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Stuck in the Middle With[out] You.

My phone rang at 2:00 am on a Saturday morning. Rather than being alarmed, I pulled myself out of sleep and reached for it. I didn't even look at the number; I already knew who it was.

“Hey,” I answered in my raspy, middle-of-the-night, just-woke-up-from-a-dream-about-you voice. My inflection was deliberate. Perry and I, we’d done this a million times.

“Hi, honey,” I heard on the other end. I felt prickles through my arms and legs. Not at all the voice I was expecting.

“Oh, hey Rob,” I replied as casually as possible despite the fact that my heart was exploding with every beat. If Rob knew I was expecting a call from another man at this time of night, especially Perry, he would flip.

Rob knew that Perry and I had a past, so he assumed that Perry and I also had a present. The truth was that the present was nothing more than witching-hour phone calls that often wandered towards sunrise. Perry and I had a close bond. Nothing wrong in my book, but Rob’s book was much different.

“I've been knocking for ten minutes. Dinnit you hear me?” Rob said in my ear, slurry and melodramatic.

It took me a second or two to register what he meant. Oh my god, he was here. He lived 160 miles away... Why in the world would he drive, apparently drunk, to surprise me in the middle of the night?

Stress became nausea. This wasn't going to be one of those nights where I could just argue with him, hang up on him, turn the phone off, and go back to sleep. I was going to have to deal with whatever issue was swimming in the alcohol on his brain tonight.

I went downstairs and saw Rob’s familiar balding head through the peephole. I let him in without emotion or fanfare. I was still half asleep and frankly pissed that he was at my door. I knew Rob, and I knew our relationship had already begun its inevitable demise, so I figured he was hoping to catch me with someone else. He wanted an excuse to yell at me.

I stood there, stern, awaiting an explanation but expecting a scolding for some imaginary transgression. I was pleased that I didn't give him the satisfaction of having other company, but I secretly just hoped he’d pass out right there on the landing so I could step over him and go back to bed.

He spoke. “Cousin Bruce and I met up with some chicks. We were gonna take them back to Bruce’s friend’s apartment and we were gonna fuck them.”

Now I was wide awake. I began mentally preparing an overdue break-up speech, but I remained silent.

“I decided to keep driving because I wanted to be with you instead,” he backpedaled. That’s the thing about relationships: When you've been with someone for a few years, you know when they’re sincere, and you know when they’re only wishing they hadn't just admitted something incredibly stupid.

“Oh, please,” was all I could summon. Without taking his coat or pursuing any pleasantries, I reached behind him to lock the door, turned my back to him, and returned to bed. He followed. “Can I snuggle with you?” he begged.

“No,” I said without a scene. “You’re tracking in rock salt. Take your boots off.”

He slept on the sofa. I wished I’d forced him to sleep in his car in the subzero darkness, but I was never able to stand up to him, tonight no exception. The next morning we didn't broach the subject at all. He left after coffee.

Two days later, I woke up at 2:00 am to a knock on my door. This time I was expecting it, and the company waiting on the other side of the peephole was a face I hadn't seen in over two years, even though I just heard the voice two hours ago.

“Hey,” we said simultaneously as I opened the door. Perry stepped inside and lifted me off my feet in a smothering hug that lasted long enough for me to feel the cold weather radiating from his body and recognize the delicious smell of him: Fresh shower fragrance on his neck mixed with the wintry aroma of fireplace smoke and fresh air on his coat.

“Rob’s an asshole,” he whispered into my hair. “You deserve so much better.”

He was right, I knew, so that night I treated myself to better, indeed. Bliss it was for my heart and mind. He stayed until morning and left after coffee.

Then I was alone; another cup of coffee fueled racing thoughts. Everything about Perry was better than Rob. His words, his kiss, his touch, his friendship, all of it felt natural and right. I even felt a twinkle of sweet revenge against Rob’s disrespect. So I was more than a little surprised when I suddenly started sobbing. Emptiness overcame me.

I knew Rob had been cheating on me for months already. But for as well as I knew Rob, I knew Perry ever so much more. Perry’s connection to me was what drew him to my side when I needed him, but it was fleeting. He would never be mine, no matter how badly I wanted him. He didn't have to tell me; I just knew.

I was playing a game that was impossible to win. I was emotionally trapped between a boyish, spiteful guy who no longer loved me, and a tender and loyal man who did love me, but not in a way that allowed him to replace the other.

Stuck in the middle, but ultimately left with nothing but empty coffee cups.




Comments

  1. Some men have a way of reminding you that there is a difference between alone and lonely, and that lonely while not alone is the hardest thing.

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  2. This was a really powerful piece. I'm with My Half Assed Life, lonely while not alone is the worst. I'll take straight up, uncomplicated alone any day. It's dating moments like these that make nunneries seem so appealing except for, you know, the uber-religious aspects.

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  3. Thank you. And I agree, if only nuns could... yep.

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  4. Ahh what a sucky place to be in!

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  5. Wow, this is such a great piece. You capture so well that stuck in the middle with no place to go feeling. I agree with everyone else that there is a profound difference between alone and lonely, and that you can be terribly lonely even surrounded by people. Well done.

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  6. Great writing on this one! I'm going to leave my comment at that, except to say I'm pretty sure I really don't like Rob. At all.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks my friend! And yeah...I figured you wouldn't.

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  7. I have been stuck like that. Luckily I found someone more awesome than either of them. But I'll always have a soft spot for my Perry. Hope you find your soul mate! Great writing!

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  8. Lonely is the worst. Stick with us! We will do our best to at least surround you with comments!

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    Replies
    1. I appreciate that, Kristin! :D

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  9. Perhaps it's the ritual - one person's story of crappy dating situations drudges up another person's situations - but this took me right back to late night phone calls from the girl I should have stopped seeing way sooner. Fantastic post! I'm happy I've found your blog!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I think everyone can relate to stuff like this. :)

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  10. sounds like they're as addicted to you as you are to them. maybe time to find a connection that's going to be more what you really want and need?

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  11. Great writing! I don't like Rob either. And I know the feeling of the Perry's in life. I wish you happier times.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! Yeah, Rob certainly won't win any "best boyfriend" awards in his lifetime. ;)

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  12. This brings back some painful memories. Here's to a much better third option!

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  13. Aching and beautifully written. Your empty feeling described at the end not only ties the story together, but it rings true. I hope you were (or are) able to find someone better!

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    1. Thanks! I appreciate your very kind comments! :)

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  14. Love all these middle of the night visits! Sure beats crying babies waking you up;)

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  15. Wonderfully told story. . . I was riveted the entire time. . . just enough detail to let me fill the rest of the picture in for myself. Awesome!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Jared! I do like to leave a little bit to the imagination...

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  16. This is written so well. I was hooked on every word. And I once had a Perry in my life, in my high school-college years. We were best friends always, lovers at times, but never in a real, fulfilling relationship... at least not the kind I imagined. He and I are now both happily married to other people and we rarely speak, though I still think of him as a friend and always will. He was always there for me in those moments that I needed someone... Which somehow just made me sadder. Hugs, girl.

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    1. You've described him perfectly. It should make me happy that I have such a good friend, but when you're that close with someone it's hard not to want more. Thanks for the comment. :)

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  17. My heart broke for you. You deserve to find your Person with a capital P, who can be everything you need. Big hugs to you. Powerful, powerful piece.

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  18. Relationships can be so heartbreaking. You captured it so well here.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. It's a subject that I often (okay, USUALLY) have difficulty expressing accurately. I'm glad you appreciate it... I appreciate your reading it!

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  19. Oh, man... When neither choice is the right one, can you choose "None of the above?"

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    Replies
    1. That's pretty much where I'm headed, I think!

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  20. I love this, in part because once you're into the kids/marriage part of life the oh-which-boyfriend-should-I-choose part seems sort of romantic and appealing. I wouldn't go back to it for anything, mind you, but it's certainly fun to read about!

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    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you were entertained! As emotional as it can be, it sure is fun to write about. :)

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  21. such great writing and it sucks to be stuck.

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  22. As an old married lady I have to admit I somewhat envy your boyfriend problem. On the other hand, I am often grateful to be an old married lady. Love your writing!

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    Replies
    1. No need to envy... trust me. :) Thanks for reading!

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  23. Hi Dana!
    I just have to tell you how well written this piece was. Despite all the sadness, which I remembered all too well from my pre-marriage life, you held me absolutely captivated.
    I hope you find your soul mate too, but you will always remember your Perry.
    :-)
    Great job!

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