Note: The "Trooper" in question is not actually in the military. It's a metaphor, people.

May 31, 2007

A Ride on the Baggage Carousel

It would be so nice and cozy if The Boyfriend/Girlfriend Talk miraculously caused all of my baggage from Naval A-hole to disappear. Unfortunately, it only took about a day and half for it come sneaking back for a little game of peek-a-boo.

Yesterday I was helping Wine Guy with the final schlepping of stuff from his old apartment to his new one. Serious obligatory Girlfriend hard labor, which I enthusiastically volunteered for. But as the day went on and boxes were carried up and down the stairs, in and out the door, I started to get this weird, sinking feeling.

By the time we pulled up in our separate, fully loaded cars, I felt completely sad and alienated. When I got out of the car, he was finishing up a phone call with a friend. It was then that I heard it. "Well, I better go. I'm at my friend's house now." His eyes locked with mine the second he said it. Friend. He threw his arms up in the air like, "I have no idea why I just said that, sorry." And he meant it. But suddenly I knew exactly why I felt so "off." That one moment - the Friend comment combined with the fully aware eye contact- brought it all back. Naval A-hole.

A-hole and I had a long distance relationship for the entire year we dated. It was whirlwind, intense and we saw each other practically every weekend. He was in the Navy, stationed on a bumfuck island in the Puget Sound and, because he didn't have enough leave to come visit me (any trips more than a few hundred miles away on a weekend required taking leave, goddamn navy), I spent almost a year of my weekends flying up and back, up and back for weekend trips. It was exhausting but I never complained. I cherished every second with Naval A-hole and was patiently waiting for when I would move up there, something we both agreed on.

He moved about 2 months into our dating and I happily helped him pick out his new town home. I spent an entire weekend moving his crap, which was not at all packed ahead of time (a major red flag I now see). Now that I think about it, where the hell were all his fellow Naval A-hole buddies to help? Why did he need his frickin' girlfriend to do the hard labor?!

I digress....A few months later we attended a wedding together (our first) and I was thrown in with all the Naval A-hole wives. Not really my crowd but...OK, I was blind and stupid and I'm ridiculously thankful in hindsight that he dumped me so I could avoid what would have been a terribly boring life as a vapid Naval A-hole Wife. Anyway, when it came time for the bouquet toss, I was forced out onto the floor by someone's overeager wife determined that I join their cult. I stood at the back of the gaggle of women, only to have the damn bunch of flowers come right at my head. I swear to you, if I didn't reach up to catch it, I would have been smacked unconscious.

Bouquet clenched in fist and strangers' cameras flashing, I reluctantly turned to Naval A-hole to gauge his reaction. I so badly wanted to scream, "I didn't mean to catch it! I swear!" At first glance, all was just fine. He was smiling, his bright blue eyes flashing under his blond buzz cut (no more Nazi-looking guys, I promise). But what I saw in his eyes stopped me cold. A split-second flash of absolute terror.

I spent the rest of the night crying in a bathroom stall, with no explanation. I don't think he needed one. When we got back to the hotel room and had it out, it was clear how great the distance was between our relative desires to move to the next level. And all of that came from a momentary flutter I saw behind his pupils.

Right after that, we broke up, which lasted for about 3 weeks. We got back together when he called me professing that he was ready to "jump in head first." We decided I would move up there the following spring, when we would get engaged and then married before he was assigned to his next stint in Virginia.

A few months later, he called me from the Tailhook Convention in Las Vegas. His landlord had called to say a hot water pipe had leaked in his place. Everything he owned was wet, steamy and needed to be out ASAP. He begged me to meet him the next day back in Washington to help him move. Surprise, surprise. All his friends would still be at Tailhook so no one could help but little old me. This was the first weekend I had been home in weeks and my friends and my cat were missing me. It was the first time I tried to say no to him. Almost in tears he whined, "Please, we're a team. I need you."

So I buckled and spent the next two days lugging wet crap down two flights of stairs, then up two more flights of stairs in the vacant condo a few doors down. It was the longest, most painful experience of my life but, like he said, we were a team and he would suposedly do the same for me.

He disappeared on me about 6 weeks later without one word of explanation - to this day.

So back to Wine Guy, whose move was organized, efficient and involved HIRED MOVERS to do the real labor. Wine Guy made it clear that he mostly just wanted my company more than my lifting power. But I must have had some sort of visceral reaction to the concepts of "Boyfriend" and "Moving" in combination because by the time the Friend/eye-locking incident occurred I was right back on that dance floor clutching a bouquet and seeing through Naval A-hole's phony smile.

Wine Guy is scarily intuitive (or I'm pathetically obvious, more likely), so he knew right away he was coming face to face with this Trooper's baggage. He was very reassuring and apologetic for the Friend comment, which he didn't need to be. The guy he was talking to had yet to hear about me and it would be a little odd to just casually interject, "Oh, gotta go. My girlfriend is here," without first providing some context -preferably when she isn't standing right there waiting for you.

I confessed how I was angry at myself for letting my Naval A-hole baggage get the best of me and that he didn't need to apologize at all. With his arms wrapped around me, he looked me in the eye and said, "That's just negative talk. You are being way too hard on yourself. Everyone has their vulnerable spots and you know this yours. So recognize that, let yourself off the hook and give yourself a hug. And remember, I'm a good guy and I'm not going anywhere."

A tremendously sensitive thing to say, but then he topped it. "And even if I did go away (my heart skipped a beat at this), you would be fine. You are a whole person --even if I'm not here."

I let that sink in for a second, mostly to first get past my initial panic reaction at the mention that he might one day be gone (can you say abandonment issues?). He was right. I was doing just fine before Wine Guy came along. I was happy, fulfilled, and whole. And I still am. I just happen to have a Boyfriend too.

So that's my baggage. I better embrace it, stack it somewhere in the back closet and know that every once in a while it may peek its head out and ask to take a short trip around the block.



About Melissa said...

I'm so impressed by the both of you. There's no doubt that you both will have issues and road bumps ahead, but it's HOW you handle it that says the most about how you'll work through it. You guys seem open and honest and to be really paying attention. Yay!

Mendoza Line said...

**hug** for you awesome buddy!

I think it goes with out saying: we are doing a shot tonight!!

Loverville said...

I'll say this again -- what an amazing, special guy! He really "gets" you.

bailey said...

not only can you recognize and appreciate Wine Guy (and vice versa), BUT that other one is back in the dust getting buried by your fully blossomed self! you are so winning the battle and then SOME! will you be starting classes at extension school? are we allowed to audit? :) BIG HUGS!

m.j. said...

Having lived through every step of your life's male/female growth process - from third grade Tim to today, I must say again that your passion,joy, courage and intelligence,make my heart swell..Not to "get my hopes up" too much as you often fear. ahh,the hell with it - this sounds absolutely real and honest- full of mutual respect and caring. O.K. Is it time yet? Can I be excited??/

sexagenarian & the city said...

god he sounds divine. does he have a brother (or father!) who's 60+ & lives in ny?!?

Dating Trooper - Dating is Warfare said...

What the hell...OK M.J. ("mom"), you can get excited!