Continued from Episodes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven and Twelve.
Previously: As I received the news that my breakup with Cassidy was final, I got closer to a new friend. The trigger of my first time back on a JetBlue plane and in JFK Airport sent me spiraling into my lowest point.
“I’ve felt the coldness of my winter
I never thought it would ever go. I cursed the gloom that set upon us…
But I know that I love you so” — Led Zepplin
I tried to find comfort in so many right and wrong places. With R, through writing, through other friends going through eerily similar breakups. I went out to support friends at open-mic nights, at live shows, at poetry readings. I was always out. I went bowling. I went to clubs. I almost always went home alone. I functioned as well as I could. About once a week while I was driving home from work, I would take the long way home and put on just one song that made me think of Cassidy. Then I would sob and sob and sob in my car. I had always heard that “crying it out helps” so I figured I had to give it a shot. I never ran out of tears. I had an endless supply of tears. It wasn’t just the songs we knew together that I would use to trigger crying. I had found an over ten minute instrumental version of “Stairway To Heaven,” as done by the Boston Pops Symphony. It was so “us,” it scared me. If you ever get a chance to download it and you’re someone who is able to feel music, that is about as close as you can get to knowing what it was like to be with him, lose him and then learn to mourn him.
After my musical crying jags, I’d go home and live my life as best as I could. Talking to friends, being social, showing up, eating, sleeping, working. I was a shining star at work. I had perfect reviews. I had great friends. I was struck by the horror that no matter how good I got at my job, how good my social life was, how so many guys were swarming around me at one time, I could not be happy about any of it. It bounced off of me like a shield. I was frozen. R and I went back to Vermont. I became obsessed with New England. I wanted the pain of missing Cassidy all the time. I thought that if I felt it more and more, it would eventually go away. I thought I could become immune to it. Sometimes I thought that by going back a lot, I could rediscover magic. On another snowy night, we hung out with R’s amazing friend again in Burlington and stayed in a fancy hotel that had cake and cookies. It reminded me of Tom and Marcey in Maine. I liked my misery sometimes. As we were driving home from Vermont, I saw an old woman dragging a Christmas tree from her front door to the side of the road. I was struck by the miserable look on her face. I realized she looked just like me and I like her. I was going to be old and alone and cold. Everything broke my heart. The sight of the holidays being over and the prospect of three more frigid months of winter. Shedding wreaths still hanging on people’s doorsteps, long after Christmas. People that couldn’t let go.
I couldn’t let go. Of anything.
R got drunk a few too many times for my liking and acted like a jerk. It was just an excuse really. My new/old/forever/never ex-boyfriend came back into the picture again, if you can believe that. He had been directing music videos and traveling. For Valentine’s Day 2005, he asked me to be his valentine. It was very sweet and I accepted. Since I couldn’t feel much of anything I just thought, “Why not?” My mom and sister thought it was very sweet. They wanted me to feel something too.
That same Valentine night, I dreamed that my mom and I went to meet Cassidy’s mom in Conway, MA. We had never met her and her 2004 Thanksgiving plans had died too. I wondered if she had been as disappointed as we had. I felt intrigued by her, always. Who was she? She sounded so amazing, always. In my dream, she had a million cats and she lived on the ocean. One of the cats had a human face and I followed it out to the beach, where pink dolphins let me hold and touch them. I kept taking pictures. I felt the strangest feeling, niggling at my brain. I felt joy. I hadn’t felt joy in real life in several months.
In real life, no one really knew how sad I was, except my parents and older sister. They had gone through my wildest dreams with me too, and they were also hurting. They felt so robbed and angry. One day my sister IMed me just how upset she was that Cassidy had cut off all contact with not only me, but her as well. They had bonded too. She had spent time with him at our parent’s house as well as in San Francisco. I honestly thought he was evil. That was why the nickname “Voldemort” worked so well. I thought he was legitimately malicious and a bad person. I couldn’t understand his horrid behavior.
My friends might have had some clue of my sadness, but I was always trying to be positive and trying to feel alive.
People were constantly swarming around me at this time. Boys, mostly. There were a lot to count. I wasn’t going out with any of them. I wasn’t sleeping with any of them, or at least any more than one. It was a time of trying things out and seeing what felt right. Seeing what felt like anything. I was perpetually single, but always seemingly in a situation where I was trying to let someone down easily, or even not easily. My new and old ex, D, (time to give him an alias!) was always in my life.
The first half of 2005 went by in a blur, each month bringing something odd with it.
– I went to a birthday party with D in which his needle-phobic friend had a vomiting seizure watching a diabetic poke her finger with a needle. I ran downstairs to find another friend who was an EMT and he was drunk and I was scared and shouting and no one seemed at all concerned. Later that night we fell asleep watching the Japanese version of “The Grudge” and I had the most unsettling feeling for days that this was my nightmare life now since I felt a darkness over everything. I felt this sinister feeling that just like in that horrible movie, my life also had an evil spirit lurking. Heartbreak is an evil spirit.
– I got together with a group of friends one night and we watched Napoleon Dynamite. I knew what was coming all along but I wasn’t prepared for the pain I felt seeing the credits roll with “The Promise” by When In Rome. It had been half a year since I heard those same credits in San Francisco with Cassidy, but it might as well have been half a lifetime. I ran out of my friend’s house and cried in my car the whole way home.
– I told a friend that not believing in me and Cassidy was like a little kid not believing in Santa. Except 1,000,000 times worse because adult magic is..more real than child magic. So it’s harder when you stop believing.
– I went to my old roommate’s wedding. She had met her guy around when I had met Cassidy and they were getting married and I was wondering If I would ever have a happy, boisterous wedding.
– I started to get “Spring Moose Fever.” D and decided to go on a wild adventure up through “Moose Alley” of northern New Hampshire all the way up to central Maine, where moose outnumber humans 3 to 1. Next to a diner before nightfall, we saw our first moose – a young female. On a dark stretch of road along the way later, I leaned my head against the cool glass window under a starry road and the large headlights behind us illuminated a moose running alongside our car. Dumbfounded, I screamed. As we got closer to our destination, Moosehead Lake, a large moose came out of the forest and into our headlights and then back into the forest. We called him/her “Eeyore” because my weak night vision really saw a large, gray donkey. The next morning in daylight, we saw about 20 more moose in varying degrees of gender, age, and spring antler growth. We also saw a winged moose statue on the side of the road. Clearly we were in “Moose Is Our Religion” territory. It should have felt like home, and I admit it felt pretty damn good, but there was something rebellious in it – proving that I could see moose without Cassidy.
– On the way home, instead of going back through Northern New Hampshire, we went through southern Maine. We had no real direction, or sense of one. Of course, through divine intervention or accidentally-on-purpose on my end, we went through Bethel, Maine – the birthplace of my first moose, the fireworks, new friends – the innkeepers Tom and Marcey, and falling more in love with Cassidy. I had no sense of direction and it had been night that first time Cassidy and I went there. I thought maybe Tom and Marcey’s Prodigal Inn was downtown and we were heading away from downtown. Suddenly I saw their Inn, as beautiful as ever and as out of place in my new life as I could imagine. Memories rushed back to me. On the front lawn, stood Tom. I ducked down in the car. D pulled over and I cried and cried. He seemed to know what was going on. “Do you want to go say hi to him?” I didn’t. It was so wrong. I didn’t want him to see me without Cassidy. I didn’t want him to see me without the magical joy of life I had the last time I saw him. Can you even imagine??
– The year anniversary of the start of our relationship passed. I wish I could tell you I was too drunk to remember even a second of it, but no, that would have been too easy.
– I went back to Moosehead Lake with two friends. We spent one night in Bangor and then began the trek up. We saw almost as many moose as I had with D. My friend appreciatively shrieked the first time she saw one of those wonderful, awkward, towering giants drinking water from a roadside puddle. We named the moose we saw after Star Wars characters. This was Darth Vader:
And this was mother Padme and her twin babies – Luke and Leia:
– I hadn’t heard a single word from Cassidy in over five months, and he hadn’t from me. I started having dreams that he was calling everyone but me – my sister, my mom, my mom’s friend in Minnesota, the postman, the UPS man, everyone but me.
– In real life, my sister and mom started suggesting maybe I finally call him and just..see where he was in life. No one had any clue. They even threatened to call him themselves, but I was horrified. I didn’t want them to hear his robotic, cold voice the way I had. That would make it too real. I liked that only I had heard that horrible sound.
– I found out my uncle had Parkinson’s disease.
– Mid-month I decided to do something a little crazy. I wanted to see if I could find moose on my own. I wanted to go somewhere alone in the woods to mourn Cassidy. It seemed nutty but I forged on. I made four mix cds for my trip. I only remember the songs that killed me the most – “Mainstreet” by Bob Seger and “Learning To Fly” by Tom Petty. I drove the ten hours alone up to Moosehead Lake again. I had a reservation at a roadside lodge. As I drove into town, I saw a large moose crossing the road. I went to a state park and saw a baby moose drinking from a pond. I passed the winged moose statue again and got out of the car to kneel at its feet and kiss it and cry a lot. I stayed alone in the lodge and had breakfast alone at a diner the next morning, listening to snippets of conversation around me about town dances and how none of these people had computers. I headed home for ten hours and into intense traffic at the George Washington Bridge and ended my journey at D’s house. He knew how messed up I was and we didn’t have to talk about it.
– We spent Father’s Day with my sister’s boyfriend’s family. It was a beautiful day. For many reasons – the year anniversary of meeting Cassidy face to face coming up, the ever-increasing distance of space and time from him, and the inability of my long, lonely trip to Maine to heal me at all, I had my worst day since January. The word I use every time I think about it is “ailing.” I was ailing, physically and emotionally. I was truly suffering under the weight of a broken heart. I still see pictures of that day sometimes and it takes all I can not to rip them up.
– My mom decided to write a letter to Cassidy’s mom, Ruth. A meaningful letter about how even though they had never met, she held Ruth in her heart. Every day. Ruth called within a few days but my mom missed the call. She left a voicemail saying that my mom’s letter had amazing timing and she couldn’t wait to tell my mom why. My mom instantly called me and we excitedly talked about what it could mean. We were hopeful, yes hopeful, that it meant something big about Cassidy – that he broke up with his girlfriend, that he was moving east, that he missed us desperately. We couldn’t wait to find out what!
– When they finally talked it was not about Cassidy at all. Ruth was undergoing surgery and feeling very scared and alone and then my mom’s letter came to her about being in my mom’s heart. It was cosmic timing, but darker in several ways than what we had imagined. We already loved her and worried about her.
– Ruth’s husband, Ernie, added us to the list of people to call after the surgery. Again, none of us had ever met in person. He called us to tell us she was fine.
– A few days later I gathered up the courage to call Ruth. I wanted to introduce myself, check in about her surgery, and tell her she was in my heart as well. It was full of mixed emotions for us both, which we didn’t hesitate to share. We talked about honesty, openness and moose. Our relationship started then. It was tentative, of course, but filled with beautiful email check-ins. We never discussed “He Who Shall Not Be Named.”
– Somewhere in June, I cut off contact with D. Sort of for good. To this day I only laid eyes on him once more, and that’s a story for later in the series. I have nothing but fondness, love and respect for him. I always will.
– My year anniversary of meeting Cassidy face to face passed. The night before I had a doozy of a nightmare. I dreamed I was in my babyhood house and it was July 2nd, 1984, the day my father passed away. It was about dinnertime too, the time of day he had his heart attack. Instead of being just about four like I was in real life when he died, I was 24. I knew what was about to happen. I told my father that he was about to die but he insisted that he felt fine. Eventually he clutched at his heart and dropped to his knees, wrenched in pain. It went on for a long time. I grabbed his face and said, “I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU.” He didn’t pass out or die this time. He kept his eyes on me and I realized it wasn’t my father at all. It was Cassidy! I called 911 and I was very clear and lucid and I gave them my address. I said, “We have a massive heart attack, and this time around, I think you can save him.”
Then I woke up.
– I spent most of the month of July deciding that after six months of silence, I was going to make another grand gesture of love. It took a very long time to organize my thoughts and my courage. In mid-July I called Ruth for the second time in my life. I was so nervous that I was wandering the streets of my neighborhood after dark. I laid out the truth for her – I wanted to call him and tell him some specific things and I wanted her to know that I knew her loyalty would be with her son. I was not fishing for answers. However, I needed somewhat of a blessing from her to go through with my plan. I just needed to know he wasn’t engaged or married. She could at least tell me that. She told me that I’d know when the timing was right to call. My birthday was coming up on the 25th. I’d be 25 on the 25th. My mom always told me that there is a charge of energy around one’s birthday. I knew that would be the day. My mom and sister thought I should tell him that I still loved him. My mom even went so far as to say that it was Leia’s life that hung in the balance. “Leia” was our fictional daughter’s name that we half-joked about while together. We were also half-serious. Ok, fully serious. Except her name is Scarlet now.
– I really was feeling that charge of energy. I was so pumped. I felt “on” again for the first time in 2005. Everything lay in the balance of this impending phone call. Sometimes I know things I shouldn’t know. Like when I was waitlisted at my dream college and already starting orientation for another college and it was already summer but I “knew” I’d somehow get into my dream college. I did. Anyway, I said to my mom, “I can do this. He will be mine again.” I was so confident. Unbelievably.
So on the night of my birthday, after my celebration and sometime late at night on the east coast and not on the west coast, I did it. I dialed his phone number, my hands shaking all the while..
Aha! I didn’t do a cliffhanger this time, did I??
He answered instantly. I was shaky at first and confident later. I told him it was my birthday. He said, “Oh yeah! 25 on the 25th. I forgot.” Silence on my end. He..forgot? God, I still remember my middle school ex-boyfriend’s birthday. Nine months passed and he forgot my birthday? I had to forge ahead with my plan. I laid it all out. I was sitting in my car. I told him I still loved him, madly, and that six months later, my offer still stood to be with him any which way and whatever it took. He was silent for awhile. His voice still did have that robotic, cold tone. I started driving around and wound up in Edison, and then back. I parked at my apartment complex, against a large, wooden fence. To my driver’s side left, two skunks were mating next to my car door. I kid you not. I was so trapped in my car. Fenced in on the right and skunked in on the left. I was shaking and I knew he was trying to get off the phone with me but if he did, I’d be alone with my thoughts and the skunks. He told me he was still with “his girl” (I still hate Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl” because of Cassidy using that term). He told me he was happy with her, in a way he wouldn’t be happy with me. When I mentioned coming to see him just to talk face to face, he scoffed and said, “Tamara, if I wanted that to happen, I would have already flown to see you. I don’t.”
That was the cold, sick shot to my heart. We got off the phone soon after that. He did tell me my phone call would leave him nauseous for weeks and he did say he loved me and always would, but maybe not in the way I wanted.
I was no longer skunked in but still worried the skunks were around. He finally got off the phone with me. I sat for a few minutes, reacting in a million different horrid ways. He sent a text soon after to check up on me and make sure I got into my apartment without getting skunked. I was actually still in my car resting my head on my steering wheel but I assured him I was ok before contact was severed again. Permanently. I knew I would NEVER call him again. This, I promise you.
I walked inside my apartment and I could not for the life of me tell you what I did or who I emailed/called/cried to. If at all.
All I can remember is what life was like the next morning, and onward.
There were some interesting turns around the bend…what no one could have expected.
no cliffhanger. but then kind of a cliff hanger…. wondering what interesting turns around the bend could mean. i want him to fly to nj and sweep you off your feet but then that would be expected. i guess we have to wait till the next episode. dare i ask…will you be posting tomorrow?! Ha!
I cannot believe how your writing this is reliving this for me. I definitely feel then when it is a movie, my role is a supporting actor!That dream…oh that dream!
…I have never read anything that I felt the emotion so strongly. Maybe it is that I know you, and feel such a strong connection to you, your mom, and especially Lindsay…but I think it's mostly how amazing of a writer you are. How you pull people into this amazing story. Even though I know how happily it ends, I feel damaged reading your pain. I know the pain. I know the confusion. I read your words and in my head I am am saying, "Oh yeah…that ache. I know that ache."But like I have said so many times, your lives, your story, it inspires me to believe in magic. Real magic.
oh yes there was a cliffhanger…on I go.