Continued from Episodes One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten and Eleven.
Previously: A last minute trip to see me, to either be together, or say goodbye. We said goodbye. A month of numbness and denial, followed by my outright declaration of undying love and magic to him, followed by a month of waiting for his answer to my question of love. After a month of waiting, I finally called him..
He answered pretty instantly and sounded distracted and monotonous. I told him why I was calling - that my kitten had died. It sounds so selfish and horrible because I really was upset about Pumpkin's death, but I just needed him so badly. I just needed his voice. Her death was horrible but it was an excuse to call him and hear warmth in his voice. It had been too long since I had heard any at all. I could not get any warmth from him. He pretty much said how sorry he was and that he couldn't talk more and had to go. We got off of the phone after five minutes and I know those five minutes were a real stretch for him.
After the phone call, I broke. I called my mom and said I needed to be with her that night. After arriving late at night, I took one look at her and just broke. I sobbed for at least an hour. She just held me. She said, "This too, shall pass." She knew I wasn't crying about just the kitten. I was, but I was mostly crying about how he had let me down. I was crying the deepest tears of lost love that I had ever known. That I had ever imagined were known. So far. I had to lay down.
She didn't leave my side. I slept in the apartment part of my parent's house. I had lived in that apartment for a bit after graduation before settling in central Jersey. There were twin beds in the room. I lay on one and she lay on another and watched me to make sure I was ok. I tossed and turned all night and she never left the room. It was just like when I was a kid and I was sick. Only it was so much worse because I knew I would not get better in a day or two and that no medicine on earth could make me feel better. Heartsickness is the worst sickness there is.
By the bright light of the morning, things did not look better. I spent two days on the farm trying to heal. My parents had house guests there for a night, a couple I had known since I was very young. My parents filled them in and the woman tried to talk to me and tried to reach me to tell me that heartbreak passes. I could not be reached at all. I still wanted to believe we had a chance, although he could not talk to me for even five minutes during my grief. What kind of a chance is that?
I went back to my life and to work with determination to do whatever it took to feel better. My mom wrote me a very inspiring email right when I got back to work:
"Keep your spirits up..enjoy the holiday
festivities...take each day at a time. You have been through a lot this
week; go easy on yourself. If your love is strong enough (and it IS)
he will see it and take action. I still would maybe insist on a trip to
see him in the near future so you can really be together. Things like
geography will work themsleves out."
My mom is very wise and says the right things in seemingly hopeless situations. A few days later, I got a package from Cassidy. It was a new copy of the mix cd I had made for our trip to the Pacific Coast Highway wrapped in a cd cover he had designed with a picture of the beach. There was a note of condolence. He ended the note not with "Love, Cassidy" or "I love you," but with, "I hope you find peace, T." My stomach dropped in the most sickening way when I read those cold words disguised by the most beautiful handwriting.
My work holiday party was that following weekend. I wasn't going to go at first. I worked until 8:00 pm and the party had already started. Somehow I got the strength to go home, put on a nice dress and go to the party late. When I walked into the big fancy ballroom alone, one of my good friends instantly saw me and broke into a wide grin and ran over to me. That right there gave me so much strength. I sat at a table with the two guys I had an intrigue with. I was friends with both but they had nothing in common. One was very flirty and went off to flirt with many girls. The other stayed by my side. He was always a friend of mine and sat next to me at work. He had inherited my ILM accounts. He was one of the most respectful, gentle and laid-back souls I have ever had the pleasure to meet. He knew I was bumming and said to me:
"Let's go to Vermont and see moose!"
"How about tomorrow morning? We can stay with my friend in Burlington until Sunday."
"Great! Give me your address and I'll pick you up tomorrow morning."
And he did. It really was platonic, or at least not much more than flirty. We did not see moose but we drove together all the way to Burlington, which is not an easy trek. We met up with his good friend, who I instantly fell in love with. She had a picture of herself with Mike Gordon from Phish on her fridge because Phish is from Vermont and she's always been a waitress or bartender in Burlington and has met them many times. I was determined to have a good time and it was wild. We wound up going to some Grateful Dead bar in heavy snow. She had a truck and didn't seem bothered by the weather. Later that night she let us stay in at her farmhouse and I made my friend watch bad Canadian teen series with me all night.
Back home and back to work on Monday, I was miserable, but I had been distracted and pleasantly surprised by the humanity of some people. Until I got this email from Cassidy:
How are you? How's Bella?
Bella was my other cat, which I've been hesitant to admit since that is the name of my beloved grandmother, and Scarlet's middle name in honor of my grandmother. This cat? Sucked.
I don't know if I responded. I'd guess not right away, based on a sarcastic email to my friend, April:
"I'm so tickled that he knows I'm suffering a grief, and decided that an email like that would go over well.
Needless to say, I didn't reply.
If we get married one day, which I still believe is a possibility even through this junk, this will all be funny....
That was probably the last day I could say that, for a very long while. I had a dream that night that Cassidy was carrying me across a dirty lake but was oblivious that my head was underwater and I was slowly drowning. Finally he realized and carried me higher but this time he was the one drowning. We could never both be above water. Always one was sinking the other one down.
Things got weird, and terrible, fast between Christmas and New Year's 2004. Remember when I said there were two totally different guys intriguing me? One was Vermont "R" and one was "J." J was really, really cute. We had nothing in common. He..voted for George W. Bush. Twice. It was obviously never going to go anywhere, but he invited me on a date for Christmas Day. To have dinner with his entire family. I kid you not. And I accepted, I also kid you not. I thought, "What the hell, right?" It was really, really fun. He was intense but kind to me. We listened to the "Counting Crows" and he kissed me on my doorstep. Really fun, and really confusing. The Vermont trip with R and the Christmas party with J were welcome distractions.
I had already wondered about the curse of 2004. First of all, in one of Cassidy's last times at my parent's house, the Red Sox made it to the World Series. And then won it! To some, that was a curse breaking. Not to us. And then, George W. Bush was re-elected. To some, not a curse. To me? Not ideal. The day after Christmas, I really felt like life was over. The horrible tsunami hit Asia. And that was too horrific for words. And then on a personal level, my brother's ex student's whole family passed away on Christmas Day in a car accident. She survived but lost her parents and her sister. I have never seen my brother so torn up. She was only eleven and had been in his fifth grade class the previous year. Sometime before New Year's, things got much worse. My younger sister's best friend passed away. She had cancer but had beaten it already. We were all about to visit her at the hospital but she called us to tell us not to. Something freaky happened - her lungs collapsed, someone made a mistake, her body was too weak..I don't know what happened. She was beautiful and only 21.
The funeral was on New Year's Eve and it was the worst day of our lives. The horror of that funeral is still too much for us to talk about. The pain of my siblings and of the world in general was too large to handle. Do you ever feel that if you are strong, it's easier to take bad news because you feel capable to help and move on, however you can? And if you are weak, the weight of the pain just weighs more heavily on you? I could not cope. Yes, I'm selfish because my broken heart was at the forefront of my mind during some of the worst horrors imaginable. None of it was cope-worthy. None of it could be.
I was rescued on New Year's Eve, by R. It was very last minute. I called him with my unimaginable pain. He said, "Let's go to Maine and see moose?" I said, "There are no moose to see in the winter." He said, "Let's try anyway?"
We did. I was in such pain I could barely move or talk. At midnight on the dot, we were crossing the state line into Maine, over a bridge. Two times into New England in two weeks. It was hurting me so much, but it was also making me feel closer to Cassidy, as if I could find him there again. We had been so much in love in Maine. Just thinking about it made me sick. We found a random hotel in a random town and slept in separate beds. We drifted to sleep watching a Led Zeppelin concert on the hotel TV. That just made me think of Cassidy and his love for classic rock. It was unbearable and I had a restless sleep.
I woke up in a hotel room in Maine with R, blinking into a bright morning. It was now 2005. What would that bring?
Soon after New Year's, I finally had the guts to call Cassidy again. I wanted to thank him for the mix cd and confront him about getting back together. He answered the phone and instantly I think I knew I had lost. His voice had a robotic, monotonous tone that chilled me. He told me he had a girlfriend and that things had been progressing that way since we had split. The girlfriend was the long-term ex he had been with for five years who had left him without a trace of contact. They had met once, when we were together, in a cafe in San Francisco. I was sickened by him telling me this. I asked how long it had been going on and he admitted it had been brewing for a very long time and they finally got back together officially around New Year's. I was stunned. I asked him why he didn't just tell me. I told him I had been waiting for his call for two months. I told him I still had hope for us. I told him I had a dream that we went antiquing together in New England. He admitted that it sounded so good. Good enough to do it? I asked him. He replied that he had no hope for us and then said one of the coldest things I have ever imagined:
"I just..thought you had moved on, ya know. Like I did. Back in October."
I was so stunned and heartbroken that I couldn't speak. That night I called R in a panic. He took me to a diner to talk. I told him everything that had happened. I told him that I had waited for so long. I told him that Cassidy had moved on without me but had let me believe there was a chance for us for so long. I told him about the coldness in Cassidy's voice. I told him that Cassidy had told me on the phone that he was happier with her and that he saw a future with her and not with me. He basically said I was not worth the trouble.
I could not speak anymore because my throat had closed up with tears. R was gentle and thoughtful. He said what I feared to be true. He said,
"Tamara, I know this is hard to hear, but..Cassidy doesn't care about you. He just doesn't. Not anymore. He obviously doesn't care about you. He would have called. He would have shown more respect. At least now you can move on."
The worst part was how right I feared R was. He was looking at the situation logically. To cheer me up after dinner he took me to his house and we watched Anchorman. It was perfect for that moment. I was so angry and sad and heartbroken, but in that sudden shocked way. I had not reached rock bottom in my pain. I forged a strong connection with R after that, although nothing happened initially. J could see it happening and got really jealous and upset and pulled away from me completely. I didn't have much of the energy or life-force to care. I cared a lot about R, always. He was intuitive and spiritual and quirky in ways few people are. He was a solid support system. He would try to cheer me up constantly and it mostly worked, for a bit. On another random weekend in January, we decided to spontaneously drive to New Hampshire. Along the way, it struck me that we were on the same stretch of 91 North that Cassidy's mom lived off of. I told R to quickly pull over and although I had no idea how to get to her house, I was able to get close enough to recognize a farm road with a red barn. I know now it was only two blocks from her. I panicked and said, "Let's get back in the car. Now." And we went on our way to New Hampshire. It snowed a lot up in the White Mountains and we found a restaurant called "The Muddy Moose" to have dinner in. There was a rousing Patriots game on the TV and I thought we were about to get trampled in the stampede. It was another distraction, and it wasn't quite as platonic as it should have been. After that, things changed between us.
At the end of January I traveled to Florida with my mom and sister to see my grandparents. While we were there, a blizzard hit NYC and our flight home was delayed by hours. We sat in the airport miserably. The flight landed back at JFK Airport at 3:00 am and my car was completely under two feet of snow in the long-term parking lot. My sister had hurt her ankle and sat in the backseat while my mom and I tried to dig out my car. A plow came by and we shouted, "HELP!" and he wouldn't stop to help us. We were furious and miserable. After what seemed like hours we got out and drove back to New Brunswick. Being on a JetBlue flight and then being at JFK Airport again was the trigger I needed to reach the depths of my sadness. I said goodbye to my mom and sister that night and then slept in the next day, grateful finally for the chance to break down alone.
I called into work sick and curled up on my bed. I cried the kind of heaving, deadly sobs that were probably heard three apartments over. For hours. I didn't eat. I didn't even get up. I laid in my bed for 12 hours until the sun went down again. I could not imagine a greater pain and I could not imagine surviving it. I slept on and off, with an empty stomach and the rumpled clothes I had first put on in Florida. At 3:00 am, I got up to use the bathroom and looked in the dimly lit mirror at a face I could not recognize. Over 12 hours of crying and a realization that I might not survive the greatest pain I could imagine.
I was sickened at the thought of Cassidy happy and intimate with his girlfriend. I wanted time to pass quickly and painlessly so it could all be over and so that I wouldn't be about to start the hardest grieving process I had ever faced.
It was acceptance. Hope had gone away with the robotic phone call. I was so angry I couldn't see straight. Overnight, everything had changed. I could no longer listen to classic rock. I could no longer listen to love songs.
But, really? I could no longer say his name. He became "He Who Shall Not Be Named."
Sometimes I called him "Voldemort" for short...
My new life of coping and grieving started two mornings after Florida, when I truly realized that all hope between us was lost. I put on a brave face and went to work, as always.