It's been sort of quiet here, lately. I've been working in the background, offering my sympathies to Matt and Lila for their mix-up, advising the folks out in Vancouver as much as I can... dealing with Thom and Sara.
Meanwhile, I've just kind of knuckled into the single working gal lifestyle. After those recent dating debacles, I kind of gave into the idea that my romantic life is currently at a low. As much as I want a little something, I can't force it, I can't try to make it work with someone that won't fit my life. All I can do is keep looking.
So imagine my surprise, and slight exasperation, when I got a text from an old flame. Buddy.
He and I left things on kind of a sour noted, you may remember... I broke up with him pretty much specifically to be with Alex. Yeah, that worked out great for me. But it wouldn't have happened if I didn't already have doubts about our relationship. Sometimes it felt like he really got me, and sometimes he seemed totally mystified by me. Hard to blame him. He was my first boyfriend, my training wheels. It was like dating my old self, and sometimes that probably tripped him up. I was attuned to him in a way he couldn't quite be with me, because there will always, always be something he doesn't know about me. That hasn't changed. But that doesn't mean I have a clear conscience.
We've mended things somewhat since then. It starts with a "Happy birthday" on Facebook. It moves on to become a text conversation about a recent movie we both liked. Then occasional catch-ups... "How's Texas," "Good, still working, how's Philly" "Good, just got a new job." And it just kind of snowballs.
So maybe I shouldn't have been shocked when he texted me the other week saying "I'm gonna be in Philly soon. We should get drinks." But all I could think was, "I do not want to deal with this right now."
Plus, I'm not going to lie, part of me thought he was going to come out and say he too was an Inn victim. Hell, he traveled enough. But no.
I needed a treat, though. I've been so good and quiet the past few months, since Nameless Boy and me had our last tryst (boy, that did not end cleanly though.) Buddy will always represent a certain time in my life, and the way things ended does not erase the good times. I like him. I thought I loved him. If it was closure, or healing, or whatever he needed, I could give it. I think we're both mature. That said, I couldn't help but compliment him on his beard, and when he told me I looked great too, I felt myself blush.
It got off to a very awkward start. He asked how Alex was, and I admitted we weren't together anymore. And he kind of screwed his face into this judgmental smirk like "Oh, I would have thought that since you dumped me for him, you two would have to be soulmates." That's not what he said, obviously, but it feels like that's what he was thinking.
I told him that since we've been getting along really well lately, I would rather we not delve into any bitterness, and he agreed that would be wise. He asked if I missed him, and I said that was a really complicated question. He could be difficult, stubborn, frustrating at times... but that's men. Hell, that's women, too. We butted heads. That's natural.
But there was a lot of good that went along with that. Probably more good than bad, overall, it's just that things became unworkable near the end. Him in Houston, me in Philly.
"Was that it?" he asked. "If I stayed in Philly, would we still be together?"
"Probably not," I admitted shamefully. "Because I already met Alex, and he..." I stopped myself. I've learned that pretty much my entire relationship with Alex was pretty much a con, an attempt to induct me into the Agency, the people that use bodies like currency. Everything he was was just designed to win me over, and he had a lot of resources to put toward that. I finally settled on, "It was complicated. And honestly, at the time, Alex seemed like the better choice. I regret that."
And then I felt it. That twinge of release. Admitting that I made a mistake, years ago, when I dumped Buddy for Alex. That sort of opened the floodgates and all my memories of being attracted, being enthralled by Buddy came back. I learned forward and propped up my cleavage. Alex sat up and took notice. It was a lapse in judgment, but a quick one.
"I'm engaged," he said. "Well, I'm getting engaged. I'm planning on proposing when I get back to Houston."
"Oh wow," I said, sitting back. "Um, congratulations. That seems quick... um, I mean, how long have you..."
"Like a year," he said. "Yeah, maybe that is quick, but we're not getting any younger, and we're just... crazy about each other."
"That's amazing," I said, feigning sincerity, "Congratulations again. What's her name? Tell me all about her."
"Her name's Victoria. But she goes by Vicky. She's blonde, short, so cute... 23."
"Okay, you can stop," I said. "That's great to hear, but I've gotta ask... if you're so crazy in love, why are we having drinks right now?"
"Well, I'm here in Philly on a job interview. Actually it's in Trenton, but that's 40 minutes away. And she's a Houston girl, and I'm worried that history's going to repeat itself. So I thought, I don't know, if I take this job, and she doesn't want to move... what are the odds you and I could pick up where we left off?"
"Let me tell you," I said with a sigh, "If there's someone you would leave your girlfriend for, given the chance... you should not propose to her. If you really want to marry her, and she doesn't want to leave Houston, don't leave Houston. Don't make the same mistake twice. You and I had great times, but that's the past. There were reasons we broke up, beyond Houston, beyond Alex, beyond anything either of us could comprehend. Trust me on this, Buddy. I don't go backwards. That's something I've learned over the past few years."
He took a moment to take this all in, then he kind of smirked. "I like that. You don't go backwards. Smart. Don't know that I agree, but whatever works." He then waved over the waitress and we paid our separate checks and parted ways.
And I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a twinge of doubt when I watched him go, about whether that was the right thing to say. Maybe I could've just played his game and told him I'd be there for him and get a happy ending. But I'm so sick all this drama and I don't want to be his escape clause. If he leaves that Vicky chick, it's going to be because he doesn't love her as much as he thinks, and hopefully if he stays with her it's not because he doesn't have a backup lined up.
A few days later I booked an appointment at a tattoo parlor. I've wanted to get a tattoo off and on over the years but I could never decide what, until that conversation hit me, and I decided I could use an ever-present reminder of it. So I drew up a design and had them ink the inside of my right forearm with the word FORWARD and two triangles. I've been in this body for four years, and gosh darnit I want to feel like I left my mark on it. Har har.