My relationship with Fenton was a lot of work. I thought that was what a relationship was, something you had to work hard at to make work. Our relationship was either fun or incredibly draining; there were no quiet lulls. One minute we'd be thick as thieves going on a quest to find a rare Star Wars action figure, the next we'd be arguing because I was too clingy. It was a constant cycle. I suppose I should have seen it as an early warning flag of things to come, but this was my first non-high school relationship and I was not exactly looking at things rationally.
Part of the problem was that I think we both had very different ideas about what a relationship was or even what being in a relationship meant. Maybe I was too clingy, but the example I grew up with were two parents who did everything together. They never took trips separately and when they had my sisters and I, we went everywhere with them. They had each married their best friend, and that was what I wanted. Fenton's family operated much differently. His parents had divorced and remarried when he was young. Relationships and families must have been very different for him. He liked his alone time, and he liked a lot of it. He didn't like to include me in things that he enjoyed, like computer games, and he was weird about talking to other people online and not wanting me to know about it. These differences caused numerous arguments about me being too clingy and him being too closed off. That was something that never changed during our four years together. There were other little things too, like if I smelled different (it could be anything from a different perfume to being a little sweaty from doing some activity) he wouldn't be affectionate with me. He had this way of rejecting me that made me feel so dirty that I was overly paranoid about body odor and anything that might be unpleasant about my person even after we broke up. There were other things, bigger bumps in the road.
During our second year together we hit our first big bump. Fenton had been acting distant and twitchy, I was getting the vibe that he didn't want to be around me. My first assumption was maybe we had been spending too much time together and he was just frustrated and wanted more time to himself. I tried to give him his space, to see if that would help. It didn't make any difference. I tried to hang out with him, but he didn't want to hang out at my apartment and he seemed weird about having me at his house. When we did hang out it would be at a movie or to grab a quick bite to eat. He avoided too much contact with me, and the time we spent together was brief. Was he telling me he wanted to break up?
I asked him if everything was okay, was there something bugging him, was there something we needed to talk about. He told me things were fine. I asked him I had done something wrong. He told me no. He again insisted things were fine. Things were not fine. About two days before our two year anniversary he finally told me what was going on. He had dropped me off at my apartment and asked if we could talk for a minute. The first thing that went through my mind was that he was going to break up with me. I felt sick to my stomach. We went into my room, thankfully no one else was home. He took a deep breath and started to talk. For the last several weeks he had been fighting feelings for one of my two roommates, Beth. The words just hung there in the air. I had no idea what to say, did he really just say that? I didn't say anything, I was still trying to process. He insisted that it was just a crush and he didn't want anything to come of it. What? Did he think Beth would ever give him the time of day? What? All I could do was look at him. I was aware I had started crying, and I couldn't stop it, tears just pouring down my face (I'm a crier, I can't help it). I managed to squeak out are you breaking up with me, and he firmly said no. I didn't feel better. What was going on? I felt like I was going crazy. I couldn't stop crying, he looked like I had slapped him. I told him I didn't understand. He said he felt bad that he hurt me, but he didn't want to keep it from me anymore. He said he had to go but that we would talk the following day, and then he left me alone to process his news. Of course Beth came home and found me a sobbing wreck. I didn't know if I should tell her or not, but we shared a room and I couldn't keep things from her without making things tense. I told her what Fenton had told me and she was pissed. She was worried I was going to think she had done something, and of course I knew she had not. She and I were fine. Fenton and I went and had dinner on our anniversary and decided not to give up on us just yet. We were still together, but there was a big crack in the relationship.
Fenton and I had moved past the Beth incident, but he was still acting different. He was doing things I thought were out of character, and he was communicating with me even less. He was in WOSC's Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). He had said it was a stepping stone to a potential career for him. He didn't seem to mind it, and I was supportive. All of the sudden he told me he was dropping out because he didn't feel it was right for him. A few days later I talked to his mom about it and she told me that he had told her he had dropped out because of me, because I didn't like it. I told her that wasn't true, and I didn't know why he would say that. She told me he must have believed it. I didn't know what to say. When I tried to bring it up with him he blew it off or changed the topic.
Not long after dropping out of ROTC he showed up at my apartment one afternoon and told me he had just dropped out of all of his classes and was taking some time off. Um, what? He told me it was something he had been thinking about for awhile now. I asked him why he didn't say anything about it before and he shrugged and told me he didn't know. I wasn't mad or hurt because of his decision, I was mad and hurt because I was so unimportant to him that he didn't feel like it was something he could even talk to me about. After that I felt like he started making all kinds of rash decisions. He started dressing different, he talked about bleaching his hair, and all he wanted to do was play computer games. He did get a job, since he wasn't in school, and that made it harder to see him. He seemed happier working, but we were also spending less time together. I felt like we were growing further apart. We were arguing when we spent time together, and when I finally told him how I was feeling and asked him if he still wanted to be with me we broke up. I had felt so distant from him I wasn't surprised we broke up; I think I may have even wanted it to happen. It still felt like crap.
When I told Cestus she didn't want to believe me. She insisted we would get back together. All I wanted was to stop hurting. I distanced myself from Cestus for awhile because I couldn't handle her telling me Fenton and I were going to get back together every time we talked. It was David and my roommate Jayne that got me through it. The night we broke up, Jayne let me have a night of feeling sorry for myself. Then she told me to suck it up, and that I was better off. David was there when I wanted or needed to talk. He listened to what happened and told me it was Fenton's loss. He encouraged me to start pursing the things I wanted to do that I had let fall by the wayside when I was dating Fenton. Between David and Jayne I was picking up the pieces and getting on with my life.
I had no idea how much of myself I had lost. It was nice being able to talk to David, there was no judgment. He listened to me, he offered advice and he didn't make me feel bad about myself. I reconnected with people I had grown apart from because they weren't the kind of people Fenton would hang out with. I went to concerts, the kind I wanted to go to. I hung out at Border's with various friends and we read, wrote things, and people watched. I met new people and flirted; I even had a bit of a rebound relationship. I was becoming a whole person again.
Fenton returned to school, and we ran into each other on campus. That started us talking again. Cestus was thrilled. She told me he seemed happier now that we were talking again, and she hoped we would be back together soon. Talking to Fenton was awkward and uncomfortable at first. We didn't really know what to say to each other, but it did get easier. He told me he was seeing someone, and after that was out in the open he seemed to relax and was easier to talk to. We started hanging out, and he invited me to go to a concert with him. It was one we had talked about before we broke up, and I didn't see the harm in going as friends. It was a good concert, and we had a good time. After that, he opened up to me again and told me about things going on in his life. He was going to finish school and start traveling. He had his first trip planned just after graduation. I helped him shop and pack for the trip. I was invited up to his house for the farewell party, and to the airport the following morning to see him off.
|Hanging out with Fenton the night before he took his first trip|
Spending all the time with Fenton made me wonder if we were really done, or if there was still something there. I thought I felt something from him but nothing was ever acted on. I wondered what would happen when he came back from his trip. On the way home from the airport his mom and Cestus invited me to stay with them for a week long girls week. We went out to the movies, had some fun dinners and wondered what Fenton was up to.
About halfway through the week I got this horrible feeling something was wrong and it had to do with Fenton. Not that he was hurt, but that something was just wrong and I couldn't explain it. Later that day he called and I answered the phone. He did not sound happy to hear my voice. I thought he sounded angry. He was brief and a little rude, and I was glad to hand the phone off to his mom. That night at dinner she and Cestus were saying how much they hoped we would get back together. I didn't know what I wanted, but the call earlier with Fenton did not sit well. Just before the end of the week they invited me to come to the airport with them to pick him up. At the airport he barely even looked at me. Cestus noticed, and tried to comfort me by telling me he must be tired. It was an uncomfortable ride home. He told everyone he was tired and was going to try to get caught up on rest. He told me he'd call me when he was feeling up to being social, and I took that as my cue to leave. The last time I had felt that unwelcome was when I had confronted Cestus about the bathroom schedule.
Cestus tried to get me to come up the next day but I made some up some excuse not to. If he didn't want me around I was going to stay away. He called a few days later to invite me up for dinner and to see photos from his trip. He was twitchy and distant on the phone, but I agreed to come up. I was greeted at the door by their mom. Cestus and Fenton were at the table looking at photos. Cestus told me to come sit by her, and Fenton gave me a weak smile. We looked at his pictures while their mom put dinner together. From the pictures it looked like Fenton had fun. I noticed there were a lot of pictures of one of the girls in the group, but I didn't ask about it. We ate, he told a few stories, and then everyone went their separate ways in the house. Fenton told me he had something for me so I followed him down to his room. His room was a mess, but he cleared a spot for me to sit. He dug though a bag in one of his piles and pulled out a paper bag and handed it to me. There were postcards inside. I had asked him to bring me back postcards of his favorite sites for my collection, and he had remembered. I thanked him, and we just sat there in awkward silence. I felt like there was this big thing hanging between us that needed to be addressed, but I didn't know what it was or what to say. He was the one who finally broached the subject.
He started off by telling me he was afraid he had given me mixed signals, that he might have somehow given me the impression that he was interested in getting back together with me. He looked miserable. I told him I wondered if he still had feelings for me. He sat down, and then it all came out. He had met some one on the trip, and he was in love with her. She was in love with him too, but was already engaged to someone else so they could never be together and they were both heart broken and miserable. I asked if it was the girl in all the pictures and he nodded. He told me spending time with her showed him what being in love was really like, and that he had never felt that with me. And then it just kept coming. He told me he never saw a future with me, never wanted to marry me, never wanted to have kids with me, and never wanted to be in a relationship with me again. He said it took being with her to realize any feelings he may have had for me were long gone.
All I could do was sit there and take it. I was aware there were tears streaming down my face, and I couldn't stop them. I felt so embarrassed, and ashamed. How could I have been so dumb? I should have known years ago when he developed the crush on Beth. I should have walked away then and saved years of arguing and feeling inadequate. But then that would have been giving up, and I'm not a quitter. So there I was getting my heart ripped out and handed to me by someone I had wasted too much time with. I had to get out of that house, and I had to do it without running into anyone because the last thing I wanted to do was explain why I was crying. He was crying, which pissed me off and made me feel worse but it was just what I needed to leave. He didn't walk me out. I didn't run into anyone on my way out. I left the bag of postcards on the kitchen table as I left.
At home, I had my cry. I cried because I let him hurt me, again. I cried because I felt stupid. I cried because that was four years of my life that felt like a waste. I cried because I had to let it all out. David was in chat that night and got to hear all about it. I'm pretty sure it all came out in some sort of incoherent emotional chat, but he just listened. He didn't make me feel stupid for letting myself get hurt again, he told me to just let it all out so I could heal and move on. He made it hurt less just by being there. Of course Cestus logged in looking for me, and asked me what had happened and why I had left without saying goodbye. I told her it was definitely over with her brother. She didn't want to believe it, and I didn't want to hear it so I blocked her for a while. It was over and I had to process that and let it all go. After a few days of feeling crappy, I started feeling not crappy. I felt pretty good actually, like a dark cloud had been lifted. I knew I was better without Fenton; I was so OVER Fenton. I was ready to start living my life!
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 4
Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 4