The rusted hinges on the back door groan and stick; making a quiet entry impossible. I am certain my neighbors know exactly when I arrive home each night. I step into the dark house and slide my hand along the wall until I find the light switch, and then close the door behind me. Climbing the narrow staircase, I feel the weight of the day. I make my way to the second floor living room and drop my things on kitchen counter. Turning on the lights, illuminating the space, the inside of my home is now visible from the outside. I walk to the window and look toward the ocean and while it’s too dark to see it, I smile knowing it is there.
Sitting on the sofa, I reach down unbuckling my shoes, freeing my toes after a twelve hour day. I rub my feet, take a deep breath and relax a bit. Friday night has finally arrived. In a few minutes I’ll put on some music, start my laundry and clean the house. I may even squeeze in a work out. I find this routine calming, a form of therapy, clearing my head and a path for the rest of the weekend. I never sit for too long; afraid I might change my mind and binge watch crap TV or some romantic comedy I’ve already seen far too many times.
Turning on the television and all of the speakers, I search for just the right music and let it play, loudly. I collect my shoes and my purse, and make my way upstairs to my bedroom. I change into sweats, strip my bed and sort laundry. Remembering my phone needs a charge; I dig it out of my purse, and plug it into the wall behind the nightstand. I take a quick look on social media to see what my friends are doing on this Friday evening. The usual posts appear, checking in at happy hour or dinner, weekend travel and concerts, pictures of friends and food, and of course politics. Scanning the newsfeed a single post catches my eye. He is tagged in a photograph by someone I don’t know, a young woman, smiling and beautifully fresh faced. It’s a photo booth picture strip, four squares, the two of them, happy, smiling, a couple. Suddenly there is a tiny pit in my gut and I grapple with why that is.
We lived together a few years ago. I have fond memories of our first summer, camping at Pismo, weekend bike rides, sushi and surf contests. We shared a love for beach living and all it had to offer. I often refer to that time as my teenage summer. I can’t think about it without smiling.
Before long he was spending more time at my home than his own. We decided to live together. As the first year passed, our differences grew. Seems we each wanted what the other was unwilling to give. Ending the relationship was the right thing to do, but even the right thing can hurt. I can still feel the sting of watching his friends move his stuff out of my house. He unfriended me on FB too. Instantly cut off . . . that stung too.
The weeks following the move, we had some contact, unfinished business, things forgotten at the house, mail, items to return. I’m not sure exactly how it evolved, at first tiny texts, checking in sporadically, somehow we found our way back to friendship, even on Facebook.
Months after he moved out, against my better judgement I started a relationship with someone I had loved a very long time ago, someone who chased me down, convinced me that he was the real deal, and then took it all back, it was a mistake. I was unprepared for such a crushing blow. The heartache seemed to pile up.
During my little drama, he was a huge comfort to me. He treated me to breakfast, replied to my texts to meet up for bike rides and answered my requests to play Words with Friends. And while I never shared my pain, I feel sure he knew my heartache. But, he never let on; instead, he listened to my endless stories, and smiled. If I cried for what seemed to be no reason, he would simply say, I know. When we said good bye, I always hugged him for what may have been an uncomfortable length of time. If he thought it was, he never let it show, always hugging me back, long and hard.
As we settled into friendship, we grabbed a bite now and then; talked about life, our families and work, but never about love. That was easy for me . . . I made a decision to not date and he knew that. I imagined he was dating, but never probed. I guess I didn’t really want to know.
These days we see each other less often, mostly for birthday and holiday wishes. We run into each other on occasion. Prior to social media, this would have been our only connection, not so these days. We are exposed to the daily happenings in each other’s lives on Facebook and Instagram. We click like, like, like. I know when he is camping in the desert, or snowboarding in Mammoth. It’s how I learned his dog died, and now . . . I know about his new girl.
As I sit on the edge of my bed, I look again at the picture, the four little squares, and contemplate the little pit in my gut. And I realize it is fear . . . fear of change, fear of moving on, fear of taking a chance, fear of being left behind, forgotten.
I set my phone down . . . I can only be happy for him. And then I silently thank him . . . without knowing it, he pushes me to face my fear, to be brave . . . to try again.