It was in the nights I spent letting my tears trickle onto my lavender pillows, that I often wondered why Apple never created an app for heartbreak. iHurt seemed like a fitting name. The idea could hardly be novel in this time when anyone with internet access could upload, download, or Google all of life's answers if they wanted to.
I stayed up late, reading up on characteristics of the Aquarius man, trying to dissect his thought process, thinking that the outcome may have been different if I had known this before and not after. In these moments, I sought resolution with Jermaine, but instead found what I did not know was lost. It's funny how often we find the things we have forgotten, weeks, months, years after their disappearance in search of yet another prized possession.
The day I met Jermaine was not memorable. A lounge. He bought me a drink. We exchanged numbers. I don't even remember the first time he called, or telling him I had children, twins from a previous relationship. I don't remember when I started calling him “Harvard” occasionally, a reference to his alma mater. I don't remember ever taking him seriously in the beginning because we'd spend a night talking and laughing and dancing like school children and then he wouldn't call for 2 weeks.
He would text. He did that often, but it was always only to say, "hello" or "I miss you", but never to say "Are you free Friday?" or "Keep this weekend open for me." When we did get together, it was when we accidentally ran into each other at a party, in a crowd of local elite. He'd joke "You should come home with me tonight."
"If I do that, I'm afraid we'll end up naked."
"That sounds like a brilliant plan."
But we didn't end up naked, because I was determined to leave something to the imagination so instead we lay in each other's arms until we both fell asleep and spent the morning hours having pillow talk. Once I shared the story of the day my father passed, and he told me his grandmother died of a similar illness. He told me about his travels around the world and showed me artwork from China, and Ghana, and everywhere else the mind only dreams of.
Another night. I had too much to drink. He took good care of me. After the second time I threw up, he let the top down on his convertible on the ride up the highway back to his place. The September breeze felt euphoric and that night I slept like a baby. This time, in the morning we talked about intellectual things like Deepak Chopra's Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements.
"Choose your feelings. Don't let someone else do that for you," he'd say. "But I can't change the way I feel." "If you don't believe you can, then you can't."
I started to enjoy him. I enjoyed not just being with him, but the texts in the middle of the day when we were apart. I enjoyed the impromptu phone calls that came few and far between but delightful nonetheless. Half a year went by this way enjoying each other with no real commitment or expectations, just ease and contentment.
According to his astrological sign, Jermaine was an intellectual, a free spirit who met anyone challenging his independence with disfavor. I ignored the things I did not like about him, his over attention to details, his religion, or lack thereof, his sexual innuendos that made me slightly uncomfortable. I ignored these things because he felt good and it was a feeling I had missed. My body was curious to know his, but my mind was set on leaving that piece of the puzzle a mystery, like that unopened box in Cast Away. Saving it meant there was always something to look forward to.
And then one night at his place, I let him in. It started with a kiss. He sat me on top of him, straddling his thighs, grabbed my chin in his hand and kissed me long and hard. Then my insides dripped like ice cream left out on the counter too long and I was ready. It started with a kiss and it ended with Jermaine penetrating not only my body, but every other facet of my life, and he did it all with his undershirt still on.
The oxytocin didn't settle in right away. But over the following days and weeks, in between the love making, it infiltrated my body from my hair follicles down to my toenails. I could smell it when I woke up in the morning and before I went to sleep at night. It was a lovely feeling that equally comforted me and scared me to death because I was losing the very thing Jermaine and Deepak Chopra believed was essential to anyone's well-being. Control.
The mere fact that the occurrence or absence of his calls, his texts, or his Facebook comments could respectively make or break my day was in itself detrimental. When I felt myself losing control over our interactions, our conversations, and my own feelings, I fought hard the temptation to push him away before someone could get seriously hurt, and by someone, I meant me. It felt much like I was a child again racing too fast on my bicycle in the middle of traffic. If I didn't stop this charade, I was going to end up with a badly bruised knee, or a broken leg, or a broken heart.
I was not in love with Jermaine. But I found myself attached to the idea of him and with attachments, come expectations. And with expectations, disappointment. It first came on a day I’d worn my good heels to work, black pantyhose and the turtleneck with the back cut out with plans to see him later. But instead, a late night at work on his part drove me to drink and I spent my night crying a river into a crevice in my best friend's sweater trying to make sense of my feelings.
The second time it happened was the day before Thanksgiving. I hadn't seen him in weeks, and the approaching holidays meant both our schedules would be busy so that Wednesday presented a unique opportunity. I was sitting at my desk, my workday winding down when he telephoned.
"I want to see you tonight Jermaine," I said. "Tonight I'm tired. Didn't sleep much last night. I need a nap."
I told him the physical relationship was only complicating matters. I told him I was a handful of work, and that he should evaluate if that is something he can handle. I told him that I was looking out for him but really, I was looking out for me since his walking away would hurt me less if I told him to go. I had developed a habit of giving men a laundry list of everything that was wrong with me in the beginning. This way, if they stayed, they couldn't say that I didn't warn them.
I cry a lot. And I'm moody. I have children. And a lot of bags.
He stayed, but the disappointments were frequent, stacked one on top of the other like a game of Jenga, and I began to wonder if he was only keeping me around for his pleasure, an added bonus at the end of the work day. I felt like I was an afterthought and when I took a closer look at what the future might hold, the forecast was bleak. Dating Jermaine was not easy. It was instead a pulling of teeth that often left me with sore gums and not much else. He simply did not want from me what I needed from him. Letting him go became a necessity.
I stopped taking his calls and answering his text messages. I disappeared without providing him an explanation because in that, I gained back some of the control I had since lost. I'm a Cancer. We are both independent and emotionally needy at the same time. We don't need someone to take care of us. We just need someone to want to. I retreated to a secluded corner of my world in the weeks after my decision. I lay down at night, first telling myself not to cry, and then concluding it may feel better, before erupting, a cascade of tears soaking my face. I missed him. I missed our intellectual conversations and his talks of far-off countries. I missed ordering in, and making love. I missed even those things I hated, like his over attention to detail and his sexual innuendos. I tried aspirin for the headaches it brought, and Pepto-Bismol to settle my stomach. But I found no relief for the pain in my heart, and resorted to Google for a solution.
It was there I learned that missing someone does not mean they are supposed to be in your life. I reread the self-help books Jermaine spoke of and was reminded to choose my feelings. Yet, while I did try, pretending not to be affected only hurt more, like I was bottling my emotions and holding my breath. Somehow, the tears brought solace.
I decided to focus on my children and my writing, and it became painfully obvious how easily I was able to communicate on paper the very things I could not say to Jermaine. Then I picked up a magazine one day and the words popped off the page: “You cannot have a healthy relationship until you are first in love with yourself.”
I then began a new relationship with me. Focusing on these myself and my good qualities (as opposed to my old list of flaws) brought on a confidence that exuded in my interactions with others. Loving me more diminished the need for someone else to. And how could Jermaine, or any man, find me irresistible when I readily provided reasons I was not?
The big city is much smaller than I originally thought. I still run into Jermaine every now and then and I regard him with fondness. He reintroduced me to me and taught me to choose my feelings. Choosing to cry sometimes is not a sign of weakness. Since birth, it has always been a sign of life. Sometimes iFall, iHurt, and iCry, and then iLive, iLearn, and iLove.again.
Herina Ayot is a freelance writer living in Jersey City, NJ. She is currently writing a novel based loosely on her own life, "The Content of Things Undone." Follow her on Twitter @ReeExperience.