Sunday, June 11, 2017

The first conversation since.

Flora and I broke up about two and a half years ago. From that point moving forward, the frequency of our conversations began to piddle out like a dripping water faucet that was slowly being repaired. After we broke up we spoke maybe for a few minutes every week. Then every month. Then it was three. Then half a year. Two weeks ago, we had our first real conversation in maybe nine months. 

Usually when I would message Flora it would be a simple “Hi.” “How are you doing?” “I’m glad you’re doing well.” And I wouldn’t hear from her again. Sometimes the words were fewer. Sometimes it was a simple “hand-wave” emoji. Most times the messages went unanswered. This time I reached out to her because I was doing something that required me to pray for people who have passed away four years ago or more. When I asked if there was anyone that fit the criteria in her life, she offered the name of her grandmother. I thanked her and pretty much thought that would be the end of it, but this time she asked how I was doing, and when I replied and asked the same of her, she actually answered. 

I stopped looking at Flora's Facebook long ago, partly because I realized that it wasn’t a good thing for me to do, but also because that girl doesn’t put shit on her Facebook. It’s one of the things I really like about her. One thing I did find however, was an album that her band finished on YouTube. It meant a lot to me when I found it, or more like, it meant a lot to me that it probably meant a lot to them. Flora and I were still together when the band first formed; I still remember the auditions her and her twin sister put on at the studio (they were the band's founders and the ones that got the final say). To see them come out with a 6-track EP showed me how far they’ve come, and how much time has passed since then. It made me smile. I never told her about my discovery.

Instead we talked about novelties. She finally got a chance to travel, spent some time in Europe, mainly France and the UK, and she was actually leaving for France again in two days. Somewhat to my surprise, this made me incredibly happy. She’s an adventurer, like me, and she deserved seeing the world more than just about anyone I know. I asked her how well her French was coming along. She replied with three messages that I couldn’t understand. She then wrote that she really wanted to become fluent in French, said the language spoke to her. I told her it did to me as well, though I wanted to learn it for the purposes of traveling to West Africa one day.

“For sure,” she said. “I want to go there too. The luxury of Europe isn’t that fitting for me.” 

“I have a good friend in Togo,” I told her.

“Let’s meet up in West Africa!”


The old me would have held onto that statement like it actually meant something. I would have read it as a hope, a chance that she still thought about me and wanted something more than an acquaintanceship over the Internet. But this time I felt pretty neutral in her words, like it was fine if it never came true, because most likely it wouldn’t. When I took a few minutes to respond, she said that I didn’t have to talk to her if I had other things to do. I told her I wanted to have a conversation with her, that it was rare to be able to talk with "Flora Star".

“Flora Star” was this inside joke we had when we were dating. Flora used to have this psychotic stalker that one time gifted her fifty 8x11 color prints of a picture of her that he found on Facebook. When she fanned out all the copies, I asked if I could keep one. She shrugged and said, “Sure I guess.” I took out a sharpie and asked her to sign it. She smirked. On it she wrote:

“To my new fan, Nicholas - Flora Star ;-)” 

This is why I loved this girl.

Calling her “Flora Star” made her laugh. She then wrote, “Well maybe it doesn’t have to be that rare!” Another instance where the old me would have held on, but I didn’t this time. We then proceeded to get on about our lives, our plans, our hopes, our dreams. I told her I’ve been staying around helping my family and writing a lot. She told me the band broke up and that she’s starting a solo project. She then apologetically told me that she took three shirts from my apartment after we broke up and used them often. I’ll have to admit, that tidbit made my heart skip a bit faster. Then to my surprise, she went straight into a topic that I thought I would’ve brought up.

“Are you dating anyone?” she asked.

“Hmm…you’re very direct,” I answered. 

“I don’t know any other way to be,” she said in return. “I’m a Sagittarius…the arrow always goes direct.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said smiling behind the screen. “No, I’m not dating anyone. Are you?” A good two minutes passed before she responded. 

“I’m looking to find solitude,” she wrote. “Solitude and fullfilment. Does that make sense?” 

“Yes,” I said. “It is the same thing that I’m doing.”

I don’t know what she was thinking from her side of the screen. I didn’t know why she asked. I didn’t know why she cared. At one point of the conversation, I told her that I was her friend, and that I’d always be her friend. She told me the same. But when I think about it now, Flora is not really my friend, at least not in my current definition of the word. She hasn’t really been around in the capacity of which I hold my friends accountable for. I mean, sure, people have their lives to live and I have plenty of very dear and close friends that I go years not speaking with, but I almost died when we broke up (literally from a staph infection), and she wouldn’t really give me the time of day when that was happening. Yes, I was being the desperate dependent annoying ex-boyfriend who couldn’t handle reality, but I was also in a lot of pain. She’s forgotten my birthday every year since just about the day we met, and has never asked on whim how me and my family are doing. In fact when I think about it more, I’ve initiated every conversation we’ve ever had since our breakup. Again, I’m not trying to make her out to be a bad person, because she’s actually not. She’s actually one of the kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. But she also has shitty communication skills. It’s kind of just the way she is, or more accurately, the time of life that she's currently in. It can also just be the way some PEOPLE are, and that's simply how it is. It should be enough to know that she cares about me in her heart, that she is always wanting the best for my life, even if she never says it to me in words. Sometimes it’s just hard to believe in that on faith alone.

For the first time in all of our interactions since our breakup, I was the one that ended the conversation first. It’s not that I wasn’t enjoying our dialogue, it’s more that I felt there was nothing left to say. Plus she was going in and out of the conversation - low battery life and moreso general distractions. Before I’d get annoyed with something like that, take it as some form of disrespect, but this time I just had love for it as a friend. It’s strange, but there were probably more things said in this conversation where I could have fallen back in love with her than anytime in the past, but I let them go this time, that in the end, they probably didn’t mean anything. It was here that I realized that this was the closure I was seeking with Flora. I had done it without even knowing it. Part of me felt healed, but another very real part of me was hurting.

What I've come to realize is that I gave it everything I had with Flora. I went in with reckless abandon because I still believe(d) in this ideal of Love that we have in the world. I pulled out all the stops. All the fears, all the doubts, I went past all of them, for her. I gave her my bestAnd it wasn't enough. 

That has been the hardest thing I've had to understand. Yes, I am now a different person, a much more mature and capable person, and most of this was just timing. But to miss the mark, on something like this, is not an easy thing to accept. At the same time, I also know it is something that I need(ed) to do. 


thaikarl said...

very gracious nick. breaking up is hard to do, as the old song says. i do have a thought about friending old girlfriends. i realized that with my *friends*, i will talk with them comfortably about just about anything going on in my life - including my relationships. i'll talk about my girlfriend (or these days, my wife) to my friends. why? because they are my friends - not lovers, not romantic relations, not potential mates, not flirts, not ex's - they are my friends. when i get to the point where i can talk to a girl who was once a romantic partner, and comfortably include my current relationship, and listen to them talk about theirs, then we are now in a place where we could be friends. but if i have any feelings of either holding back about my current life, or feelings of stress when they talk about theirs, i'm not there yet. and if i sense that they are holding back, because of old feelings, then they are not there yet, and i have to respect that. i have had some significant girlfriends, women i really liked, loved and cared for. over time, i was able to shed the attachment to what we *were*, and be in what-we-are-now. not that we hang out now particularly, but i do still care for them, and i am interested in how they are doing, and what they are learning from life - like i do with all my friends.

doesn't always work out this way. and there are a few from the past that i if i saw them in line at the DMV, i'd get in another line. :-) but the few that were significant, that helped me learn some of the hard lessons of being with someone, i still carry with me, with love and fondness.

Michelle Frink said...

Well written Nic. You conveyed the emotion, the entanglement, the growth, very well. Those are not easy to get across without sounding cliche'. English language is limited in its relationship descriptors, yet there are so many variations worthy of being 'named.' It is critical to personal development, in my opinion, to make such definitions and see them clearly. The Eskimo people have something like 30 odd words for 'snow,' because being able to define the type of snow falling is critical to their survival.
I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing this too. Getting to know you, mostly through observation, has been intriguing, and even, surprising at times. We are all multifaceted and unique individuals, carrying layers of experience to create the 'whole person' we share with others today. Learning about those layers is a joy. Thank you for sharing!