“Tell me how it ended,” he said, over lunch one afternoon. “Was it sudden? It seemed sudden.”
The summer sun was warm on my face. Last year’s autumn felt like a lifetime ago.
“It was… and it wasn’t, all at the same time,” I replied, swallowing the aftertaste of grief. “I think, in a way, it always feels a bit sudden. But things had been unraveling for years. The threads came loose more quickly than I could tie them up.”
He nodded, “Some friends of mine had a whirlwind courtship. They seemed pretty happy for a while. Shortly after they got married and had a child, the husband just sort of snapped, like someone flipped a switch. He disappeared for a few days, and when he came home, he barricaded himself in the bedroom. He would only come out to go to work. This went on for about a week before he was just done with it all and left. He doesn’t even see or talk to his kid. He’s completely cut off from that part of his life.”
Coping mechanism… I thought. I wonder what pushed him to that point. I wonder if it’s easier that way…
I took another bite of salad, feeling for the wife in my friend’s story. So many unanswered questions. Did she blame herself?
“That’s hard–to not get closure on something like that,” I said. “That’s something I had to come to terms with over the past ten months: sometimes, you never get the answers you need, and you have to be able to move on without them or you’ll go crazy.”
The air was heavy with the weight of our conversation. An unsaid expectation danced in the breeze of the words. What badge of wisdom had I earned over the past nine years? Was it hope? Bitterness? Comfort? I sounded like I had it figured out, but I wondered how much of that was an act to protect myself. If I could convince everyone around me that I had my shit together, well, then I must, right?
He leaned back in his chair and shifted his gaze down the busy street. “What scares the shit out of me the most is how people change. You commit to a person who may be someone else completely in five years–or even seemingly overnight, like my friend’s husband. You can’t control it, and sometimes, you don’t even see it coming… How the hell do you deal with that?”
A bead of condensation slid down the side of my glass. My mind grappled for a response–something positive but also real.
Take it in stride. Don’t get married. Try to grow together as much as you can. Make sure you’re with someone who is as committed to building something together as they are to building themselves. Sometimes things fall apart so you can build something better from the rubble. Lifetime commitments are unrealistic. If only love really did conquer all…
I didn’t have an answer. I still don’t.