When I was sixteen years old I broke up with my first boyfriend, Jesse Case. But before the real break up we had a week long break, break-up during which I went for a walk to the half-shell and then therapy with his best friend John Munch. I think we talked about being freaks at school and The Eagles. Someone was committing infidelity of some kind. Then Jesse and I got back together and then we broke up for real and he started calling me and saying some pretty mean stuff which I think I mostly ignored. Whenever I would engage him to defend myself or to try to hear him out or comfort him, our exchanges would devolve into pure pain. His. Mine. Eventually he discovered the thing that would get to me. He wrote me an email that read: Dear Rebecca, I’ve been talking to my friends about you and everything and we’ve decided that you need serious help.
I was devastated. I was also a little confused since his friend had actually walked me to my weekly appointment of serious-help just a few days earlier. After a lot of crying and worrying about it, hating myself, and believing I would helplessly repeat all of my parents’ relationship mistakes I did a funny thing. A funny thing that in almost every other situation has been a major mistake but this time actually panned out. I went to my father. I told him what Jesse had said and without taking even second to think about he explained that Jesse was just upset and was trying to get to me. This just hadn’t occurred to my optimistic, 16 year old mind.
I was still trying to protect Jesse as much as possible and felt horrible for wanting to break up. There wasn’t any real reason to break up. He didn’t do anything terrible or even unkind or boring. In fact, our relationship had been a pretty healing one– for me, I know, and I think for him as well. He had lost his father a year before we started going out and we talked about it a lot. He wrote me three songs on his keyboard– all in different keys with violin interludes and some charming forever-love type lyrics. We watched The Abyss and ate a lot of Chinese food and had sex. And then it was over. I just didn’t really desire him anymore and I desired other people and that love we had had was over. I felt selfish about wanting to be out of our relationship but decided to break up with him even though it was the selfish thing to do. Even more selfishly I wanted to maintain a different kind of love so that all the healing we had done wouldn’t be unmade simply because we weren’t going to get married and go around together forever.
Now it’s been about seven years and I’m doing it again. Breaking up, I mean. And I know a lot of you already know it. If not because I’ve told you or the internet has told you but through intense radio-silence buffered only by midnight bleatings of all sorts.
A series of invectives and accusations has been launched and I don’t know what to do. I could rebuff each one. Defend, explain, and apologize. That seems to make it worse. And today we reached that tipping point where I got an email akin to “my friends and I have all decided that you need serious help” and it was all I could do not to think about Jesse. It would never have occurred to me to lob the particulars of his father’s death, his own traumas and histories, at him. Even now, even though I meant to write more specifically about them, I can’t. Even though Jesse does not read my blog and even if he did, he might not care. I’d rather maintain the possibility that that healing was actually healing and that means not chasing him around with accusations of my own. Even though our relationship did not last forever I am still faithful to the confidences we shared then. Without knowing where he is with all of it it would feel like a major betrayal to post them on the internet. In a way I’m not doing it now to prove that I was serious then. Which I was.
I mean, I wasn’t going to do any of this really. I was just going to keep diligently working on an essay I’m writing about butch/femme and break-ups and privacy and healing and confidentiality and concealment. You would have liked it. It was also about the 1780 shipwreck HMS Ontario which was recently discovered under 500 feet of water in the great lakes, remarkably more intact than it should have been.
And look where I am now. Doing all those things. Even kind of talking about The Eagles.