“Hearts will never be practical until they are made unbreakable”The Tin Man – Wizard of Oz
When I was a little I was always drawn to fairy tales. And ask my mother, it was never because of the romances involved but because they were inherently dark and adventurous. Maybe its because both my parents were the type to remind me there is more to the world than settling down. Or maybe it was because at the time I had an entire world ahead of me. But in my youth I strongly questioned the honest nature of love. Currently I find myself questioning it all over again. Wondering if it were better to have kept that mentality , or to have tried over and over again like I did. Either way I’ve decided its best to express what I’m going through in my life now by going back to the very beginning.
I spent most of my early dating years being the heart breaker. I wasn’t going to attach myself to someone unless it was grand and adventurous. Even when it came to my first high school boyfriend. All my friends had one. So I thought I should to. He was nice enough and attractive enough. But there was so many other things in life that seemed important to me at the time. And that deep connection you’re supposed to have with someone wasn’t there.
I remember thriving on that feeling of being unobtainable. It felt like part of my identity a the time. However, the universe has a way of knocking you down a peg when you get too full of yourself like that. I had just started college and was ready to leave the high school version of myself behind. That’s when I met him. “Panda.”
Panda was unlike any other person I had met before. At the time life just burst out of him. The good and the bad parts. He still believed in magic. He had no time for bulls*%@. We were freshman in college and had the entire world to conquer.
I fell for this man way before I started dating him. When we first met he had a girlfriend. So we started off as friends. We had all the same classes and even worked in the same work study program together. We were freshman in the trenches together. As time went on our friendship got closer and closer. So when he and his girlfriend at the time didn’t work out it just felt natural, like we were supposed to be together. To be honest, over a decade later now, the lines between who he was with and when are blurred. If you were to ask her she’d probably tell you they were still working things out when he and I got together, however I remember trying to be patient. Regardless I know that makes me a bit of the villain here, and spoiler alert Karma did come back for me.
I will always remember the day we got together. He had been feeling distraught about his now ex-girlfriend and needed a friend to talk to about it. We went on a drive and ended up at a scenic overlook watching the sunset. We stayed there talking the whole night. Eventually a blanket came out and we huddled up close to each other to keep warm. Sparks were flying. I knew I had feelings for him but had always done my best to not let it interfere with his relationship. But that relationship was over now.
Before I knew it we were holding hands. It felt natural and forbidden all at the same time. I don’t think either of us even breathed for the first few minutes. Then very slowly and timidly, as if it were written for a movie, we had our first kiss. I felt like my entire body had just exploded. We stayed there kissing, and talking, and cuddling till the sun came up. And then without skipping a beat we went for breakfast. Like it was the most normal thing in the world.
The rest of our relationship seemed just like that. We were young and hungry for romance. Like we were two pieces of the same puzzle. Its funny to think back on it now, how naive and passionate we were. I remember our first Valentines Day together. We made a big fancy pasta dinner, packed it up for a picnic, and drove back up to the scenic overlook we had our first kiss at. We were each others “firsts” in a lot of ways. We got to explore the different aspects of romance and intimacy together at our own youthful and excited pace. He was always my “Panda,” and he called me “Bunny,” and “Baby Girl.” We burned so hot and so fast it was eventually our downfall.
After a year went by we moved in with each other. We had no idea what we were doing. We hadn’t taken the time to really get to know what kind of future the other wanted for themselves. After a year of living together things started to turn sour. The same burning hot fire we put behind our romantic passion we began to put behind our resentments of each other.
We burned each other from the inside out. We tried taking a step back and living separately but that seemed to only divide us more. Nothing one of us did seemed to be enough for the other. Our bitterness and resentment grew. Even as I sit here writing, trying to remember examples of fights we had. They all blur together and I can’t really remember what any of them were about. Some were me being selfish and putting my school grades and needs before his. Some were his extremely short and hot temper. A lot of them came from both of our needs to impress the upperclassmen above us and the kind of people that mentality turned us into.
Until one labor day weekend. After 2 years and 9 months he walked me back to my apartment sat down on my couch and told me it was over. Even though we had constantly been fighting I still hadn’t seen it coming. I was blindsided.
I completely broke down. I struggled in school. I watched as many of the people I thought were my friends chose him over me. It was devastating. I remember my mom, who had never known me to be that kind of broken, had no idea how to help me. She took me to lunch an I just started bawling into my glass of wine in the middle of the restaurant. I will never forget the look on the poor waiters face as he had no idea what to do. I mean what kind of adult openly bawls in public.
We clearly still cared for each other though. I knew at the time he hated coming to school and work and seeing me in so much pain. I missed him so much. He tried being supportive.
To this day I still hear his voice in my head telling me “baby steps Eleanor baby steps.” when I asked him how I was supposed to move on. He confronted people gossiping about me. People picked sides and it was obvious. For some reason when you’re the one showing emotion over a breakup people will make a point of making sure you know you’re being judged. He wasn’t having any of it.
We did inevitably give it one more try a month later. We lasted a couple of weeks. But we were always still fighting. We through a big party for his 22nd birthday. He was clearly in a mood with me from the beginning. Most of that night is a blur but certain moments are forever burned into my memory.
Trigger warning: Domestic Violence.
I remember trying to get him a drink and him grumbling at me. His friend that I had never met before laughing at me. A few hours had gone by and I told him I was going to go home, that it was clear he didn’t want me there and I was uncomfortable. I told him that I didn’t want to ruin his birthday. That’s when he got angry. He marched out the back door insisting that if i didn’t want to be there he was just going to drive me home. I chased after him because he was way to drunk to drive. I asked for his keys so he wouldn’t drive and reassured him I could just walk home.
This did not go over well. I reached to take the keys from his hands and he pushed me in return. Then he pushed me again. I remember him yelling but I can’t remember what about. I turned to go back to the backdoor to get back inside the house. He jumped in front of me. I tried to go around him, and this time he pushed me to the ground. I tried to crawl around to the door. I managed to get it open, he slammed it shut. Pushed me back. Again I went for the door, got it open and had my hands gripping the door frame as he pulled me back away from it feet now completely off the ground. He slammed the door again and threw me to the ground.
I remember screaming for help. Knowing people where inside at the party, my friends. As we kept opening and slamming the door again. No one did anything. This wasn’t a subtle situation, I was screaming and the door was repeatedly slamming. Finally I managed to get around him an through the door. I bee lined it through the house, grabbed my purse, and ran out the front door. By now I was covered in dirt and had lost my shoes. Two people followed me out front. Two. One was a girl I had ALWAYS been cruel to, the other was his friend I had never met before who had laughed at me earlier. Both came out to make sure I was okay.
Not a single one of my friends at that party said or did anything. The girl I had been cruel to in the past drove me home. The next morning, like many relationships with this dynamic, we ‘worked things out.’ And kept trying but not for much longer. One day, I realized he was getting closer and closer with another woman. Just like he did when he and I first got together. Karma’s a b%*ch right?
I remember lashing out. I stormed out of his bedroom and honestly expected him to follow me. He didn’t. I immediately regretted it. But it was to late. We were over again and this time for good. I had lost the first person I had ever loved. And just like my fear suspected. Not even 2 days later he had started dating this new girl.
I felt abandoned. And not just by him. More and more people I thought were my friends were making it clear they were picking sides and that it wasn’t mine. I kept my head up though mostly out of spite. I was going to be okay. They were not going to see me broken.
Sometimes I think back about it and wonder how anyone could do that to someone who was grieving. I know now that most of them never probably liked me to begin with. And maybe rightfully so I was a different person back then and I’m not proud of it. But I’ve also realized how so many people just do not want to deal with someone who outwardly experiences emotion. Its taboo. Those kinds of people honestly don’t even like dealing with their own emotions. So its just better for people to pretend they are better than you.
“Panda” and his next girlfriend didn’t last long. But it did last long enough for me to make strides in getting over him. To this day I am still pretty sure he dated her to give us both an out. He recognized before I did that we were toxic for each other. That you can love someone but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to be with them. That we would keep repeating the same on and off pattern till we destroyed each other.
It seems strange to admit but I am grateful he dated her. Because we managed to get our friendship back for a few more years. He even helped me through a few other hard times and self doubt in the years to come.
“You’re a legend,” he would say “you’re Eleanor Mother F*ing Smith don’t forget that.”
I learned so much from that experience. How to forgive. How to keep going. That just because you love someone doesn’t mean you’re meant to be. We stayed friends for awhile. Mostly out of time and distance, though we don’t keep in touch as often. But I still miss him fondly. Not in a romantic way but I miss his friendship. I still hear his voice in my head when I’m going through hard times. So far in my life I have yet to meet someone who really saw me an knew me the way he did at that time.
Thinking back I’m amazed how far “Panda” and I have come. I am not that person anymore, I was in retrospect, always criticizing him and didn’t appreciate him when things were good. And I am really proud of how far he has come, I can say with absolute certainty he is no longer the guy who pushed me around the back yard that night. He saw that he was wrong, he never made excuses or tried to diminish the trauma it caused me.
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