The Other Side of the Fence

Before I begin, let me warn you that this is the start of a love story that went wrong. I'm a world traveler. I have been for almost half of my 33 years. I was the kid from the small town that was content with his place in the world. I never felt the urge to leave. A couple bad turns led me into a U.S. Army recruiters office because I saw I had to make a change. Many miles and years later, after leaving the military, I found that I could no longer sit still. I had developed a wanderlust from all that I had seen in the time I spent in the military. This leads us to what I believe is "the problem". After returning to the place I came from, a place I don't feel I can ever call home again, I felt this deep seated urge to run, to fly away to somewhere new. Fortunately, this was facilitated by a job working for the U.S. Government. I found myself a nice cozy niche to call my own. I had a job that payed me extravagantly, all the travel I could handle and duties that constantly challenged me just enough that I could lay my head down at night satisfied with my self-worth. I went on like this for some time before meeting a wonderful girl.
I was happy with my life up to that point because it was all I ever wanted. As me and this girl hit it off so well, we stayed in contact. I would visit her in Boston when I had free time, usually for a couple weeks at a time. Things got more serious and I really began to develop feelings for her. Pay attention to this part because it's important. She laid out before me a wonderful dream. That dream entailed quitting my job, moving to Boston with her and going back to school full time on my veteran's benefits. Suddenly my job sucked. I missed her all the time and wanted to be with her. I couldn't find happiness in my lifestyle anymore. There was something I wanted more.
She is not the subject of this story though, merely the lead up. To make a long story short, things didn't work out. I quit my job, moved to Boston and enrolled in school. For two years, we climbed that peak and I guess we found the top, because we fell over the other side. We both ended up unhappy and wanting more. It was so difficult, but after riding the roller coaster for a long time, I decided to get off and give us both a chance to go on and be happy. While I regretted not being able to finish school, it was time to get back to work.
I got in touch with some old work contacts and quickly found myself a place traveling again. After being out of touch with my wandering soul for two years, I had found it again and I told anybody that asked that I would not be in a serious relationship again anytime soon. Work went on and I ducked and dodged opportunities at relationships, not wanting to get tangled up in a situation like I had just left. I was fairly successful too; not a single girlfriend in over a year or even a casual hookup. I didn't feel lonely. I felt just the way I thought I should.
Meanwhile, back at the batcave (parents house) my stepmother was scheming to get me to settle down. Now, I understand that they're my parents and they want me to be happy. They want what is best for me and blah blah blah. Every time I visited home, she would recommend I go out with a girl that she golfs with. She said we had a lot in common and that we'd have a good time. While I'm all for meeting new people and having a good time, I recognized the trap for what it was. I again successfully dodged an opportunity to get tangled up.
About a year after the subject of this girl was first broached, she asks me to be friends on a social network. Not wanting to be rude, I accept because I'm never on the network anyway. It's just a way for people that need to find me, find me. She asks me directly to come to her memorial day party. I was working on an Army installation at the time so it was no problem turning down her invitation. As it turned out, my duties at that installation wrapped up a little bit early and I was sent home.
This girl gets wind of it from my stepmother and presses the attack again. I have no excuse not to go, so I reluctantly agreed. When I show up at the party, there are about a hundred people there. She drops them all and attaches herself to my hip, wanting to talk and get to know each other. If I'm completely honest, she isn't the kind of girl I'd normally go for. She clearly likes to party and drink and I tend to like things a little more low-key. Against her objections, I leave the party saying I'm not prepared for a heavy night of drinking. I thought this would be the end of it because I'm sure I came across as a stick in the mud.
For the next few days, she messages me on the social network, trying to get me to hang out. She gives me her phone number in case I'd like to go golfing. I love golf, and because I have the time off, I'm doing nothing BUT golf. I thought a golf date was pretty harmless because it's not romantic and it's on very neutral ground. Hanging out with her one on one, she's actually pretty cool. She loves to laugh, has a great sense of humor and is very laid back. The golf date is over and she wants to hang out. I hang out. She wants to hang out the next day. Not having anything better to do, yep, you guessed it, I hang out.
Time goes on like this, her constantly wanting to hang out (just as friends) and having nothing better to do with my time off but golf, we end up spending a lot of time together. She invites me to her hometown for a festival and golf with my parents, so naturally I go. The whole time I'm thinking "this girl is really wanting a relationship, you shouldn't lead her on." I still don't want a relationship, but I'm having a good time. I meet her family, they like me, I like them, etc. We spend more time together. She asks me to stay over. She had asked me this before, but I had always turned her down. As I had drunk a little bit, I agreed. I stayed at her place and chatted with her roomate until she went to bed. Then the roomate and her boyfriend go to bed. I go to sleep on the couch.
If it isn't clear yet, I'm maintaining very clear boundaries and avoiding every potential entanglement that I can, other than actually hanging out with a friend. I don't want to get wrapped up in a relationship with my job taking me all over the place for months at a time. I don't want to hurt anybody and I don't want to get hurt. Still, I can tell she wants more, but now we're at that uncomfortable point where I won't want to hurt her feelings. I lie to myself and say that she just wants to be casual. She comes to me at 3:00 am and leads me to her room...
Work resumes but I am semi-nearby. It's a mere two hour drive from the military installation I'm at to home. Because it's the height of summer and people have a little free time, I have no problem driving home for some golf or just to hang out for a couple days. When I leave she tells me she misses me. When I come back, she gets drunk and tells me she loves me. I play it off but I'm feeling sheer terror at this point. It got way too serious way to quick.
Now, maybe I was just lying to myself all along. I'm not the kind of guy to take advantage, get what I want and then leave. It's got to be mutually beneficial or I'm not interested. When I go back to work that night, she asks me a serious question on the phone, "Did I go too far?" Still, trying to be the decent guy I am, I try to let her down easy, but I also know that it's cruel to be kind.
I told her that this is my life and this is what makes me happy. I'm not going to stop moving around for a while. I need for her to understand this clearly, so I tell her that maybe this isn't what she's looking for. At the risk of tooting my own horn, I'm a great guy, I just might not be the right guy. I'm the guy that shows up when I can, gives you a great time and we go our separate ways as friends. I tell her that she needs to make a decision if she wants to pursue this and to be smart. I'm up for a casual relationship (wait, how the hell did that happen?) but that it's only going to get more serious as time goes on. Long distance relationships suck, so pick your poison: A bb-gun now and it's gonna sting, or a .50 caliber round later and it's going to make you bleed out.
I'm trying to be the adult here and be responsible, to lay it out on the table and let her decide. She says she understands, let's just go with the flow and see what happens. Unbeknownst to me, my stepmother is in the background telling her to give me time, I'll change my mind about serious relationships and that someday I'll settle down and marry.
As these things sometimes go, my new job turned out to be terrible. I was basically exploited, under-payed and asked to do unreasonable things. I decide to look for a new company. Before even leaving my old company, I have a new offer. This job would take me to Afghanistan for a one year contract. It begins in January, a full five months away. I take the offer and go home for some down-time. I talk with the girl about it. I tell her that if I don't find something else, I'm going to Afghanistan when the time comes. She doesn't accept this. I tell her it's time to part ways then, but I'd like to remain friends. She cries. I cringe. I warned her again and again, but still she cries.
Five days go by and I make no contact. I just want to give her time to sort it out and if she wants to be friends, so be it. On day six she calls and asks me to go to lunch. We go to lunch and then go run some errands. She seems to be calm enough, not looking at me with doe-eyes or anything. The next day she wants to go golfing. The next day, she wants to go to a movie. This is all fine and well and things friends can do together, but when we get back to her house to hang out, she flirts with me. She presses me. I tell her that part is gone and we need to be friends. She insists that friends can do these kinds of things. I buckle and she gets her way. What can I say, but that I'm a man and I'm weak sometimes. Never weak enough to cheat, but weak enough to lie to myself again.
I fall back into hanging out with her all the time, staying with her and having fun. She clears out a drawer for me and I put some clothes in. She never wants me to leave the house. It's unspoken, but we both know what has happened. We are in a full blown relationship. I am still so guarded and careful because of my last relationship that I can only tell her I care very much about her. I never say the "L" word. I'm emotionally malfunctioning that way. Somehow by not saying it, I'm not crossing a line that will kill us both when I have to leave, but I still feel it.
To her credit, she tried to make things work out the way she wanted. She used her vast network of contacts to try and find me local work that would pay me well and give me satisfaction. I chased those leads as far as they would go. I interviewed and I hoped. I realized that she sold me a dream and that I was crazy about it. I could actually settle down again and invest in myself. I could be happy here, close to my family and pursue a serious relationship again. It could all work out. As the weeks passed and I got no callbacks from my interviews, a dread began to pass through me. What if I get stuck here unable to do any kind of work that would make me happy?
Again, in a moment of weakness, I call back about the Afghanistan job and tell them I'm still interested, just to have something to fall back on in the event that things don't go right here. I'm still hoping and looking for something local because I really REALLY want this dream to come true now. She comes to me one morning before work and says "Please don't take this the wrong way, but could you get out of the house for a few days? I'm not sleeping well and I just need some rest." Understandable... I don't snore or anything but I am a restless sleeper. I roll and steal the covers without even knowing it. I say sure, it's a good chance to go visit some friends anyway.
I don't sense anything is amiss, but this is where the tragedy occurs. Two days later, we have a golf date. She seems bothered and distant. I ask her if she slept well the last couple days. She said yes. I ask her if she wants me out of the house for a bit longer. She proceeds to feed me all of my own words and worries from months before, when I told her that we should call it off. She used, almost to the phrasing, my exact reasoning, probably thinking that because they came out of my mouth first, I'd be more likely to accept it. She says we need to roll things back, be casual, not so attached to each other. The words make sense because the situation is what it is, but still they hammer at me with unimaginable force. Why? I feel angry. I say I understand. I go upstairs and gather my things. I leave.
Day 1: Angry - we do not speak.
Day 2: Angry/confused - she makes small talk and I don't respond
Day 3: Confused/hurt - I ask myself why am I hurt? I knew what this was after all
Day 4: Confused/hurt - I rationalize my feelings and how they got to this point
Day 5: Confused/hurt - I ask her if this is really what she wants and she tells me that she wants to be friends.
Day 6: Shocked/confused/hurt - she asks me if we're keeping our golf date tomorrow, like nothing in the world has changed. I tell her yes, knowing it's going to hurt being near her feeling what I do and not having it returned. I make a plan in my head: When I see her tomorrow, if my feelings are still there and it hurts me, I'm going to walk away. I write her a letter telling her how I feel, apologizing for not telling her that I loved her sooner and that I'd miss her. Ultimately, I tell her goodbye in writing because I don't trust my voice to handle it when the time comes. I leave nothing unsaid.
Day 7: Exuberant/miserable - It's so great to see her. I didn't even understand the depth of how much I missed her after only one week. I'm simultaneously happy, angry, anxious and miserable. It's a very confusing mix of emotions and I barely make it through our golf round. I make up my mind that I can't do the friend thing with her so when I go to her house after to pick up the last of my things, I leave the letter on her table. I give her a long hug, choke back that feeling in the back of my throat and leave without saying a word. I drive less than a mile away, pull over and let that goodbye do its work. I shed no tears because after the hard road I've traveled, I have buried them so deep that they will never see the light of day again. I delete her contact information from my phone. I delete her profile from my social network. I do not want to see her, hear from her or even hear anything about her because this last week has been hell and I'd like to move on. A number pops up on my phone and I decline the call. She doesn't leave a voicemail. She sends me a text saying that she's confused and hurt.
I don't understand. Why would she be hurt? She called it off in the first place. She tells me she wanted to hear these things a long time ago. I tell her that I couldn't leave it unsaid and if this is goodbye, then it was my last chance to do so. Yep, not sixty minutes from steeling my resolve to walk away and I've already folded. I'm in worse condition than I thought. She tells me she's going through something and can't talk about it now but we need to in due time. I tell her that if she asked, I would come, but I can't ask her to change her mind. She tells me not now. This makes my imagination run wild. What could it be?
I'm normally a very confident and secure person. I rely on myself. I do not get jealous. I am not in a normal situation. Suddenly my mind is wandering. Did she meet somebody else?
She tells me she needs time and space. I say fine, thinking that this is perhaps the first step towards mending some incorrect perceptions. Days go by and she texts me occasionally. I'm trying my hardest not to crowd her. I'm trying to let her come to me in her own time. She asks me to go out on Friday night and I happily accept. We have a great time and she takes me home. I begin to pour my feelings out and tell her what this has done to me. She says "hold that thought. I'm late". She expects me to run, but I don't. She gives me a nudge, as if to get me moving and I don't. She makes bad jokes about throwing her down a flight of stairs and I don't laugh. I tell her that I will do the right thing and support her no matter what happens. She doesn't take me seriously. I look her in the eyes and tell her that I'm here, no matter what happens.
It's all becoming so clear. She was just freaked out that she might be pregnant. That's what the distance was about, that's why she called it off. She just needed to sort things out. The next day she is distant again. She tells me we need to be friends. She's no longer late. My heart sinks and I slink away, thinking "I've learned my lesson. That won't happen again". She crooks a finger and I come running again. I'm no longer in control of myself. I spend all my time waiting for a word from her. Me... I used to be... who? Independent? Confident? Logical? Yeah... I used to be all of those things, but she's shaken me to my core. All those things are stripped away and I don't know who I am or what I'm doing.
She constantly sends me mixed messages. She kisses me on the cheek then dances away saying "sorry, too late, but try back later". I am so confused and hurt and emotional that I tell her I need to break all contact with her. She agrees, then contacts me the next day. I buckle again, thinking I'm being toyed with and strung along, but unable to stop myself from answering her. I tell her if she cares about me at all, she'll let me go. She says she will, but she wants to stay friends. She invites me to stay over again. I am unable to say no. She burns me again.
Every day I wake up thinking that today will be easier, that I'll stop thinking about her, but because that is my first thought I am completely unable to do so. I can't be her friend and she doesn't seem to want me for more than that, despite how hard she pushed to get me in the first place and how hard she fell for me. Every day it gets harder to go on. I can't get out of here fast enough. I wait for the ache to subside but it seems to get worse. I feel so unbearably alone. I feel sick, depressed, exhausted, short of breath and UN-appeasable, like nothing in the world will make me happy again. It's been a month of this and it still feels like I haven't hit the bottom. I don't know if I can do it...