Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The only NYE I remember perfectly

I almost posted this narrative several times, but when it came down to it I got nervous and simply couldn't. I think I was afraid to share the real story, as I had kind of played the victim a bit when it all went down. It has been five years since this fateful few days exactly. In the past five years, I have had several experiences that have proven to me that my story is not unique and therefore would not be judged. Many other friends and friends of friends have had similar heartache and confusion. I hope that sharing this will make others realize that they're not alone, and in the end there's nothing wrong with choosing yourself and your own happiness over anyone else's. In fact, I think we should all choose ourselves a little more often... that may even be a good resolution to take into 2015.  
December 2009, NYC
This wasn’t the first time a trip to the East Coast almost got cancelled.  I met Chris a few weeks before Christmas.  It was the first time in a long time I let myself realize that there were other fish in the sea.  I was liking the attention and that he lived only five minutes from work instead of a half an hour car ride to the airport, an hour and a half of security and airport shopping, a two hour plane ride, a half an hour at baggage claim, a train ride from Newark to Jersey city, a ride on Path train into Manhattan, a walk past the World Trade Center construction, up to Wall Street.  
Besides attention, Chris had just met me.  Everything about me fascinated him.  He asked questions and genuinely listened for answers.  He was in lust, and  told me that even though I had a boyfriend he would fight the uphill battle, or some other sports analogy that seemed heroic at the time.  
  I finally gave in and hung out with Chris in between work and my cousin's Christmas dance recital.  It was ugly sweater day at work.  Clad in my ugly Christmas sweater, Chris and I sat in his parents living room, yes he still lived with his parents, as did I, and chatted face to face.  I technically wasn’t cheating on Kevin.  If Kevin had asked where I was I would’ve told him, but Kevin didn’t ask for questions and when he did, he didn’t listen for answers anymore.  
Chris and I had things in common that to me, at the time, seemed eerily perfect... soulmate status.  Now they seem silly.  We were both left-handed, loved to read (a quality I didn’t know men possessed), and could recite full episodes of Friends.  I didn’t want to leave the coziness of his parents living room and bear the hour plus of horrible dancing in red and green.  I didn’t want to leave the genuine conversation.  Good looks aside, I didn’t want to leave the conversation where everything said was nice.  There was no undercutting, no insults, no threats.  
When I finally decided I had to leave or else my grandma would be disappointed in me for being late, Chris was worried about me driving after a long day at work (how sweet, right?!) and made a Diet Coke for me to take on the road.  That night I called Carly.  “He made me a Diet Coke for the road!” I exclaimed.
  “Oh my gosh!  That is so sweet!,” she replied.  We both weren’t in the most healthy relationships at the time.  The assembling of ice cubes, diet soda, and a lid made us believe I had found Prince Charming.  
  The holidays arrived and left me muddled.  Kevin’s flight home was delayed and cancelled multiple times.  Part of me hoped he would have to stay there for Christmas.  The best he could do was fly into an airport two hours away arriving at seven in the morning.  I was to pick him up, but didn’t want to.  
“Can’t someone in your family do something for once?” I asked.  Creating anger to swell within him.  He couldn’t understand, or was too narcissistic to realize, that maybe I was exhausted from this entire life he had created for me. We fought, and the most memorable result of this fight was the sentence he yelled at me.
“As far as I’m concerned, you’re nothing more than a fucking cab driver.”  If I needed things cleared up, that did it for me.  I left for the airport at five in the morning and talked to Chris the entire drive to pick up my sweet-as-sugar boyfriend.
I cried on Christmas eve in front of my whole family.  Kevin was there, Chris was calling my cell phone.  I was confused; my life plans involved Kevin.  I adjusted them after he moved to continue to involve him.  I knew what my grocery trips would be like, what we would watch on television, how to please us both with a meal.  He didn’t deserve any of these plans and while I watched him interact with my family like he had for the past four years I couldn’t hold it in.  My grandma and mom knew everything that was going on.  How hard the months had been on me since he moved, the fights that occurred over the phone, the almost cancelled trips.  They comforted me and informed everyone that the tears were caused by one too many Jack and Cokes.  I let them lie for me because I couldn’t face the truth.
I was scheduled to be in New York for New Years.  Kevin was looking forward to this trip I was to make, he wasn’t picking up on much of my unhappiness and didn’t suspect that I was spending time with someone else.  It was hard for me to even want to make the trip because Chris was convenient and nice.  How bad had things gotten that I prefered convenient and nice?  It sounds so stupid, but I was exhausted from having someone manipulate me, scream at me, and then apologize and love me.  The stupid part is that I let him.  And then I loved him back.  
I landed in Newark ready to make the commute to Wall Street.  When I turned on my phone I saw that Kevin decided to pick me up from the airport after all.  Picking me up meant meeting me at the airport and riding the public transit with me.  When I spotted Kevin, my heart still skipped a beat.  Deep down, I’m afraid he may have been my soul mate.  Best friends since we met, dating throughout college.  Everyone knew us as a pair.  After a tight squeeze he handed me a, you guessed it, Diet Coke.  “I thought you might be tired,” he explained.  The irony!  I had to suppress my laughter.  I text Carly from the bathroom stall:  “OMG He brought me a Diet Coke. LOL.”  When did a little gesture begin to mean so much to me.  How low I must have been.  
His uncle, his own version of Daddy Warbucks, took us to dinner the next night.  We did a tasting menu that cost hundreds of dollars per person.  The most creative food that has ever touched my palate.  Deviled eggs ice cream is what sticks out in my mind the most.  Everything was paired with wine.  This was going to be my life someday; Kevin was on track to eventually live this life.  In my opinion he could do it.  He had the brains, ambition, and personality.  I am the one who believed in him and made sure he got into the college he preferred, after months on the waiting list, and then the business school and helped him get an internship.  Until I encouraged him to patch things up with his estranged father he had no contact with his Uncle.  He had never been to New York City until he had an interview, he had barely been anywhere.  Yet now he was on track to be just like Daddy Warbucks, whose entire family spent Christmas in Hawaii without him.  Did I want to be with someone who would send my kids and me to the beach for Christmas?  Absolutely not, it pained me to even think about it.  So I excused myself to the bathroom and text Chris. 
 I knew I couldn’t begin a year with Kevin I didn’t intend to end with him.   
That night we were on the elevator up to the eighteenth floor of his Wall Street apartment.  “You’re going to be happy here,” I told him.
I’m guessing he was confused.  “Yes, we are going to be happy here,” he replied.
“No, I meant it how I said it.  You’re going to be okay.”  The elevator beeped to indicate we must exit and we walked down the hall to his apartment.   
Kevin began questioning and I tried to explain.  “I just can’t do this anymore.”  He didn’t understand.  He got angry, he threatened me, I couldn’t take another threat.  
“I’m going to leave tomorrow.  I can’t take this any longer.”  Since I was on schedule to be there through January 3 and it was only December 30th, this surprised Kevin.
“Like you would ever stick to that.”  That comment was all I needed.  He was right.  I always made comments that would have protected me, had I stuck to them.  I called my dad at 11 p.m. and asked him to change my flight.  It would cost me $150, but I didn’t care at this point.    He literally kicked me out of bed and then went to the couch himself to sleep.
  As Kevin was getting ready for work, I woke up to ask for directions to the airport.  I had made the commute alone before, but I needed it written down so I wouldn’t second guess myself.  He wrote down directions without speaking.  He hugged me goodbye while dressed for success.  I woke up, got ready for the airport and left his birthday card on his bed.  
I was traveling with my largest suitcase and carry-on.  My phone was in my teal wool coat pocket.  I knew when the door of his apartment shut behind me, it was done.  I wouldn’t be able to get back into that apartment and change my mind.  I heard the door click and headed for the elevator.  This confidence in a decision was foreign to me.  
I walked down Wall Street as the snow quickly covered the streets and sidewalks.  The owners and employees of the stores and restaurants surrounding the World Trade Center had brooms and were sweeping the snow off the sidewalk.  Allowing pedestrians to continue walking and hoping they’d choose to find warmth inside their stores.  As I walked I felt proud.  Proud for finally taking handle on the situation.  I was going to stop letting things happen to me.  My fate was mine.  I may have planned to have it combined with someone else, but it didn’t have to be that way.  It wasn’t too late to change it.
Kevin called and wanted me to stop by his work.  His work was a stop on the Path train.  Jersey city.  I knew that stopping to see him wasn’t going to solve anything.  I didn’t want to allow him the opportunity to say something to my face.  It wasn’t easy lugging my giant suitcase through the snow.  It also wasn’t easy getting a giant suitcase through a turnstile, but it is a skill I had developed in the months leading up to this moment.  I squatted down and slid it underneath, put my ticket through and then went through myself.  When I got up to ground level I saw I had missed a call from my dad.  I decided I would call him after I saw Kevin... again.
He came out from his office to the pier.  His feet completely drenched by the snow and slush that had accumulated in just an hour.  He wore no coat.  I had nothing to say to him, I just looked up at him, wondering why he insisted on me coming here.  The most important part of this conversation is just that he didn’t ask me to stay.  Much less beg.  He didn’t ask me to stay.  I wanted him to ask me to stay.  I wanted everything to be fixed and I would go back to the life I had planned.  I refused to look back at him as I walked back to the station and squatted down to maneuver the turnstile.    
Instead, I got back on the Path train and called my dad from the Metro train to Newark.  
“Delta called, your flight was cancelled due to snow.  I got you on one two hours later.”
Angry because he made this decision for me, I yelled at my dad. “What if I decided I wanted to stay and just come back when I planned, on the third?!”  In my mind, if my flight was cancelled, then maybe Kevin and I would fix things.  It didn’t happen outside his office building, but it could happen if my flight was cancelled.
It was too late.  Kevin called again after I had been through security and about to get on the train to my terminal.  “Where are you?” he asked.
“At the airport.”
“If you leave, this is really over.”
“Okay.”  He still didn’t believe I would keep my word, he still didn’t ask me to stay.
I had four hours at the airport now that my flight had been cancelled.  I curled up around my carry-on and fell asleep.  When I woke up there was an older woman watching me sleep.
“Are you okay, sweetie?”  she asked.
“I don’t know,” I replied.
“Where are you going on New Year’s eve?”  she asked.  What twenty-something would leave Manhattan on New Year’s Eve?  I could hear it in her voice the questions she really wanted answers for.  
She asked, and so I told her.  I told her I was supposed to be in New York.  I was supposed to be attending a party at a swanky art gallery.  I had the red dress and nude shrug in my luggage.  I told her my relationship just ended and she listened.  I typically don’t share much or often, typically I prefer to listen, but she listened, and was a stranger to me and my story and my life, so I told her everything.  And I still didn’t even cry.
I boarded the plane.  My dad picked me up from the airport at 7:30.  We were ten minutes from my parents house when the phone rang.
“Where are you?”  he asked.
“Almost home.”  He didn’t expect that I had left, because if I had left that meant it was really over and I had never done something that took as much courage as trudging through the snow, hoisting my luggage onto more than one train, and boarding the plane.  
“Okay.  Happy New Year,” he sarcastically wished me.  
I got home and crawled into bed and woke up for the New Year celebration.  I began the New Year alone, yet surrounded by my parents and godparents.  

That’s the way it had to start.  Alone.