I flew out to San Francisco for 34 hours this past weekend. The trip was meant to be a day longer, but I had to fly home for a friend’s wedding, and instead of canceling the trip altogether, I decided to act like a rock star and do it all. Ostensibly, I was headed for California to attend CupcakeCamp2, but I also needed to go to have a heart-to-heart talk with my long-distance boyfriend. We haven’t been the best at the difficult conversations; there are a lot of “I don’t know”s and “What are we going to do?”s, and there’s never really a good answer. The last time I was in town our grand plan was to move to Costa Rica and be a writer couple with a pool and a maid. It’s a nice fantasy, but highly impractical and unlikely.The first day, we wandered around, checking out an original Diego Rivera mural, going for burgers at In-n-Out, and walking along the water at Fisherman’s Wharf. At one point he even mentioned our future kids. It was an offhand reference, but it made me smile because he knows I’m in full baby fever mode while he’s, well, not even close.
But by Sunday, it was clear that we had too much going unsaid to keep it inside any longer. “This isn’t working,” I said. “It’s too hard.” We finally admitted that as much as we love each other, trying to sustain our relationship with hurried weekend visits every other month and late-night phone calls hasn’t been cutting it. I cried, even though I hate crying in front of anyone, especially someone I’m dating, but I couldn’t help it.
Then I went out and engaged in some retail therapy. By the time I got back, I was a little grouchy. I wanted to be mad at him, but I realized it wasn’t him; it was the circumstances. I know he’s as unhappy as I am about ending things. It’s rare enough to find someone you can be completely yourself with, warts and all, and discover that they love you not just in spite of those warts, but because of them. To have to walk away anyway is truly bittersweet.
There’s a line in Susanna Sonnenberg’s essay “The Overnight,” in the excellent new anthology Behind the Bedroom Door, where she’s writing about a misguided one-night stand. She says of herself and her lover, “He’d see nothing of her pieces and fragments.” She meant that even if they slept together, they wouldn’t really understand each other. That’s the part of a relationship I live for, getting inside someone’s head, getting to know things about them no one else is privy to. I hate the whole being-on-your-best-behavior, dressing-to-impress ritualism of dating. It seems so fake to me. I’ve been so honored that he’s let me inside his head, into the dark places as well as the light, and in turn I’ve shared things I’m not exactly proud of, but that make me me.
In some ways, it’s easier to break up with someone when they’ve been unfaithful or you realize you can’t stand each other. Breaking up with someone when you both love each other sucks, plain and simple. I still don’t know if he’s the one, and it kills me that maybe he is, and I’m letting him, and the potential for us as a couple, go. Yet, finally talking about it after skirting around the topic endlessly felt good. I’ve felt half in and half out of the relationship, part of me yearning for the freedom to flirt (and maybe more) with other people, part of me wishing we could find somewhere to shack up and be that dorky, boring domesticated couple who cooks together and cuddles in front of “Ugly Betty.”
After all that, we went to the cupcake extravaganza. We made out amidst the hungry crowds, and I felt proud to be there with him. We held hands on the way to the bus, and I felt happier about being with him than I have in a long time, like the relief of having our feelings out in the open had freed us to enjoy each other’s company without the stress of wondering,“What happens next?”
When we got back to his place, I got an awesome breakup consolation prize: some of the best sex we’d ever had. I didn’t know if it would be awkward or sad, but it was neither. Sometimes I’ve felt like he’s not attracted to me, or not as much as I’d like, because I’m usually the one to initiate sex, but this time he grabbed me and pulled off my clothes and told me what he wanted. At one point he flipped me over onto my stomach and took control. There was dirty talking, and it lasted, leaving us breathless afterward. When we were done, all I could say was, “We should break up more often.” And who knows? Maybe we will.