Don’t Look Back
My mother was married twice before my father. Both relationships ended because the man committed one or a series of egregious acts that brought her to her breaking point. And so she bounced. In her little village in Trinidad in the 60’s, this was not the done thing. But she didn’t care. When her parents disowned her for ending the marriage they had arranged for her, she didn’t care. When her friends and neighbours shunned her, she pressed on. When her exes and their subsequent wives tried to stop her from seeing her kids, she kept going. And she never looked back.
Right or wrong, my mother was and still is uncompromising in her belief that once someone crosses you, you leave and you don’t go back. You forgive, but you move forward. No doubts and no second chances. This is the example I was brought up with. So it should be no surprise to you that I’ve never really had a do-over with a past lover. With only one exception, once I’ve been done, I’ve been done. No backsliding, so ex-sex, no make-up to break-ups. I keep it moving.
The other night I had another one of those epic conversations with the spectacular asshole. It started out light and funny with him crooning Trey Songz in my ear. It moved on to basketball, work, weather, my upcoming trip to DC (3 more sleeps!). Harmless shit that wouldn’t cause any conflict. But after a while the conversation grew more personal. He told me a story about a woman who threw a vase at him last week. Which led to me laughing and shaking my head and saying “you never change”. He was quiet for a minute and then he said, “Actually. I’ve changed a lot”.
Like any girl making nice with an ex who did her wrong, my initial reaction was disbelief. I took it to twitter to scoff “The SA is telling me he’s nothing like he was before and I’m calling bullshit”. And because I almost never say anything behind someone’s back that I wouldn’t say to their face, I said the same thing to him too. I told him I didn’t believe for one second that he was really that different. It’s just not possible. But then he reminded me that in our first conversation a few weeks ago I told him how different I was now. And that he was surprised to hear it but reserved judgment and found in our subsequent conversations that it was true – I’m not much like the girl I was with him. “So if you can change so drastically after all this time, why don’t you believe that I could have too?” he asked. “What’s the difference?”
The difference, of course, comes down to the potential for harm. I may have made mistakes way back when, but I never did anything to hurt him when we were together. I never took anything from him, never made him feel anything other than treasured. I never challenged or inconvenienced him. There’s little risk for him to choose to believe that I’m different now. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I turn out to be the same adoring, worshipful creature? That’s not going to hurt him at all. On the other hand, I could choose to believe that he’s not the selfish prick he was ten years ago. I could choose to trust him, choose to invest feelings and time in him. But if I turn out to be wrong, not only will I get my face kicked in, I’ll also be that stupid girl who exposed my throat to a man who cut it before. But if I’m right? If I’m right it could be epic.
Besides being a writer, I’m a reader. A lover of stories. And the story of two people who were once so wrong for each other turning out to be so right appeals to me. But is that just a fairy tale? Can that really happen in real life? And if it can – am I really the kind of person to whom that would happen? In the twenty or so hours I’ve spent on the phone with him since he reappeared, it seems like it is possible. We don’t run out of things to say to each other. We see eye-to-eye enough for the conversations to be productive, but not so much that we bore each other. We laugh and laugh and laugh at dumb shit that no one else would find funny. We tell each other secrets. We admit to shortcomings. We give each other advice. And he sees me. He sees into me in a way that very few other people ever have. And that scares the shit out of me. The only thing we haven’t really talked about is why he came back. I know that there are very few good reasons why a man reappears after a long absence (my friend Most is breaking this down at his spot today, check it out here). Could he possibly be the rare man who came back because he wants to make it right?
Let’s not forget that I have other things going on in my life. That man that I want that I didn’t want to admit I want? He’s still around. And I still want him. I have a demanding job, a blog, a grueling workout schedule and all kinds of personal shit to work on. I have a life to lead. And it’s been carefully constructed so as not to allow room for anything as big as this man. If I was to move forward with him, it would not be small. It would not be quiet. He would not get in where he fit in. We’re too old and too much has happened for this to be light and breezy. This would be a lifestyle change. And that may not be a bad thing. In fact it may end up being exactly what I didn’t know I needed.
That’s if it’s real, of course. That’s if he’s being sincere in admitting where he went wrong in the past and promising not to do it again. If he’s telling the truth when he says he’s changed. If he really is as excited about hearing what I have to say as he appears to be. If the fact that he never brings up sex really means he’s not in it for pussy. If he really has changed. And if I really have too. Like some of you pointed out in the last post, it’s easy as fuck for me to say I’m not the kind of girl to put up with shit anymore when I’m single. But would I really still be this girl if I let myself go there with him?
The spectacular asshole says we shouldn’t forget what happened in the past. He says we have to remember the shit we did wrong so that we can appreciate what happens now. He says we’ve seen the worst in each other already and we can choose to do it that way or we can choose to be better, to see if we can be great together. But if we’re going to move forward, the past has to be the past. “No barriers” he says. “Don’t let the past stop us from the future” he says. But is that possible?
Tell me what you guys think. Can love – or whatever you want to call it – work the second time around? Can time and space and personal growth fix a formerly fucked up relationship? Is this a risk that’s not worth taking? Is this an any bigger risk than starting fresh with someone new? Should I be open to possibilities or am I gonna end up like Lot’s wife when she looked back? Has going back worked for you or has it blown up in your face? Advise me in the comments.