I called my ex today. It had been a while, but I dialed the number as if it had been yesterday. Old habits die hard, I guess. In the past I have had to steel myself to the task, gird my loins, as if preparing myself to take a big spoonful of the most foul-tasting medicine imaginable. I’d get out my armor of defensive stoicism and suit up for the occasion but even then I would feel laid naked and vulnerable before the task, wishing it was over before it even began.
Speaking in dull, lifeless tones I would try not to linger on any one topic, not even ask how he was doing. Just the facts, ma’am; Get in, get out, get on with your life, I’d tell myself.
I didn’t want to share, like BFFs who’ve spent the summer apart, anxious to recount the myriad of adventures they’ve had since their last tryst. I had no desire to commiserate like someone who loved him once, but now cannot remember why. But sometimes you have no choice in the matter. You have to bite the bullet, do the impossible and just talk. Talk.
There are still loose ends to tie up in the financial department; the only link that bridges the gap in the great divide between us. And that was the subject of today’s discussion. Ostensibly. But something was decidedly different. I wasn’t anxious before the call and felt no need to suit up or prepare to be snarky and it was refreshing in a way. Calming even. It was like being outside of myself; listening to a dismembered voice, analyzing every word, not knowing what it would say next. “How are you?” it began. Then I actually listened to his response as if I gave a damn. This was truly bizarre.
“You sound really good,” he said with trepidation. After all, as far as he was concerned, I might explode at any second, and like a bomb-squad expert, trained to anticipate every eventuality, he was tip-toeing around me, ready to diffuse me or run rapidly in the opposite direction should the need arise.
“I’m happy,” I heard the strange woman pronounce. “I’m dating someone new,” she continued. A significant pause ensued. And then he went on with the conversation as if I hadn’t just gone off, blasting him with this unexpected and evidently unwelcome piece of news. What did I expect? A pat on the back? A rousing ‘Good for you!’? A series of questions about the new guy like ‘Where did you meet him? What’s he like? Is he cute?’ as if my ex was indeed my BFF after all.
I had heard he was dating right after we broke up but that it didn’t last. No surprise there, I had thought. His intimacy issues didn’t just evaporate overnight, I assured myself. Even if you don’t want to be married any longer, that doesn’t necessarily keep the green-eyed monster at bay. So I suppose he had felt a twinge of jealousy when I blurted out the news that I had moved on; but I guess I wanted the validation of hearing him admit it. As if that would change anything or erase the pain he’d served-up daily, for years on end.
The conversation was over before I knew it; we had concluded our business and there wasn’t much more to say. “Take care,” I told him as if I really meant it. “You too,” he replied. Maybe he meant it and maybe he still cares. But in the end, all I can think about is the fact that for the first time since we’ve been apart we were able to have a conversation that didn’t make me want to scream while simultaneously running in circles pulling my hair out. And that felt like progress to me. But maybe, it’s that other woman talking.