Is all that you can’t say
Years gone by and still,
Words don’t come easily
Like sorry, like sorry.”
— Tracy Chapman
The transition into a new year is always the most interesting time of the year for me: all these metaphorical doors closing and opening, the entrances and exits (or in my case, exes). As our perennial “fresh start” approaches, suddenly, it seems we’re all scrambling to shake it off, set fire to the rain, and for once and for all, let it go (shout-out to T. Swift, Adele and Elsa).
In short, we’re seeking “closure” (because God forbid we actually choose to move on—even into a new year—without it).
I’m no exception. In fact, I’ve always considered myself quite skilled at closing doors…once I finally work up the nerve to walk. It’d even be fair to say I stumbled upon some unexpected closure of my own recently, via my sighting of “The Ex.”
That was a case of perfect timing: I was in the right place, and it was the absolute right moment, because—even unbeknownst to myself—I was finally in the right frame of mind to see the man I once convinced myself was “Mr. Right”…and walk away unscathed.
As they say, timing is everything; and the holidays are notoriously a time when Ghosts of Relationships Past rise from the grave. Which is likely why I barely even batted an eye when another ex resurfaced; this time, on Christmas Day.
Now, to be fair: this ex bears no resemblance to The Ex. In fact, he was the first man I trusted enough to date after the unmitigated disaster that was The Ex. Since we’d been friends first, there had also always been an affinity—an affinity that has remained hard to shake, despite our eventual demise.
He’s also never strictly restricted himself to the holiday season. He resurfaces at will, year-round.
So, when I heard from this old flame—who I fondly call “The Entertainer”—after six months of radio silence, I was perhaps a bit suspect, but not at all surprised. This had long been our way: phases of advance and retreat. Admittedly, the last few advances had left us both bitter, if not a bit burned.
(Fun fact: His last appearance—and subsequent disappearing act—inspired me to actively pursue new options; which led me to Tinder; which, of course, led me to start this blog. So, while I’m not quite sure I’m willing to elevate him to “muse” status, I suppose we can all at least thank him for that.)
Our friendship had always come easily; the chemistry had, too. Anything more might’ve been asking too much of not one, but two entertainers, each of us used to being out in front and the center of attention, the stars of our respective shows. For artists, compromise can be especially challenging. Truth is, sharing the spotlight is not generally the best of our many talents.
But…it happens, right? (See: any number of Hollywood pairings) And, while we never discussed our “power couple” potential, the Entertainer and I tried, at least for a while. He often made room for me on his stage, but finding the room in his all-too-busy life—without completely compromising my own—proved more difficult.
It was a case of imperfect timing, I guess. I wanted a soft and safe place to fall when the show was over. But for him, the show always seemed to go on…and on.
And where there is a show, there are often fans. For an entertainer, the fans are often a validation of our talent, the encouragement we need to leave it all on the stage, night after night and the impetus to keep going, against all odds. That kind of attention can make what often feels like a perpetually losing situation entirely worthwhile…and an otherwise fragile ego feel invincible.
Ultimately, it seemed that my solo applause wasn’t enough for The Entertainer.
Of course, there was more to it than that. Sordid and unfortunate details do no favors to either of us. But a few nights ago, when we finally agreed to meet—ironically, at a place I associated with the beginning of the end of “Us”—The Entertainer claimed to not recall exactly what had ended us some 18 months before.
Must be nice…because I did. My trust in him had been replaced by scar tissue, and while reconciliation was almost certainly futile, I had come seeking—you guessed it—closure. I expected an explanation, an apology, and—since we’d skillfully avoided any previous confirmation of our status—some better understanding of what we had been, where we went wrong, and what—if anything—we should be to each other now.
But finally sitting down with him was a bit like revisiting my old high school: he was smaller than I remembered. Granted, the extra padding I’d brought back with me from three weeks of holidays in the Midwest likely didn’t help, but everything about him now seemed more compact, even his usually outsized personality.
I could take him, I thought.
Is that what I was really there for? Combat? A standoff? Comeuppance? I didn’t know. But sitting there, across from him, I realized that the closure I was seeking wasn’t his to give—any more than the affirmation he suddenly seemed to be seeking from me.
“So…you don’t hate me?” he asked.
No, I really didn’t. I never had. But, that assurance seemed to be all he wanted from me, with nothing to offer in return.
“I’ve never been good at communicating my feelings…”
This is all that he—one of the most verbally prolific people I’ve ever encountered—had to say, aside from a few lame jokes. I genuinely chuckled at all of them because frankly, while I’m good at closing doors, I’ve never been good at holding a grudge.
But, no: I never got the explanation I’d hoped for, or the apology (at least, not in so many words).
So, what remains? Maybe nothing. Maybe just the friendship, made stronger from once attempting to be more. Truth is, we were an experiment destined to fail. I’d dated him while still recovering from a broken heart, believing that “casual” was all I could handle, and confirming—thanks to him—that I am not a casual girl.
He, in turn, had always tried to keep me at arm’s length…yet, never entirely let go. The irony that my sole approval should mean so much to him now—long after he’d taken my unconditional support for granted—wasn’t lost on me. Neither was the fact that—as much as I once cared, and might still—it really didn’t matter, because I’d gotten what I came for.
I’d gotten closure.