The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl: You

August 10, 2010


You were my first love. I was nine at the time, and you were a two-dimensional cartoon, but I was convinced that you were the type of man I should want - muscular, exceptionally strong, able to ride a fancy horse. I would spend years trying to find you outside the cartoon world, having crushes on real life versions of you, brawny, with fancy rides and equally two-dimensional personalities. It would be many years before I learned that while nine is a magical age, it is not the age of reason.

You were my most intimate relationship. You were my closest companion for years, wrapping yourself close to my body, making sure there was no room for others. I let you stay because you had always been there - I didn't know a life without you. You were there for my most formative years, shaping my perceptions of self, and others of me. Because of you, I learned to be smarter, funnier, and quicker than every one else. For that I can be grateful, I suppose. But you also shielded me from love - the love of others and the love of self. You lied to me and made me believe that you were an integral part of who I am. It would take me years to leave you, shedding our relationship bit by bit. Even after you were gone, it would be even more years before I recognized myself apart from you.

You were my first real relationship. Though you came late in my life, with you I covered enough relationship ground to make up for never dating in my teens and 20s. In our 14 months, I was that infatuated teenage girl, then that long distance girlfriend, and then that girlfriend betrayed. Because I didn't know better, I was convinced that when we talked about how much space you needed, or how you didn't like to hear that I missed you, or how you liked your goodbyes clean and swift, we were just negotiating an adult relationship, not slowing ending an immature fantasy. Because of you I learned to listen between the lines, to what is unsaid rather than said.

You were my moment of folly. I mistakenly put on one of my favorite CDs while making out with you in my car. When you disappeared into the great chasm known as, “People Who Don’t Call” it would be many months before I could listen to that CD again without shuddering. From you I would gain the invaluable gift of the Date Horror Story. You’ve provided hours of endless entertainment for all my friends. Fear not, when I tell your story, I don’t come off looking too great either.

You were my longest lasting relationship. I was with you for four years, giving you my best even though I knew in the back of my head nothing short of perfection would please you. I spent holidays and vacations with you, blowing of friends, making excuses for you to my family. Even when I was supposed to be having “me time” I’d obsessively check my e-mail in case you “needed something.” In our time together, I lost ten pounds, lost my confidence, and lost my self. I think I was so dependent on you because you were the only one I had at the time. You would eventually break my heart by choosing someone else. At first, I felt betrayed - how could you after all these years and all I've done for you? But these days I find myself relieved - you are someone else's problem now. Let them handle your incessant need for attention. Because of you, I know the importance of diversifying, not putting all my eggs in one basket, if you will. In fact, I keep a roster of those just like you, reminding myself there's always someone just around the corner.

You were my most significant relationship and also the most deceptive. You encapsulated the phrase, "Didn't see that coming" in every sense of the phrase. I didn't see you coming to find me; I didn't see you preparing to leave. Being with you was like cruising along in a car, happy and free and then suddenly being pushed out into a ditch to bleed to death. And I never saw it coming that you could, till this day, still make my heart ache. Because of you I know a lot more about depression, a lot less about love. But more importantly, you've left me to wrestle with the meaning of grace and the practice of forgiveness. And I have grown in integrity because of it.

You were my first experience with pure physical attraction. When you walked into the room, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from you. Something akin to, “Me. You. Here. Now.” flashed across my mind. You were everything that I imagined pure bad boy to be - a musician, a lover of fancy, fast cars. You surprised me by asking me out. You surprised me again by being so human, so tender, and even a little unsure if I would like you. What you didn' t know at the time, what you might never have the chance to know, is that whatever chemistry you sparked in me broke me of a six-month depression. For that you'll always have a special place in my heart. Because of you I know I have the capacity for great physical desire. Because of you I will settle for nothing less.

You held my face and whispered words that healed my heart. It was all part of your plan, you said, ever so cryptically; ever so mysteriously. I never quite knew what the plan was, except I suspect it involved making me very happy for a very long time. Because of you, I smile a lot more.

You were every man and no man. I met you at a coffee shop; I met you in a bar. We went to the movies; we had pizza together. You've told me stories; you've laughed at my jokes. You've frightened me; you've bored me. I've genuinely liked you; I've felt nothing for you. You've made me savvier about conversation and picking up on red flags. Because of you, I know everything there is to know about escape routes and will not hesitate to climb out of a bathroom window if necessary.

I am waiting for you, sometimes with impatience, sometimes with excitement, but always with great amusement. Everyone is convinced you are just around the corner. I am convinced you got distracted at Bob's Big Boy. Many have told me what you are supposed to be like - how tall, (very), how smart (extremely), how fit (somewhat), how much you should love me (enough, but not too much). I've seen enough traces, enough signs, enough hints that I know you are a possibility. I've also seen enough disappointment, enough frustration, enough heart break to know you are not a promise. Because of you I've learned that hope cannot be a band aid for disappointment but must be a consistent state of consciousness, unmoved by circumstance, or ironically, even emotion. In waiting, I know I will be delighted to find you, but that I must also be satisfied without you. This is perhaps the most valuable lesson of all.

And as I wait, I rest in the knowledge that it was all of you that set me on the path to that one and only you. I rest knowing that because of all of you I am growing - growing in my ability to feel -to feel compassion, to feel empathy, to feel love. Growing in my ability to give- to give grace, to give forgiveness, to give of myself. I rest knowing that when you, my one you, finally arrives, I will be fully ready to welcome you into my forever.

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