The lover, the boss, and the friend.
The boss listens, every day. Turns from frantic typing to watch my face and empathize. He reminds me, “This too shall pass.” He buys a joke URL for us to start a website together, as soon as we can decide on its purpose. He encourages me to trust my instincts professionally and personally, he invites my brother and I to his family’s house for Thanksgiving, he tells me “he’s crazy” when a boyfriend breaks up with me.
I am so tired of being in love with the boss. I give my notice, to move back home to Seattle. For the last three weeks in New York, I live with a stranger in the uppermost neighborhood of Manhattan. My boss, shocked by my revealing my feelings, is no longer my friend. The idea of leaving his humor, his energy, his compassion, makes me cry as though being split in two. My roommate, a stranger, talks into late nights with me at the kitchen table. I marvel that this stranger is turning into the best part of my last month in Manhattan.
By the time I fly from New York to Seattle, my roommate has become my friend, and I’m glad that our conversations continue.
Seattle drives me mad. I move back into my parents’ house with my mom, to pack it up to rent it out while she moves to Toronto to live with my dad. My ex-boss calls, suggesting that I return to work for him. I tell him, “I think it’s psychological, I don’t think it’s love. I think it’s because you’re unavailable.” He says, “Yeah, I know I’m great, but… I’m not that amazing.” He says his wife was the one to suggest he hire me back.
Meanwhile, I’ve realized that there’s nothing stopping me from living in Europe. I’ve wanted to since I was a teenager, but used to be so afraid to live so far from home. I hesitate, but tell my boss I’m not returning to New York.
The friend wishes me godspeed. Flying from Toronto to Paris, I stay up during the overnight flight, watching the movie on the tiny screen over my head. My fellow passengers lean into sleep. Beyond their bent heads, through the small windows, a gold and pink sunrise lights the white clouds the plane slowly swims through. This is the first moment I wish I could share with my ex-roommate. The friend.
Several more moments in the town south of Barcelona where I live first, that I wish I could share with the friend. Something tells me he would appreciate the heat radiating from the paving stones, the beauty of the locals, the gold stucco, the turquoise sea.
I move to England, staying in loose contact with my ex-boss. He frightens me by saying in all capital letters, “COME BACK TO NEW YORK!” Settling into an isolated house in the Devonshire countryside, I ache to do so.
I write to escape loneliness. I write blogs, I begin to write a novel, and I write emails, some of them to the friend, who has broken up with his girlfriend and is dating someone new, back in New York.
I meet a handsome Englishman, who becomes my lover. We spend every weekend drifting through Exeter and surrounding villages. When I learn I have to leave unexpectedly, he says, “I’ll join you. I don’t want to stay in this town, this job, this life. I want adventure.”
I return to the US, confusing the boss with mixed reports about whether or not I’m landing in New York first. The lover talks to me on the phone, or on Skype, or just chatting, for a couple hours every day. Sometimes we turn on the web cams and stare at each other, marveling at our faces, so close, yet impossible to touch. He cheers me up when my mom’s depression reaches its lowest points. He cheers me on when I need bolstering to write, to look for work, to get out of bed before two in the afternoon.
He is loyal, he is loving, he is smart and silly. When we struggle to communicate, I sign off the computer, inhale, wait until the next day, to try again. When the friend congratulates me on my engagement to the lover, I say, “No…” scrambling to justify my lack of enthusiasm.
I stay with the friend in New York, discovering that despite the brevity of those three weeks I lived with him the year before, it is still so easy to talk to him. Our conversations do not stagger, they flow. Meanwhile he prepares to take a vacation with his girlfriend. I visit my boss and find him twitching in a dim office, recovering from news of his wife’s unfaithfulness.
I do mentally survey the differences in these three men, if only as an academic exercise. I return to Buffalo convinced the lover is the man I would be happiest with.
But it doesn’t matter what I think, because our conversations stagger rather than flow, and because he has yet to do anything to move to the US. I suggest we go our separate ways, or rather, admit how separate our ways are.
I feel at sea without the lover, but the friend is ready to offer support and encouragement, as I ease out of my trans-Atlantic love.
The boss offers me a position at his revamped company. The friend offers his apartment, to be roommates again.
I tell the boss I can’t emotionally afford to risk working with him again. The friend visits me in Buffalo. We share a weekend in ugly Suckallo that rivals, to me, some of the weekends the lover and I shared in beautiful Devon. Except that I read devotion in the lover’s body weeks before he spoke of commitment. I read unreadiness in the friend, and I send him back to New York vowing to maintain our friendship. Neither of us support that vow very well, and conversation falters.
These three men are intertwined through my heart and through the chaos that surrounded me from May of last year, to May of this. As the chaos wanes, so do their roles in my life. I stand here in Buffalo, poised between a “crazy year” and a potentially calm future, without any of them on my phone’s speed dial, chat buddy list, or filling my inbox with interesting notes. But they’re still there, in my heart, waiting for time to tell me whether they should die…
Or just rest.
For better or worse, my heart doesn’t have room yet for anyone new. It is full, full of promises kept and broken, sentences begun with “I love you, but…” feelings intuited through the skin or read on the face, shared fantasies, wishes, longing, and the looming shadow of the unspoken.
So I avoid the special conversation, the magic moment, the meaningful touch. I grimace when I meet someone new, or I run with them into an intentionally meaningless sexual encounter. Because I don’t want to cry anymore. I’m so tired of being blue. And I’m tired of wondering, “Why?”
I don’t know if the oceans, the marriages, the years, the histories that have distanced me from each of these men, even in our closest moments, existed because I chose them, or because they were handed to me. But now, tonight, as this blog celebrates its first birthday, I don’t care anymore about the Why?
The karma, the psychology, the drama, will take care of itself. I just want a fellow to watch movies with me on rainy Sunday afternoons.