Sunday, August 14, 2016

Living like a Visitor in my own City

I woke up as the sun beamed through the bedroom window. The sheets felt cool against my bare legs and I began to stretch as I turned to face the other direction.

"Morning, babe," Mike replied as he leaned over and kissed my forehead. He knew I loved when he did that, but not when he overdid it.

"What do you want for breakfast?" He asked as he turned away from me and swung his legs over the bed. He started putting on his sweatpants.

"I don't care," I replied as I stretched my arms up.

Mike laughed. I could never make up my mind.

Twenty minutes later or so, Mike came in with cereal, toast, eggs, bacon, fruit, coffee, and tea.

I laughed. "How much of this do you actually expect me to eat?"

Mike shrugged as the left side of his mouth curled into a smile. "I figured you could just have a little of each, since you can't make up your mind."

That was the type of relationship Mike and I had. We were young; kids, really. While I always thought people only described themselves as kids during their high school relationships, I can honestly look back at my relationship with Mike in a similar fashion. Maybe that's because it was my first real relationship. He was my first true love. I also look back and realize how little we knew about life. We knew so little about love and relationships. I often think that if I met Mike for the first time now, we'd be together. This time, though, it would actually work out.

But all that was in the past. We couldn't go back to what we once were, even if we did get back together. So as that memory went through my mind, I had to remind myself that it happened four years ago. It didn’t have anything to do with the people we were now.

Couldn’t people start over though?

"You're a really great girl, Caroline." That’s what Mike had just said to me before I leaned in towards him. I wasn’t exactly going in for the kiss, but rather giving him the green light. But he returned my “go ahead” with a stop sign.

“Um, I’m going to go find my cousin,” he said before abruptly standing up. I felt like I had been pushed back, even though I hadn’t been.

I took a deep breathe before standing up and walking over to the drinks. Mine wasn't empty but I knew I'd need more. Anna showed up a few minutes later.

"I sat in the bathroom until someone started knocking on the door," she said with a laugh. "I think the guy thought I was doing cocaine when I came out."

"You didn't have to do that, Anna," I began. "Besides, I don't think Mike wanted any alone time with me." Then I told Anna about my embarrassing rejection.

"He was probably just nervous," she replied as she flicked her wrist at me.

After we both had another drink in his kitchen, Mike and Anthony reappeared. I thought this was a good time to go.

"Well, I think we're going to head out. Anna has to catch an early flight tomorrow."

"Oh," Mike responded as he looked from me to Anna, who sweetly nodded to back up my story. Anna's flight was pretty late in the afternoon.

"Can I just talk to you for a second?" Mike asked. Anthony started asking Anna a question as he guided her over to the window. Apparently Mike had an ally in this war, too.

"We're cool, Mike. I'm sorry about before," I began. I thought I could stop this humiliating conversation before it even started.

"No, no, don't apologize," he insisted. "I just wanted to let you know, it's not that I didn't want to, or that I haven't thought about, or that I don't consider it." His thoughts weren't cohesive, but I knew exactly what he was saying. 

He took a deep breathe. "It's just, I started something kind of new back home. I don't know if it's even going anywhere. I mean, it wouldn't even be cheating. But I wouldn't want to do that to you. If anything happened here," he said as he motioned repeatedly from me to him. "I don't want you to see anything on social media in a few weeks, if that even happens, and think that I did something shady. And I definitely don't want to lead you on. I mean, if you were back home, it'd be different. Maybe."

I nodded through all of Mike's chatter. "I get it," I said as I put my hands out and onto his. "It wouldn't have been a good idea regardless." I reached out and gave Mike a hug. It was one of those long hugs that neither person wants to end because you know it might be the last one.

I didn't cry at all that weekend. I didn't cry until I got home from going with Anna to the airport. Everything hit me and I had nothing to distract me. I was lonely here in California. I went from being around family and friends in New York to being completely on my own. I also went from having being with Scott, somebody that I genuinely fell in love with, to having to end things with him.

Mike was a reminder of everything I had back at home. I wasn't upset about seeing him and being rejected. We had closed that door a long time ago. But it was time that I started making a real life for myself here. I had been living in California for about a year. I loved my job and Santa Monica had grown on me, so there was no reason for me to keep living like a visitor in my own city.

I opened my laptop and opened WebMatch. The first step towards my new life was to open up to dating again.