He couldn’t believe that it happened a third time. That was the stupidity of love. That was the stupidity of hope. Once was bad, two times was stupid, but three times was inconceivable. Three times was unacceptable and insane.
It had been about 4 months since he’d seen or heard from her. It’s amazing how easy it is to avoid someone on a campus as large as the U of W. Winter break had come and gone. He’d been actively dating. After finally having learned the art of asking women out and being accepted, he was becoming quite a ladies’ man. Yet, when she called out of the blue, he was very happy. Not because he had wanted to see her, but because he knew he was over her. At least he thought he was over her. It’s amazing how strong we think we are. It’s amazing how stupid we really are.
Sure, he’d love to spend some casual time with her. Sure, he’d love to go out to coffee and talk about old times. Yes, he was doing quite well. No, he wasn’t dating anyone steadily, but there was a special person he was spending time with. Tuesday, no, that wouldn’t work, he had a date then. The weekend was out, he was booked solid. How about next week sometime? “Call me” he said as he hung up. He wasn’t going to go out of his way for her. If they did meet it would only be to establish that he was totally over her. Just so she knew.
He was interested in a gal called Suzanne, and he was hoping things would work out specially since she seemed very interested in him.
He didn’t expect her to call the next week. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to do anything with her. But decided that in a way he did want to see her. After all, they had been very close friends. Very close. Carl thought that he should go see her, but then Carl had always been a fan of Sandy’s. She called on Sunday. Eager to see him. He condescended to seeing her on Monday, Suz had Biology Lab on Mondays.
On Monday evening he was in a very jubilant mood, celebrating his independence from her. She was in a very sweet mood when he picked her up and right off the bat she started clinging on to his arm, . He was still driving that boat of a car that grounded out every few minutes. Suz loved the car. It was a great “make-out” mobile as she’d said. He made it a point to tell Sandy that, purposely forgetting to mention that he and Suz hadn’t made out yet. He enjoyed in a childish way the fact that Sandy didn’t show any emotion. How could she? Why would she? However the front bench seat did give her the opportunity to scoot right up to him and stay close to him whenever they were in the car. He enjoyed her closeness but was vary. After all, fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
They spent the evening casually, he let her speak but didn’t open up much except to tell her the good and successful things that were happening in her life. He made it a point to mention Suz whenever possible. Suz was this, Suz was that. She got quiet whenever he talked about Suz. He noticed this and took a perverse joy in it. Not much, but a bit. He wasn’t a mean and vengeful person, but it felt good to declare his independence from her and he did it solely for that reason, nothing else.
He had no intention to call her the next day and he certainly had no intention to spend any more time with her. Suz came over and after they’d gone out to eat, they came back to his room and did their respective homework together. She was like that, just wanting to be around him. He thought briefly about Sandy, remembering the evening before, but he quickly cast it out of his mind. After all she’d done this to him before. Wanted him back and then not known what to do after she’d gotten him.
It surprised him when she called. Suz was right there. He felt very awkward. He blew her off, saying “call me later.” He had no plans to call her. Suz left around 10:30 pm, he was brushing his teeth when he relented. He felt he ought to call her, simply because he felt he’d been rude. He did. He was elated to realize that he couldn’t remember her phone number and had to look it up.
She came on sounding eager. Her sorority was having some sort of a party and she wanted to know if he’d be her date. He toyed with the idea of saying “No, go to hell” and then tried to envision what effect going would have on his current developing relationship with a Suz. They weren’t dating exclusively yet, they were just spending time with each other. He decided that a date with Sandy would have no ill effects but he still said he’d think about it and tell her next week. He couldn’t imagine being swayed back into any sort of interest in her again. After all he wasn’t a fool. She then talked about many things and they didn’t get off the phone until 2 am.
The next day he “accidentally” ran into her right near the dorms. For some “unknown” reason she’d been studying on the lawn in front of his dorm. They talked for about 2 hours and he finally begged off saying he had to go study.
The next day was Thursday, he didn’t see her that day, but when he got back to his room, Carl mentioned that there was a message from Sandy. He wasn’t thrilled about it logically, but there was a sense of anticipation that it brought.
That weekend he and Suz were going to go down to her parents home in Portland. They were to leave first thing on Saturday morning since Suz had an evening class on Friday. He’d let that drop to Sandy at some point the first time they’d met. On Thursday, she showed up at his dorm room, “Oh, I was just visiting some old friends that lived in the dorm and thought I’d stop by. This time they talked till 4 am.
And one more time tragically the trap was sprung. One more time, the sharp pincers of hope and desire clamped down.
She called on Friday night as he was packing for Portland. He decided that it was time to get the straight scoop.
“Sandy, what do you want from me?”
“What do you mean?” her voice was soft and kind.
He was intense, “Sandy, why have you been calling me? Why? Do you want me back or are you just lonely? What is going on in your mind?” it was a cry from his heart.
She became very sad, and almost started crying. “I realized that I didn’t want to lose you, I saw you and that that…girl on campus, running and laughing, and I thought, ‘that’s what I should be doing’ then on Tuesday, I saw her in your car, I said ‘she’s in my seat, that’s my seat.” Sandy turned to him, but didn’t look at him. “I spent last weekend with my old high school friends, we went biking. The whole time I kept thinking, I should be here with Dare’, I kept thinking that I wanted you here. That it would be so much fun with you.”
They talked until 4 am again. The last thing she said before he hung up was “I don’t want you to go with her tomorrow.”
It was insidiously slow, or was it. She had planned it all, or had she? Looking back he could see how despite the fact that he thought he was so strong she was slowly and gradually able to overcome every one of his painfully built defenses, getting her knife of unsaid promises slipped deep through his wall of pain, a wall built to protect against the very person it was defenseless against. The knife slipped in and worked lose a single key brick, and once that came out, tragically the entire wall came down.
Within days he found himself thinking of her more and more. And yet on the outside he battled it, battling it with his mind, with his memories, and yet amazingly the memories of all the pain from the past weren’t there. He couldn’t remember them. He just knew the giddy wonderful feeling that she wanted him. And yet he never initiated anything. She called, she invited, she came over, she left notes. Oh God, she wanted him. Oh God, she wanted him. His heart soared at the thought.
They started kissing, and in a way that signified that they were dating. And for almost three glorious weeks he was in heaven.
It was less than three weeks after they started dating that she broke up with him one more time. One more time again. He remembered that day. It was Wednesday after Engineering Lab II. She had no explanations except that she wasn’t in love with him.
“You need someone who loves you Dare'” she said.
You never have an ex-girlfriend until you have a new girlfriend.
The Thursday was spent in shock, he spent it not realizing what was happening. Looking back he could not even remember any of the events of that day. The second day was even more different, there was a sense of freedom, a sense that something was different. That coupled with the fact that he had plans for the weekend kept his mind busy. But then on Saturday the bottom fell out. He was supposed to be at an activity with some people, he made the mistake of being picked up by a friend, rather than driving himself. Within 5 minutes of being at the party he realized that he didn’t want to be there. But he was stuck. He didn’t have a ride back. The intense frustration started to set in. He felt caged, locked, helpless. The evening passed in sheer depression and mindless torture.
By Sunday it had turned to anger. It was a deep anger followed by an intense desire to express his independence. By now he was discussing the whole issue with a few friends. Everybody was full of advice. The problem was that none of the advice matched. Some said that he should call her up and yell at her, others said that he should work it out and hang in there, that she would change her mind. That he should send her flowers and roses and love notes. Mubarek, said “Don’t be a mindless nimnul, forget her.” And yet the biggest question that continued to haunt him was why? Why? Why? Why would she dump him and then try to run after him. Why did she always want what she could not have? Why was she always the one who re-initiated the relationship? Was she spoilt? Cruel, wicked. Purposely wanting to inflict pain? Not caring what she had done to him? But that was so much against her personality, her nature. She was the sweetest woman he knew. Why? What caused women to be like this? He’d always noticed that certain women always were attracted to jerks. Guys who’d abuse and hurt their women, and their women would be utterly devoted to them. Maybe that’s what she needed. Some one who’d be mean to her, someone who’d keep her constantly guessing whether he liked her or hated her. But…that wasn’t him. He was who he was, a cherisher. Tender, kind and committed.
And yet…she got so close and then wouldn’t go any further. The first time it had happened he’d been convinced that it was because of him. But every time since, she’d come back to him, not the other way. If the situation had been reversed he’d have stayed way away from any woman that had liked him a bit too much. He’d have stayed away so that he’d avoid hurting that woman any more. He’d have stayed away because it would have been awkward around them. But he’d never have hunted them down again just so that he could dump them. What a twisted thing to do. What a twisted wicked thing to do. What a wicked evil thing to do. Oh God, what a evil thing to do.
The days to follow were painful and devastating. This time it was so much more intense than the previous times. Days started to lose their purpose. He would wake up hating to be awake. He would go to sleep crying until he was emotionally and physically drained. His mood swings were horrible. Every time the phone rang there would be moments of wild hope that it was her. Each night when he had a message on his machine the irrational thought that maybe she’d called would flash through his heart. At times he’d park his car in obvious places, perhaps hoping that she’d leave a note on it. There would be moments of wild joy, and within an instant something would switch and such a deep depression would hit him that he would literally fall to pieces. It felt like a huge hole had been punched out of his insides. He couldn’t even look at the future for the pain it caused him. He lost all motivation and it was a blessing that he had only a few finals. Any more and he would have flunked that year. He did them by rote, not caring, yet allowing the years of discipline to carry him forward. There was no passion. At times he gained strength by creating an intense anger at her. Intense anger at how she had tricked him, wooed him back to be used and then tossed like an unwanted doll. The anger would well up in him until he could bear it no longer then it would break down into a cold numbness. Yet within minutes he would wildly fantasize about how she really did love him, how there was something emotionally wrong with her, a need that she would realize that only he could meet. And irrationally in those moments he felt a peace. But then reality would come crashing back infringing with it’s terrible pain of reality into his fantasy. Then there were moments of the memories of how she did chase him, how she did need him and the wonder of whether she was feeling the same way he was. How could someone who looked at him with such longing eyes could not want him for ever? How could someone who told him how jealous she had been could now realize that there was nothing there?
And still there were only questions. No answers. Perhaps she did not know the answers herself. And there was always that horrible ache in his gut. It felt like being overly stuffed after eating too much and yet feeling horribly hungry. That tightness, that tension. Oh, if only he could remove that tension. He ate not because he wanted to, sure he felt hungry but there was no motivation to eat. He ate because the pain in his stomach got worse when he didn’t eat. He would continuously go over the events of the last few years thinking, if only I had done this at this time or done that at that time. Oh, why wasn’t I more sensitive here, or why did I try to make her jealous there. Over and over again he would torture himself with what he should have done or shouldn’t have done, never knowing the right answer. Sometimes at night he would cry and cry and cry until at last he fell asleep emotionally and physically drained. Then there were other nights where the dreams of past and future failures mixed in with him thinking all over again what he could or should do. The emotional yo-yo that he was on was pathetic, when he was standing he wished he was sitting because he felt tired. When he sat, he was restless wishing he could be doing something. In class he wanted to get out, when he was out he wished he something to occupy his mind. He tried running again. It had worked before. But there was no motivation there. He would change into his workout clothes and start, but every time he would run out of motivation and run out of desire. He’d run out of hope. What was the use of running? What was the use of anything?
He’d stopped talking to Carl about it because Carl was always trying to make excuses for her. It the years to come he would remember this time as a period of intense gloom. Wondering how he made it. It was a bad year. A very bad year. It retrospect the relationship with Sandy probably had a lot to do with him wanting to leave the state. Ever after he would dislike the entire state intensely for the negative association he had with it.
“I want you I need you, but there ain’t no way I’m ever going to love you, but don’t feel sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad.”
And he would forever wonder, why? Why? What motivated a woman to do that to a man? And in the end though he would always deny he believed in God, the real question was always, oh God why? Why did you let this happen to me?