March 8 is one of those dates that will probably never leave me. Today is Israel’s birthday which kind of marked the beginning of the end for us.
Keeping in mind that “the end” lasted several months.
Israel pushed everything. Israel said, “I love you” first. Israel proposed to me after four months. Israel suggested – after watching his brother and his girlfriend pay rent on two apartments and live in one – that we move in together. Israel pushed everything.
With his 21st birthday fast approaching, everything that Israel had pushed began closing in on him and he no longer wanted to be the first of his friends to get married. And even if we didn’t get married for another five years (we had planned on graduate school but he had another three years of undergrad before we could do that), he would be the married one of all of his friends. Because we would be living together and I wouldn’t be just one of the guys; I’d want him to stay home with me while his friends went out drinking or had poker night or went to the strip club.
I tried to explain that I didn’t want any of that. I didn’t want to keep him from his friends. I didn’t even care if we had separate bedrooms (a single bedroom would be cheaper rent but if he wanted two, we could make two work). I hated watching girls do those things to their boyfriends. And I would want time to myself or to hang out with the new girlfriends I would inevitably (hopefully) meet when I packed up everything to move to a strange city and close the gap on our long distance relationship. Me. I was the one making all the sacrifices to give him what he had pushed for the whole time. I was moving so we could live together. I was leaving my family so we could get married. I was leaving my friends so that he could finish college.
And none of that bothered me. I was ready for the change. I was ready to take the leap.
But he wasn’t. To borrow from some random thug movie, his mouth wrote a check his ass couldn’t cash.
So he freaked.
Days before his birthday, he rescinded my invitation to spend my spring break with him. Even though he had access to my bank account to withdraw the money he needed to buy my VIP wristband to South By Southwest (SXSW), he bought his own and told me he didn’t want me to come down. Only days before that (sometime in the middle of February), I had turned down an offer to travel around the country as a Leadership Consultant for my sorority, an offer I later learned was not given to just anyone, an offer I would grow to regret not accepting.
The next couple of weeks were a hurricane of emotions. He was breaking up with me. He was calling me at 3 in the morning to tell me if he lived closer he’d be ringing the doorbell not ringing the phone. He was telling me he loved me more than anything in the world. He was telling me I was smothering him and that he wasn’t fit to be anyone’s boyfriend. He was telling me, through suffocated sobs, that he was supposed to be the one to save me.
And I just dragged along behind. I wasn’t even riding in the car on his emotional rollercoaster. I had been tossed out and was clinging for dear life to the back end.
SXSW (the music festival part) was the 14-16 of March that year. That weekend was between his and my spring breaks (respectively). The original plan was that I was going to miss the class on the 13th and 14th and spend the festival and my spring break with him in Texas. A few days before his birthday, he told me no. On the 12th, he told me he wanted me to come, that even though I couldn’t make it for the festival, he wanted me there for my spring break. I got out of class at 2:00 on the 14th, got into a Volvo headed south with three of my guy friends, and we drove 20 hours straight to the south of Texas.
The last time I ever saw Israel’s face was on March 24, 2003, at the edge of security in the Austin-Bergstrom Airport in Texas. And I told him, as he refused to kiss me goodbye (because “this isn’t goodbye”), that I could Feel it was the last time I’d ever see him. He had always trusted my Feelings, even more than I have after living with them my whole life. He even asked me on one of the descents from the height of the rollercoaster if I “felt” like we needed to keep trying. Because, to him, me saying I knew something didn’t hold nearly as much weight as me saying I felt it. He truly believed, even more than I ever have, that I was (am) psychic.
I told him I felt that I would never see him again and I watched him try not to trust that feeling. I think he knew it too.
Even now, as badly as I hurt, for as long as I hurt, if I look at the situation objectively, I don’t think he ever meant for it to happen the way it did. I don’t think it was supposed to end. I think he really did intend to put it all back together after he took some time to himself. But show me one couple who took a “break” and actually made it work again after and I’ll show you 100 who never made their way back.
**There are a lot of songs from that era of my history that were important. Israel and I were deeply connected through music and we shared a great deal of it in the months we were together. When he said he was the one who was supposed to save me, it was in reference to a song from one of my favorite bands that wasn’t one of his, Something Corporate. It was actually a very surreal comment for me to hear from him because it told me that he had been listening to my music while his mind was crumbling around itself.
Saviour was not one of those songs but there is a lot to this song that fits with this particular story. “That’s when she said, ‘I don’t hate you but I just want to save you while there’s still something left to save.” That’s when I told her, ‘I love you, girl, but I’m not the answer for the questions that you still have.’” It reminds me of that time, a lot, so I’m adding it here.**