Wednesday, April 22, 2009

It's Never too Late to Come to Terms with Nightmares

I've spent the past couple of days pretty much immersed in the blogs of other people. The entertainment factor has been high, but I've also noticed an unfortunate trend in people being bogged down by horrible things happening to them. I wonder sometimes if there's a correlation between indescribable pain and the need--almost compulsion--to write. I think that's definitely the case for me.

Anyway, I haven't slept well tonight (it's 4:30 in the morning now) in large part because I've been contemplating posting my own traumatic sent-me-into-a-tailspin moment here to make the point that it's never too late to come to terms with horrible, unspeakable things that happen to you. I carried this horrible pain around with me for ten years before I was finally able to deal with it, and I have pretty much become a different person since that time. So ... I think I will share. But please bear in mind, names, places, and events have been changed. But what happened to me has not. It never will.

My relationship with Andy was among the most intense I've experienced in my life. No, he was not my boyfriend. Ever. He was not even in the "friends with benefits" category. What we had was somehow more, if that makes any sense. I know that most of my friends and family thought Andy and I had a physical relationship, that the unhealthily close bond between us was connected to some sort of bizarre sexual need. Nothing could be further from the truth, although I'm still not sure, even now, what that bond was.

Basically, I met Andy at a New Years party; I was leaving as he was arriving in a carful of guys. I was pretty messed up, and he came up to me as I was staggering out to my car. "Are you all set to drive home?" he asked me. I wasn't really, but I told him I was and somehow got back to my parents' house without incident.

The next night, I was back at my college apartment when one of my friends called and asked if I remembered meeting a guy when I was leaving the party. I replied, "Vaguely," and she told me the guy was her friend Andy and he wanted to know if it was okay for her to give him my phone number. "Is he cute?" I asked (I was such a shallow idiot).

To make a long story short, Andy came up the very next night. Yeah, he was cute. Like, beyond cute, actually. However, we got talking, listening to music, talking some more, playing cards, and the casual hookup I think we'd both sort of expected never happened. We liked each other too much. We stayed up all night just hanging out, and it was the first time that anyone had seemed that interested in what I had to say.

I was nineteen on that night. For the next three years, Andy and I were tight. In terms of anything beyond friendship, it was kind of strange. I'd start to think of him as more than a friend when he was involved with someone else. When he was free and hinting, I'd be occupied with someone else. And sometimes a few months would go by when we'd fall out of touch, but when we reconnected, it was like we'd just had one of our marathon all-night conversation the night before.

I'm not going to pretend that Andy was a perfect person. He wasn't, and most of the stupid things I did in my life originated with him. He was not dependable and had a hard time holding down a job. He became, in many ways, the guiding voice in my life, and this is never healthy.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if things had continued on the collision course they were on. Fortunately (as I'm well aware of now), destiny stepped in. One night, Andy and I got extremely messed up, went to a concert at the ski resort where we continued to imbibe heavily, went sledding illegally on a ski trail, got caught and verbally reprimanded, then went back to the condo and--the oldest story in the world--had sex. The fact that it was the worst sex I've ever had in my life was distressing enough--I mean, I'd started to think this guy was my soul mate. What happened next, though, was even worse.

The next morning, I asked Andy, "Do you remember what happened last night?"

"Yeah," he said. No elaboration.

"So I take it that happened because we were drunk?" I asked it lightly, expecting him to make a joke about it. Such was the nature of our relationship, and we both knew that similar things had happened to both of us before.

He was very quiet for a long time, then he said, "No. Being drunk had nothing to do with it."

And that was that. I got no answer, then or ever. We spent the day in Portland, but it was a quiet day for us. We bought a new Phish CD and listened to it instead of the never-ending chatter that was usually going on between us. That night, we slept in the same bad we'd been sharing for years now when I was at the condo. We smoked cigarettes on the balcony and threw them into the snow below. He wouldn't talk to me about what had happened, wouldn't laugh it off, wouldn't even say, "Damn, you were such a lousy lay that I'm never going there again." And so you can imagine what this did to me--instead of taking one of the many outs he'd been given (we were drunk, it was stupid, it was late, let's make sure we never do that again), he allowed me to blame myself for the sudden change in our relationship.

A couple of weeks later, things got even worse. I was up at Andy's condo with Andy, his good friend Steve, and a bunch of Steve's buddies so we could go snowmobiling. When we got back to the condo, Andy had one of the other guys, Tom, sleep in the fold-out bed with me and he went upstairs with the others. I was, as usual, pretty passed out, but I sort of remember Tom kissing me, and then it's all a blur. When I woke up, there was blood all over the bed, and the source of the blood was obviously me. I had been abused in ways that no one ever should be by this guy, who wisely left before anyone else came up. I saw Andy's eyes when he saw me naked in those bloody sheets, unable to move without hemorrhaging more blood out, and I saw whatever might have been between us die. Although it was insane for Andy to think I brought this on myself, he obviously did. We did not speak again for a long time, and then only sporadically (you say hi when you bump into someone at Wal-Mart, for example).

It was the words that were never spoken, both by him and by me, that played the death knell to the intense relationship between Andy and me. We were in our early twenties, and life seemed very big and overwhelming.

If I couldn't talk about some stupid drunk roll in the hay with my best friend, I thought ...

If she can't understand why the sight of her naked in a bloody bed with another guy less than a month after what happened between us, he must have thought ...

And so I carried this around with me. Its weight pushed down my shoulders and gave me nightmares for many, many years. Finally, with the advent of social networking groups, I started talking to Andy on Facebook a little bit. I finally realized that I needed to get this dealt with or it was going to drive me crazy one of these days, so I asked Andy if we could get together for a drink at some point, which he readily agreed to.

Although I was scared to death and unsure if I'd be able to tell him, or even if he thought I was ridiculous for not just telling him in the first place or still thinking it was such a big deal after all these years, it could not have gone any better. It's like a huge weight has been lifted; I don't know how to put it any better than that.

It's kind of funny, we went to three places that night, and the evening sort of got divided into three parts. The natural order that the world divides itself into just blows my mind sometimes.

Anyway, we started out at Applebee's and kind of chatted about our kids and what's new and my hatred for Sarah Palin (and how he's dating a girl that looks something like Sarah Palin) and such. Although we had a couple of beers, we pretty much agreed that eating at Applebee's is not exactly fine dining.

Stop number two was this amazing restaurant downtown that somehow manages to specialize in both Italian food and a sushi bar (successfully). We started getting silly, reminiscing about things like the time I did numerous shots of Bacardi 151 and then literally threw up all over the bar, all the way out to the car, all over myself, all inside the car, and everywhere else you can imagine and the time we went to Mohegan Sun and gambled away all our money, leaving us with not enough gas to get home. Jesus, we were stupid. Anyway, then I finally just told him, just spit it out, "Andy, that guy Tom, he raped me". Like, one second we were laughing like idiots, the next I was crying, then he was crying, and we had the whole "Why didn't you tell me?"/"Because you were being a non-communnicative douchetard and I was afraid of how you'd react" conversation. It was a very serious half hour or so, then we got silly again (and had more beer).

Anyway, part of getting silly involved Andy mentioning this dive of a bar that was within walking distance. He said he'd been there once and some lady got hit in the head, and the staff just carried her outside and left her bleeding in the parking lot. I realized that I read an article a few years ago about a murder occurring there. Walking there seemed like a really good idea, for some reason. Yeah. You kind of had to be there.

Anyway, it was absolutely the cheesiest, trashiest bar I've ever been in. However, there were pool tables, so I got my ass handed to me at multiple games of pool, had more beer, and made fun of the bar and its patrons as surreptitiously as possible (the old man that appeared to be masturbating in a corner, the porno video game, the fact that the felt of the pool tables was so dirty that it was repulsive, the steps going into the bathroom that I managed to trip up every time I had to pee, the multiple entrances and exits, et cetera). And rocked out to bad techno music. Haha, good times. I haven't laughed that hard in years.

The thing is, Andy was the only person that could give me any sort of absolution for a pain that I've held inside for eleven years.

And he did. He listened. He apologized. He cried.

And now, with that heavy weight gone, I can move forward.

I share this story--somewhat reluctantly, because it is incredibly painful--because I want you to know that keeping the pain inside is worse. Coming to terms with the things that happen to us, the good, the bad, and the ugly, is the only way we can stand up tall without that terrible oppressive weight on our shoulders.

I'm weak ... it took me eleven years. But it was worth it.

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