Saturday, June 16, 2012
My Life Story in pieces: My First and Second Boyfriends PART TWO
I fooled myself into believing that C and I were just friends, and that two people off the opposite sex can be close, emotionally-open friends without feelings coming into play. I made myself believe that was true, every time we talked. After all, he knew I had a boyfriend - I was very clear about it from day one. Yet I didn't tell my boyfriend that I was talking to him every day. J didn't know that C existed. Eventually C became my alternate universe. All my friends were good, upstanding Christian girls.
J. was the "ideal" Christian guy - wise to a fault, and raised in private Christian school and college (including a year at the ultra-strict, ultra-conservative Word of Life Bible Institute in upstate NY), he saw everything as black and white. He helped me form my moral compass. With J, I would talk about music and friends and our beliefs. We would discuss social issues like war, abortion, homosexuality, marriage, sex, everything. I don't want to downplay my relationship with J. He was there for me when I came out of my childhood issues. He was there for me during all the family fights that I endured, and he held me or talked me through my self-esteem issues. He was the only guy I knew who unabashedly, completely and wholly thought I was the most gorgeous girl alive - every jiggly inch of me. It felt good to feel so loved. He didn't approve of my swearing habit, my issues with organized religion, or a few other things I did or thought but he did support me. Oftentimes I got frustrated because it felt like he was a parental figure instead of a boyfriend, constantly correcting me and telling me what was right and wrong, but he did it in such a gentle manner that I didn't realize or even consider that he could possibly be wrong about anything. I believed and followed him wholly. I wanted to be his quiet, well-mannered Christian girlfriend who people adored. I wanted to be the girl he stood proudly next to at church on Sundays. I wanted his mean Puerto Rican mother to like the little white girl that I was. I put so much pressure on myself.
C was, at first, so curious about my faith. He asked so many questions and I got to spout all my beliefs to him. He'd play the devil's advocate (quite literally, later...talk about foreshadowing!) and ask questions to make me re-evaluate what I believed. It was a very good lesson in not believing everything you're told...I learned a lot about myself from his questions. He sure helped shape my faith and my personality during that formative year, for better or worse. As time went on, we talked less about Jesus and more about bullshit. He became the person I vented to about my family, about school, about J. He was the only person I knew who didn't get upset when I swore (he swore himself), so I got to say the big bad "F word" around him.
Eventually there were two versions of me: the good girl, who got straight A's and went to church and had a super-sweet Christian boyfriend (J) who wrote me love letter and who all my friends liked...and then there was who I was starting to believe was "the real me," the girl who is a Christian but who swears, and doesn't believe everything she's spoon-fed, the girl who cares less about image and more about reality, the girl who didn't have to adhere to any standards or pressure, the girl who was loved by a "cool" tattooed guy. With J, I was my best self and with C, I was my worst self. I liked both selves. I had no idea I could merge the two Mes into one, that I could change my bad qualities and keep the good, that I could allow myself to be imperfect and have bad habits while still attaining toward the person I wanted to be. I had no idea that could be done.
So I began to live in an alternate universe. It just felt so nice to have someone who accepted my flawed side. The few times I'd been my "heathen" self around my family, friends, and current boyfriend, they'd either shown embarrassment, reproach or hostility. C never did any of those things. He took me just as I was, and soon I was very much like him.
As far as I knew at the time, nobody knew about C. I made sure of that. While I reveled in being That Version of Me, I couldn't let the people I knew know how I truly was inside. Looking back, I think a lot of people knew. I know my poor sister did and was burdened with the knowledge. She and I didn't get along very well during that time period.
We continued talking on the phone, every day, through my sophomore, junior, and senior year of high school. At some point, we said I Love You. I stopped talking to him about J altogether. C started making hints that he was the one for me, that J was boring and judgmental and that nobody truly knew me except him. I, of course, believed him to a point but didn't want to argue with him, but wasn't ready to give up on my Real Life. I kept my Secret Life with C just that - the "deepest, darkest secret" that we had ominously spoken of as little girls at sleepovers. He was my Dirty Little Secret, and what a regret, now.
Early in my freshman semester at a small Christian college, C and I decided it was time to meet. I made the plans and found a way to meet him. I don't remember if it was for the weekend or for a week. We spent those days together and had a magical time. He was sweet. We went on walks, stayed up late talking, went to see places from his childhood...we said "I love you" in person for the first time.
And then he got a horrible toothache (which turned out to be an abscess a few months later). I wanted to help him. I offered to get him a drink, find him medicine, but he said neither would help. I felt helpless so I put my hand on his back. He shoved my hand off and yelled at me, told me to leave him "the fuck alone. Goddamn." We sat there in pain for an hour...He was writhing in physical pain. I was crying from feeling so hurt. I didn't get why he had turned on me. I couldn't understand how this sweet man could be so mean to me. God, I was so naive.
His toothache subsided and he apologized. He dried my tears and held me until I stopped crying and shaking. He apologized profusely and promised it wouldn't happen again. I couldn't stop apologizing for bothering him, explaining that I was only trying to help. (Just writing this paragraph so far has made me roll my eyes a thousand times...I want to go back in time and sucker-punch Former Me and tell her that on that day she became nothing more than a silly cliche.)
A night or two before I was supposed to leave, I discovered a lump in my left breast. It put a dark note on the rest of our time together. It was nice, though, having someone there to comfort me in my fear. When I got home, I immediately saw a doctor and then a surgeon, and soon was scheduled for a biopsy/lumpectomy/whatever the heck it's officially called. Once again, in retrospect I can see such foreshadowing. God, what a silly twit I was...
Part one: My first and second boyfriends
Part two: My first and second boyfriends part 2
Part three: Welcome to Bible College
Part four: Kicked out of Bible College
Part five: Pregnant