A Merry Little Ex-Mas

For those of you checking this out, consider this a ‘special feature’ like on a DVD. I’m not advertising this one, but tagging it onto the end of my usual happy mess. Since it happened, I always wanted to put this story down in written format and here seemed to be an ideal place to do it. This isn’t a happy story, but one that was a major turning and learning point in my life. If you like it, fantastic. If you don’t, I hate to say it but I could really give two sh*ts. Seriously.

This situation happened over the week leading up to Christmas and because that little Santa-infested holiday comes once a year, it always springs into my mind around the same time. Our story begins in Portland, ME, in December of the year 2000…

I was working for a hockey team, my first year out of college and had met a girl, a co-worker that was the office assistant. Her name was Anne and she was from Michigan, always describing where by holding up her hand. See, the state of Michigan kind of looks like a mitten and apparently people from that state describe their location by showing people their hand. While odd to most, that’s what gave Anne her charm – little things like that. She was 5’3″, blonde/blue-eyed and just a sparkplug (sorry..cliche alert). While not a drop-dead hottie, there was an attractiveness to her that was increased by her charm. We became instant friends.

The only issue was that while Anne and I were getting to know each other at an accelerated rate, talking almost two hours a night every night, she was resisting some of my overtures to become more. Of course, it could have been caused by the fact I wasn’t really pushing the issue that hard, but I couldn’t help but feel something was there. We could just talk for hours about the stupidest stuff, but when it came time to say goodnight, we both wondered where the time went. I wanted to move things forward but was afraid at what the consequences of a ‘no’ might be. In any case, after having another great girl slip through my fingers in my waning weeks of college, Anne was the prescription I needed to get over my post-college blues. I stopped driving back 90 minutes north to hang with the guys and stopped missing school so much. She was instrumental in helping me make that transition, something everyone has to make at one point in their life.

So there were a couple slips along the way: a random kiss here or the sleepover after our X-Mas party there, but nothing really happened. One night, a group of co-workers and college friends went out after a game and got destroyed at the bars. We ended up back at my apartment and while my friends proceeded to decimate my cupboard, Anne and I ended up in my room where we had the talk where I basically professed my love for her. She at first refused, at which point I turned on emotions that I’ve never thought I’d had. She cried, I talked and she left soon after. I was devastated. Later that night, I would wake up to my friends brawling in my room after watching Fight Club, but that’s a story for another blog.

After the awkward weeks that followed, we started talking again and things were back to normal. (Well, as normal as it can be after you tell a girl you’ll love her for the rest of her life.) X-Mas time was near and Anne was flying home to Michigan for the holidays. I told her I needed to give her a present and after grabbing some dinner, we went back to her place and we just talked for hours. I gave her two wrapped gifts: two CDs I made for her and a Calvin and Hobbs book I wrote something in, telling her to open them on the plane as they’d give here something to do. Secretly, I didn’t want her to open them up in front of me as it was my secret last chance to see if something could happen between us. I figured that if she was alone, the reaction would be genuine and not one of those, “I’m in front of you, so I’ll be polite” deals.

She asked me to hang around while she packed and around 3 am, she asked me to stay over since I was going to bring her to the airport the next day. I tried not to read too much into the offer as going all-in emotionally was probably not a good thing to do, but having a sober girl ask you to stay over is a great feeling to have. It was even better when Anne grabbed my arm, slung it over and nestled up close to me. Instantly, the past had been forgotten and all I saw was a future. And it looked fantastic.

Getting just a couple hours of sleep, we awoke on a cold morning and headed in the ol’ Grand Prix to Portland International Airport. As we stopped at a red light, Anne leaned over and said, “kiss me.” I was in heaven. It happened again as she departed for her gate and it seemed, like for a few moments, that I had a girlfriend. I drove to work, dead tired but re-energized like never before. She ran through my head like the proverbial hamster on the wheel and that night, we resumed our two-hour long talks like before, joking that I would make some sort of appearance on Christmas Day resulting in her dad greeting me with a shotgun. She even admitted that she opened up my presents on the plane and started immediately crying. I felt like I was Larry Bird back in his heyday – hitting 3-point shots from all over the court and just overall being unstoppable.

Then one day, the calls stopped. I didn’t think much of it as I assumed she was just busy with family and friends. Still, I got a unexplicably strange feeling that something was up. We finally connected two days later and Anne’s tone was completely different. The caring voice I heard on the other end had become distant and just absorbed with something else. Again, I didn’t think too much into it but just looked forward to her coming back to Portland where we could resume whatever had started as she left. Oh, how I would be wrong. Anne returned and I met her in the airport, excited to see this girl that had brought such hope and fun to my life. Except this time, there was no kiss. No love. No feeling. Anne was acting strange like I had just met her. I dropped her off, told her I would talk to her later and that’s when I knew something was up. Know that feeling when you can tell that someone’s not telling the truth? Yep yep.

Over the ensuing weeks, we became distant. The phone conversations became less and less and the ones we had weren’t even that good. She was let go from the team months earlier, so I didn’t even see her at work. I heard about her from time-to-time from some mutual friends, but was just so confused as to what happened. Did I do something wrong? Was it something I said? I racked my brain for what I did instead of what Anne did. I finally gave up hope, fell into my usual week o’sadness and began to move on. Then, a friend of ours said that Anne and another one of our friends were heading out to dinner and we should join them. I was intriguing and took the bait. I was looking for some clue as to the whereabouts of pre-Michigan Anne and was coming up emptier than Lt. Frank Drebbin or Nordberg. What followed was a strange meal shared with someone I had told everything to, yet barely knew anymore. I wanted to reach across the table, grab Anne and just scream, “What happened? Tell me, please! Just tell me a lie…just say something!”

Side note: Years later, I’ve still never been this perplexed when dealing with any friend, girl or guy. I think most relationships, budding or not, get messed up because people are just not honest with each other and get caught in lies and stories they can’t get out of. If Anne had just told me what you’re about to read, I would have been upset but understanding. But so we don’t put the cart before the horse…

But I didn’t say anything to her that night and got no answers to my questions. We hugged good-bye and that was that. I moved past the situation and just chalked it up to another bad set of circumstances. A few weeks later, our gang was roaming the Old Port and ended up in a random martini bar that we never had gone to and never went again. Nights like this, though, are reasons I believe in fate and that everything’s meant for a reason. Another mutual friend, Erin, was in the house and after the usual tavern blah-blah and chit chit, I randomly asked if she had talked or even seen Anne recently. She said, “Yeah, she’s pretty busy with her boyfriend flying in this weekend from home.”

Wait a second…what?

I was like a KGB agent, working Erin for information that I pretended I already knew. I wasn’t proud of it, but I had been looking for an answer for months and it was sitting right in front of me. Erin told me that Anne had flown home to Michigan for Christmas (remember that?) and had met up with a old friend of her ex-boyfriend’s at a party. This guy reportedly admitted he had always liked her during her time with the ex and she, in turn, said the same. At that moment, I became a memory and was shoved aside by someone that I never met and had never even heard of. While I was hurt, I was relieved – I finally knew the truth. I then proceeded to drink heavily and on the way home, made the drunk dial that would change everything again.

Anne answered and I said, “I finally know! You have a boyfriend! Great for you!” The phone broke up (gotta love the analog technology) and I let it lie, convinced I would never see or talk to Anne again. I honestly can’t remember if she called back, but I wasn’t finished. I sat down the next day and wrote a scathing yet compassionate email explaining everything I was thinking. The words flowed like boxed wine and I cleaned out the entire closet, kitchen and the basement. Honestly, I was happy for Anne. Hell, I’d be happy for anyone that found their true love, but the way it went down just didn’t sit well in my gut. It wasn’t right and I wanted to let her know. Days later, I got a nasty email back saying that I had no right to be involved in her life and that she never wanted anything romantic to do with me, among other things. It hurt but was the last salvo in what had been an interesting winter. I never spoke with Anne again and deleted her record out of my cell phone six months later.

Side note 2: The phenomenon of cell phones has been supported by the phenomenon of collecting and deleting mass amounts of numbers that you’ll never ever call or even remember. Deleting a number, especially from an ex or previously important female, is one of those moments you can’t take back once you hit ‘delete.’ The thoughts go through your head of whether you might need that number somewhere in the future and exactly how much space those digits take up. Of course, leaving a ‘bad number’ can also lead to the afore-mentioned ‘drunk dial’ and the ensuing shenangigans. Actually, I don’t know where I was going with that, but getting rid of that number can be a cathartic experience. There. Done.

Two years ago, I started having thoughts of Anne again. Plenty of time had passed, but I wanted to know how she was doing. After weeks of thought and nights where I would lie awake thinking of the perfect words, I decided to pen her a letter and basically wipe the slate clean. I invited her to call or write me back, even inviting her and her boyfriend (if she still had one) to visit if they happened to be in the area. I just wanted my friend back, the same girl I talked with for hours on end, and told her just that. I have never heard back and this point, I don’t think I ever will.

Months and even years later, I would hear unflattering stories of Anne from other people. One was a co-worker/friend that she had dated before, who told me a similar story of what had happened to him. Another was a story of her night with a player following our going out to a local club and his attempting to give me money for a cab ride to get me out of there. I still am not sure who I got to know and care so much for, but for that short time, it was a good person.

I hope that somewhere, Anne feels the same way.

thanks for reading,

nason

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