Before I moved to Manhattan I had dated.
In college, I was a regular co-ed, majoring in architecture, and hanging out with my friends. I had a desi (Indian) boyfriend, who I thought was "THE ONE". We met on a blind date and went to a college sponsored party, where he dedicated the song, “Baby Got Back” to me. Was that sign number one? Or was rap music just that popular in the 1990s? I thought he was nice, but didn’t feel that za za zoom. But when he invited me to brunch the next day (to the college cafeteria where we could use our meal plan, was that sign number two?), I thought I should give him another chance. Which eventually became study dates, dinners and like that he was my boyfriend.
We had been dating for a couple of months when the Ex’s twin brother began to pressure the Ex to break up with me. Their parents were very conservative, even for Indians. They didn’t want their sons dating, only studying diligently to become doctors. It didn’t long for the Ex and me to melt down into a hot mess of an Ike and Tina Turner relationship where we verbally and emotionally abused each other in gigantic screaming fights because I didn’t want to eat dinner, study, attend the Depeche Mode concert, go to the mall or hang out with the Brother, EVER. Caught outside hell’s door, stuck between love and loyalty, the Ex would make plans with me and then cancel because the Brother guilted him. Or threatened to tell their parents about me, again. In the Brother’s defense, he was looking out for his twin. But when I was 21, I didn’t see it that way. I just thought the brother was heartless.
As if this was not enough for our train wreck of a relationship to withstand, the Brother had an AWFUL, stinky and gigantically FAT friend. Yes, I really mean he smelled. His sweat and body oil got stuck in the folds of his fat and clothes. As a result no woman wanted to date Fatty and he retaliated by hating women, including me. I think Fatty was like most powerless people. He felt backed into a corner and tried to inflict pain on others, to redirect his inadequacies elsewhere. Fatty happened to be Pakistani and was also very conservative and would encourage the Brother that our dating was wrong, went against the wishes of elders and had to end. You’d think this was 1450, not 1995, but unfortunately, the Brother tended to agree.
This drove me to fight harder. I’m not proud of it, but there were many occasions where I engaged in controlling behaviors, threatened to break up with the Ex, or flat out ignored the Ex. The Ex ended up retreating within himself when the push-pull between the Brother and I became overwhelming. Obviously, this was a very unhealthy relationship and a well paved road to anxiety for all involved parties.
Are you wondering why I would love someone like this? Because when it was just the Ex and me, in the dark and quiet when we shared our demons, he let his guard down and revealed his insecure arrogance. We allowed one another safety, a place to be blurry, raw, and splintered around the edges. It was strange, despite inflicting pain on each other; we really cultivated the good things in another. In hindsight, I think we should have broken up rather than clung to a dysfunctional relationship like a tattered blanket. Most days we couldn’t cover ourselves with it, but there was security in knowing where the holes and loose threads were.
After graduation I moved back to Minnesota and he still had senior year to finish. We agreed to write and try and see each other 4 times a year, since we were still dating behind his parents’ back. Ironically enough the Brother now had a little blonde girlfriend so he was off out case and like an idiot I savored that moment of calm.
Then learned in a rather obtuse way (from a friend’s, boyfriend’s, roommate’s, friend) that the Ex cheated on me. At first I couldn’t believe it. There was no way he would do something like that. Sure we had problems but he would never do something that would crush me. It took a few days to track the Ex down and even as I asked about the other woman I still believed it was a misunderstanding. When he told me it was true, on a hot July day, I went cold on the inside. Every feeling I had for him poured out of me and died on the floor.
Speechless, I listened to him tell he’d leave her, that he wanted to make this work, she was just filler, he was lonely and that we were supposed to grow old together. Maybe. But a long time ago we had evolved into ugliness and that only did unkind and dirty things to one another. He swore he would win me back, that he would do anything. So very calmly I asked the impossible of him, I set him up to fail and asked, “Do you want to know to get me back?” "Yes, yes, yes,” he pleaded; I could hear him clinging to the torn blanket. I paused, and without any class I said, “You can unfuck her you little piece of dirt.”
He tried to win me back. He would call and send notes. For years I couldn’t get him to communicate and now he was stalking me! It took my threatening to change my phone number for him to finally let me go.
Ten years later I still carry what the Ex did to me, but I forgive him honestly and completely. Maybe it is the power of a first love that made my heart shatter so hard. There is a little piece of me that is missing and I still carry the memory of loving him, I always will.