Burning Bridges

This past Sunday, I had to cut out the most toxic person in my life: the first girl I had ever loved. We had known each other for 20 years, and even though she and I only dated for a few months back in high school, she was insistent that I stay in her life as a friend.  Unfortunately for me, that friendship consisted of using me as an emotional doormat. I don’t know why I allowed it for so long.  Maybe the nostalgia of what we had, maybe the need to be needed.  Either way, it was a bridge that I had to burn.

Where does this begin?  Back in 1998.  We were introduced to a mutual friend during our high school days.  I was a dork (and admittedly, I still am for the most part), and she liked that.  So, things blossomed quickly between us, and she became my first girlfriend.  Unfortunately, her parents weren’t keen on me (she was Chinese, I’m Black), and it got to a boiling point to where her father and older sister threatened to call the police on me if they ever saw me with her again. The breakup was one of the saddest points in both of our lives.  Here was this girl who looked past the norms of high school crowds and saw me for me, and it was either continue to see her or risk ending up in handcuffs. So I ended it.  It pained me to see her in tears as she walked away.

Unbeknownst to me, my older brother had pretty much swooped in on the rebound and ended up sleeping with her behind my back.  That’s right.  The first girl I ever loved had slept with my older brother.  It took me years to try to look past that, and to this day, I still have trust issues with him.  (But that’s a story for another day.)  The only reason I ended up finding out about this was because she had coaxed him into telling me the truth.  So the toxic undertone of my bond with her had begun.

Years later, in the Myspace era, we found each other and ended up talking again.  She had been married and divorced, in one toxic relationship after another, all while being a single parent, and she saw me as a reminder of a more innocent time.  I ended up keeping in touch with her as an open ear, listening to her vent about one relationship after another.  Every so often, she’d tease the possibility of her and I being a couple again, only for her to find one reason or another to go back on her intentions.  At one point, she had pretty much blabbed about my ties with her to an old classmate of hers that I had never met before, telling her every detail from my penis size to the fact that she slept with my older brother.  I kept my composure through the entire ordeal, but once I got home, I sent her a message, letting her know how disrespectful that was. In effect, I cut my ties with her for the first time.

For a good four years, not only did I not hear from her, but I was in a relationship of my own, and it was good for a time. Funny enough, when I ended up breaking up with my ex, she was right there to swoop in and mend the bridge that I had burned between us. From that point on, it was a cycle of her toying with my emotions and my libido, and every effort I made to distance myself from her made her pull me back in to play me again and again.

One particular time, she talked about going to dinner with me.  I was reluctant, but then agreed.  Yet while I was making plans, picking out a restaurant that would be close enough to her, she was on a date with someone she had met on OkCupid. I was forced to cancel my plans with her because she had fallen in “love” on the fly. Funny enough, a friend from high school had invited me to a bake sale in order to cheer me up. Not even two weeks later, guess who showed up in a Facebook post at one of her baking events? That’s right, the manipulative ex.  Her presence in my life was becoming a serious source of stress. And yet, somehow, she played on my good nature and the nostalgia of what we once had, almost effortlessly convincing me that I was her reminder of a more pure time in her life.

This past Sunday was the last straw.  A week prior, I had sent a few friends, including her, a pic I had taken at a Bronx festival on the first weekend of the summer. She wanted me to call her, so I did. I expected just a quick chat, but it ended up becoming a 3-hour conversation where she dangled the possibility of marriage.  To be specific, she stated that if she couldn’t find a husband by the time she turned 40, she wanted me to marry her. She had ended another relationship, and I’m guessing she felt vulnerable again, needing me to build up her self-esteem and fuel her need to be adored.  And mind you, it wasn’t just a simple pact.  She wanted details. Who I’d invite, where it would take place, how many kids I wanted. Serious talk, not just playful conversation.  At the end of the conversation, I promised her I’d call the next day.  I did, and ended up on voicemail. One week, no reply.

Until this past Sunday.

As I was checking my Facebook, I saw a picture of her.  Back with the ex she had broken up with, with the caption, “He Loves Me!” under the pic. I had enough.  I texted her, “Btw, next time we speak, don’t get my hopes up.” She said that if I felt so hurt, don’t bother texting her.  My reply? “Good.  Consider yourself blocked. Goodbye.”

There was so much more I wanted to say, to vent to her how much she had hurt me over the two decades I had known her.  But if I did, she’d find a way, some way, to flip it all, play it as if she never realized it, and win me back as a “friend”.  No. I was sick and tired of being her emotional doormat.  My toxic bond with her was hurting me, emotionally and physically, and I had enough.  This was a bridge I had to burn for my own sake.

So here I am. My heart a bit more empty than before, but with a new beginning. I don’t care if I never find the one or fall in love again, as long as what’s left of my heart isn’t broken. Some have tried to build my hopes up, but honestly, I’m just sick and tired of it all.  Not everybody was meant to find that someone, and I’m learning that now.  They say that single people live shorter lives than someone married, but I don’t care. I don’t care, as long as I’m not stuck in a toxic cycle.  One of the last things she said to me was that if she married me, it wouldn’t be for love.  That’s proof enough for me that I’m better off alone.

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Valentine’s Day: At Peace With Being Single

I’ve been single for 3 years. The first two years, when Valentine’s Day would approach, I’d be a complete Grinch. I couldn’t stand all the imagery of happy couples being pushed into the faces of the masses, all in order to get them to fork over their money for chocolates, flowers, and even the shiniest jewelry money could buy. I hated the feelings of longing that these images would invoke, and I’d curse the existence of February 14. Suddenly, that time of year has come around again, and for the first time in a long time, it simply feels like another day.

My parents and relatives always like to bug me and point out that I’m single and not getting any younger, asking me who my next girlfriend will be, or when I’m getting married. Truth be told, I don’t care at this point if I’m destined to stay single or not. Between focusing on improving myself and pushing toward my personal goals, the supposed emptiness of being single has been replaced with a sense of solitude and peace. Being alone with my own thoughts has been a blessing in recent months, allowing me to rediscover myself. Sometimes, solitude can put things in perspective.

Don’t get me wrong. There are those rare days where I would like to wake up next to a wonderful woman. I sometimes miss those long, playful phone calls from my days with my last girlfriend. Still, looking at where I am now compared to three years ago, I don’t regret anything.

If you’re single, and you don’t have a special someone to be your Valentine, don’t worry about it. Focus on building yourself up. Don’t worry about finding somebody on that dating site, and don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t bumped into that special someone yet. Take time to do something for yourself. Hit up a bookstore and explore. Hit up a gym and get active. Take time to try something new that you haven’t done before. Be your own Valentine.

Happy Valentine’s Day.