The Stories of People: The Boy in the Picture, Pt. 2

~~~

After some months of talking by phone, Skyping and failed visit attempts, we finally saw each other again. As I sat on a breezy riverfront wrapped in his jacket, he shared that he was no longer attached and wanted to spend more time with me. I obliged and before I knew it, we entered a courtship. Those things I had been missing, like trust and assurance in men, were quickly restored.

I didn’t stop to pay attention to some of the things he’d said in conversation that made me question if he was as serious about us as he’d said. I ignored that our sense of humor wasn’t compatible even though I missed being able to belt out laughs with a man. He’d told me he wasn’t “the funny guy,” so I willingly became the comedienne. Secretly, I felt rushed into how the relationship was progressing considering how it began.

There was chemistry, but there was a small strand of something missing, and whatever that something was, it was important. To blight the feeling, I remembered that the man who made me laugh hysterically was a disappearing act who was also emotionally unavailable. I magnified how I felt when the boy in the picture ran his fingers through my hair and kissed me. Add that to listening to my circle of girlfriends dishing of their happiness for me when I thought he was too good to be true.

“Are you sure?” a close friend asked over her crackly cell phone. “He seems like a great guy, but make sure you protect your heart.” I was annoyed because she challenged me and reminded me to trust my gut.

I shrugged off her concern, as well as my own. I’d literally run into this wonderful man, and we’d already learned so much from each other. He taught me to open my heart and verbalize what’s inside, rather than putting a cork on my emotions, and I encouraged him not to sweat the small stuff. I figured we’d come into each other’s lives for a reason, if only for those.

We traveled together up the East Coast. Since my first visit to the New York City, I’d had dreams of walking hand in hand with my lover, sharing a passionate kiss on the street as the rest of the world buzzed by us. There I was in that place with that person–a perfect set-up for my dream to take shape. On a cold December morning, we caught a cab to Harlem from Brooklyn. As we zoomed down avenues and turnpikes, I laid my head on his shoulder and soaked up all the energy the city had to offer.

I was numb.

I didn’t feel what I thought I should’ve felt considering the time, space and place I was in. The feeling caused a small panic, and I tried my hardest to shake it off. Later that day, we leaned into each other for secret kisses over plates of soul food in a small mom and pop eatery. A true Southern gentleman, he and the owner talked as if they were old friends. She was enamored by his bright eyes and magnetic personality just as I was. When we visited an old friend of mine, she pulled me into her bedroom after dinner and gushed about my beau. “I wish you could see the way he looks at you. This is like a romantic comedy!”

There were many talks about our future together and what we would do the “next time we go away.” I made a conscious decision to accept that this man was real, and not a figment of my imagination. Those youthful folks in that old picture could actually be together. Don’t get crazy and mess this up, I told myself.

Just hours before our flight back home, he’d changed his reservation to remain in the city a couple of days with family to prolong going back to his stressful job. I was livid.

As we stood at the escalator to airport security, he pulled me in for a hug and asked, “I just need a couple of days, that’s all. Don’t let this ruin the good time we had this weekend. I’ll be home soon.”

I barked at him, trying make him aware of his selfish and inconsiderate move. I felt immature for doing so, but I stood in the airport security line with eyes full of tears hiding behind my oversized sunglasses anyway. I traveled back home alone.

When he returned and we resolved our quarrel, I realized that for the first time, I wasn’t keeping score in a relationship, trying to one-up my guy. I was pleased with my personal growth.

A routine call about his travel home went unanswered, along with countless other calls and texts that followed. I became worried about him and his family. Was he dead or alive? A random text reply that read “I’m okay” several days later solidified what my intuition had already told me. He was ending things. Did something happen while we were away? Is that why he stayed in New York?

For some reason he couldn’t say, we weren’t going to work as a couple. I didn’t put up a fight because by then, I was already emotionally and mentally exhausted.

I experienced a different emotion for each day of the next week, from confusion to sadness to anger to relief, and then repeat. We spoke more than once about his decision to end things, and he blamed it on a pesky personality trait–indecisiveness–which had left more than a few burned bridges in his past. My warning to him was to look before he leaps before sweeping another woman off her feet knowing she would reach a quick expiration date. There was forgiveness, but no real reconciliation.

Some time passed, and he called. I reluctantly answered. We quickly gave recaps of our lives without each other, and after a few awkward silences, it all became clear. I remembered that weird feeling I had in New York paired with other “shoulder taps” I’d intentionally overlooked from the beginning. He and I should have never been “us.” His abrupt end to things shouldn’t have surprised me either. He’d been upfront about who he was and how he handled relationships. I didn’t miss any of the signs he flashed before me, but I’d ignored my own.

Luckily for me, he had enough courage to acknowledge his feelings and take action, even though he did so erroneously. He wanted to try again, but by then, I was completely sure in my decision to pass on reuniting with him. We, or maybe, just I, shouldn’t have to learn the same lesson twice: Always go with your gut.

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