A Slice of Hell

north-beach-by-nightI love Saturday nights in North Beach. Everyone’s out and about, ready to bar hop and have a great time, but there’s always that one couple that ruins it for everybody. You know- that couple that decides to have a full-blown reality TV fight right on the corner of Columbus Ave and Vallejo Street.

Let me tell you the story of Valerie, Andie and Chris. We had the pleasure/misfortune of their company this past weekend when I went out with David and his friends of friends. It was Valerie’s birthday and her best friend Andie had taken her out for day-drinking and now they were continuing the festivities with us, and Andie’s boyfriend, Chris, who drove up from Fremont so that the ladies wouldn’t have to take Bart home.

We had a craving for Tony’s Pizza (if you haven’t had it, you should totally go – it’s like an orgasm for your mouth) so we stopped to get slices. Chris was eyeing the pizza and Valerie offered to buy him a slice, as a thank you for driving all the way out there. He was very shy about it, but she bought him the slices anyway. The slices came in a box and they lay untouched on the table. Valerie insisted he take one, but just as he was about it, his girlfriend, Andie retorted, ‘You better not- you to have to watch your cholesterol.’ This comment wounded Chris and he sat back, empty-handed.

We walked to Grant & Green Saloon, awkwardness in tow, and Valerie decided to chuck the pizza box, since no one was going to eat it and because she didn’t want to walk into the bar with it. At this one gesture, Chris lost his mind. I guess homeboy was really hungry and wanted to secretly take a slice while his girlfriend wasn’t looking, but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He was furious at Valerie for chucking the box and stormed off, without any of us realizing it.

I thought Chris was in the bathroom, but I realized something was off when neither Andie or Valerie refused to have any drinks and both were sniffling in the corner. Turns out, Andie was upset at Valerie for offering the damn pizza because this is what essentially started the whole thing. Valerie didn’t feel like she did anything wrong and was crying that her best friend was turning on her because of a pizza, of all things. Meanwhile, Chris was nowhere to be found, would not pick up his phone and Bart was about to close and somehow these girls had to get home.

We left the bar and walked them to their car, hoping that Chris would be there. Sure enough, there he was sitting in the driver’s seat. The moment Andie saw him, she pounced on the car, opened the door, and started hitting him. I mean, this shit was straight out of Bad Girls club. He refused to move and just sat there, taking her slaps and punches. Meanwhile, Valerie was across the street with us, crying, and in disbelief that such a small and kind gesture turned into this shit show. All she wanted to do was get home to Fremont without being trapped in a car with this crazy fighting couple. She tried making her way to Bart but we stopped her, telling her that it was unsafe for her to go to Bart on her own at that hour, especially with the dress she had on and the rack she was unabashedly displaying (fake set by the way, don’t ask me how I know). We told her that Andie and Chris would calm down and that we just needed to give them time. We looked across the street and things didn’t seem to be getting better. There’d be moments of quiet, where Chris would try to talk to Andie. But then Andie would explode and start hitting him again.

Can you guess how long this ridiculousness went on? Long enough for all of us to lose our buzz and David and I wondered why the hell we were out with these crazy people. Both of us felt bad and well – these weren’t really our friends. They were friends of his friends, so we really had nothing to do with them. But now we all felt personally entangled in their shit and guilty if we walked off. At any rate, the couple finally calmed down, and Valerie felt safe enough to get in the car with them. I can’t tell you how the story ends, so we will have to imagine a happy ending, where Chris gets a pizza and no one gets hurt.

The night was not a total bust – we continued the night and ended up making the most of it. But the dramatic unfolding really got me thinking, why the hell does this kind of shit happen? (Obviously, the consumption of alcohol heightens emotions, but let’s go deeper than that.)

Now, some of you may think I’m turning on my own kind, but just level with me. When girls go HAM on their boyfriends like this in public, with no regard for anyone or anything around them, can you really blame it when guys or society for that matter, think that women are crazy bitches? I mean, if you were walking by a scene like that, tiny Asian girl banging on a big Asian guy with a pizza box laid to waste on the street- wouldn’t you think the same thing?

I got the back story on Andie and Chris and found out that they had been together for 11 years, and just two weeks ago she caught him cheating with her best friend. No, no- not Valerie, some other trifling, backstabbing bitch.

So, although this display of mania was quite extreme, could you blame the girl? To the onlooker it was just about a dumb pizza, but we all know that there’s always more to it than just that. They clearly had a bunch of other shit to work out.

I wish I had some knowledge to impart after this but I really don’t. It was more of a train wreck that I wanted to share. But all joking aside, we have all been that girl. We’ve done something crazy in public because our boyfriends have pushed us to the limit. (I know I’ve thrown water at an ex-boyfriend while at the club.) I guess what I’m saying is, no girl is crazy, just misunderstood. And probably most hurtful of all is that she’s misunderstood by the boy (yes, boy) she’s chosen to love.

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The Other Girl

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Two of my girlfriends are currently involved in a love triangle. They are enamored with men who are/were in long-term relationships and are in the process of extricating their lives from their (ex) girlfriends. The more I heard about the story of each, I saw myself in both stories and on both sides of it. I saw the 18-year-old girl who hung on to the hope of that special guy breaking up with his awful girlfriend to be with me. I also saw the 24-year-old girl crying and driving recklessly away when she found out that her boyfriend of 3 years was cheating on her.

I’ve played the part of the other girl. It never ends well.

Jason and I met at a time when he was unhappy with his girlfriend. He saw things differently with me and felt emboldened enough to break up with her. In the time that followed were a handful of half-hearted attempts at trying to start a relationship with me. I refused to be anyone’s rebound so I rejected these advances because I knew I deserved more than that. Years later when he’d moved on to other relationships, he still sought me out. To him, I was his friend. I was the only one he could really confide in and the only person who intimately understood him. While these friendly exchanges were nice and a nostalgic reminder of simpler times, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being used. Each time we had an exchange, he would feel better about life, and I was left weary with wanting. It was unfair. I somehow felt he used my friendship to fill the hole that was missing in his current relationship. What did I get out of it?

I don’t know when it happened exactly but one day I decided to stop. I didn’t want to be the other girl anymore. I wanted to be the girl. The only girl. And I knew that was never going to happen with him because he was a coward. I knew I wanted and deserved a man who’d be courageous enough to love me in the light. So I let it go.

Now in hearing my girlfriends’ stories, I also could see myself on the other side- I have also been the ‘awful’ girlfriend. Many years ago, when my relationship with John was coming to its toxic end, he found comfort in another girl. He was spending almost every weekend in Orange County because of all these real estate deals he was getting. In particular, he was spending a lot of time with a girl. One day I was at his work computer and he left his Yahoo Messenger up and I saw a very long and more than flirtatious IM exchange between him and this girl. She was talking about what kind of lingerie she was going to wear the next time she saw him. Needless to say I stormed out of his office and jumped into my truck to leave.

John breathlessly ran after me, trying to figure out what happened and I yelled at him and I told him I knew what he’d been doing. He kept the door open to keep me from going, but I revved off, nearly taking his arm with me.

A few weeks later was his birthday. I did everything I could to make it as romantic as possible to forget the awfulness of everything that had happened. I made lunch from scratch, got wine and a picnic basket and we drove out to Carmel to enjoy the day. While we lay there on the grass he got a call. He picked up and it was her. She was on vacation in the Philippines but she just wanted to call him and wish him a happy birthday. I was livid. The day was done and ruined, as was our relationship. We broke a few months later when he left for the Philippines for good.

Do I regret having broken up with John? Of course not! That was the unhealthiest relationship ever and it gave me the courage to move on and expect more from myself. Was him cheating the reason for our breakup? Not entirely, but his actions certainly didn’t help. My point is, I have been the girlfriend and the other girl in both instances. It never feels good to be either.

I’m not throwing shade at what my friends are doing. I’m no saint and I’ve done things I’m not proud of. Ultimately, I want them to be happy and I hope that I’m wrong and that these turn out to be lasting relationships for them. If I were them, I’d probably be doing the same thing. But I can’t help but have empathy for the girl, while also casting a wary eye on the other girl.

Whore

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My mother called me a whore.

A few weeks back mom and I engaged in a formidable text war over the course of a couple hours. Ah, text – the passive aggressive medium. I should’ve known not to fall prey to her manipulation. I can’t help it. She’s my mother and as her child, there’s a constant and unrelenting need for me to feel loved and accepted. But in choosing to engage with her, I incurred her wrath and the subsequent name-calling.

It hurt.

In so many words, she accused me of spending too much time with David and used the adage, “why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free.” She thinks that I am way too giving of myself. She believes this is my fatal flaw and that I will inevitably smother David (like I smother all my boyfriends) and that in the end he will be driven to abandon me.

She’s absolutely right. I am too giving, too loving, just clearly too much with the man I love and adore. This is the reason why my friends and family love me, so why can’t you love and accept me like they do? But in her mind, this is the reason why significant others have left me. Some have abused that love and some have downright taken it for granted. Mom is right – who’s to say that David wouldn’t do the same thing?

I don’t know what the future will hold. And I understand that she’s just trying to protect me. But I cannot change who I am. This is how I operate. I’m confident in who I am and I’m putting faith in David and in our relationship. The man who deserves me is someone who will always want to be around me and cherish every moment we have together.

Yes, I am too giving to a fault. If this is what it means to be a whore, then I’m guilty.

One Day, One Year

one_dayAnd just like clockwork, Cristern stayed true to his promise: He texted me on the eve of the 1 year anniversary of when we broke up. He was texting to ask if we could meet. Some context: Around this time last year, I had become obsessed with the book and film, One Day. The novel tells the story of two main characters who fall in and out of love throughout the years; through marriage, divorce, children, the two remain friends and stay in touch. And no matter where they were in their respective lives, married, single, on the other side of the world, or right across town, they made a pact that once a year on July 15th, they would somehow get together and meet. September 27th was me and Cristern’s One Day.

The night of my breakup, Cristern made me the very first promise he ever made in our 3.5+ year relationship. He promised that in one year, he would contact me. I believe my reaction to this proposition was, “You’ve gotta be fuckin’ kiddin me. You get romantic on me NOW?’ I asked him what was supposed to happen on this supposed One Day and he said we’d meet and ya know… see how things would go. Bullshit. I wasn’t going to plan my life around a desperation move. This was a ploy so that he could always keep me as an option. Well I certainly refuse to be anyone’s option.

When I received the text, I looked at it for a moment to let it soak in. I was baffled but also not surprised. Baffled, because he still had the audacity to contact me after all the shit he pulled, but also not surprised because he’s been playing the part of a bleeding martyr. To his credit, the text was very nonchalant (or at least trying to be):

“I don’t know if you remember but we wanted to meet up after a year. Well that day is tomorrow. Still wanna meet?”

I have to laugh when I read it. It kinda gives off that hey ya, I’m a cool guy and I totally got this. When in reality, it actually reads more like a coward coming back with his tail between his legs. I felt sorry for him. Clearly, nothing had changed. But I have to give him kudos – how was a text like that supposed to read without sounding too desperate? I don’t even know how I would begin to write something like that. Oh wait, I would NEVER do that because I don’t believe in tethering someone to such a stupid and selfish promise.

When we initially broke up, and then when I got together with David, there was always a part of me that said I would meet up with him. Mostly, just to be kind and get my books back. But then I took a step back and thought long and hard about the real function of that day. That day was for him- not me.  It was a status check to evaluate whether or not I was dateable in his eyes. It was to see if I had changed and had gotten better.

Sorry buddy, I’m still the same- and I kinda like it that way.

I am of course human and do feel bad about not replying. But really, who would I be helping if I did that? He needs to move on and no one can help him on that journey. He has to own it and want it.

I believe in prayer and believe that any good thought is like energy and it can travel anywhere and reach the person you’re praying for. That night before I went to bed, I prayed to him and for him: “I hope you forgive me, like I forgive you.”

There is nothing left to say after that. Maybe one day he’ll understand.

The Art of Letting Go

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In the midst of the silence of every breakup, one person will always find a reason to break that silence. Mine came in the form of a letter. A few days after I had stealthily dropped off Cris’ things in a box in front of his house, I received a letter in the mail. Somehow when I got it, I wasn’t surprised. Putting together that box was hard for me, I could only imagine what it was like for him. I took a moment and a deep breath before opening it.

He began by saying how the sight of his things had greatly affected him, so much so that he wanted to begin communicating again through letters. He of course said that it was up to me whether or not I wanted that to happen. Cris always had a knack for writing letters. Through the course of our relationship, he’d write me these cute love letters, decorated with tickets stubs of movies we’d seen, fortune cookie messages, any little knick-knack that was part of our time together. As our relationship grew harder, the letters became less frequent. I had to beg him to write me more. I should’ve known that we were slowly dying and there was nothing he or I could do about it. And now through this letter, I could see what he was doing. He was trying and my heart ached. Where was this overflow of emotion when we were together?

He went on to describe how he’d imagine looking at my smile, or looking into my eyes, hear my laugh or even daydream about how I’d react to something. He even went so far as to compile a list of songs that were special to him and our relationship and think of a way to give it to me. This was too much. It was an awful thing to read and realize that he was in effect, torturing himself with the memory of me. He bore the tremendous guilt of breaking my heart and he had to live with that. The way he was dealing with it was not healthy and he was clearly not trying to move on at all.

He went on to describe our last night together in vivid detail. How much I cried, the prolonged goodbye, how I grabbed onto his shirt while we hugged as I desperately tried to hang onto his shirt and simultaneously try to let go. He marveled at how hard I was trying to be strong and admitted that whenever he thought of that night, it would always bring him to tears.

I can’t remember much else of the letter, other than the fact that I knew that there was no way I could re-establish contact. The person who wrote the letter was not a healthy individual. If anything, this was a selfish attempt at trying to bring me back into his life, regain control, and perhaps see if there was a chance at rebuilding our relationship.

As I read it, I realized that this was someone who didn’t care for me at all. He knew the letter would hurt me, but he did it anyway and for his own selfish gain.

I took a couple days to reply. The more I thought about it, the more I felt sorry for him. He may have broken up with me the same way John had, but that didn’t mean that I wasn’t a stranger to the guilt he was feeling. In the months leading up to our breakup, I knew that our relationship was failing and still I hung on, even though he’d expressed a handful of times that he wanted to let go. I felt the guilt of hanging onto him and shaming someone who clearly didn’t love me.

I searched my heart and although I was hurt, there would always be a part of me that would care for him. I knew that the best thing I could do for him was to free him of that guilt and misery. I replied back to his letter with this simple note:

“Cristern, please stop. It’s not time for us. Your friend, Virginette. P.s. I forgive you.”

A few days later, on April Fool’s Day, I woke up to a bunch of trash on my car. There were candy wrappers all over the hood of my car. The night before I had heard voices outside, but figured it was the neighbors talking. I examined the candy wrappers and realized they were Hi-Chews, his favorite candy.

I remember that day clearly and how angry I was. I knew what he was doing- he was inciting me to react. He was hoping my anger would be so great that I’d break my silence. I was seething with rage and came very close to actually doing that. But if I did that, I knew that he would win. He’d have the satisfaction that a child only knows when they’ve gotten what they’ve wanted after throwing a fit. Did I want a child or a man in my life?

Looking at the trash on my car, I realized that he would never grow up. He couldn’t see that I was trying to help him and he reacted so childishly. That act alone let me know that he wasn’t capable of maturing into the kind of person I’d always hoped he could be. In hindsight, that was always the problem, Cris was just always a child. He had aspirations of making it big but lacked drive to do the hard work. He was always playing.. with his toy trucks, his friends, and ultimately with his life. Was it any wonder why I was so frustrated with him and showed so much resentment? In everything he was doing it was clear that he didn’t want me in his life. Being with me would have to mean getting his act together, and he simply wasn’t ready or willing to do that.

I remember a few weeks before my breakup, I was so desperate to keep my relationship together that I went to visit a family friend who’s a priest. I sat alone in a beautiful church for a long time before I met with him and contemplated how I would keep from crying while I told my story. I told him that every day I had grown so desperate for help, that I would get down on my knees at night and in the morning to plead with God to make my relationship work. I could see pity in his eyes and he asked me to kneel at the pew and tell him what I saw. I told him that I saw the altar and the cross. Then he asked me to stand up and asked me again what I saw. Apart from the altar, I told him that I saw the tabernacle, the statues of the saints, candles, the lectern and flowers all around. He smiled and said that life was exactly like that.

Life’s sorrows can bring us to our knees, so much so that it obscures our view. If we take a moment to stand up, we’re able to see the opportunity and the wonderful gift that God is giving to us in that moment. He gently told me that he hoped things would work out with my boyfriend, but to remember to stand up to see what else God was giving to me. I look back on that time and I realize that God was giving me a chance to see what my life could be like.

Next month will make it a year since my breakup. I think about how far I’d come and all the amazing things that have happened to me since then: the jump in my career, the opportunity to be part of a writer’s conference, a growing and healthy love of self and finally, my new partner in crime- the wonderful man who’s privileged to be in my life now. I know that none of these things wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have the courage to let go, let God, and open up to life’s possibilities.

Misplaced Memory

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The other night I was knee-deep in paperwork, trying to look for the pink slip to my car (don’t ask). Sifting through all that paper, was like taking a trip down memory lane. I was looking at stuff that was at least 10 years old. Business cards from failed ventures, from people I vaguely remember or purposely chose to forget. Scribbles of writing on pieces of paper that I probably wanted to work on for later, sadly thrown by the wayside. My birth certificate, old pictures, bills, paystubs, my evolving resume as I struggled to find a job.

Perhaps that saddest thing to see were remnants of relationships long gone. Post-it notes with simple professions of love from John. Old pictures with Cris and his family. I have no want of ever going back to that time, but my heart ached. At one point each of these men were the focal point and the center of my life. And I was that for them. But here they were now, just a piece of a paper in a forgotten pile. Aren’t all relationships destined for this? One day, won’t we all just forget?

I couldn’t breathe and I sat back staring at this sad pile. I thought about Grandma who’s recently been struggling with her own memory. When she went into the hospital last month, I came by to visit her on my own. I hugged her and asked her how she was and did the best I could to make her as comfortable as possible. After being with her for about half an hour, she had a faraway look in her eyes and asked, “What’s your name?” My heart sank. “It’s me Grandma, it’s Virginette.” She looked at my hair, my face, and said, “You look just like my granddaughter. Her name is Virginette too.”

I turned away just as mom and dad walked into the room. I buried myself in a box of tissues and wondering why she couldn’t remember. She could always remember mom, dad, and JR, just never me. I’d never felt so alone and discarded. I knew she loved me but wondered what was so unmemorable about me that Grandma would forget.

I think about that movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, where a couple suffers a horrible breakup, and they go to extremes to erase any memory they have of the relationship. I recall there being a time when I wanted to do that in my relationships. I wanted to erase every single thing because it hurt too much to remember. But what happens when that time in life is something wonderful?

My childhood was wonderful mostly because of Grandma. She’d walk us to and from school and would be the one to cook for us and prepare our lunches. Everything she did was out of perfect love. This is what I remember of her and it pained me that she couldn’t do the same.

I will never forget anyone’s who’s greatly affected my life and I’d like to think that they wouldn’t forget me. I’m just having a hard time dealing with the transient nature of relationships and life in general. Nothing is forever, I know, but is it so wrong to crave for something that will actually stick?

As I move forward now, I wonder if I’ll be a shadow of a memory, or a scrap of paper in the bottom pile of someone’s desk. I’m so tired of being someone’s past and not someone’s present.

The Great Purge

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I always have a hard time thinking about what to give up for Lent- but given my breakup, it was clear. I had to give up Cristern. I had to give up the hope of reunion and the hope of anything ever happening between us. The one tangible thing I can think of was to finally drop off his things. When I tell people I haven’t done this, they look at me aghast and think –  why didn’t I do this sooner? Fact is, I didn’t have anything of his that was terribly valuable, just some clothes he left at my house. Because they were things of little valuable, I made that my excuse. But in truth, I was scared to do it because it would mean making a monumental step in letting go. And with Easter next weekend, I knew that the time had finally come.

Before packing up his things, I decided to go through my own things and put aside anything that had to do with him. I came across movie stubs, pictures, old ticket stubs and receipts from our trips together. Then I looked in my bookshelf, right behind my bed pillows and found the letters he’d written me. This was the hardest thing to put away. In the last few months of our relationship, these letters kept me afloat. They gave me hope that our love could be like what it was in simpler, more romantic and carefree days. I felt the urge to open them in start reading but I knew that it would tear my heart open and make this process even harder. Cristern was always so dirt broke but these letters were the one thing that he gave me that made me feel so special. He put so much thought into them, and would attach ticket stubs, fortune cookie fortunes, anything kind of knick knack to decorate it. As our relationship wound down, I’d have to beg him to write me letters. I should have known that when the letters were becoming less frequent, it was a sign of his waning love for me. I solemnly put everything into a shoebox and put it out of my room.

A couple days later, I tackled his things.  I took an empty box from work and slowly folded his pajamas and shirts. The very last thing I placed on top was a Sharks sweatshirt that mom got for xmas one year. I have the same sweatshirt. That whole process hurt like hell. The moment I put the lid on the box, I got a text from a guy that I’ve been talking to. He  asked me out on a date. Coincidence?

Yesterday I went out on a coffee date with that guy and had an amazing time. It felt foreign to feel beautiful, attractive and wanted. This person wanted to be in my presence and wanted to get to know me. He was not hurrying to get to anywhere or looking to push me aside for better things. He was content to sit there with me.

Later that night, I knew it was time for me to start a new chapter of my life. I took the box with Cristern’s things and put it in the front seat of my car and drove the oh so familiar route to his house. I methodically took a back route to avoid any sort of uncomfortable run-in.  I pulled up to his place, scoped out the scene and saw that he wasn’t home.  I pulled out a pen and wrote his name on a post-it note and stuck it on the box. It was strange to write his name. I left the engine running and sprinted to the house. I quietly placed the box in the corner of the porch and quickly ran back to my car, my heart racing the whole time.

I think about the frenzy in my body and wonder if it was the same feeling he had when he taped a birthday card on my car window, only a few days after we had broken up. Now that I’m without the weight of his things, do I feel any lighter? Do I feel free to finally move forward? Not yet, but I know I will. I honestly feel like I’m still reeling from taking that painful but necessary trip down memory lane when I had to parse through his things. I knew that I had been avoiding that feeling. This process has forced me to face that pain head-on.

Lent is about doing something that makes you a better person, something that brings you closer to God and the person you’re meant to be, no matter how hard it is. I know that in order for me to move my life forward, I have to let go. God wants that for me. God wants me to be happy. I have to learn to want it for myself.