One Wedding Accomplished, one Averted
It was morning the 4th of July and according to what I’d been told, Tina and Nate should have been getting on their way from Amber’s house to the wedding. That wasn’t exactly what was happening, but it’s what I was meant to believe. In truth, Tina had spent the night alone with Nate in his hotel room and would soon be his “date but not a date” to his brother’s Independence Day nuptials.
I didn’t have a very restful night. I kept waking up from disturbing dreams, so I was just going back to sleep while they would have been getting their day started.
I had the day free with no work and no particular plans. Under other circumstances Tina and I would probably have gone up to the lake to see her Dad, her Dog and stay at her Grandpa’s cabin. That’s exactly what we did on the last Independence Day we’d spent together, but she ended up vanishing like a ghost about a week later. We were apart, without contact for months on that occasion, but she never bothered to let me know that she was breaking up with me or why. She just disappeared. I wound up hospitalized over that incident, but that’s another story.
Ultimately, I slept in pretty late, once I was finally exhausted from anxiety-tainted waking dreams. I didn’t really roll out of bed until mid-afternoon. I looked at my phone. Recent messages from Maura caught my attention, first. She’d locked herself out of the apartment and was trying to get me to let her in. I never heard my phone beeping. I was out cold, but she’d managed to get herself in before I even saw the messages.
I saw that Tina had texted me a couple times, first just to tell me that she loved me more than manatees, then updating me on her and Nate’s progress through his responsibilities for the wedding. Around 1:00 in the afternoon, she texted again to comment on how pretty the wedding venue was. “Thinking about our wedding. Love you!!!” she concluded.
I was expecting her back sometime after the wedding, since she’d said as much at least three or four times. I figured she’d be back late, since there was presumably a reception. I worried that she wouldn’t actually be coming back at all. I wondered if she’d tell me she was going back to Amber’s or something else that wasn’t.
Later that evening I looked at Nate’s facebook profile and saw his update, “Mission Accomplished: They’re married!” and I thought, nice work, Cupid. One wedding accomplished and one averted.
After midnight, my phone blorped at me and my anxiety spiked immediately. I already knew who was texting, and by the time, roughly what the message would be.
“I am sleeping on the couch in Nate’s hotel room. Long ass day…”
This was not a good message for Tina to transmit at this time. We’d already had a flap about where she was staying the night before and after midnight, she decided to admit to being in Nate’s hotel room. If I had any lingering notion of believing Tina about sleeping at Amber’s, it was gone. She had to know this would be upsetting. She had to know how this looked. She had to know that she was in the wrong. She and Nate had gone so far past reasonable boundaries that I literally couldn’t see how far past the line they were. She apparently didn’t care. My feelings were not even a factor.
“I’m concerned that we’re at a crossroads, here,” I replied minutes later. “I didn’t really expect to see you tonight, but I’ve been waiting all day for you in Farmington, anyhow. I’m stupid.”
I went outside to have a cigarette and take a walk while I gathered my thoughts and waited for her to reply.
I tossed around the idea of going back to my Mom’s empty house in Minneapolis, but I hated staying there alone since she’d passed. I noticed her absence too much. I hated everything about that house by this point, dealing with her estate and my unhelpful brothers, but Tina had violated my trust and showed me that she was willing to put our relationship on the block for Nate’s sake. I wanted to start packing my things to retreat back to home, but home was already sold. I couldn’t stay there much longer. Moving in with Tina was supposed to be the next step in building our life together. I hadn’t even finished moving in and that future was already in jeopardy. I was on shifting sands.
After half an hour, I tried to prompt a reply from her. “I don’t know what to do here. Should I just go back to Minneapolis?”
I walked around the block a few times and smoked half a pack of cigarettes ruminating on the situation. An hour or so later, I’d gathered my thoughts and finished up the night with “Hopefully I’ll see you soon so you can tell me your thoughts and feelings and have a discussion.
“These are my thoughts and feelings, now that I’ve taken some time to analyze my distress.
“With respect to a relationship, you have done an extraordinary thing by being another man’s date and spending a night away with him (two nights, now). For this not to incur strife in a relationship requires a leap of faith on my part. If you were being respectful of our relationship, you’d show that faith to be well-placed instead of using deception and demonstrating by action that your words can’t be relied on.
“I’d think you and Nate would have taken pains to avoid me feeling that my faith was misplaced.
“For Nate’s part, a gentleman in this situation would have made certain to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Instead, he has lost my confidence.”
I didn’t swear or rant or berate her. I very honestly and thoughtfully expressed my feelings. I feel I stated my thoughts very calmly and respectfully until the end, when some sarcasm came through. “But I’m probably wrong to feel this way. Why should my feelings matter, anyway?
My phone remained frightfully silent the rest of the night. I slept fitfully in Tina’s lonely bed.
My phone was in hand when I woke just before noon. I don’t remember grabbing it off the nightstand, but my subconscious seemed intent on gathering information.
There were no missed calls or new messages.
Irked and very concerned, I prompted her again. “Are you coming home, today?” Whatever direction our next conversation was going to take, I knew it would be better to talk in person.
Another hour passed before Tina finally answered my disconcerted messages. 12:45: “I’m on my way back to Farmington.”
I’d learned that Nate’s hotel was in Roseville, which was no more than an hour’s drive from Farmington. I figured she’d be arriving shortly and we needed to talk. Now.
“OK. See you soon, then. I love you.”
Two hours passed and there was no sign or contact from Tina. I was pacing the driveway, going through a pack of cigarettes like it was a can of Pringles.
I decided I’d waited long enough. I had been planning to head back to Minneapolis to take care of some loose ends with Mom’s estate and I’d been putting it off for no productive reason. Tina was just wasting my time.
Maura pulled her silver Saturn into the driveway and brought some bags out of her car. She could see that I was upset.
“Is Tina inside?” She asked.
“Tina is in Nate’s hotel room or on her way back from there, or who knows where she is.”
I brought Maura up to speed on everything. “I am so pissed off right now,” I concluded after a breathless recounting.
“I would be, too,” Maura said. “Let me put this stuff inside and I’ll have a cigarette with you,” she disappeared into the apartment for a while. I was just about to go in when she reemerged and lit a menthol.
My phone blorped. It was Tina texting. “I love you lots. I just went to Barnes and Noble and now I’m eating fancy Ramen.”
Obviously, she wasn’t on her “way back to Farmington.” Nate had to bring her to what would definitely be one of her favorite places, bibliophile that she was and apparently followed it up with Dinner. Was he just trying to entice her to stay with him longer?
“Nate is going out with a girl tonight. I am going to stay here for a bit.”
I related this new information to Maura. She squinted, thinking for a moment. “Ask her if she needs you to pick her up.”
“Would it be helpful if I picked you up?” I texted.
“I want to swim and read and be away for a bit.”
I told Maura what her daughter’s reply was.
“She’s probably freaked out thinking your mad at her. That kind of thing makes her want to run away.”
“Well I am mad at her. This isn’t cool at all and we need to talk about this.”
Maura began making excuses for Tina. First, insisting that she believed Tina had spent that first night at Amber’s and if she did spend a night in Nate’s room, it was probably just for convenience. There’s nothing going on between those two. It’d be like a couple buddies sharing a room on a road trip.”
“They’re 40 minutes away. It’s not like crossing the Sahara to get Tina home and she’s been fucking lying to me. None of this is OK.” I put my cigarette out and lit another. “And Nate… I extended my hand in friendship to him, gave him my trust and he slapped me in the face. What kind of guy invites another man’s fiance back to his fucking hotel room to spend the night?”
“Don’t blame Nate. This is all Tina,” she said, knowingly.
I resolved to make what was left of my day more productive and went back into town to take care of some unfinished business.
Feeling insulted on top of injury, I responded to Tina’s belated change of plan. “OK. Thanks for letting me know. I put off business I was about to do two hours ago because I thought you were on your way back and I wanted to see you before I left. I’m heading out to do that stuff now.”
I figured she’d still be back sometime that day. “I’ll be back in a few hours,” I added.
I went back to Mom’s, trying to keep my mind on the business at hand. I’ll talk this out with Tina later, I thought.
Two hours later, Tina texted again. “I am alone and reading. I love you. Amber wants to make Apple Pie tonight.”
I sat on the couch in the half-packed up living room and looked around at all the work that still needed doing before closing on the sale of the house. I considered moving and storage options, but through it all, the one thought that dominated my mind was “What the fuck is up with Tina?”
“Feels like you are avoiding me. Should I just stay away?” I answered her new excuse.
“No! I want you close, forever ever! I’m eating kimchi with my fingers and reading a fantastic book… Enjoying the quiet and control of the thermostat. We’re on the top floor… No upstairs neighbors.”
“I need to get everything I want to keep out of the house by Monday. In other news, I don’t work tomorrow.” I needed some help with the house business and had been hoping I could count on my partner in life for some of that. She had other priorities.
“I will be back tomorrow.”
I stared at that text and realized her message may as well have been in Sanscrit for all the meaning it had for me. A horrible sinking wave washed through me as I realized that her words had become worthless to me. I didn’t believe she’d be back ‘tomorrow.’ I had no reason to believe her about anything.
“I’m sorry, but let me find a grain of salt and I’ll try reading that again.”
Clyde, my doggie, my buddy, my pal, was in my ex-wife Jessica’s custody and he’d been having health problems. He was almost 15 years old and we feared he didn’t have much time left. He was anemic and had a tumor in his bowels. Jessica invited me over to see him. “You don’t know how much time you have left to see him,” she reminded me.
When I got there, I got my usual enthusiastic greeting from Clyde. He had been given steroids to reduce the inflammation from the tumor and seemed to be doing (relatively) pretty well that day, trotting around the yard a bit, sniffing squirrel tracks. Jessica suggested we take him for a walk, but cautioned that he could usually only do half a block. He tired very quickly.
On this day, after a block, he was raring to go, pulling on the leash, insisting on a longer walk. Jessica thought it would be too much for him, but I let the tail-wagging cocker lead on for another block and we approached a new ice cream shop that had opened in the neighborhood.
Jessica told me that she’d suggested to the owners that they sell doggie sundaes, since so many people walked dogs in the neighborhood. They took up her suggestion and started promoting it, so we had to stop in and get one to treat the dog. It was a good opportunity to let him rest a bit before making the walk back to the house. He was on a restrictive soft-foods diet so the ice cream was a great treat for him. Cow’s milk doesn’t generally agree with doggie digestion, but he loved it.
We had a nice time and Clyde seemed to be doing really well – better than expected so I was optimistic that he’d be around a bit longer, despite the cancer.
When I got back to Mom’s, planning to spend the night there alone, I realized that I’d left my computer and medications at the apartment – because I thought I’d have reason to go back there. I thought Tina was finally going to get her wayward self home. So I had to have to drive back to Farmington. regardless.
When I woke up the next day in Tina’s lonely bed and looked at my phone. I saw that Jessica had been trying to call me in the morning. I’d taken a few hydroxyzine tablets to help me with the intense anxiety before lying down and I slept right through the phone’s ringing. There was a text: “Clyde won’t eat.”
Then I listened to Jessica’s voice mail. “Clyde really went downhill this morning. I’m going to have to take him in.”
I texted her, “I’m up,” then, making my way outside, I called, ready to hit the road and go to the vet, braced for the worst, but hoping for better.
“I had to put him down,” Jessica’s words hit me at mach one. I was not braced well enough. I staggered up the stairs. I don’t remember what I said, exactly, but I felt like I had to go somewhere. Do something. It was already done. Jessica and Cris had brought Clyde in while I slept through my phone’s alerts. He was my dog. My buddy. I should have been there. I stepped out onto the stoop and sat down heavily on a step as I listened to Jessica relate his condition and his last moments. It was too much. Tina gone AWOL with Nate. My Mom, my main support outside of Tina, gone. The house. My Dad. My brothers. I had been pulling off some semblance of holding together, but now I fell apart. I shattered. I let Jessica go and sat there staring into the neighbor’s yard, seeing their dogs, seeing my Dog.
Maura came out to smoke and asked if I’d heard anything more from Tina.
“No and I think I’m going to leave.”
She told me again that she was certain that Tina had been at Amber’s the first night after Bingo. She told me that Tina loves and adores me, that she says so all the time.
I was sullen; shattered; looking at pieces of my life breaking off and smashing on the pavement.
“Are you OK?” her face showed genuine concern as she looked me over.
“Clyde is gone,” I said in a slow monotone. “Jessica had to put him down this morning while I was sleeping.”
“Oh, no! I’m so sorry to hear that, Dan. Does Tina know?”
“No. I think I’m done talking to her.”
Maura put on a sad frown. “Dan…” she trailed off. She snuffed her cigarette and went back down into the apartment.
I went down a few moments later intent on packing up my things and leaving this crazy mess. I saw Maura in the kitchen, looking down at her phone. I figured she was messaging Tina about Clyde.
Whatever. I went into the bedroom and started gathering my clothes out of the closet.
Blorp. “I’m on my way… For real,” came the text at 1:00. I didn’t answer. I kept packing. I filled my suitcases, I loaded my suits and shirts, still on hangars into my van.
Two and a half hours later, I was pretty much ready to leave with all of my important possessions packed and loaded. There were some trickier things I could retrieve at a later date.
I looked at the time and re-read Tina’s meaningless message.
“Oh. For really real, this time? OK. Well, I won’t be there… for real,” I shot back.
Immediately after sending that terminal message, I noticed that I’d actually missed a call from Tina, earlier. A voice call was a rarity from Tina. Intrigued, but feeling I shouldn’t, I called her back to see what she had to say. She told me how sorry she was to hear of Clyde’s passing and assured me she was getting into the car to come home to me right that minute.
Some mental defect I didn’t understand at the time compelled to wait a bit before heading back to my soon to be sold home. I still wanted to have words with Tina, even if it would be the last words we shared. Also, my amygdala was screaming at me to slap the piss out of Nate. I resolved to be in the driveway when he brought her back.
Between Tina and I there was apparently a fundamental disagreement on the meaning of the phrase, “I’m on my way,” Which she asserted at 1:00.
At 4:05, she texted again, “Almost there.”
At about 4:30, Nate’s silver rental car pulled into the driveway. Tina made haste out of the car. Nate popped the trunk for her from his driver seat but made no move to get out of the car as I stared at him through the windshield.
Tina had more bags than when she left. I guess they had gone shopping. I assume Nate bought her a book. Maybe more.
Just before they arrived, Maura advised that I treat Tina gently. “Hugs and kisses, first,” she had said.
My instinct had been to open the door for Tina and help with the bags she was awkwardly yanking out of the trunk. She seemed rushed. She was out and arms loaded before I could even get to her.
I gazed angrily back at Nate, considering my next action. My amygdala was still screaming at me but my super-ego was telling me not to get physical because… I’m not sure. I couldn’t really make it out over my lizard brain screaming for rapid violence, but I kept my cool.
Ultimately, an angry stare was all Nate got from me, but the slightest nuance could have set off a forceful extraction from that silver car and a beating beyond my natural bounds. I was on the razor’s edge. There were a lot of emotions mixing and vying for dominance inside me.
They didn’t hug or even appear to exchange goodbyes. Nate backed out of the driveway with haste and he was gone, down the road while I gave Tina a one-armed over the shoulder semi-hug and followed her into the apartment so she could unload her bags before we talked.
Suddenly, teary-eyed, saying “I’m sorry,” Tina pulled me in to a tight embrace and held me like that for a long time.
I’m not a hugger. When I encounter people relatively close enough to me who are huggers, I try to keep it brief. There comes a time, even with my love when a hug feels too long. I don’t know if it could be measured in minutes or seconds. It’s hug time. Hugging has it’s own dimension of time. This was a long hug. After some murmured platitudes about Clyde, she said again, “I’m sorry.”
My cheeks were wet with Tina’s tears. I broke her hold on me and stepped back. “For what?” I asked. I wanted to see if she’d be honest with me. I wanted to know what she felt she should apologize for and what she was willing to confess. I wanted to know if it was a genuine and complete apology. I needed to know if she could even comprehend why what she had done was so terribly wrong. I was disappointed.
“For being away from you,” she said.
I shook my head, slightly stunned. Not even close.
As I recount these events, four months have passed but reliving the pain of her humiliating betrayal still brings bitter tears to my eyes. I doted on her. I believed it when she said loved me beyond all else. No one had ever hurt me so profoundly. It still affects me and I’m ashamed of myself for it.
In the aftermath, trying as hard as I was to find a path forward for us, Tina actually kept making it worse and worse despite every opportunity and then some being offered to make it right.