After living long enough, certain days tend to have a special meaning. April 9, 2003 was the day of the Counting Crows concert at MSU (and also the day Saddam’s statue in Baghdad came down), which led to me staying in the Mankato area (the concert, not the statue). January 28, 2013 was the day of my orientation at my current job (which I think sticks in my head because people will ask me “how long have you been here/there?”).
June 28, 2013 was when everything changed.
I consider myself a “numbers guy”. Certain digits stick out in my head. I remember the cost of certain items at work, I remember phone numbers well (yes, I think I even remember Clint’s wife’s phone number, which I haven’t typed into a phone in over a decade. And yes, I remember Clint’s number too), I remember dates better than most. But I can’t recall the date She and I met.
I remember our first real date being on Valentine’s Day 2005, I remember our anniversary was February 16, 2005. I wish I could tell you I remember the date of the first time we had sex, but all I can link it to is the night before (or probably the day of, due to being after midnight) the movie “Constantine” came out. That part may seem weird, but I worked in a movie theater at the time. The week before I invited Her to come to a late-night employee screening of “Hitch”, but She didn’t answer my calls because She was out on a date with someone else. Instead, Clint and I made fun of the flick, which upset a co-worker and her friend (and also, enough of the Clint mentions. This may be taken out of the edits).
She was exactly what I was looking for. Just a tiny bit older (yes, I remember her birthday), a lot more mature, into some similar things. In fact, one of the things that opened my eyes to Her as a long-term partner was finding out She had the PC Game “Alpha Centauri”. The PC Game series “Civilization” was introduced to me as a teenager by my dad, and “Alpha” was the next step. I was growing up.
She was pretty and smart and fun and… well, this isn’t about Her, not really.
Relationships, as they sometimes do, lose their magic. Our interests diverged. We changed and were no longer as compatible as we once were. Instead of a cigarette-smoking bookworm, She became a gal who worked full time, did online school, and then went to the gym or ran five days a week. I… instead of being a dreamy-eyed college kid, worked a job I knew was going nowhere (except to pay off my debts), became a cigarette-smoking (since recovered) less-ambitious drunkard (since trying to recover). In retrospect I admire the change she created in herself, even if at the time it annoyed me (due to us growing apart).
We were together, off and on, for more than eight years, and even though we were together, we took different paths in our lives. I feel if we met in 2015, we would have hit it off. Unfortunately, we met in 2005.
It came to a screeching halt on June 28, 2013. About half a year later, when I moved into my house, I would also find my paternal grandmother’s funeral program. She died on June 28th, 1998. June 28th had a bad kind of voodoo.
I’m not going to write about the things I did wrong (many) or the things Se did wrong (a few). I’m not going to assign blame, although I will mentally take 51%+. I’m not even going to get into details of what happened, except for the fact that I showed up at Tom’s door the night of June 28, 2013 with a full backpack and a bottle of brandy and will be forever grateful he let me stay there for five-plus months.
People don’t change overnight, it’s just not possible. Change is incremental. Change is having a slightly different mindset and acting on it every single day. I’m not good with change, I like rules and patterns. But change was thrust upon me, at least on the most basic level. Any other change would have to come from within.
I would love to say that on June 29th, 2013 I was a completely different person. Instead, I went back to our shitty apartment on Rock Street, awkwardly waited on the main level while She got out of the bath and got dressed, picked up a few toiletries I needed (if you’ve never had to move in half an hour, try it), and went to pick up an air mattress. At least it was on a weekend when I didn’t have to work so I could attempt to process the change.
The shitty thing about June 28 is that it’s exactly a week before my birthday. When my grandmother died, it didn’t affect my “work life” since I was 13 going on 14. When I got kicked out of Rock Street, I was 28 going on 29. I was considered an adult, even if I rarely acted like one at home.
I’ve lived a tragedy-free life. My parents (and my step-parents) are still alive. There’s only once cancer scare among those four, and that seems to be taken care of. Sure, three of my four grandparents are dead, but that’s not an abnormality. Despite living a relatively-unhealthy lifestyle, I don’t have a lot of lingering pain (a little occasional ankle and knee pain, but nothing huge). I’ve been blessed, and I recognize that on a daily basis. June 28, 2013 was, so far, the “tragedy” of my life. I, as sad as it sounds, hope it’s replaced by other, more important tragedies as I get older.
I try not to let myself be seen as vulnerable. But I remember, after my “Summer of Unemployment/Underemployment”, I was in probably the worst place, mentally, I had ever been. She would come home from work about 6 p.m., a couple hours before I would go to sleep so I could get up and work at 3:30 a.m., we would have a cigarette on the back deck and I would sometimes come to tears (only at the start) thinking of what my life had become. I was happy enough being unemployed, but I didn’t want to have to get up at 2:30 a.m. to work a job a monkey could do.
She also saw me when I was at my alcoholic worst. I was never a drunk driver, but I was a shitty drunk. Hell, there were sober times where I was just shitty toward her in general. I’m sure there are good times in there as well, but being the pessimist I am, I tend to more easily remember the times I did things wrong. And if I thought reaching out and apologizing would do more good than harm, I would do it. But I haven’t, and I won’t.
My friend Amanda asked me about Her recently and I gave my mentally-refined stock answer.
“I haven’t talked to her since December 2014. I hope she’s doing well, but I really don’t want to know, either way.”
And even though it’s a stock answer, it’s the truth. My friend Katie, the now-Oregonite, casually mentioned last June She was with someone, which threw me on a little mental loop. I truly want Her to be happy, I just don’t want to look into the abyss, to think of the memories and the “what ifs”. I truly don’t want to know what she’s up to.
But this isn’t about “us”, this is about me.
For the last three years it’s been “just me”. I’ve learned I’m not the easiest person to live with. I can be messy and careless and self-centered.
But I never would have learned these things if She wasn’t gone. I would have leaned on Her cleanliness, Her (for lack of a better term) “wifey” tendencies and never improved. I needed Her to be out of my life to reach the next level of mine.
I’m a better person now. I’d like to think I learned from my mistakes with Her and became better overall. I’m now the “her” of my house, the house I thought “we” were going to buy, trying to clean up whenever possible. I’m becoming a runner at my own pace, years after She encouraged me to do it. Maybe I’m delusional, maybe it’s all a mirage, a story I tell myself to make myself feel better. Maybe I would have got there with Her, but I doubt it.
Growth requires pain. If a person didn’t push themselves past their level of comfort, they would never get stronger. There are times I wonder if my mistakes and missteps were worth it, if I would have been happier still being with Her or if I’m happier now. I need the pain, the “tragedy” of June 28 to spur me forward.
I’ve tried to take back June 28th, to try and infuse some positive memories into that day. Two years ago I tried to deem it “Personal Apology and Recovery Day”. It was strange, and probably a bit manic, but I tweeted out a bunch of apologies to friends on twitter (and to the crazy girl I dated off and on in 2014) because I felt I needed to. That night my friends and I made a short improv skit that I usually subject people I meet to (yes, it’s about 7 minutes too long).
Last year I don’t think I did anything. No manic apologies, no creative juices. This year, well, this year has been like a normal day. No remembrance, no frantically trying to change the meaning of the day. After all, today is really just a number.