The Folly of Proving “God” Wrong
There were a lot of signs that dating Tony was a bad idea. Things that, had I followed my intuition – or common sense – would likely have taken me on an entirely different path. Of course, I often come back to the premise of the movie Sliding Doors, with Gwyneth Paltrow doing her best British accent, where two very different paths lead to the same outcome.
The first sign was that I called him to check on the status of our first date. I’m not really one to dwell on what if’s, but I occasionally indulge and wonder how things might have been different if I’d just left the fucking phone alone. We worked together at the newspaper in Tucson. I was nearing graduation from the University of Arizona, and he was loafing in the sports department. Our flirtation began over his ridiculous taste in basketball teams (the Boston Celtics) and music, or so the pretentious 20-year-old me thought at the time. He had a stack of CDs on his desk which he listened to on a Walkman while coding agate for the sports section (e.g., game scores, stats, etc.). One was an AC/DC disk and another was Guns ‘N Roses. Now I’m still not really a fan of either, but having since married a musician whose current taste in music has some overlap with what Tony’s was then, I’ve learned to at least develop an appreciation for those classic rock bands.
So we flirted for a few weeks, and then he asked me out for New Year’s Eve, 1989. I said yes. And waited to hear more. Because of his job, he had a late schedule and typically slept till 11 a.m. or noon. But when I hadn’t heard from him by 4 p.m. on the day of our scheduled date, instead of making other plans, I called him. Plans were finally made, and we went on our first date to the movies – War of the Roses – another red flag, for those who are counting.
Things were fun for a time, but before long we settled into that horrible push/pull, chase/flee, clingy/leave-me-the-hell-alone pattern that so many immature people see as normal. Many years later, I read a book called The Surrendered Single by Laura Doyle, in which she spelled out very clearly that the right guy never makes you feel clingy or needy. He makes you feel loved and treats you like a queen. It was strangely reassuring to hear that no matter what I had done, all those years I spent trying to get Tony to notice me and to love me even half as much as I loved him were never going to create that result. It just took me the better part of a decade – a baby placed for adoption right in the middle, there – to figure that out.
The signs were so in my face that I remember going to sleep every night for six months or more hearing a little voice whispering, “He’s not the right guy for you.” Instead of listening to that angel, God, the Universe, or whoever you think might have been talking to me, I dug in, determined. “I’ll prove you wrong!”
Then one night, on my 28th birthday, the voice went from a whisper to a loud, clouds-parting, Charlton Heston bravado. We were living in New Jersey at the time, again working for the same company. Our son was a year old by then, though we rarely spoke of the adoption. At this point, Tony was still determined he’d never tell his parents. Things were definitely in the valley part of our typical peak-and-valley cycle. So naturally, he blew me off for my birthday. I went out to dinner with some friends (where were they on New Year’s Eve 1989?!) and had a few drinks. I’ve never gotten drunk in my life – personal preference – but this was the closest I ever came. A bit buzzed, I made the stellar decision to stop by Tony’s apartment on my way home and give him a piece of my mind. That went swimmingly.
I was around the corner, less than a block from his front door, tears streaming down my face, when I asked out loud, of no one in particular, “When are we going to fix this?” That’s when I heard it – the voice from ABOVE. Literally, as clear as day, I heard a booming male voice say, “It’s done.”
Of course, my interpretation of “It’s done,” and the Universe’s interpretation were completely different. Because it took me another two-and-a-half years to finally get my shit together enough to decide to leave. There was no other way to do the split than for one of us to geographically relocate. Otherwise, I could see, we’d just keep doing the same dance for another decade, or more. So in December 1999, I packed up my dog, my cat, my computer, and a few clothes and headed back to the desert. I cried most of the way – but they weren’t all sad tears. Every several hundred miles or so, I’d actually manage to be grateful, knowing this move was the best decision I could make.
He has since apologized for being such a shithead, but one of the most galling things Tony ever did was say to me, as I was getting into the car to drive away, “I don’t understand why you’re leaving. Things between us have always been pretty good.” The other was telling me, the day after I signed the adoption papers, that he would have stayed if I’d kept the baby.
It seems a bit unfair to pile on him now, after all these years have passed. But we lost touch and I don’t know that our connection will ever resume. I know he got married, and she seems like a nice enough person from the little Facebook stalking I was able to do. His sister also seems pretty cool now (we never really got along when Tony and I were dating). And if my husband is any proof that an angry, alcohol-fueled twenty-something can morph into a pretty great guy, I like to imagine that Tony might have made a similar transition.