Chapter 29 part 2
Summer 1994-Spring 1995
Summer 1994-Spring 1995
Somehow, despite my relationship drama with K and that nasty bout of mono, I managed to graduate on time. I wanted things to continue on as they were, but my parents said no way would they agree to me delaying graduation, and all my housemates moved out. Kara went to grad school across the country, and Nam went with her. But I was not ready to move on yet, so I found a new shared house and got a job working in a bookstore. I was happy, but my parents were not pleased that I had not yet moved on from College Town to a real adult life, and Lydia was pissed that I was still hanging around.
Lydia and K continued to refer to themselves as engaged, although they had yet to set a date or make a single solid plan for actually getting married. Their shared house also broke up when the other housemates graduated, and they moved into an apartment together. Even K was hinting to me that our relationship could not continue like this indefinitely, so I made a deal: I would apply to grad school, and no matter if I got in anywhere or not, I would leave town in one year. But for that one year, we could still be together. In other words, in return for promising to vanish from their lives and never bother them again, I negotiated one more year of our relationship, such as it was.
In some ways, that year was the best. Working in the bookstore was easy compared to being a student, and I made a lot of new friends among my co-workers. My new roommates thought our relationship was a little weird, but went along with it as well. I had tons of time for hanging out, and no shortage of slackers to hang around with.
College Town was a small place, and many of my co-workers knew K already, and knew about our situation. Actually more than one of them had been Lydia's friend first, including Anastasia, who had been K and Lydia's housemate. Anastasia always seemed kind of angry and cold to me, so I assumed she took Lydia's side in hating me, but through chatting at work we got to be friends. It turned out she didn't hate me at all, in fact she was pretty vocal about how Lydia and K should just break up already. Lydia was pissed that I became friends with Anastasia. She felt even more like I was encroaching on her territory, taking over her life.
With this new group of friends, I even made some baby steps toward coming out as bi, with K's encouragement. I had a co-worker named Margaleet, who was short and round and luscious, with black corkscrew curls and the cutest dimple. I nurtured a crush on her for months.
But in other ways, that second year was even harder than the first. My best friends had all moved away, and my new friendships were shallower. Some of them even cut me off once they discovered I was dating someone else's boyfriend. I finally worked up the courage to tell Margaleet how I felt about her, and it was a huge mistake. She turned me down flat. Work was kind of awkward after that.
I was not the only one to come out with an unwelcome declaration of love. A co-worker in his forties named Mike admitted to me over lunch one day that he had a crush on me. I had no idea he was interested in me.
"I have a boyfriend," I replied icily. I might have also added, your wife is pregnant with your second kid, you asshole, but I felt that was implied.
"Yeah but he's blind, right?"
"What do you mean by that?" I huffed. Not this fucking bullshit again! "Do you really think that he's so inferior just because he's blind that I would fall into the arms of the first sighted guy who comes along? 'Oh my god, you can see! Let me ditch my blind boyfriend for you!'"
Mike turned red. "He isn't really your boyfriend."
Now I was really pissed. "Is that what this is about? You think that because I'm in an open relationship that I would be happy to help you cheat on your wife? K is my boyfriend, and he's not cheating on his girlfriend with me. I love him and I'm not interested in anyone else."
Mike apologized profusely and never brought it up again, but our friendship was over. I was so hurt and angry to run into this same attitude yet again. Mike thought my relationship was not legitimate, and that I would be up for whatever just because I was in an open relationship. I realized other people at work thought of me in the same way--at best, doing something weird and inexplicable, at worst slutty and amoral.
K and I fought all the time. In person, on the phone. I got a dial-up modem and my first email account, and we fought over email. Those fights were the worst, because inevitably, an incoming phone call would make the modem cut out as I was partway through composing an impassioned email, and K would receive half an argument, with the conciliatory part missing. We would then spend hours more on the phone and in more emails arguing even more about what I meant to say. My housemates complained about how I was tying up the phone lines.
Our relationship had always been high drama, but the fighting was worse than ever. If he ever canceled or changed a date, I would go crazy. K still told me that he loved me, and we seemed so perfect together. He was THE ONE, the perfect man for me. Why couldn't we be together forever? Why did it have to be shared and temporary? Even though I agreed to these terms, my frustration with the limitations of our relationship never went away; it only got worse as time went on.
Even with all the fighting, we were still having sex all the time. We had kind of fallen into a routine where we did the same few moves each time, just boring missionary style, but it didn't matter to me, the sex was amazing. We had simultaneous orgasms every single time. I had only a vague idea that this was extraordinary, but it was something I would never experience again. All I had to do was look into his milky blue eyes and I would come, just like that. Even though I later met other blind guys, I never experienced anything like that again.
In the spring K got bronchitis and was sick for weeks, canceling date after date, and I got more and more frustrated. Our time year was almost up. Why couldn't he make more time for me? K suggested that I needed to get better at accepting things I couldn't change, like how he had accepted his blindness.
But had he though? College Town was his hometown; he'd had a chance to go to a better university elsewhere, but chickened out at the last minute. For all that he seemed confident and well-adjusted, he had even less of a plan for the future than I did. He was smart and well-read, but he had dropped out of college and re-enrolled a few years later, only to drop out again. He studied martial arts, music and programming but had never worked at a real job. I was the one who pushed him to get licensed as a massage therapist. I helped him read his textbooks, and of course he practiced on me, as well as Lydia and everyone else he knew. He got his license but had trouble finding enough regular clients, and still talked about it like a hobby. It just seemed to me that he was wasting his potential.
As a kid K had some vision--not enough to read or recognize faces, but enough to help with navigation. When he was a teenager, he underwent experimental surgery which was a painful failure, destroying his remaining vision completely. He felt betrayed by the doctors who had convinced him to try the surgery, and lost confidence in his ability to get around. This happened right before he was supposed to start university, and was the reason he decided to stay in College Town rather than go to an Ivy League school. My heart ached for him when he told me this story. He had recovered his mobility by the time I met him, walking all over town on his own, but it seemed like this was the story of his life, coming up to the edge of great achievement, then stepping back, or being forced back by circumstances.
Or maybe I was just projecting my dev fantasies onto him. I don't know. I felt intensely guilty for not telling him the full truth about my attraction, and I was angry all the time, filled with unresolved frustration and jealousy.
Then I got accepted to grad school at Lester State University, on the West Coast. My time in College Town was up. I quit my job and moved out of my house, planning to go back east to stay with my parents for the summer before starting school in the fall. K and I had a melancholy last night together, and that was that.
Or so I thought. While I was staying with my parents, my plan was to fly out to Raser City for a week to look for a place to live in the fall. Just before I was scheduled to go, I got an email from K.
Lydia had broken up with him.
I could hardly believe it. After two years of constant fighting, she waited until I left to dump him. I called him up immediately, trying to sound supportive rather than simply overjoyed. He said that she realized she was unhappy, and not just because of me. They had gotten together too young, and now that she had grown and changed, she realized they were not good together. Fucking finally!
Actually the truth was that she had met someone else, a published science fiction writer of minor celebrity whom she later married.
I asked K if he was willing to move to Raser City with me. He said maybe. He loved me and wanted to go, but he wasn't sure. It was a big step to move to a new city for the first time ever. Here he was again, hesitating at the brink of making a major change, unwilling to step out of his comfort zone.
Honestly though, I was more focused on the short term. I thought I would never see him again, but now here was the perfect chance. I changed my flight and scheduled a week layover in College Town on my way out west.
But how to arrange it all? Lydia had kicked K out of their apartment, and he moved back in with his mom and stepdad. My parents thought I had ended things with K, and they would not be happy about this new development. Since I didn't have any money and they were partially subsidizing this trip, they would not be pleased to hear that I was staying at K's house (actually his parents' house) to try to convince him to move with me. Rather than confronting them, I lied and said I was staying with Margaleet, my girl crush, who was the closest friend I had still living in College Town.
It was Margaleet who drove K to the airport to meet me, and took us both back to his parents' house. As she drove, I took a brief break from making out with K in the back seat to warn her about the situation. "By the way, I told my parents I'm staying at your place, and I had to give them your phone number in case they need to contact me. So if they call, please just play along and pretend I'm staying there, ok?"
She gave me a disgusted look in the rearview mirror.
That week at K's house was like heaven. He had finally let his hair grow out a bit, and he looked sexier than ever. I got to sleep next to him every night, in a big comfy bed in a room that was his alone. No squeezing into a single bed, no waking up at midnight to wait hours for a taxi that may or may not come, no tiptoeing around another girl's stuff. Because I had barely spent any time at his house before, I felt like I never really saw a space that was his. His room was pretty bare; nothing on the walls of course. His computer was just a keyboard and processor with speaker. The monitor sat on the floor in a corner collecting dust, next to a cast iron Perkins Braillewriter. Stacks of Braille books were shoved up against the walls.
K's parents were incredibly kind and gracious to me, considering the circumstances. So was his brother. Although only a half brother and ten years younger, he looked just like K, but with lighter hair, like an alternate version of K who could see. It was a bit uncanny, seeing them together--his brother with clear brown eyes and K with his blue-white eyes, what Anastasia called two boiled eggs.
K and I spent most of the week in the house, hanging out, joking around and having sex. I pored through his parents' photo albums, examining each photo of K as a kid and describing it to him. When we got tired of that, he played the piano and we sang together.
Although K's parents lived about a ten minute drive from the town center, the house was in a suburban cul-de-sac. Since there was no public transportation to speak of, we were quite isolated. His parents offered to let me use their decrepit minivan, but even though I had a license, I had never owned a car, and thought of driving terrified me. I begged him not to make me do it, but since there was no other way for us to go anywhere on our own, he convinced me to drive. I eventually got behind the wheel a few times but we were spared an accident only by the skill of the other drivers on the road.
That whole week, I was so blissfully happy that I barely noticed K kept talking about some chick named Monica. I had met her briefly before I moved away--she was thin and blond with the frizzy hair and abstracted expression of a Pre-Raphaelite goddess. She struck me as the kind of girl who pretends not to notice all the men falling at her feet, but who secretly knows exactly how to manipulate them. Still, she was just one of the many people in K and Lydia's circle who I knew only in passing. Now it was Monica this, Monica that.
"Did you know Monica said that a guy told her she was too beautiful to date?" K sighed, his voice brimming with sympathy for her tragic plight.
I made a rude noise. "What kind of bullshit is that? Either she made that up, or he was feeding her a line. Do you seriously believe that?"
He just shrugged.
When I obliquely hinted at a future together with me in Raser City, K was noncommittal. He told me over and over how much he loved me, but it was still too soon to talk about moving. It had barely been a month since Lydia broke up with him, and they had been together for ten years, since they were in high school. I understood, he needed time. I didn't want to pressure him, so the week ended without further discussion.
K's stepdad drove me to the airport. I pulled my suitcase out of the trunk, but with the car idling at the dropoff, there was no time for the kind of prolonged, dramatic goodbye I wanted. Instead, I had a few seconds to lean in through the passenger side window and give K a quick kiss on the lips, his scarred eyes wide open and staring. I didn't realize it at the time, but it would be the last time I ever saw him.
My week in Raser City looking for housing was miserable. I missed K so much it was like a physical ache. I clung to the hope that he would come with me, no matter how unlikely it seemed. When I finally got a lead on an affordable, decent home share, I risked my reputation with my new housemates by telling them the entire ridiculous story, just to be sure it would be ok if K did come to live with us. They reluctantly said ok, while looking at me as if I was a crazy person and they suddenly regretted agreeing to let me live with them.
Shortly I returned to my parent's house, K broke up with me over email.
It was a short message, saying that he would not be moving to Raser City with me, because he was dating Monica now, and he was truly, deeply in love with her. I should be happy for him, he said, for finding his soul mate at last.
I called him on the phone and screamed at him for three hours, during which time K went from apologetic to irritated to irate.
"Do you think this was easy for me?" he whined. "I was so upset I threw up after I wrote that email!"
"Oh, cry me a fucking river! And how dare you break up over email, you coward! You couldn't even have the decency to call me on the phone?"
"I thought it would be better to put everything down calmly, rather than screaming at each other."
I let out a shriek and hurled the tissue box at the closed door to my bedroom.
"This response was utterly predictable," he said with a sigh, reciting a line he often used whenever I got angry at him for letting me down yet again.
After several hours of this back and forth, I knew there was nothing more to say, but I couldn't bring myself to hang up, because then it would be really, truly, completely over. The thought of never having K in my life was too much to bear, but I was too angry to even consider maintaining a friendship.
Once again, I made a compromise: radio silence for ten years. After that, we could see where we were and decide if we wanted to resume contact and be friends or not. With that distant promise, I finally brought myself to hang up the phone.
That afternoon, we had an appointment for a family portrait. It had been my idea--with my younger brother and I both moving to different cities, I knew it would be a while before we were all together again. But now having my picture taken was the last thing I wanted. I splashed cold water on my face, trying to make the puffiness around my eyes go away, and threw on the dress I had bought for my cousin's bat mitzvah.
When I came downstairs, my parents regarded me warily.
"Everything ok?" Dad asked.
"Yes," I snapped, not making eye contact.
"K isn't going to move to Raser City with you, is he?" Mom asked warily.
"No," I ground out. "I don't want to talk about it."
My final weeks at home were horrible. I took all the photos, every little memento of K I had saved and put it all in a shoebox, tied it up with string, and buried it in the back of my closet.
I felt trapped in my childhood home with my parents, who had always hated K, and far from any friends who knew what I was really going through. Even when I reached out to them, my friends were not sympathetic, not even Kara and Nam.
"What did you expect?" Kara asked.
What I expected was what we had agreed to at the beginning--that our relationship would end amicably and he would marry Lydia like he said all along. K and I would remain on platonic but good terms after that. I even thought that maybe if I still wasn't married by the time I was thirty (which seemed likely) that I would ask him to Big Chill me. Like everything else, he said sure, why not, but without really meaning it. I never asked for this two month mindfuck, where he got my hopes up then dumped me for someone he just started dating. I didn't just lose my relationship with K, but his friendship, and a lot of other friends as well. He always said he loved me, but if he really loved me the way I loved him, he never would have hurt me like this. Maybe love was just an illusion. Instead of a fresh start, I moved to Raser City under a cloud of depression that took months to lift.
Margaleet coincidentally also moved to Raser City at the same time I did, but she never spoke to me again.