running red lights
I had a great time in North Carolina that October weekend in 2007. It was nice getting together with my friends and feeling like myself again. The past several months leading up to that weekend had been a blur of anxiety and depression. It was refreshing to put that behind me for a couple of days and find some sweet southern comfort in my home away from home. I met a girl and she helped me to see that there was indeed going to be life beyond my ex. And to top it all off, I was finally able to make the drive back to Pennsylvania with a UNC win under my belt…that wouldn’t happen often that season. Like I said, it was a fabulous weekend…but I should have accepted it for simply that and moved forward with my life.
Instead I carried with me the flame that had been lit that Friday evening at the Martini Bar. I wanted so badly at that stage in my life to meet the right girl and seek redemption for the error of my ways in my past relationships. Although my ex had broken my heart in the most calculated and vicious manner possible, I still felt a sense of responsibility for our eventual downfall. I knew that I had not done everything right, and I wanted a second chance. So I took the first opportunity that presented itself, and I attempted to run with it. I decided that I wanted to set my sights on a long distance relationship with my new acquaintance from Chapel Hill.
Blinded by passion and fueled by a need to make the next relationship work, I ignored countless red flags that would have deterred most from pursuing things further. For instance, when I returned home, she and I spoke on the phone for a couple of days and things seemed to be proceeding well. And then one night as I was driving to my parent’s house, she called me with the intention of ending communication with me altogether. She was very direct, and not nice about it at all…”this is not going to work…I don’t want you to call, text, email or stop by when you are in town…are we clear on that? This is it”. Was she serious? Initially I thought it was a joke. And then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was immediately sent back to the feeling that I had on September 12th. As I walked into my parent’s house, I was shaking. My Mom asked me what was wrong…and I just said “it’s happening again.”
About a week later she emailed me and apologized. She said that she just didn’t see how we could ever make it work so she wanted to end things as quickly and cleanly as possible before either of us got too wrapped up in it emotionally. I could understand her reasoning, but the manner in which she handled it was very questionable. Again, another opportunity for me to let things go. But instead I pressed on.
We continued to communicate over the phone and through email. She was going to be visiting Philadelphia in a couple of weeks with her roommate, so we talked about possibly meeting up with each other in the city. My friend from home had been interested in her friend, so he agreed to venture down with me to visit with them for the weekend. I believe it was the first week in November. Naturally, things went very well. We enjoyed each others’ company and my buddy and I had a great time playing tour guides.
Soon after, I was planning a trip to visit her in Chapel Hill. This time I’d drive down by myself so that she and I could spend some time together alone. We knew we did well in group settings, but could we make it as a couple? I took off after work on a Thursday and arrived in Chapel Hill at about 11:oo PM that night. I booked a hotel for the weekend so not to make things awkward between her and I. After checking in, I got changed and headed out to Franklin Street to meet up with her and her roommate. She looked adorable that night…I remember she was wearing a white South Florida t-shirt as they were playing Rutgers on the Thursday night ESPN game. It was good time…our introduction had exceeded my expectations.
The following day I picked her up at her office for lunch – I brought her a lily and she seemed smitten by it. That afternoon we texted each other continually…I was hoping that she’d have the opportunity to leave early for the weekend. And she did – she headed straight over to my hotel room and we hung out together just wasting time searching for the truth in each others’ eyes. I’m certain that it was that afternoon that we both realized our feelings for each other. That night we went to dinner and everything went great…it had been a picture perfect start.
And then came Saturday. It was her roommate’s birthday and they had a big get together planned with all of their co-workers. Everyone was going to meet on Franklin and then a limo bus would pick us all up for a night out in Raleigh. I spent most of the afternoon on their couch hanging out and watching college football while they ran a couple of errands around town.
On Thursday night, we had met a really good guy by the bar that was taking an interest in the roommate. He and I had a great conversation, and it turned out he was from the northeast too, so our company was helping to make each other feel right at home. The roommate was being extremely flirtatious with him that evening, and she had invited him to come with for her birthday celebration on Saturday. So that day I encouraged her to call him and let him know where to meet everyone. She seemed a bit nervous and shy about it for some reason, but eventually she agreed.
Back on Franklin Street that evening, I ran into him at the bar where we were all gathering prior to heading off to Raleigh. The roommate had been completely ignoring him, and he couldn’t understand why. He was hurting. And he began to ask me what I thought of the situation, and why she was acting the way she was? I didn’t know what to tell him. To me it appeared completely childish and rude, but I couldn’t do anything about it. I just really felt bad for him.
As the limo pulled up out front, the roommate ensured that she was ushered in with a group of people so that she could escape the view of my new friend. And then she proceeded to have her friends tell him that he was not welcome to come along. And not in a nice way either, there were literally people hanging out of the sunroof yelling at this poor guy. I could see that he was breaking inside…it was extremely hurtful. So I told my new acquaintance about it, thinking she’d be a person of character and that she would support me. I asked her to do something, and she proceeded to yell at me and tell me to “get on the bus or we’ll leave without you”. I stood there for a few minutes and thought long and hard about it. I should have let the bus rumble off to Raleigh without me, but instead I apologized to my northeast friend and chased after her with my tail between my legs.
For the rest of the night, she held the fact that I had stood up for him against me. She told me that I had embarrassed her in front of her friends and that everyone was disgusted with me. That was not the case at all, but she certainly believed it to be the truth. But I could not handle another failed relationship. So instead of standing up for myself, I did my best to work back into her good graces. And by the next morning, things were fine. She was clinging to me on Sunday, and because of that I didn’t even get on the road until about 6:00 PM.
About an hour into the drive home, I called her. She didn’t pick up so I left her a voicemail. It was a couple of hours until she returned the call. She told me that she had just been napping on the couch and didn’t hear her phone ring. But she was very short with me. It wasn’t the same person that had been snuggling close to me that afternoon…it was like Jekyll and Hyde. She ended the conversation quickly and told me that she’d call me later, leaving me feeling very confused and uneasy for the remainder of the trip. And then eventually she called and dropped it on me again…”this is not going to work I’m sorry”.
I’m a pretty resilient guy, but I was not equipped to deal with this level of heartache this soon. I had just been through an extremely painful breakup with my fiance, and she knew that. Why was she treating me this way? Just as soon as I’d feel good about things again, she’d tear the happiness from my grasp.
The more important question I should have been asking myself was why should I feel the need to hang onto something so destructive? She had now provided me multiple opportunities to slam on the brakes and head the opposite direction. But I couldn’t. I didn’t want to fail again. So I held on tight and waited for her apology so that we could move forward and pursue a future together. I didn’t want to be alone, and I didn’t want to let anyone down or see them walk out on me again.
The events of my past were holding me hostage, and they were directing me down a road destined to lead to further painful experiences…