Thursday, March 11, 2010

The Ex Factor

My first engagement did not end well. Which is to say that it did and then it didn’t.

We’d both been afraid to admit we were growing apart but when we went to visit my family for Christmas the built up misery came crashing down on me and I knew I couldn’t get back on the plane to go home with him. What followed was a grey area of ‘are we or aren’t we’ during which we discussed ways we could keep the us alive; make that next step, maybe try Los Angeles, he came out and interviewed in my mountain town even. One week after a tearful profession of his love for me I agreed to give New York another try. The next day he admitted he cheated on me, in my bed. Her name was Erica. Needless to say I never went back to New York and after some quietly subdued negotiations he packed up our shoebox of an apartment and shipped me my stuff.

We kept in touch, always civil. Even friendly at times. I think we were a bit lost without each other. We’d been each other’s first real loves. We’d met on a cruise and been instantly smitten. As we were both vacationing with our families, the various parents and siblings met and it was like six months of dating condensed into a week. He flew out to visit me in California a month later. Two months after that I visited him in New York. We looked at apartments and I moved out that Spring.

We had originally planned to marry a year to the day that we met. We started looking at wedding cruises, I found a dress, picked out invitations, a caterer. But even though we pressed on, he never gave me a ring. I started to feel false about the whole thing as every woman I mentioned my wedding plans to inevitably looked at my finger and then I had to explain. It wasn’t really a money thing although he claimed it was. His sister in law had given us a diamond and his best friend was the scion of a diamond district jeweler. A ring would not have been difficult. I lost it when I discovered charges on his credit card to a strip club the day after the last money excuse. He’d left the statement open on my book and in a way I think he wanted me to find it. To see what was real for him.Still by the end, he’d been my best friend for three years and it hurt to just let go of that. I sat in the snow outside my mother’s house and cried my eyes out.

At the time I never thought it would be so long before I found my next Mr. Right.
As time passed we kept up a friendly contact. Loosely at least. He eventually started dating someone and moved to LA with her. When I decided to move to LA for the movie business he was supportive. Said he couldn’t wait for me to meet his girl, that I’d really like her. As several of my best friends were next girlfriends of exes I had no doubt I would. He even offered me help in finding a job when I landed. I was happy to have at least one trusted face in the sea of unkept promises that is LA.

But then I did land. He didn’t return my emails. Then he didn’t return my calls. I left an angry message with his assistant that his ex-fiance wanted to speak with him. I wasn’t just some acquaintance fluff to be brushed aside. I had been engaged to this man. Did not that confer a certain status of intimacy with him? Of entitlement to connection?

And then it dawned on me. It must have been her. She must have been uncomfortable with the idea of a friendly ex being back in his life. I got it and I felt for her. I wished I could tell her I was no threat but he’d have to do that. I wrote him a heartfelt letter saying I was sorry for not having gotten the clue earlier and understanding her point of view but hoping she’d understand. I really did need his help after all. I was running out of savings and still had no job on the horizon.

It was his response that was the truest moment of our break-up. Two years later. He was clearly upset with me and I don’t know if it was because I’d seen the uncomfortable truth of the matter or if he was frustrated with her attitude toward me and was taking it out on me, or if, like so many in Tinseltown, he was only paying me lip-service about being friends and helping me get a toehold here. Either way his tone was terse and cold. He informed me that I was wrong about his beloved and had no right to comment on the matter. He told me he had other priorities in life now and I was not one of them. I sat back from the keyboard stunned and hurt. We were broken up now for real and true.

I never responded to his email and have never spoken to him since.

Now a decade since our breakup and my snowy cry I have returned to the state of engagement. And now the shoe is on the other foot. My fiancé has an ex who is out here and lonely and looking for help getting her toehold. I should be inclined to be generous but I find I’m not. Not that I have any fear of him going back to her or her turning his head. Trust me when I say it is not possible. But I find her desperation repugnant. Like a fly circling our calm spring day. She is a nuisance I don’t want to deal with and he’s happy to use my irritation as his buttress for his No.

I’ll never know what really went on between my ex and his next regarding my presence in LA. But at least now I understand the state he was in when I came beseeching. Despite the love he once had for me and the promises once made, a new love simply doesn’t leave room. You can only create one life at a time and by rights it’s the one you’re creating together.

I’ve been so angry at him for so many years. I’ve laughed at my cousin when she says she’s seen him at work things and he’s asked after me. He hates me, clearly, I counter. If he’d cared he could have lifted a finger. Since the day of his last email I’ve held a big ‘screw you too’ in the space in my heart where his love once lived. Now I see I was off base. For him it was never hate. It was just the view from a different state.

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