two

In ALL, JUDY BLUME MOMENTSby Stephanie Klein29 Comments

When Lauren* and I got together for half-price sushi, she asked me how things were going.  Of course, when women ask one another how things are, what they really mean is Are you happier than I am?  “Really great.”  It was suddenly absurd as soon as I heard myself say it.  It was like using the word “nice” to describe something.  “How are things with you and Dylan?”  I was being polite.

“Stephanie, he is so incredible.  You know how I’ve always dated jerks, well, he’s like the first guy who really treats me right.  I mean, I know we have our share of differences and all, but for the first time I have found someone who puts me first.  I sound queer don’t I?”

I thought about how when Gabe was younger, he brought his pillow outside with him to cool it on his balcony in the middle of the night.  Lauren sipped at her green tea, thumbed her pink napkin and divulged Dylan’s aversion to reproduction.  All I could think was that I love Gabe because he appreciates cold sheets.

At times I wish I could have really known him when he was that young.  I wish I could have been at his soccer and baseball games.  I can’t help think about all the time we’ve been connected, in one form or another.  Whether we were down the hall from one another at Northside School with our small bodies sprawled out on the cold green tiled floors drawing the solar system or the human nervous system or when we were connected through our sisters.  From those few times when he dropped his sister Jolene off at our house to the time when he invited me to some party, that never happened, at his house in California.  Then, the fated Spanish trip, where I remember our flirting.  It was never mentioned; we continued separately.  Then, when Papoo died, my family stayed in his house.  I slept in his empty bed.  Finally, the day arrived when I blew off Jeff for a ride with Gabe and his girlfriend out to the Hampton’s the day after the family barbecue.  I figure that the chance of my ending up with anyone from my childhood is none, not even slim to none, just none, and the fact that I was connected to Gabe, somehow, all this time serves as a very distant second to knowing him in his youth.

When I go home to Long Island and I lie on the green leather couch, I stare out the side window.  I see the tree I used to climb when I was younger.  I remember looking at that same tree when I was really young, ten years old, and even back then, I thought about how amazing it would be if there was someone out there who was maybe thinking about having someone thinking about a future with him.  Now, granted, I was always a bit of a romantic, even from the ripe age of ten.  Who would have thought that Gabe was there all along?

Sometimes I watch him when he doesn’t know that I am.  I watch his reflection in the bathroom mirror when he is shaving, and I think about how alike we are.  All that time I spent in the mirror growing up, playing dress-up, and practicing monologues, and now Gabe tries to perfect his one-eyebrow-raise.  When we’re in his car, with the windows down and the radio blaring, and he lets me give him singing lessons, I think, “My God, this is it.  This is really it.  I want to be with this man for the rest of my life.”  That’s why I feel inadequate when Lauren asks me how things are.  Anything I can offer in way of an explanation will fall flat because I love him for myriad reasons.

I love him because when I am sad he surprises me with Baskin’ Robins’ Mint Chocolate Chip.  He corrects my spelling and lets me correct his grammar.  I love him because when we’re getting into a car, he opens my door for me.  He crouches down on my kitchen floor, sits beside me and rubs my leg when he sees me sitting there sad.  He likes naps.  He carries my bags for me, makes my bed (even does the pillows right), and he sends me cards even though he sees me every day.  He uses Silk Groom with me, and as much as he loves it, he is willing to stop for a while to ensure that my red allergic bumps disappear.  He doesn’t drink coffee in the morning, and doesn’t mind that I nag him about his addiction to Coca-Cola products.  I love that he will stay in on a Saturday night—even when I make him watch “My Fair Lady.”  I love that if I told anyone that, he’d roll his eyes, smile, jokingly deny it, and pull me to him and whisper to me that he is going to kill me.  I find his use of the words tremendous and ludicrous indispensable.  I adore that he tries to tempt me with Chicken Selects.  I love walking into a room with him holding his hand.  When I am ill, from drinking too much, he stays up late with me so I don’t have to be sick alone.  He calls me his girl. 

I love that he looks up grammar rules like lay/lie and even goes as far to research the past tense—lain.  He loves horseradish, q tipping, Williams—Sonoma gadgets, and high fives at the table.  He thinks farts are funny.  As great as he is for buying me tampons—which is immense—and video cord with a two-way splitter, I revere him because he told me that if I ever feel lonely, I am always included in whatever he does.  For no reason at all he brought me Beluga Caviar and champagne.  My god, he could do nothing else, but he does.  He roams around in a sweltering museum in search of the perfect animal to draw.  He is patient with me when I get upset.  He rolls his eyes at Debra, and he makes jokes about her toaster.  He rented Drunks for me three nights in a row.  He reassures me that I don’t ever have to be alone again if I don’t want to.  He brings me sweaters when I am cold and undresses me when I am too warm.  He has a framed picture of Kramer on his wall.  Enough said.  More than any other reason, and all the reasons combined, I love him because he is my very best friend.   

*Lauren isn’t her real name.  And this "Lauren" is friend #3.  Friend #2 turned into husband #1, Gabe, who was ultimately a person I cut out of my life, for good.  Straight Up and Dirty, my first memoir, explores, in much greater detail WHY I cut him out of my life.  And of course, I wrote this post many years ago, hence, the whole "past tense" category. I chose to post this now because when we’re this far removed, and once we really have moved on, it’s amazing how we forget that once upon a time we had a completely different life, with different characters, and we were just as in love.  Gabe, was, as hard as it is for me to believe, my best friend at one point, and in remembering all the friends who are no longer in my life, it would be an error not to include him, despite the fact that our "exes" aren’t really in the same category as our ex-friends.

Comments

  1. The saddest part of this post is this line:

    Of course, when women ask one another how things are, what they really mean is Are you happier than I am?

    Please tell me that's not true. It is not for me.

    FROM STEPHANIE: It WAS true for me. It really was. Part of me listened to my friends, and although I was really, genuinely, happy for them, I still wondered… are you happer than I am? I didn't want miserable friends, and quite frankly when I had them, I didn't keep them. I just asked, sometimes, to not only hear their stories but to know where I fell on the scale of happy. I measured my happy around theirs. I no longer do this. I now realize my happiness has nothing to do with theirs, that they can be wonderful or wounded, and while they'll have my sincere hopes and well wishes, my actual life's happiness has nothing to do with any other individuals.

  2. So if Lauren's #3, why's the post entitled "two", and who's lost friend #2? Sorry, I'm slow.

    When I ask a friend "how's everything?" I truly want to hear happy news. If a friend is unhappy or stressed, I feel a need — almost an obligation — to do something.

    On a related note, just last night I heard bad news about an acquaintance who always seemed to me to be the smuggest, most self-satisfied cow in the world. No one's life is as it seems. No one's.

  3. I'm a 20 year old girl and almost all of my friends are in happy, loving relationships. For a long time I thought that I was unhappy because I wasn't "loved" like they were but then I looked at my life and realized that I'm doing exaclty what I want to be doing. I realized that happiness isn't about being in a relationship but that its about being happy with who you are in this moment. Like you, my happiness isn't dependent upon what my friends are doing and how their lives are going. My happiness is dependent upon me and I can honestly say that I am truly happy just being me and not worrying about how my life looks compared to to the lives of those around me. Thank you for this post, and for making me realize that.

  4. I'm a 20 year old girl and almost all of my friends are in happy, loving relationships. For a long time I thought that I was unhappy because I wasn't "loved" like they were but then I looked at my life and realized that I'm doing exaclty what I want to be doing. I realized that happiness isn't about being in a relationship but that its about being happy with who you are in this moment. Like you, my happiness isn't dependent upon what my friends are doing and how their lives are going. My happiness is dependent upon me and I can honestly say that I am truly happy just being me and not worrying about how my life looks compared to the lives of those around me. Thank you for this post, and for making me realize that.

  5. Barbara E – #2 was Gabe – her ex. Which reminds me of part of my loss with my divorce. This July, it would have been 20 yrs that we'd have been together. That's a big chunk of time to spend with someone – well, it ended two years ago…It is hard to imagine someone who was so dear to you and loved you could be the one person who could so hurt you. Irony?

  6. Sometimes writing is like looking at art or paintings, meant for form and not necessarily function. You don't always have to "get it" as much as appreciate what they writer/artist was trying to convey. These last two posts are very bittersweet. Remembering the sweet times that turned sour. I love your style of writing SK.

  7. that's one of the cool things about not getting married (and staying married) really young…you get the chance to experience love and closeness very, very deeply….more than once…sometimes 3 or 4 times. (some people don't even get it once!) it's like at the end of sjp's movie MIAMI RAPSODY when she realizes "just because we weren't forever doesn't mean it wasn't real" or something to that effect. despite the pain that happens after a significant relationship ends, it's still such a gift to have experienced that unique closeness. also super awesome is when you realize that you're so emotionally removed from that past experience that you can look back and recognize that it WAS a gift.

    many of my friends and i fell hard in our 20's. got completely consumed in a relationship full of "we're so much alike!" etc. y'know, the guy is is everything (all the emotional intimacy and unique connection stuff you describe in this post) and then you bust up for whatever reason and you feel like HOLY SHIT I'VE LOST THE LOVE OF MY LIFE. and then in your 30s (or whenever, but after, later) you find a partner that is better suited for you in the long term. and many women (i have not gotten to this stage yet but i've seen it happen to friends) say that this new love is "different" than that previous one and deep in a "whole other way"….again, i think that's so cool that there's no "bottom" to closeness.

  8. It's wild that you posted this b/c literally Saturday night my sister bopped into visit me to go to dinner and UprightCitizensBrigade. A brief lull in between the two events involved champagne and googling 'ex-friends'. It's normal to be curious and wish these friends well, but I can honestly tell you – most ex-friends are in the past because they belong there – regardless of who did the actual severing.

  9. Re Ashley's post above, I KNOW I have a Gabe in my life. I desperately want to let go, but a lot of people will be hurt in the process. I go back and forth each day not knowing what the right thing to do is for any of us. Heavy sigh.

  10. Like BethM above – this June would have been my 20 year anniversary too. I've happily been single for 7 years though…

    Amazing how breathlessly in love I was all those years ago – and how now I can barely stand to be in the same state. So true – how those we loved can cause the most agonizing pain. Now he doesn't hurt me any more – he's an ass to our children – and that is unforgiveable.

    Beautiful writing Stephanie.

  11. I wonder if you realize that to outside observers, it can seem that you look back too often to have truly and completely "moved on" from this relationship. Reminds me of a friend who said "I'm SOO over X. I haven't thought of him once today!" If the guy reads what you write, and I think only a super-human could avoid the temptation, in his place I would think "She'll never really be over me, obviously" because even in the swirling merry go round of your new life and family, this still rates a post like this.

  12. Well, what gets me is that if at the time, you have such a wonderful Gabe in your life "in the present", how do you know whether or not the future will bring "Gabe in the past"? All Ex's have been "The One" at one point or another.. (whether it be for 5 days or 5 years) How does one know then whether or not it will workout on the long run?

  13. LB – it has in fact has only been a few years. Once someone is in your heart, you can move on but you don't forget…

  14. Beautiful job, Stephanie. To answer the previous poster regarding Exes and mentioning them even during these happy times, I figure that those people (exes) helped make you what you are today… I found myself doing a lot of reflecting when my son and daughter were born, thinking about my past and my past lovers and friends. I guess it happens because you are metamorphasizing once again, and it becomes apparent upon the birth of child (ren) that life really does happen at lightening speed. My best friend and I often reflect back on the times before we met our husbands and had our kids, and actually wish that we had savored more of the people, encounters and yes, even heartbreaks because they do make us what we are today. Heck, I even wish I had slept with a few more people!
    Great writing, Stephanie, and very touching.

  15. I had two Gabe's in my life. Thankful I married neither of them! Took time to realize love doesn't hurt and all that.

  16. Lovely.

    My "Gabe" and I broke up a tear ago (I meant "year" but typed "tear" so I guess they are both correct). His son, Brian, is coming here for dinner tomorrow night. Brian is 19 and is my son's best friend to this day. Brian still calls me his stepmother, even though after 3 years of dating his father and I didn't marry. He still refers to himself as my son. Especially today, the day before Valentine's Day, he is a reminder of a life I had, I life I loved, a life that on the surface was perfection. I found out, as you did, that there was another life, a blanket made of threads, every thread another lie. Tomorrow I'm sure I'll shed a tear for a life I imagined I would have. But I'll laugh, and hug him, and appreciate the fact that my life is so much better, and I get to keep the best part of my "Gabe".

  17. K
    "How does one know then whether or not it will workout on the long run?"

    You don't, it's a leap of faith – how old are you?

  18. Happy Valentine's Day Stephanie & family!

    With my ex, we were supposed to move together to another city, he moved first then informed me, over the phone, that we were separated! What a guy ! He did me a favour because I am now with my wonderful sweetie who treats me soooo good!

  19. It seems we're all so much similar when it comes to ex friends. And I think it's very much female phenomenon. I don't think males have anything similar to report. I have many male friends and they never report this.

  20. I think that if I'm honest, I do want to one-up some of my friends. This is usually when they are trying to one-up me, or brag about something. But I find that with other girlfriends I don't feel this at all, and even if they share their joys or advertise their new acquisitions, I am just happy for them.

    Please tell me this is how it really is, and that everyone has a few friends in each category!

  21. For some reason this one sounds familiar. Were parts of this post included in your book? They just sound familiar.
    Reading this scares me. Even a person who convinced you beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was yours and it was meant to be, can deceive.
    That shit is scary.

    On another note- Happy Valentine's Day.
    I've only been tempted twice today to dookie on someone's red roses.

    FROM STEPHANIE: Yes, some of this was in Straight Up and Dirty. Not word for word, but the same memories were explored. And Happy Valentine's Day to you too.

  22. I know this is past tense, but I wonder how Phil feels reading this. I know I it makes me feel jealous when a boyfriend speaks of his past loves…

  23. I also know this is in past tense, but why post it now — it seems so irrelevant to keep on and on about that creep Gabe. And i agree, I wonder how Phil feels.

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