When the What Ifs Strike

“Would you ever take back any of your exes?”

It’s a question that is on every “getting to know your friends” questionnaire survey. Okay, maybe not EVERY one, but it’s one of those hypotheticals that people like to ask, thinking it will reveal some deep dark secret or hidden regret.

My answer is a firm…maybe.

What seems like a lifetime ago, I was engaged. I was going to graduate university and move to Texas to be with my soul mate, my best friend. Until he pulled the rug out from under that plan.

Before him, I had been chasing another flame. Literally, right up until the moment we kissed for the first time, I had been chasing another flame.

Cameron and Israel. A weird, awkward fling and the missing piece of my soul. But my “would you take back an ex” answer may surprise some.

Things with Israel ended badly. In a fiery plane crash of ugly crying and screaming. Basically a passionate whirlwind romance really can’t just fade away. It’s going to die a passionate whirlwind death. And that one did.

And then Cameron came back to me. I had pursued him through our time in university and then, once we were out, he started pursuing me. Hard.

And I not only let him, I encouraged him wholeheartedly.

Hell, yes, we can go out, get drunk, then come back to my house to screw like rabbits. This is everything I could have ever asked for. Why would you even question how I would respond to that? Oh, you’re going to do something else that weekend? Damn.

And then, I turned him away. For asking what was a horrible but probably experience-based question. When I really should have taken a day to cool off and told him why he was an asshole but yes, please come visit while you’re in town.

So, I can firmly and unequivocally say, without a doubt in my mind, if Cameron called me tomorrow and wanted to … anything – date, hook up, travel the world – I would tell him I would absolute want to think about it.

I’ve Google stalked him a bit, since I started this project. Truth be told, I’ve Google stalked a few of the antagonists in a few of these stories. And I have to say, he still looks like the same old Cameron. Maybe without a skateboard under his arm or a guitar on his back but the same green-eyed, messy punk-haired, diminutive, intelligent Cameron. And probably with that same Gemini split personality.

Micah might have my heart tight in his grasp, but Cameron could maybe steal it back, if he wanted it.

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The Heart Doesn’t Forget

I started this project with the goal – ultimately – of clearing out some of the cobwebs of my past relationships. I don’t know if I am accomplishing that, exactly, but I think I am learning a lot.

Some.

I am learning some.

Some of what I am learning – have learned – has been about the relationships themselves. I have gone back through my almost-eidetic memory and sorted through the moments that shaped my past, re-examining them, figuring out through that process whether it went wrong because of something I did or something they did (wrong because most of these stories have been about things that did not end in the most favorable of ways), or something either of us were, as people (Lennon is a narcissist [not to be confused with someone having narcissistic personality disorder] and also possibly a psychopath).

I have also learned a few things about myself.

One of those things being that my heart does not forget.

If I had spent the time to develop my memory as a child, I could be one of those people who remembers, literally, everything. Dates, times, colors, smells, everything. But that’s the brain part. The brain part needed to be developed, exercised, trained, to remember what Micah smelled like (although, I can guess, and I believe it would be a fairly accurate guess), or the tonal quality in Cameron’s voice.

But my heart remembers everything.

As I have sorted through some of these moments, a few things have become quite clear. The first is that some of the feelings I had in the past are still there, somewhere, deep down, buried under feelings for someone else.

Maybe it’s because Cameron and I never had the opportunity to see things through. Because I may have overreacted and shut down instead of talking to him and explaining why his question was a pretty dick thing to say and then hearing him out, asking why he chose to say something so incendiary, letting him defend himself. Essentially, approaching the situation from an adult angle instead of proving his point and flying off the handle like a crazy person. Instead, I slammed the proverbial door in his face and now I will never know, because I deprived myself, what could have come of us.

At the same time, I look at my situation with Micah and feel like it echoes what happened with Cameron. I made a decision, in both instances, that, ultimately, has left me with little more than a mounting collection of what ifs. What if I had told Micah how I felt about him? What if I had tried to have a serious adult conversation with Cameron? After all, we had been having serious adult conversations for months before that; why was this any different?

My second moment of clarity in all of this has been that I think I’d give Cameron another chance – or let him give me another chance – which is telling in a couple of ways.

I have been thinking, a lot, about what I would do if I bumped into Cameron somewhere in the course of my daily life. Give him a severe dressing down? Give him a severe undressing? A combination of both? And there is a part of me that would love for that moment, that what if, to become a reality. I’ve even played the conversation out in my head a few times.

Unfortunately, it always comes back to the same thing. “I miss you. I wonder what could have been. But now I am ass over tea kettle for someone else who I’m pretty sure doesn’t give a damn about my ass or my tea kettle.”

Because I am.

And the shit part of it is, knowing that I would even consider taking Cameron back, after all these years of not speaking to one another, tells me I’ll probably carry these feelings for Micah for years as well. That one day, a year, two, three years down the road, I’ll find him somewhere and we’ll talk and we’ll laugh and we’ll hug and, regardless to what is going on in my life at that time, I’ll fall in love with him all over again.

I have already made the statement, months ago, that I couldn’t bear to give up on something – with Micah – that I believed could be so good, if we could just get it off the ground and my heart is just stubborn enough to commit to that for forever.

I’m not saying that anyone in my future needs to be threatened by Micah – or Cameron. I have been cheated on and I have been the one someone cheated with; I won’t do that to anyone. Ever. But for as long as I am on my own, single, unattached, a part of my heart will always belong to the two of them.

And, if I’m honest, David, too.

Crossing a Fine Line into Dangerous Territory

“I’m sorry. I can’t meet you for breakfast. My fiancé found out and now she’s mad at me.”

That was the turning point. That was the moment when everything started to fall into place and I started to put together exactly what my relationship with Lennon had really been about. There had been red flags before that but something in that moment – that moment that came after weeks of hashing and re-hashing my feelings for Micah – caused it all to suddenly become as clear as it could have ever been.

I need to take a step away from the narrative for a moment to inject a warning: The rest of this post touches on the subject of emotional and sexual abuse. Please be advised.

I’ve had some time to chew on that moment and all that came before it. And I’m still not sure what to call whatever it was.

My gut reaction is to call it emotionally or (and) psychologically abusive. Gaslighting? Manipulative, at the very least. I had a dream, at one point, where I was telling someone about it and they told me (read: my subconscious used someone else’s face to tell me…), “an ‘unhealthy’ relationship becomes abusive when you are made to feel like you don’t deserve any other option.”

I had other options. I had Cameron. I had David. I took the Israel option. And that wasn’t even the half of it. Several of David’s friends would have jumped at any chance I offered them; a couple of them told me as much. And there were a few in the circle of friends I shared with Cameron, too.

I had other options. But even though I knew I could find … literally, anyone else who would treat me better than Lennon did, I couldn’t walk away. I don’t know that I thought I deserved his treatment, but at the same time, I’m not sure, in the moment, I thought it was bad. Hindsight is, after all, 20/20. And I think I thought I loved him.

It was little things. A lot of little things that added up to a much larger picture. It was him telling me that I might find a real boyfriend, if I’d stop screwing him, while I was on my knees in front of him. It was him lying on top of me, in nothing but a t-shirt, asking me how things were “coming along with Cameron.” It was him wrapping his arm around me and sniffing my hair while I told him about my plans to spend a week with Israel’s family over our Winter break.

It was the day he picked me up from my apartment and took me back to his. We kissed, rounded third base and started toward home plate where he turned on a video game and ignored the half-naked woman in his living room. And not only once.

It was the times he used location to control the situation, refusing to ever use my bed, even when I lived alone and he had roommates.

It was when he told me he wouldn’t touch me again unless I had sex with his neighbor. His female neighbor who was in an “open” marriage (I refused and he eventually gave up the quest…or she did).

It was when he contacted me when he wanted to (cyber) cheat on the girlfriend he had followed to another state.

And it was when he thought an invitation to meet for breakfast was code for something else entirely (that likely also started with a “b”), knowing that I was 100% invested in Micah.

It was an unhealthy situation, without question. But was it abusive? Was it emotionally abusive? Was it sexually abusive even though he always had my consent? My residual reactions leave me wondering. And I’ll probably never, fully, resolve it. It will probably never be more than just another, less-than-sunny chapter in my sexual and romantic history.