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How I Met Your Father, Episode Nine: The Unraveling.

Continued from Episodes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven and Eight.

Previously: Our first “I love you,” oddly initiated by me. Three weeks together, but not together, on the east coast. My first and last (as of yet) Phish show. Two magical nights followed by an empty bed one morning…

Cassidy was now en route to New England again. The famous show in Coventry, Vermont had some major problems that involved storms and intense, intense mud and the inability of cars to progress further to the show. Many people never made it. Other people found their way there on tractors or other various farm equipment. Cassidy had a rented van but I’m not sure it made it. It was a worrisome time because he didn’t have cell reception and I knew things were strange, and potentially dangerous. He made it there, because he’s magic, but even getting back was a chore and every now and then I’d get a random text or call from him. I was worried, but then he flew back to California after the show, safe and sound.

He had seen his long-term ex at the show and he had never told me. I found out much, much later in photos. This made me feel anxious for a long time, but I hadn’t known at the time. And maybe that was best. I was distracted after his trip. I had my company’s annual sales conference, which is basically a drunken orgy with good food, and I was also looking for a new apartment since both of my roommates wanted to move in with boyfriends. Cassidy was depressed that his three week east coast tour was over, and he now had to search for a job and plan the next phase of his life. Our voices were often strained at night. I sent him a copy of my favorite book as well as a giant, goofy fruit basket to let him know I was thinking of him.

I was always thinking of him.

Our emails weren’t always the best, but I kept some that were. From him in late August:

“Have I told you today how lucky I feel everyday of my life that I even
met you? Just that alone….so good.”

I think for one of the first times since we had started talking, we really felt our age difference. He was craving more stability and a house instead of an apartment. I was running all over the place in central Jersey, just trying to scramble to find a place to live before September. I answered an ad and found a garden apartment in Highland Park. I was going to be living alone for the first time in life. I took the apartment on the spot, but my heart was never in it. It was old and gloomy but I was desperate to do something besides live at my parent’s house. I was not ready to make a grand gesture with Cassidy.

Even if I lived to regret that, it’s the way things had to go, or so I thought..

Despite the moving frenzy, I booked a ticket to go to San Francisco for Labor Day weekend. Our last trip had been pretty rushed with the drive down south and with the instant rush to see all the main tourist attractions. We were both craving something a little more normal. Quiet cafes, maybe fulfilling our dream to see a movie together. Daily couple stuff. Dates.

There was a wedding coming up too. Friends of Cassidy were getting married, conveniently close to my parent’s house. As I was booking my last minute plane trip to San Francisco, he was filling out a wedding RSVP card and asking me if I preferred chicken or fish. At this time, I was growing increasingly frustrated with my lingering feelings for my ex. I wish I could tell you what I thought would happen with all of this. Where I thought it would end up. Me signing a lease to live another year in Jersey. Him living in San Francisco and searching for work. Me still loving my ex. I’m not sure I ever really could think clearly or think like an adult. I was happy and I wasn’t happy. I was heart-confused, but in what I now think was a very young way, as if I were watching a love triangle on “Dawson’s Creek” and I knew all of the loose ends would be tied up by series’ end.

Before Labor Day weekend, in a long, confusing story that just…doesn’t matter…we decided it would not be a good idea for me to go to the wedding. It was disappointing because it was a chance to be together yet again and to dress up and be sexy together, but I had to push that idea out of my head and focus on my upcoming flight. That same week, I was side-swiped by a truck on my way home from work. Luckily the damage was only my left rearview mirror but it is illegal to drive without one and I was going to drive to Queens and back without a mirror. I didn’t want to drive to JFK at 5:00 am again, and Newark Airport didn’t have JetBlue flights to Oakland or SF at that time. I decided to extend my adventure by spending a night alone in an airport hotel in Queens before my flight, just to save myself two hours or so of driving. It was a bit of a nightmare. I thought I had chosen a nice hotel but JFK isn’t in the best neighborhood and my room was right by an exit door so I heard loud bangs all night. It was an anxious, sleepless night and I practically sank into his arms hours later in California.

San Francisco was having a rare heat wave. It was in the 90s. I can tell you that doesn’t happen often, and it can be a bit uncomfortable directly under the sun, but the lack of humidity helps. No one out there really has air conditioning in their homes – no need! We went for long walks up those practically vertical hills and I remember being way overheated. So we went to cool off up in Muir Woods in Marin. It’s just like being in the Ewok Forest with all of the crazy, tall trees. We stood on a long line just to have breakfast at Mama’s in North Beach, a place my mom had gone to in her youth and had never forgotten. It’s definitely up there as one of the best meals I’ve ever had and it was so cool to repeat history and go there 30 years after my mom had. On one lazy, blissful, hot afternoon we went to a famous record shop and Cassidy got a George Harrison album that had, “When We Was Fab” on it. That became the song of our trip and for days, weeks and months, I could never get it out of my head. He also took me to Sausalito for my first time and I practically kissed the ground and said, “Here. I want to live here.”

On my last night in San Francisco, we went for a ravioli dinner downtown and then went to see Napoleon Dynamite. It was after Labor Day and was a weeknight and I was so surprised by how full the theater was for a movie that was no longer brand new. It was really fun seeing a movie in a crowd in a major city – don’t think I had ever done that before. Not only that, it was my first movie with Cassidy. We laughed the whole movie but I admit I was a little lost and confused at what it was trying to say or be. Then there was the end. And it took me about 30 seconds to realize, “That ending ROCKS. This movie is awesome.” Seriously. The talent show, the wedding with Napoleon on the horse. The end credits that fade to “When In Rome” by The Promise.

I loved walking away from the credits, hand in hand with Cassidy, to a San Francisco night. I liked that song. We went out for a late night dessert and then went back to his place where the spell of the night was broken.

We had a pretty dark conversation, initiated by him. He said he was losing hope in us and couldn’t see a way we could have a future together. He was thinking very logically this late in the summer and wasn’t sure what he wanted to do about us. The spell of the our whole spring/summer was lifting and here we were, seemingly going in opposite directions.

I was shocked, sure, and felt like I had been beaten up. I felt like he had ruined the whole trip for me. He backtracked quickly, at what his present day self calls “a weak attempt to end things” and we hugged and kissed and went to bed and he drove me to the airport the next morning.

I wrote to him the next day:

“I almost wish I had it on record..well not really…but yeah..I was shocked through most of it. I really thought we were over. I had reached the “that’s it” point in my head and I was already at the point where I was looking at the world and wondering how I’d see it now.”

And he responded:

” I love you tamara. You have taught me so much, I’m not sure if I can adequately explain what that all means to me. Shit, I’m still working that all out. But faith…is not something I am devoid of. If anything I have more now than I have in many years. For you. For us. That doesn’t mean I am not feeling a wide range of emotions.

Miss you. Email blows.”

We had a lot of back and forth emails after that. At that time, that particular week, I was building walls up and he was tearing some down. I mentioned my exes a lot to him, which is something that I probably used to find endearing or normal, and now I cringe at how 24-years-old and somewhat pathetic it sounds. He wrote freely and lovingly. That particular week. He had his own range of emotions and I’ll never really know why he backtracked his spontaneous breakup with me. I think it’s because he loved me, plainly and simply, and I was standing right there in front of him, not on email or phone.

And in our emails when I was back home, I never could commit to say, “Come here. Move here. Be with me.” Or even better – “Stay there. I’ll move there. Be with me.” It wouldn’t come out freely and I suspected I didn’t want to say the words, for whatever the reason. I wouldn’t and couldn’t say those words. And that made me think I shouldn’t. So I didn’t.

And he didn’t either. And he wasn’t happy. And he was really, really, really sad and hurting. And he didn’t know if he wanted to be with me.

And so, a few days later, he emailed me and told me he needed to take a break from our relationship. This meant no contact indefinitely. This meant maybe a permanent breakup, maybe just a temporary break, maybe we’d somehow figure out how to be together then or someday, or never. I don’t know what it meant! I was going crazy with the unknown and with the silence after my best ever email partner had left me. I called my parents and sisters in panic mode. I had no idea what to do with myself. I was so screwy back then and so unaccustomed to broken hearts that I didn’t know how to cope with one instantly. Did I just try to get over him that very second? Did I leave hope alive and then never move on?

Was there a balance between this – a way to gently tuck someone into a secret part of your heart, and move on with your life, because you have to, and because you may one day want to take that someone out again and begin anew?

A part of his long breakup email was very telling:

“I want to say that I do believe in us. I do believe in magic. The
magic we created. The love. Although it IS a fairy tale, it is most
definitely, undeniably…REAL. You have saved my life, and changed it
forever. The strange thing is – since I have had really deep feelings
for you and started to think of a life with you – I have felt like the
road to that would go through a period where we were not together. I
don’t know where that came from or why I feel it, but I do. It’s been
in my gut feeling department for months. Maybe it is the age thing.
Maybe I am the biggest f@cking idiot in the world. I do understand the
risks involved. Right now I feel there are large risks on both sides.”

I had no clue what to do at this point. I was so intent on “being fine.” I didn’t know how to fall apart, or how to react or what to reply to the end:

“I’ve been hurting. More than I let on. I was trying to keep it away
from you. I am so sorry. I do hope, at some point down the road…you’ll
take my call.”

And I wished him well, my heart breaking all the while. My pride was breaking too because all along I thought I was in control of the relationship and that if it ended, it would be because I still loved my ex. I was often the one to end relationships, except for one strange situation in which an ex who cheated on me broke up with me because of his guilt, but somehow found a way to blame me for the breakup. He came back to me after two weeks, though.

This was different. I don’t often lose control. I didn’t want to lose control. Was I losing control?

Only two days later, a very interesting proposition was in my email inbox that morning…

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