One of the people that I formed a bond with this weekend is a kid from a neighboring state. I say “kid” because he is 19 years old and grew up (running & playing) around in this business. His Dad owns a franchise, and he is starting to learn sales and spread his wings. I have met his father a few times, but never really had a conversation with his son, who I’ll call Abercrombie for the purposes of this post.
Not too long into this training I realized that he is really sharp and together, especially for his age. He got married in August and is doing everything he can to succeed. He is also incredibly sarcastic and brutally honest, sometimes to the point of coming across entitled or bratty. At his core, he is a really sweet kid, though. He has the same bantering, insult-laced style of joking that I love. I told him today that he is like the little brother I never wanted. In all seriousness, although he can be annoying, he reminds me of family in the best possible way.
I will admit that on Monday and Tuesday night I got much more inebriated than I should have. We weren’t driving anywhere, and the beer and wine were complimentary. I let the drinks flow as freely as the conversation. I was in a circle of about 10 people. The group ran the gamut from a newlywed (Abercrombie), to two divorcees, to a few happily married folks, one of which has a new baby on the way, and a few of us disenchanted, unhappily married sad sacks (for lack of a more positive description).
Before I knew it we were sharing things I never thought we would share. I can’t even tell you how the subject came up, but all of a sudden we were talking about our sex lives. I didn’t even remember until I was reminded tonight, but I apparently mentioned some of my unhappiness with the state of things in the Mess household (if you can even call it that anymore). Although Abercrombie is too young to drink, he stayed up with us talking and laughing and taking it all in (as only a sober person in a group of drunks truly can).
After Tuesday I swore off beer completely for at least a year. Seriously, I felt sick most of the day. I purposely put out of my mind whatever my honest nature, plied and intensified with alcohol, may have revealed. As the week continued we all got closer. Abercrombie and I started ragging on each other even harder. We all studied as a group and stressed over the test. He got my cell phone number from the employee I brought with me when he saw me doing payroll on a break so that he could text me his request that I cut him a check, too.
As the week wound to a close today, we all shared a limo bus to the airport. Abercrombie, my employee, and myself are all going to areas that are only a few hours apart, but we were all flying into different airports. Tonight when I arrived at my destination my step-mom picked me up and she, I and my Dad had dinner. Not too long after I finally arrived home I got a text from Abercrombie asking if I made it back safely. I told him I had and asked about him. He still had a 3 hour drive from the airport to his house. We joked around a bit, and I figured I would hear from him occasionally and see him on the work forums and Twitter every now and then.
Instead, about 3 hours later he sent me a text that he had gotten home okay. He asked if my husband was glad to see me, then said “Don’t have too much sex tonight, we all know how much he likes to do it lol.” I honestly had no idea what the fuck he was talking about. Then in horror I remembered those first drunken evenings… Oh gosh! He followed up with, “That’s what happens when u drink too much. u talk alot. lol”
I deflected him with a great tactic we learned over the week called “acknowledge and ignore.” He started talking about other people who drank too much and all the crazy personalities in our class. He mentioned another guy who is married, but incredibly unhappy. Suddenly all of the “lol”s disappeared. He sent me these simple words: “I hope you’re happy.”
That sudden sincerity (I could sense a dramatic change in tone, even over text), made me dissolve into tears. Those tears turned into sobs with this next exchange:
Abercrombie: “What can we do to fix that.”
Me: “I don’t know. I will tell you when I figure it out. You’re making me cry.”
Him: “Well I really care about you… so I wanna help u figure it out.”
Just like that, the words started flowing. He asked some gentle questions, I gave him a quick summary of my sordid life as it stands now. An hour later I apologized for dumping all of that on him. He replied with another statement that made me break down:
“No I wanna talk about it. i know ur not happy just by looking u in the eyes.”
Then he said, “Heres what most dont know abt me. i am very cocky, outgoing, and speak my mind but i have one of the biggest hearts you’ve ever seen. but i never show it.”
I told him that he shows it more than he thinks.
After a little pause he asked, “r u alright?”
Me: “Yeah, I am fine. I appreciate your concern and that you took the time to ask & listen.”
Him: “u suck at lying i hope u know tht“
Me: “What am I lying about?”
Him: “ur not really ok”
Me: “Im better than I have been but I’m a mess, its true. I take that bad liar thing as a compliment because I don’t ever want to get as good at it as my husband.”
Him: “what can i do to help u??”
Me: “You’ve done it. I’m blown away that you care at all… I have forgotten what it feels like to be cared about.”
And there’s the crux of this whole thing. I’ve forgotten how it feels to have someone put your needs and feelings first. I connected with this great young man just 4 days ago, and he has stayed up texting me until midnight after a long day of studying, testing, and travel that included a flight and a 3-hour drive. He genuinely cares.
He doesn’t have an interest in me in any other way than friendship, and neither do I. He and his wife make me feel hopeful that there is a chance for real love out there. They are so sweet and caring and great with each other. His eyes light up when he talks about her. He loses that arrogant edge, and his dimples show.
He said to me tonight in another text, “If your married to someone it means your devoted to them and nobody else.” He is 19, and he knows that. He is giving that to his wife, and I don’t doubt that he always will because he is a great guy. I was starting to believe those didn’t exist, especially in this generation. I am happy to be proven wrong.
It turns out I was right last week when I told my therapist it would be far easier to trust a stranger than my husband. Right now we aren’t even at ground level in the trust factor. A nuclear bomb has been dropped on my little town, and it’s now a huge crater miles below sea level. I don’t think I can rebuild there anymore.
What that means for me is that I have to hold my head up and make the difficult, painful choices. If such a simple gesture from a near stranger can have me crying for 2 hours, then it’s obvious to me that big changes are necessary. I’ve taken one step toward that this week.
Tomorrow I will be going to marriage counseling alone again (at this point marriage counseling has probably breathed its last breath) to figure out what the next steps really are. My husband is too busy to come, but I’ve already grown used to him not putting any real, honest effort into this relationship. That means I have to do what I have to do in order to take care of me. This week I found the motivation, internal strength, and support to do so.