Ex-boyfriend number 6 did, in fact, call me up to go have a beer. We arranged to meet at our favorite old oyster house/outdoor bar down in Tempe at 6 after work on Friday, and I made contingency escape plans for the hookah bar with my roommate Pete and Dwyer (who was, thankfully, in town to visit before he takes off to Mongolia for two years. Yes, Mongolia) just in case the night went badly.
It went great.
Not the kind of great where you end up with a hangover and a "shit what did I do" morning, but the kind of great you hope for when you see an ex. We were there til eleven at night just talking about the past year and catching up and sharing ideas we had developed and talking about plans. We did talk about his breakup with this recent girl, but that didn't bother me all that much. We got along just fine, we touched on our relationship but didn't get into it beyond vague generalizations of what happened, and we had a few good laughs and some drinks.
And even though it went great, and we left with a hug and a "See you around," I was fucking exhausted. I went straight home to bed, slept for eleven hours, and spent the next day desperately trying to carve out time for myself in between all the things I had committed to (graduation parties, errands, etc.) By eight o'clock Saturday night I called up everyone I still had plans with and said, "Sorry, can't do it," and went to the hookah bar and sat with Pete and Dwyer and pontificated on the nature of relationships and continued our quest to offend the entire universe.
Then I went home, got ready for bed, and when my friend called me I burst into tears.
For the past six years I've been going through what can only be described as a dental saga--I have a congenitally missing tooth and a peg incisor and have been going through braces and retainers and surgeries and implants to get them fixed. It's been kind of a bitch.
We're in the final stages, now, though, and just last week my dentist took what are hopefully the last molds of my teeth and put on a temporary tooth and a temporary veneer until the lab can make permanent ones based on the molds. And he said, "You'll have to stop biting your nails because that can rip off the temporaries."
I stopped biting my nails once before, but then I learned how to play the guitar and had to clip them anyway and I just figured, screw it, why make it more difficult than it has to be? I haven't been able to quit again since, but this time I stopped the very same day my dentist told me to. Not cold turkey, or anything, but I stopped enough that I managed to grow some actual nails and my cuticles aren't quite as mutilated as they usually are.
About a week ago it occurred to me that the last time I stopped biting my nails was the last time I really felt like I liked who I was, until recently. Then it occurred to me that nail-biting is really just the physical manifestation of my mental self-blame and incessant nitpicking, which I have only begun to learn to control and eliminate in the past year--and because I've learned to control and eliminate that, it's that much easier to control and eliminate my nail-biting.
And this is what I told ex-boyfriend number 6 over my Blue Moon and veggie burger when we were getting into the changes we were making in our respective lives, and the things we had learned about ourselves. I showed him my nails.
Later I absentmindedly put my thumbnail to my mouth and he said, "You're biting your nails, by the way." Accusatorily, as though I had lied.
And of all the things he told me in the five hours we spent together, this was the thing that I kept remembering all weekend, just vaguely popping into my head at random times. I couldn't figure it out; honestly all of Saturday I didn't really have time to try to figure it out, until I started crying on Saturday night, and my friend asked me what was wrong.
It wasn't that he had criticized me, or even just that seeing an ex who hadn't spoken to me in a year was just an emotionally exhausting experience. What upset me was how he casually dismissed the physical evidence of all the changes I worked so hard to bring about in my life since we broke up. He didn't care that I had changed, that I have begun to make the small steps that lead to giant leaps, that I have stopped beating myself up over everything, enough that I can do things that are healthy for me easily, with very little regression.
Perhaps it is silly, to be upset that he didn't recognize what such a small thing meant for me--but it means he doesn't know me any more. I felt like even the history we had, the last remnant of what we were to each other, was really gone, and I felt so deeply the fact that we were starting over from scratch, two people who haven't even seen each other in nine months, much less maintained any semblance of a relationship. I heard somewhere it takes a cat nine months to forget its owner completely.
This desire I have, and my wish that he would still know which things were so important to me, reminds me a little of the movie Anastasia, with Yul Brinner and Ingrid Bergman, where (spoiler alert, but hey, it's a classic anyway and you should know the ending) the Russian Empress recognizes Anastasia because she coughs because she is frightened. These are things your family knows about you and should always be able to recognize--and he was my family.
Was is the operative word in that sentence.
So I am sad, but it is okay, and probably as it should be. Maybe we can get together every couple of months in the name of people who cared about each other, have a beer, have a laugh, and call it quits for the evening.
But I am sad.