why, indeed

Nine years after we last spoke, I found myself having a drink with an ex. Let's call her Jenn. I'm not sure why she initiated it, but if I had to guess, I'd say she just wanted to make sure her legacy isn't...well, to make sure I don't hate her. Mission accomplished. Then evening led to reminiscences, which led to divergence, which led to an argument about past events, which led to her house, which led to her journal.

Yep. She kept a written record of when we dated. And to win the argument, she let me read it. She's even letting me publish parts.

My first impression was how not-into-me she was when I was really-into-her. The less said about those parts, the better. She was infatuated with someone else when I came on the scene, and he blew me off the pages for three months.

But then, quite suddenly, there I am.

"John: what a wonderful husband that man would be."
That's my first mention? Holy crap! But then she talks about how she thought of the other guy when she was traveling with me. Which explains a lot about that weekend, come to think of it.

And then the Boy gets engaged. Much more angst. And suddenly, I'm starting to understand why this chick yanked me around, as this was all happening when we were first dating. I spent much of that time trying to figure that out.

"John - I'm liking him more and more. But I don't know. He's trying to break through my walls. I know that he is. They're trembling. They won't fall."
They fell. Soon:
"I question my feelings for John. Could I love him, I mean really love him? I don't think so. He stresses me out, with his irritating, persistent nonchalance."
Really? I thought you were the nonchalant one, sweetheart. Later:
"Things happened emotionally, physically. I thought I handled myself very well..."
You're the only one.
"...I love this guy a lot but there is something that would never work. I don't know. I don't know if I get this feeling more from myself or from him."
Yikes. And then the part that has made me think of little else since:
"Sometimes I don't trust him because I feel he is deliberately trying to hurt my feelings. And that is not acceptable."
The journal goes on to describe our relationship over the next couple of months, and then its end. But it's this last point that lingers. I did try to hurt her feelings. I remember doing it. I don't remember why. And I'm pretty sure I've played that game since. But here were the consequences of my conduct, staring at me unblinkingly from the parchment. Did we ever recover from the feeling she described? Have I sabotaged this and other relationships with emotional brinksmanship? I hope not, but hoping here already feels like a conviction.

Hence my two weeks of self-assessment.

What a fascinating anthropological dig this was. I'm forever grateful to Jenn for sharing. I leave you with my two favorite entries. See if you can guess which one is from the end.

"I'm sitting here talking to John. My new "boyfriend." Life is crazy. First we're murderous, then we're okay. What's to come? How in hell is this going to work? We're either so good or SO BAD."