Honey, I am going out. (V)
Updated: 2 days ago
I don't know how the writing process is for others, but I get the best ideas when I'm washing the dishes. And every time I say I'll remember everything and I will start writing as soon as I'm done cleaning, it never happens. Even this morning, I opened my laptop, translated something from German to English, sent a couple of emails - which were more important than finishing this story - and my inspiration went out the window.
I thought many times about this last part of the Lucas story, wondering what he's been doing lately and if the pandemic changed something inside him. There are days - rarely, but there are - when I remember bits and pieces of our time spent together, and funnily enough, apart. I wanted to finish writing this for such a long time, but I edited this document a million times. I stumbled on some little moments with big emotions and something felt off.
Do I think that fate brought us together? Would my life have been different if I haven't met him? Should I have fought harder for our relationship? If he would have spent his Sunday mornings with me, maybe things could've turned out better... - All of these questions are left without answers. I think they are irrelevant - and nothing would change now, anyhow. Out of the unreal shadows of nostalgia comes back the real life that we had known, and imagining the past in different colors wouldn't do anyone any good.
I do, however, remember one little moment in my apartment, when we ran into each other in the hallway. Lucas was coming out of the bathroom, I was going in, and we just bumped our arms, as if we weren't even aware we were passing each other by.
"Sorry," I said surprised, rubbing my eyes.
"No, I am sorry," he said, with a look of consternation.
It felt like we were both suddenly awakened, although we were getting ready to go to sleep. I slid to the left to make room for Lucas to pass, but he felt embarrassed and moved aside, in a way, too close to the wall. All of the sudden the hallway was too narrow for us, and we just smiled clumsily at each other.
"You go first," I said.
"Yes, thanks, hurry to bed, ok?
"I will. Hur-hurry-do!"
I went to the bathroom and repeated quietly: "Hur-hurry-dooo!?!?! What was that!?!" I rolled my eyes at my unexpected awkwardness. There was a thought that came into my mind after I said "sorry", but I didn't want to say it out loud. I brushed my teeth for longer than usual, as if the toothbrush could also remove the little idea that popped into my head before: "he's not the one for me." I cleaned my face with a wet towel, brushed my hair, and put it up in a bun. I then washed my hands again and turned off the bathroom light.
"It took you a while," Lucas said, trying to start a light conversation.
"Ain't I pretty? Look how shiny my face is." I started laughing. "I need to clean my face more often, I like the smell of this lotion." I moved towards him, and he started laughing.
"I know, I tried it."
"Yes, and...do you have any comments?!?" He took the same sober pose that tricked me once into thinking that he is serious about discussing philosophy late at night.
"After you used my floral shower gel, I... I no longer have any comments." I burst into laughter, and then he kissed me, and the "he's not the one for me" thought vanished into the night.
We had many moments like this, but the time we spent together ended abruptly, and all the pain that came afterward put all the good memories into a dark corner. Some say that when you miss an ex, you miss only the good parts, and you forget why it didn't work. For me, it is the other way around. I remember how I felt reading the following text message, and I remember how I felt when I gave him the key. I felt horrible for feeling so terribly sad, and angry that he chose to put everything to an end via a text message.
I understand that. We had many conversations about this, and there is nothing weird about you not being comfortable with this situation.
I think we should take a break because it is hurting to have this back-and-forth relationship. You obviously suffer from it, and I do too. I don't want to ask myself when is the next hard conversation we're going to have. I do have strong feelings for you, and hopefully you noticed that, and it makes me sad each time we say to each other that we shouldn't see each other because it's not working.
It makes sense, but it's still something that is hard to accept because I really like the time we spend together...
So anyway, I won't come tonight. I don't want to restart another round of missing each other, kissing, and sleeping together to have next week the same conversation. That's why I think a break is needed.
But I meant it when I say I want to keep you in my life. I think you're a great person with a great heart. So I hope after this break, when we both will have had some time to reflect and get over things, we'll see each other and laugh again together. And I hope it won't be in the far future...
I wish you good luck with your therapy, and I hope you will like him/her and that she will help.
Take care and see you soon. :*
[his words, not mine.]
I read this text on my way to work, and while I would have had enough time to reply to it, I decided to focus on something else. After all, it was summertime; I will have time to go to the lakes on the weekends and forget about Lucas' arguments on how an open relationship can work. Me giving his key back didn't mean that I want to take a break, it meant that I've decided to put a stop to a conversation that was getting us nowhere.
During my lunch break that day, I couldn't eat. I felt like my stomach was slowly shrinking, and my brain went numb, leaving space for my heart to pump enough blood to deliver a continuous supply of oxygen to postpone a major panic attack. The meltdown happened a few days later though, during lunchtime, when I met Matteo, my handsome Italian friend. He was the only one allowed to call me "tesoro mio" and send me heart emojis and embracing me hard to accommodate some of the pain. I was joyful and sociable to a certain degree during the last few days, but when I met him at the corner of my office, I burst into tears, and I couldn't stop crying. I don't know if my colleagues saw me in the middle of the street, gasping for air. "Tesoro mio, but you have to tell me what's wrong", he said, caressing my back. I didn't want to let him go, and between the ugly crying, I whispered: "He..he broke up with me via a text. He...he..." I couldn't finish my sentence because Matteo took a step backward and started laughing: "I thought you were sick or something, you got me very worried. It's only a heartbreak, you'll get over it. Come, let's eat something delicious around the corner. How about some pasta?"
I stopped crying because I was shocked. "What do you mean it is only a heartbreak?!?" I felt like he wasn't taking me seriously. Did he understand that the guy I've been telling him about is selfish?!
Matteo laughed again: "You're going to be alright, kiddo. And you'll have the chance to tell me all about it later, ok?"
"But the key, and the..."
"Si, bella. Andiamo."
He didn't give me time to react, and so I just held on to "It's just a breakup." and followed him to the restaurant. I don't remember what we talked about, but tears were no longer running down my face. It might be that I even laughed with him. "I will be fine."
The following days are blurry, but going to work and smiling as if everything was "hurray-da-do" was exhausting. The signs of burnout appeared only late at night, and I pushed every symptom away. I was tired and heartbroken, but I was going to be fine.
I was going to meet Lucas one more time, to return his key. We couldn't agree on a meeting place, and somehow Lucas hoped that if I keep the key for a little longer, I would change my mind. No matter in how many different ways I tried to explain that an open relationship won't work, he didn't want to listen.
We were once at his place, when he said that I'm wrong, that on the contrary, a cool open relationship doesn't create a platform where one can be compared to another person, sexually or otherwise.
"Really, there's no comparison?"
"No, Ioana, basically, you can sleep with whoever you want. And afterwards you can talk to me about it. I want you to be happy."
"So, what you're saying is that if I find a guy attractive, I can just go for it? Any guy?"
"Yes, any guy."
"But what if he's better than you? No comparison, sure, but if he gives me three orgasms...and what if things will get boring between us two? Won't you get jealous?"
"No," he coughed and hurried to get a glass of water from the table, "no, I just want you to be happy. If he makes you happier than me, then you..."
"And you'll have no problem with me being all jolly because another guy knows how to... you know..."
"I'll keep my emotional barometer steady and controlled." He said in a very pretentious voice, being sure that he's on the right track.
"But emotions are never under perfect control. They are messy and unpredictable," I smiled.
"Ioana, please. If I tell you that I am in control, I am."
I smiled, forcing myself not to laugh, because I just got the most brilliant idea.
"Because you're French?"
"Yes, exactly. I am French and I have prepared all my life for this, and.. well, mon chérie, we can agree that we are extraordinary together!"
"Absolutely, I agree. And this is why I want to sleep with Joe tonight."
He chocked: "Pardon?"
"Joe...he's in the other room, I hear him playing the guitar. And you said he's here for a couple of days. And I have never slept with a blonde French guy."
"But, chérie, Joe is my best friend."
"Exactly, and you like him. And you said he likes me. So that would make things very easy for me."
"Mais non, Ioana."
He started to get agitated, and answered in a hurried voice:
"He can't be on your list."
"But I find him attractive, you're the one who insisted I should get to know him better. And you want me to be happy, no?"
"Yes, yes, of course, but Joe is out of reach."
"So you're making new rules now?"
"Yes, I mean...non! NO, I am not. I just..."
"Let's go to bed, ok? I'm tired."
He looked relieved, but the possibility that I might take him up on his offer scared him big time.
It was one text from Matteo he saw me read another time when we were in a park, and I replied with "ciao, amore mio". Matteo sent "baci" as a reply, and Lucas lost it. He acted like he didn't see the message, and I wasn't aware of his game is until he pushed it to the limit. He started slowly, trying to explain to me that he's better than anyone I talk to, and finished his discourse by inviting me to meet a Romanian IT guy that I would just fell in love with. I said that I'm not interested in meeting nerds from Romania, and that I have my close circle of friends already, that I already have a group that invites me to parties, etc. But all of this wasn't enough for him, and insisted on looking in my calendar and find a date when I could meet the guy he's friends with.
"Lucas, no. What is this? Are you trying to set me up? Do you think I can't make friends?!?" I was angry by this point.
"No, I was just explaining..."
Later that night I realized that Lucas was jealous of Matteo, a guy he hasn't met, hasn't asked anything about, but was trying in a very weird way to show me that, in fact, he's not jealous.
I texted a friend that I am going to Lucas's place, to leave the key in the post box.
"Ioana, I still don't understand why it bothers you so much."
"Because this is not normal behavior, girl. You don't break up with someone via a written notification."
I was tired to explain to people how incredibly rude is to act like a turtle and hide in your shell whenever you don't like a situation. I've only read bits and pieces of 'Letters from a Stoic', but I gotta agree with Seneca here: “The trip doesn’t exist that can set you beyond the reach of cravings, fits of temper, or fears … so long as you carry the sources of your troubles about with you, those troubles will continue to harass and plague you wherever you wander on land or on sea. Does it surprise you that running away doesn’t do you any good? The things you’re running away from are with you all the time.”
And so, I went to Lucas' building, entered the hallway, put the key next to the letter, sealed the envelope, and tried to find his postbox. I looked around and couldn't find anything. I was sure that there was no postbox in front of the building, but I turned around to check again. Nothing. Under the big staircase, there was only an empty space. The elevators had their doors closed and everything felt cold and unwelcoming. I went up the stairs to Lucas' apartment door, although I was surprised I never noticed his post before. When I arrived on the second floor, I couldn't find the little metal box where I could have left the letter. I was so confused and angered by the situation, that I ran down the stairs. I looked around and there was nothing, just an echo from my annoyed "aaaaah".
I took out my phone and called Lucas: "I am in your building and I can't find your stupid mailbox. Where is it?"
Lucas laughed and said how lovely it is to hear my voice again, and explained that I have to go past the elevators, open the grey door, then turn to my left.
"Who put those here?" I asked.
"Well, the architects," Lucas replied with amusement.
"That's just plain stupid, because..." I wanted to explain to him why that is not practical, but I realized he wouldn't care. He was going on and on about how horrible he feels about our situation, and that it's been two weeks since I last called him, and how he cares about me, etc.
I was halfway through the parking lot when I asked him if he's home. He responded affirmatively, so I told him that's all I need to know.
"But I don't get it, why are you like this, Ioana?"
"Like what, Lucas?"
"You could have come up."
"Did you invite me to come up?"
"Uuhmm, no, but you know you can always..."
"I can not always, Lucas. I usually don't barge in, Lucas!" I was getting more annoyed with every sentence. "Plus, you ended things with me, what is there to talk about?"
"I didn't end anything, I suggested a break."
"I'm rolling my eyes as we speak, just so you know. Have a nice evening. Bye"
'But Ioana, I think we still need to..."
"Lucas, bye. Take care."
I put my phone in my bag and went directly to the S-Bahn. I turned off my internet connection and decided to spend the rest of the evening on the Spree canal, listening to music. Everything I wanted to tell Lucas was in the letter.
My dear Lucas,
I've been thinking a lot about how to say this to you, and I can only hope you will try to keep an open heart and read this as it was written: from someone that cared if you had a good night sleep and who wanted to make your life a bit easier and happier.
I've been reading a lot about how to deal with loss, I've been talking about my pain and my suffering, watched thousands of movies, and tried to understand why I am feeling the way I'm feeling. Carl Jung said that "knowing your own darkness is the best method for dealing with the darknesses of other people." And this is how you learn to be more compassionate, more loving, and less judgmental.
I've told you this before, and I will say it once again: at our first non-date, I noticed that you suffer a lot when you talk about Simone, although you assured me a couple of times that everything is fine. You had the same look in your eyes my brother has when I talk to him about my mom. Lucas, pain is universal, and you can very much read it on someone's face.
On the night on the bridge, when we talked about your past relationships, I asked you if you have anyone to talk to about breakups and things, because you were quite upset about it all (remember that I hugged you tight?). And you said something about a married woman and with whom you talked about before ending it with Elisabeth. But I wasn't asking about a close friend that is your confidant. I was asking about someone who can help you turn all that anger into sadness.
I was trying to ask if you tried to find professional help because I've been also struggling to find the courage to go for a couple of months now. You know all of this. But I must tell you; it can bring you a lot of joy when at the end of a session, a stranger tells you, "we have a lot of work to do, but I can see how much you want to change."
So you can consider my unsolicited advice or not. I do hope you will find the strength in you to seek help because six months from now you will be a different man. Not because someone will tell you how to live your life, but because therapy makes people think if the way one spends its time enhances his/her life, what kind of people we keep in our lives, and why the future is never the way we imagined it.
I don't know the whole story with Simone, and I was afraid of intruding upon a sorrow that I could not lighten...but if someone turns down the music just so that the neighbors' kids can take a midday nap - that someone can be a wonderful parent if given the opportunity.
P.S.: You will find a card I thought you could send to Simone - I imagined we would write some together - you to your daughter and me to my friends' kids in Romania.
[Simone is his 8yo daughter who lives in another country, and he's not as involved in her life as he would like to. I never met her, although he sent me pictures every time he went to see her. This is a part of his story I don't want to get into, but I was happy that he allowed me to understand some of it.]
My dear Ioana,
It's been now a couple of weeks that we haven't met and haven't talked, and I feel sad about it. I really enjoyed having you in my life.
I miss holding you in my arms; I miss kissing you, I miss laughing with you, I miss making love to you. I always felt secure and loved with you, and I regret that I could not offer you the same to keep you with me. Regretting things doesn't really improve things, but I wanted you to know that I really cared about you and that you had a very important place in my heart. You probably never really understood it because you think it doesn't go with my wish to keep relationships open, but in my world, it makes sense. I cannot be happy without freedom. But when we were together, I was really happy, and that's why I never used this freedom. None of them were you.
I don't even know why I'm writing this non-sense letter. I guess I'm frustrated that we cannot talk anymore, and I wish we could go back in time.
Anyway, next time I should think before writing a letter…
I miss you.
[His letter came a few days after I gave him the key, but honestly, I never expected an answer. My goodbye was only that: a good bye. "Au revoir", but wishing him well. His letter, however, pushed my buttons, and I decided to write Lucas a reply, in which I explained the whys and the nos.]
My dear Lucas,
I was so happy after our late night walk on the bridge that I called my cousin from the US, and I told her that I'm going to have an awesome friend. And the next day, I called my friend from NL and said to her that I finally met someone with whom I can talk. I was so so happy...
And the more I got to know you, the more I liked the way you think, the way you talk so passionately about your work. (I never heard anyone who can talk about servers in a way I find it interesting!) There was actually one moment when you were explaining something, and I remember looking at you and thinking: "Man, he could be an excellent boyfriend".
But, and here comes the "but." There is a difference between the two of us suggesting a break. You had so much on your plate and had to give your energy in so many places that I thought it's better to let you be. But you disagreed. You told me that next time I decide to kick you out of my life, I should at least talk to you.
And then, one month later, you kick me out of your life without even saying goodbye. Why? Because you are in love? Because I told you I missed you a lot and you don't know how to handle that? However absurd I find the reasons, you have the option not to see me again. But to tell me that you will consider meeting with me so I can return the key…?! Do you know how hurtful that was? So not only were we playing by your rules, but you ended a conversation telling me you are late for shibari and you will get to me later, if and when you have time. And that, my dear, was the moment when you chose between your shibari girlfriend and me, and you showed me once again what your priorities are.
Before you get all "no, no, it's not true," think about it all from my perspective. Leave your world and enter mine.
I was in church two Sundays ago, and there was a children's choir, and they sang so beautifully; a person next to me said that they sound like angels. And I immediately thought about you and Simone. So...you are against her being part of a community where she learns about true love, about caring, about forgiveness, about morals and tolerance; a community where she will always find acceptance, no matter what life will throw at her. Well, this is something I don't understand.
On the other hand, I tried to understand your need to go to shibari, and you can present it as art or the most liberating activity there is. I think that the people who spend so much time doing this type of workshop were hurt in the past, and instead of understanding what went wrong and try it to fix it, they face physical pain to hide the suffering in their souls. And, I assume, for a short period, it can give one the illusion that he/she is in control. I might be wrong, I take that into account, but I believe that most of the people who are part of this whole BDSM community are emotionally stable as an Ikea table.
And yes, you are right to think that I don't know it all. I surely don't. But there are so many books one can read, so many plays one can watch, so many movies one can talk about. One can have deep and honest conversations with so many smart people (after all, we live in Berlin), can swim in so many waters, climb so many mountains and play with so many dogs(!), dance so many dances that I choose to invest my energy into activities that will transform me into a better version of my former self.
Do I need two chairs in the kitchen? For sure, I do. But do I want to spend one day going shopping? For two chairs?! Absolutely not. There are a lot of things I need, but also, my time is limited. I rather meet with Nat or Alex in the middle of nowhere than to search for two chairs that I will barely use.
So now I hope you understand why I can't be your friend. You speak four languages. Not one, not two, but four!!! You are a man with great potential, who can do something extraordinary with his life. But because I care too much, I won't stick around to see this potential wasted. You are free to do whatever, Lucas. In the end, all our fights were about your need to feel free, without truly acknowledging what it would mean to you if I demanded the same freedom you're so desperately hanging on to.
Jean-Paul Sartre once said: “Nous sommes nos choix”. How simple and full of meaning, no?
And that was the end of us. We had a simple, yet a very complicated relationship. We started out as friends, fell in love overnight, and argued about what an open relationship is. One month before he met me, someone introduced him to shibari. He explained some things along the way, but I always cut the conversation short. I wasn't, and still, I am not, interested to learn about this. Lucas lived a secret (yet not so secret) secondary life, of which he was ashamed of. I never pushed him to quit going to those kinds of workshops, in the same way I never forced him to come with me to salsa class on Sunday afternoon.
Sunday mornings he went to Berghain with his friend, Joe. I went to church.
He was free to do whatever he wanted, but I trusted him enough not to ask too many questions. He doesn't smoke, wasn't on drugs (unlike most of the Berghain people - many overdosed there and the ambulance was called too late), and quit drinking one month after he met me. "If a Romanian can live without alcohol, so does a French," he used to say.
It was a breakfast in Prague that made me miss him, and it was a Thursday evening in Berlin that made me miss him again. I blamed the lockdown for my awkward conversation moment, when I mentioned him to a stranger. The terraces just opened, and a friend invited me to her birthday celebration. I made everyone laugh when I said that I am an architect in my spare time, trying to hide the shyness I was experiencing. I don't need people to like me, but I wanted the guy who was sitting with me at the same table to forgive my emotional outburst from before. The radiation of my uncontrolled thoughts, the sudden eagerness to please and to be accepted made me feel anxious. I stayed a bit longer and talked to my friend, and I glanced at the guy who was now to my left. I pat him on his shoulder and apologized for demanding him to watch something on Netflix, as if he couldn't live his life without a tv-show that I liked. I said "good night" and quickly put my headphones on, disconnecting from the outside world.
"Lucas, what is happening with you?" I could have paused Spotify and call him at that moment, just to say hi, but I didn't want to take another step towards him. We tried to be friends at some point, but it didn't work out. Not because I was jealous or anything - hey, I even gave him a great birthday present - but because it was too painful for me to see him living in denial. Look, I am no therapist, and I stopped putting labels on people, but I know Lucas, and I know why he needs someone to help him put his thoughts in order. I am not the right person to help him with that, although I know I would still have some influence on his life if we would talk again.
I changed my number and I will change it again next week, for several reasons.
There's a time when you need to let people go, no matter how much you cared for them. There is a time when you know that no matter how much effort you're willing to put into a relationship, people are people, and some don't change. They just pretend that they've changed to gain some leverage, and then return to the same habits. After all, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, right? Right.
Maybe one day I'll write about what it means for me to be friends with an ex, maybe I'll even tell the "10 women and 1 man" joke from ig, the "ok, I'll continue daydreaming about you" comment on fb that led to a long messenger discussion. And maybe I'll even buy a dishwashing machine.
Until then, send some good thoughts towards Lucas.