I met the father at Starbucks. We talked like the past two years hadn’t happened, we talked about nothing, we weren’t there for talking. The Student and I freshly broken up, I tumbled backwards in confusion and desperation and depression. Tumbling, tumbling, tumbling back into past sins. We agreed to go to his place, I would follow him.
On the way there I called my soon-to-be rebound and he spoke fervently about me making the right decision and turning around and being better than this, and my spirits were warmed by someone caring. But I drove on.
And we stopped at a house and walked in together past a housemate, back into a dark bedroom and my pulse was agitated and my airway was constricting as I processed the room before me. Chaos. A replica of the apartment, my mind splitting, transporting back in time, those past feelings and sensations and hopelessness crashing into me. We sat on the bed and he began to make his moves and I was going to throw up and I somehow stood up and told him I couldn’t and I left quickly and I wondered how I was able to do something so bold, to leave and say no.
I returned to the silent blue walls and cried and cried and fell deeper, deeper, deeper. The Student was right about me. And I was ruining any hope of ever getting back with him by further tarnishing what little good I had left. I cried until my consciousness was depleted and I had a dream about Jesus, so vivid and terrifying then, but just an impression now.
The Rebound was a gentle soul, a romantic, a connoisseur of music, with a calming, deep voice and a scruffy face and thick glasses and such blue eyes. He was taller and bigger than me, a safe haven, comforting and laid-back, but adventurous and thoughtful and protective. He said things like “Good grief” and “It is what it is” and approached life by asking what we can do now, rather than dwelling on what had been done. He had an endearing way of closing his eyes and sucking in his breath through his teeth when he laughed. The first person I’d dated raised in the church, though he had his demons to wrestle as well.
I told him about the adoption up front, almost combatively, daring him to say something against me, against J. But he didn’t.
I told him I was crazy, I told him my diagnosis and all the things the Student had said and all the things I’d done and I waited for him to react, sometimes I would put on a show, to convince him, to get him to listen, to agree. But he didn’t. You aren’t crazy, he would say. Confidently and patiently. I would huff.
We went to concerts. We spontaneously drove to different states in the middle of the night. He taught me to drive a stick shift by putting me in the driver’s seat for 10 hours.
He was faithful and trusting, and I had such whiplash from the Student that I couldn’t appreciate it. I loved the Student. I loved the Student’s mom, I idolized her. I hurt the Rebound’s feelings because I didn’t love his mom, a generous, godly woman, like I loved her.
I hurt him over and over and over again, took advantage of his warmth and security, desperate to heal, not to love. I had nothing left to give, I was deadened and drained and nothing seemed beautiful anymore. It was a chore to write, when before the words rolled endlessly.
I broke him, a civilian casualty in the fray of my war with the Student.
I left his house one day and drove to the Student’s college home an hour away, to exchange something. I drove in anticipation, hopeful, nostalgic, longing. I thought I’d pick breakfast up for him, I texted, and he denied the gesture, thanking me. I played scenarios over and over in my head.
I parked in that familiar lot, and walked through the dilapidated fence, and along the winding path of the yard, and up the steps we’d worn with a hundred thousand footsteps, and knocked on the door that I used to open freely, heart beating, beating, beating and he opened the door and I smiled and my heart stopped abruptly as his pajama-clad girlfriend peeked around his shoulder and I handed whatever it was over, or maybe he gave something to me, and he closed the door, and my organs faltered within as I paced back to my car, never looking back, masking my furious pain. Once I cleared the fence I stood by my car. And by his car. A fleeting image of keying his car. Then an image of him not being won over. I agonized over my next move. I wanted to hurt him. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry. So I sent him a text. “Classy.”
And I drove an hour home, blinded by relentless tears.
I couldn’t be alone. I couldn’t take the loneliness, compulsively leaping from one relationship to the next.
I broke it off with the Rebound, because he wasn’t the Student. And I soon pursued a godly man I’d met at the church. He was tall and handsome in that All-American boy kind of a way, and responsible and collected and spiritual and entirely innocent and he loved me. He’d been homeschooled, and I’d never been with anyone like him. We stayed up one night on a curb and I told him about J and he said other-worldly things, beautiful questions and statements about the existence of a child out there under the same stars we viewed that night. We stayed up under the stars frequently. I’d lay my head in his lap and we’d talk about marriage and kids and homeschooling, and a friend would tell me I better not ruin this because there just wasn’t a better man out there. And I thought she was right. Too right.
So I broke up with him. I broke up with him because he was too perfect and I had damaged many people before, I’d seen the aftermath of a relationship with me and I chose to spare him. He kept his innocence, and I gained a sliver of integrity, which would be tarnished within 24 hours.