It's easy — and tempting — to downplay the toll my last relationship took on me.It lasted only a few weeks. He never hit me. His stormy eyes and everything that went with them? That system rolled out of my life almost as quickly as it popped onto the radar.
The exhaustive social-media checks I forced myself to do out of self-preservation after a few unfortunate photos surfaced have dwindled to occasional, perfunctory glances in silly fits of snark. I want to be the woman who tucks every soured relationship under her hat and glides on gracefully to the next thing. Who has learned from her [many] mistakes but won't let them block out the brilliant sunshine streaming in through those open doors before her. And for the most part, I am. In the past six months, I have built the walls high around me. My wit, feminine wiles and winning smile are a reminder of how far I've come on my best days … and a convincing front, my salvation, on my worst. But lately, the defenses are coming down. Fast. Sure-I'll-sing-for-you, crossword-puzzles-in-bed, Starbucks-baristas-recognize-us, meet-the-family fast.
This morning, I woke up late and had to rush to get ready for work, out the door by 6:43 a.m.. As I rinsed out the last of my shampoo, the door cracked open with a squeak, and he poked his head in to ask whether I'd eat some scrambled eggs if he made them for me. I told him where the pan was. (Fluid. Natural. Simple.) After my shower, I padded into the kitchen, blind without my contacts, and grabbed the sweaty glass of orange juice he'd poured me, and stared sleepily into the mirror as I brushed my bangs dry. Then I realized he'd never cooked for me before. I am very particular about my eggs. I cannot eat wet eggs. If they're slimy, I will gag. Those poor, unborn baby chickens will go to waste. It's a simple request. At a restaurant, they're happy to overcook my eggs in scrambled, omelet or frittata form. And my mother has never hesitated — actually, she probably taught me this — to burn those puppies to a crisp. They do this because they care about my happiness. But I stood there, paralyzed, for a few minutes before I could bring myself to go back into the kitchen and ask my boyfriend to make eggs the only way I can eat them. Because one morning in late November, there was a lengthy shouting match with another boyfriend that stemmed from the same unreasonable request. (This memory is second only to the first dinner we made together, a night when discarding parsley I knew I'd never use again suddenly became a capital offense.)
Finally, I shyly made my request for browned eggs. No problem. Because this boyfriend, too, cares about my happiness. And isn't a lunatic. (Oh, and the eggs? Delicious.) There are a lot of distinctions like this to be made. It's that whole redefinition thing. Old boyfriend would keep me up until 3 a.m. arguing. New boyfriend keeps me up because I hate to close my eyes and leave him for the night. That sort of thing.
I'm happier than I have been in months, maybe even years. I'm myself again. But even as those beams of promising light stream through that open door before me, I still flinch when I get zapped by the lingering electricity from that storm. The clouds that rushed into that boyfriend's eyes before we hurtled into another long argument rumble through from time to time. Luckily, I look great in galoshes, and I've got a fantastic new umbrella to match. And I know now, as I didn't then, that the sun will come out again before I know it.