
“As long as it pays the rent,” Grace half teases.
“I’m not going to worry about my hobbies. I will play the violin when I want to and not because I am practicing for any kind of audition.”
“As long as you keep helping me practice,” Kate tempers.
“I won’t worry about my mom. I’ll keep avoiding her questions until I have answers.”
“I would judge but I haven’t called my mother in like two months.”
“And I won’t worry about boys. I will stay single until I stop feeling like someone else needs to give me worth.”
“Well said,” Kate approves. “E can wait. Too many people waiting for you to sex them up for you to commit to anyone anyway…”
“Nope. Not even flings. I’m just… You know me. I could fall in love with a one-night stand.”
“So full celibacy?” Grace asks. “So you’re giving up on hobbies, family, and dating? Mate, just go for med school. Your life sounds just like mine.”
“Is it that bad?” I ask.
“The last time I had sex, there was snow outside.”
Part of me feels a bit bad for her. The other part of me remembers that the last time she had sex – and there was indeed some snow outside – happened in my bed. I have a lock now.
I look at these two girls. I hesitated before moving here. The apartment is in a former warehouse. It’s spacious but it’s a nightmare to heat in the winter, and the light isn’t equally shared between the rooms. I didn’t know Grace and she seemed very severe when I met her. I had seen Kate in the orchestra but we never really talked. The rent was cheap but I could have gotten a smaller flat on my own for not much more.
But I was looking for a place after moving back from New York and that was available and there was no time commitment. It ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. They supported me through everything. And I gave back, I think. We have been there for each other during the good, the bad, and the boring.
And even now. I am not afraid of letting go of everything because I know they’ll catch me if I float away too far.
Yep. Those two girls now arguing about what we’re going to eat tonight are my safe place. Suddenly, I don’t feel so broken anymore. Who needs love when you have real friendship?