Friday, December 19, 2008

December 19, 2008

So I got a notice from the bank today telling me that the check from Adam bounced. I don’t know why, but a part of me was surprised. I really shouldn’t have been, given that I already knew he’d lied, or at least possibly lied, about when he’d started using drugs. But for some reason, on the day we had lunch when he’d written me the check for all the money he owed me, I thought he’d be good for it; I believed he’d changed. Now, not only do I not have the money he owes me, but I get the pleasure of paying a $25 fine for having his rubber check pass through my account. Thanks a lot, Adam.

I was more than a little annoyed, and I picked up my phone to call Adam’s cell and get an explanation. On the second ring, I got a message telling me that his phone had been disconnected. Are you kidding me?

I felt like such an idiot. At lunch, I had bought Adam’s whole story about how he was so sorry for the way he handled the end of our relationship, and then, I honestly believed that he was going to do the right thing by repaying me. As much as I’m trying not to let it get to me, I can’t help but feel a little bitter about the whole thing. I guess that’s what I get for trusting someone who hurt me so deeply in the past.

“Hurt me once, shame on you. Hurt me twice, shame on me”. Isn’t that how the saying goes?

As I talked the whole thing over with Sonia, she told me that I’d better go get myself tested for any diseases I might have caught from Adam since he was shooting up while he was sleeping with me. I felt a little bit panicked when I considered the whole situation. Had he also lied to me about never sharing needles with anyone? I really hope not.

I hung up with Sonia so I could call my gynecologist’s office to schedule an appointment. As I sat on hold, waiting to speak to a receptionist, I thought about what I’d say. “Um, yes, I need to get checked for any nasty infections I may have been given by my scummy ex-boyfriend because I just found out that he’s a junkie.” Yeah, that might work. I felt so dirty.

I made an appointment for Wednesday, Christmas Eve, and tried not to drive myself crazy worrying about it. Merry Christmas to me!

I decided to distract myself with some Christmas shopping. I still needed to find something for Sonia, my sister and Kaitlyn, and I also wanted to buy a small gift for Alex. He and I had been talking on the phone most evenings for the past couple of weeks, and we’d gotten together last Sunday for brunch after having stayed up way too late talking on the phone with each other Saturday night.

I’m really beginning to like Alex, and I think the feeling is mutual. We’re getting together this weekend to go ice skating at an indoor rink near my work. I haven’t been ice skating since I was a kid. I hope I don’t embarrass myself!

I drove out to the mall, all the while hoping I’d be able to find a parking spot. I had braved the Christmas crowds last year to do some last-minute shopping, and I’d vowed to buy my gifts earlier this year. But as much as I’d wanted to be organized, I kept putting my shopping off. So, here I was, circling the parking lot like a lion honing in on its prey while cars in nearly every other aisle did the same.

After what seemed like forever, I found a sweet spot near the entrance that was about to open up. I sat there waiting in the aisle for a few minutes with my blinker on while a harried-looking mother strapped her two small children into their car seats. Finally, the woman got in her car and put it in reverse. At the same moment, a little black sports car zipped into the aisle from the other direction. The car slowed down as if the guy was planning on taking my spot. Oh, no you don’t, buddy. That spot is mine!

As the woman backed out and cleared the spot, the guy gunned it to pull in. Luckily for me, the woman suddenly braked and leaned over to pick something up off the floor, effectively blocking the guy from moving. I was able to slip into the spot and put my car in park. The guy knew I was waiting on that spot, yet he glared at me anyway. I had to suppress the urge to stick my tongue out at him and say “Neener, neener” as I walked past his car. I never claimed to be mature!

I went in a toy store to see what I could find for Kaitlyn. What a zoo! There were children sitting in the aisles crying and whining as their stressed-looking parents tried to pry them off the floor so they could leave. I guess it’s hard for young kids to be in a fantasy toyland and not be able to get everything their little hearts desire. It didn’t look like such a fun trip for the parents either. Note to self: Keep any future progeny out of stores with toys stacked from floor to ceiling in order to avoid tantrum-city.

As I tried to keep from stumbling on yet another small child, I saw a pretty wooden doll furniture set that I thought Kaitlyn would love. It seemed sturdier than all the brightly-colored plastic garbage, so it seemed worth the higher cost. It also had hand-painted flowers, teddy bears, and hearts on it, and I’m a sucker for cute artwork.

I dragged the heavy box up to the register and asked if I could stash it behind the counter until I was leaving the mall. Luckily, the clerk agreed, and I made my way out of the store as quickly as I could.

I fought my way through the crowd and headed into a bookstore. I had been thinking I might buy Kelly the complete Harry Potter series in hardback. She had read all of the books by checking them out from the library. Since she is the type of person who loves to re-read books that she really likes, I thought she might like to own them. And if I got them in hardback, I figured they’d last long enough for Kelly to read them with Kaitlyn when she was older if she wanted to.

As I wandered the aisles in the bookstore, I was so focused on the book titles that I accidentally walked into a man who was skimming through a book.

“Oh, excuse me,” I said, red-faced.

“No harm done,” the man said as he turned toward me.

I smiled when I saw that the man I’d bumped into was Mark from work.

“Hey, small world,” I smiled.

Mark broke out into a wide grin and quipped, “We really need to quit running into each other like dum dum.” He pretended to hit an invisible drum in the air.

I laughed and then smacked my forehead at the bad play on words.

Mark put up his hands in mock defeat and said, “Yeah, that was painful. I’m sorry.”

“No harm done.” I smiled coyly at Mark as I repeated his words back to him.

Mark chuckled at me. “So, what brings you to the mall on this fine winter’s eve?” he asked.

“I’m finishing up my Christmas shopping. Well, honestly, I’m just starting it, but I hope to finish it today, too. How about you? Are you shopping for presents?”

“Nah, I finished my shopping weeks ago. I’m here looking for something to read on the plane when I go to visit my sister and brother-in-law next week.”

“Wow, weeks ago? I’m jealous. You’ll have to let me in on your awesome shopping powers sometime.”

“How about now?” he smiled. “Would you like to go grab a cup of coffee or a soft pretzel from the food court? I can tell you all about the wonders of online shopping.”

“Oh, that sounds intriguing,” I said. “Just give me a minute to hunt down some books for my sister, and then we can go.”

Mark and I chatted for a while about our holiday plans, and then we gossiped a bit about our coworkers as we sipped our coffee.

“Did you hear about Judy from accounting and Martin from advertising?” he asked. “Apparently they got rip-roaring drunk at the office party and got caught making out in the coat check room.”

“Seriously? Isn’t she engaged?”

“Yep. Or at least she was,” he said. “I guess Judy forgot that her future brother-in-law works with us, too. Oops.”

I shook my head. “I guess some people never got that whole ‘experiment with alcohol thing’ out of their system in college. You’d think adults would know their limits.”

As I spoke the words, I remembered my own recent experience with the champagne at the art museum. “You know, I wanted to apologize again for passing out on the way home from the art museum the other night. I still feel foolish for not remembering I’d taken that cold medicine before we went out.”

“Don’t worry about it, Vivian,” Mark said. “I honestly had forgotten about it until you just mentioned it.”

“I guess I need to learn to keep my mouth shut then!” I laughed.

Mark seemed like he was very much into our conversation, or at least in talking to me. I realized I was right a moment later.

“You don’t have to worry about what you say around me. You can be yourself,” he said, gazing into my eyes.

I felt a bit surprised at the intensity of his gaze, but I realized he was right. I could be myself around him. It was nice to feel accepted, warts and all.

Mark and I parted ways so I could finish up my shopping with the promise to have lunch together the next day at work. Even if we remain nothing more than friends, I’m glad I’m getting to know him better. He’s a good guy.

As I wandered the mall contemplating what to get for Sonia, I finally decided I’d get her one of those back massagers that strap to a chair that have the multiple massaging motors that heat up. I tried out the demonstration model in the store, and it really loosened up my shoulders. I hoped Sonia would find it relaxing because she’d been very stressed out lately worrying about her upcoming deposition in the court case against her father for his having abused a little girl. Sonia knew that the shark defense lawyers would try to make her out to be a liar and would try to make her feel as if she had done something wrong to cause her father to abuse her. I could understand how the thought of facing that could be overwhelming. I felt terrible for her that she had to go through this, especially since she had already testified against her father once, which had put him in jail originally.

Sonia had asked me to drive her to the deposition, and of course, I’d said yes. I’d already put in for the day off from work in January. Her husband Paul is planning on going with us, but because this is so emotional for him, too, he didn’t want to have to drive when he’d be so distracted. I was glad to help, even if it was in only a small way.

After I paid for Sonia’s gift, I just was left with finding something for Alex. I had wracked my brain trying to figure out what to get for him, but I kept coming up empty. Then I remembered that we were going ice skating on Saturday, and I was guessing that he didn’t have many warm items for winter since it really doesn’t get very cold here. I thought that he might appreciate a nice pair of leather gloves to keep his hands warm while we were skating.

I found a pair I really liked and paid to have them wrapped so that the gift would look as nice as possible. I’d wrap it myself, but I didn’t want it to look as if a child had wrapped it. I don’t know what it is about wrapping paper, but I can never manage to cut the stuff in a straight line.

On Saturday, I decided to wear a cute turtleneck sweater I hadn’t worn since living in New York and a pair of jeans. As I went down to the lobby of my apartment building to wait for Alex, I realized I had forgotten his present on my kitchen counter and had to take the elevator back up to get it.

When I returned to the lobby and the elevator doors opened, my heart skipped a beat as I saw Alex standing there with his side turned to me as he read the various postings on the message board on the wall. He looked adorable in jeans and an ivory cable-knit sweater. I felt butterflies in my stomach and my pulse quicken as I walked over to him.

“Hello, Alex,” I smiled as he turned towards me.

“Hello, Vivian. You look beautiful.”

“Thank you. It’s great to see you,” I replied. My palms were starting to feel sweaty. Why did I feel like a teenager around Alex? I hadn’t felt this sort of intensity with anyone in a long time. It was a nice surprise.

Alex noticed the wrapped present I was holding. “Is that for me?” he asked. “You didn’t have to get me anything.” he smiled at me as he held the door open for me so we could walk out to his car.

“I know I didn’t, but I wanted to,” I said, smiling. “It’s just something small.”

“That’s ok,” he said. “I got something for you, too.”

“Aw, that’s so sweet of you.”

When we got into his car, we exchanged our gifts. Alex started to open his first.

“It’s just a little something for while we’re skating today,” I said as he opened the box and started to pull the leather gloves out.

Alex chuckled as he slipped them on and said, “Thank you. They’re a perfect fit.

“Now go ahead and open yours,” he said, chuckling again as he watched my reaction when I pulled the box open.

Inside was a pair of cashmere gloves and a scarf. I laughed as I finally understood why he had been chuckling.

“Great minds think alike, don’t they?” he said, laughing.

“Yes. Yes, they do,” I smiled at him as I looked into his piercing blue eyes. “Thank you for these. They’re so soft.”

“You’re very welcome. Now let’s go put these gloves to use,” he said, putting the car in gear and heading out.

When we got to the skating rink, we put our shoes in small cubby holes that lined the wall and headed over to the rental window to get some skates. The smell of hot chocolate wafted through the rink, reminding me of my childhood.

“I haven’t been skating in years,” I said to Alex. “You’ll have to forgive me if I knock you down once or twice.” I laughed.

Alex smiled at me. “Well, it’s been a few years since I’ve skated, too, so you may have to watch out for me.”

After we laced up our skates, I wobbly-walked over to the edge of the ice. Alex stepped out without hesitation and reached his hand out to me. I gladly took his hand and tentatively put my skates on the ice.

Whoa! I started to slip, but Alex’s strong grip held me up.

“Sorry about that!” I giggled. I felt like a little girl all over again as I tried to get my balance. I guess it had been longer since I’d been skating than I remembered.

Alex and I slowly made our way around the rink with me staying close to the walls so that the more-experienced skaters could fly by us on the inside. Alex wasn’t having any trouble at all. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear he’d been skating recently. I could tell that he was going slowly in order to allow me to keep up with him.

“You’re a really good skater,” I told him. “You have really good balance. I feel like a kid learning to skate all over again!”

He smiled at me warmly. “You’re doing just fine.” He gave my hand a little squeeze. It felt so sweet and innocent to be holding his hand. I was glad that we had been taking things slowly. Besides the time on our first date when his hand briefly rested on top of mine at dinner, this was the first real physical contact we’d had. I was enjoying the anticipation of all that was to come.

“I have a confession to make,” Alex said as he skated out a bit in front of me so he could face me while skating backwards. He briefly let go of my hand.

“You do?” I asked, curious about what he was going to say.

“Ever since you mentioned going skating last week, I’ve been coming here after work to practice so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself with you today,” he said. “Do you think I’m silly?” He gave me a goofy grin.

“No, I think it’s really sweet,” I replied. “I wish I’d thought of it first.” Just as I finished my sentence, my skate slipped out from under me, and I fell flat on my backside.

“As you can see, I could use the practice!” I laughed.

Alex reached down and helped me back up on my skates.

“Now, I let go of your hand for two seconds, and you take a tumble,” he teased. “Here, take my hand again, and hold on tight.”

I smiled as I held Alex’s hand. “Don’t worry; I will,” I thought to myself.

As Alex and I took a couple more laps, I began to feel more confident. “Let’s try going a little faster,” I said to him.

“Are you sure you’re ready?” Alex asked.

“Yep, I’m sure,” I replied as I pushed away harder and sped up.

Alex wasn’t quite ready though, and I ended up skating too far ahead so that his arm was outstretched while he was still holding my hand. As he snapped back towards me, I completely lost my balance and felt myself start to fall. Because of the strong grip I had on Alex’s hand, I took him down with me. Alex fell flat on his back, and I fell right on top of him.

We both were laughing so hard that we lost our breath. I tried to untangle my skate from his and pull myself off him. We managed to break our skates apart, and we both sat up, trying to catch our breath as we continued to laugh.

We looked into each other’s eyes as our laughter started to fade. Slowly, Alex reached up to cup my chin with his gloved hand as he leaned toward me. I felt an excited chill run through me from the top of my head to my toes as Alex softly brushed his lips against mine. I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent as our lips pressed together in a full-on kiss. Kissing Alex felt wonderful.

As we pulled apart and opened our eyes, we realized that several people had slowed to watch us, and they began to cheer at us as we looked around.

We both blushed and Alex got to his feet first as he reached down to me to help me up. Once we were both up on our feet, we smiled and gave a little wave and nod to the onlookers.

I looked over at Alex as we started to skate again. “I’m really glad we decided to do this,” I said to him.

“Me, too,” he replied as he looked down at me and smiled sweetly.

Friday, December 5, 2008

December 5, 2008

Having lunch with Adam was definitely strange. Not only did it feel weird to be sitting across from someone who had caused me so much pain, but pretending as we made small talk that none of the past had occurred, made it seem even more surreal. I had agreed to have lunch with Adam because he said we could work something out with the money he owed me from when we lived together. I figured he was going to reimburse me for everything he owed or at the very least talk to me about a payment plan or something. Yet as our entrees arrived, he still hadn’t broached the subject, and my patience was wearing thin.

Just as I was about to bring up the subject myself, Adam spoke up.

“So, Vivian, about when we were living together,” he began, haltingly. I wondered what he seemed to be holding back. “What did I tell you when I broke up with you again? I can’t remember.”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He couldn’t remember how things had gone down? Seriously?

“Adam, you didn’t say anything,” I began. “I came home from class one day and all your stuff was gone and some of my stuff, too. I looked for you on campus every day for the next few weeks, but you were no where to be found.

“Finally, I went to the registrar’s office to see if you were still enrolled at
school, and I was told that you had been dropped from all your classes for ‘non-attendance’.

“Does any of this sound familiar?” I asked, fixing Adam with a hard look. All my old feelings of annoyance were coming to the surface.

Adam stared at me blankly, seemingly at a loss for words. Why did he appear to be
so surprised to hear how he had behaved?

“Well?” I pressed when Adam still sat there silently.

“Sorry...” he began, seeming deflated. “I never said anything to you? I can’t believe I treated you like such crap.” He shook his head slowly, lost in his own thoughts.

I looked at him and saw that his eyes were getting misty. Was he going to cry?

“What are you talking about, Adam?” I asked, confused. “Don’t you remember what you did?”

“That’s the thing, Vivian, I don’t. I can’t remember anything about that time because...” And then, under his breath, he said, “Why is this so hard to say?

Finally, he seemed to muster the courage to be straight with me.

“I was doing drugs back then, Vivian. I was wasted out of my mind, and honestly, I don’t have many clear memories of that time at all,” he blurted out.

“What? You were some kind of junkie or something?” I asked, feeling shock spread through me.

“So what exactly are you telling me? That you can’t remember our relationship?”

Adam looked at me with regret in his eyes. “Not the last year or so, not really.”

“You were high throughout the last year we were together?” I couldn’t believe what he was telling me. It didn’t make any sense. “But you were working at that pizza place by our apartment and going to school full time. When did you have time to do drugs?”

“Didn’t you ever notice that I hardly ever slept?”

“Well, yeah, but I figured that caffeine carried you through like everybody else on campus,” I answered. “What drugs were you doing then?”

Adam couldn’t meet my gaze. He looked down at his plate and fiddled with the cold french fries that lay there. “I tried a few different ones...but then I tried meth and things in my life started to get out of control.”

At the mention of the word “meth”, a couple of older ladies who were sitting near us quickly looked our way and then started talking to each other in hushed voices, all the while glancing at us and then turning back to each other as they, no doubt, gossiped about us.

I felt embarrassed to be sitting there.

Adam lowered his voice as he continued, “At first, when I was just smoking or snorting it, I had so much energy, and I felt like I could do anything. I was more focused, and I could get through my homework like it was nothing. I had so many awesome ideas, and my artwork was so creative during that time.

“Don’t you remember all the pointillism paintings I did that year? How else could I have had the patience to paint all those little dots? You know me, I’m not a very patient person, but with the meth, I’d get so focused and lost in what I was doing that it would feel like I’d only been working on a piece for a few minutes when really it had been hours. I was so productive.

“Things were all good until I shot up the first time. The rush I felt was incredible. As soon as I felt it spreading through my body, all my worries would just melt away, and I’d feel free. It was a beautiful experience; it really was, but then the rush became all I could think about.

“I started skipping classes and ditching work so I could get high with some guys I’d met in biology. And then I started lying to you about where I was and what I was doing.

“I’d make sure I’d come home after I knew you’d be asleep so that you wouldn’t ask me any questions about my day. And it got to the point that all I cared about was getting high. Nothing else mattered to me.”

He looked up at me and must have seen the hurt look on my face.

“I’m sorry, Vivian. I really am. I thought I had broken up with you before I moved out. I didn’t know I never said anything to you. At that point, it was hard to tell what was reality. I’d go for 8 or 10 days without sleeping, and I’d be hallucinating half the time. I was pretty messed up.”

I listened to the words Adam was saying, but it was hard to grasp their meaning. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.

“Why didn’t you tell me what was going on?” I asked quietly. “I would have helped you...I loved you.”

“I know you did, and I loved you, too, but I didn’t want help then,” he replied.

“Like I said, all I wanted to do was get high.”

I shook my head, trying to make sense of things. And then panic flashed through me as I realized that Adam had told me that he had been shooting up.

“Please tell me
you never shared needles with anyone.” The thought that I could have been infected with some deadly disease made me feel sick to my stomach.

“No, I never did,” he replied firmly. “That was one thing I would never compromise on. I used only my own needles. They were the ones that diabetics use, and they all came in their own sealed packages.”

I felt relief wash over me. Thank God.

“I still can’t believe what you’re telling me, though,” I said. “I never would have guessed that you were doing drugs when we were together, but I guess now that I look back, it certainly does explain a few things about your behavior.”

“I know it’s a lot to absorb, Vivian. We can talk about it more some other time, if you’d rather,” he said with a question in his voice. “I know you came here hoping to talk about the money I owe you, so we can talk about that now if you want to.”

“Ok, but you’ll have to excuse me for a minute,” I said as I stood up from the table and went to the washroom. I had to get away and take a breather.

I splashed cold water on my face at one of the sinks in the restroom and looked at myself in the mirror. I looked tired. Hell, I felt tired. This conversation was turning out to be more draining than I’d expected it to be. I knew it wasn’t going to be pleasant to meet with Adam, considering our past, but I’d never expected any of this.

After I got back to the table, I saw that Adam had pulled out his checkbook.

“So, how much do I owe you for my share of the rent and all the bills?” he asked with his pen poised.

When I told him the amount, he wrote me a check right there for all of it. I couldn’t believe that after all these years, he was paying me back in full.

“Thank you for this,” I said as I folded the check and stuck it in my purse. I couldn’t help myself from cynically wondering if the check would bounce, but I pushed the thought away.

I felt really drained after our conversation, so I told Adam that I’d better be going.

He stood up when I got up to leave and came towards me as if he were going to give me a hug. I pulled my purse toward the front of my body, showing him through my body language that I wasn’t interested in hugging him.

A great sense of betrayal was starting to creep into the edges of my mind. I had trusted Adam complicitly, and he had been lying to me through half of our relationship. That wasn’t the sort of thing I could forgive over the course of one lunch.

Once I got home, I called Kelly to see how she was doing and to tell her what I’d found out about Adam.

“Can you believe that he was a junkie?” I asked her, still in shock.

I expected her to be just as shocked as I was, but instead of expressing her disbelief, she was silent.

“Kelly? Why aren’t you saying anything?” I asked.

I heard her sigh at the other end of the phone. “I didn’t want to tell you, but I knew about Adam, or at least I suspected anyway.”

“What? Why wouldn’t you tell me that? You knew how hurt I was and that his leaving came out of no where for me. It would have been nice if my own sister could have helped fill in a few of the blanks for me.”

“Look, like I said, I didn’t know for sure, and I didn’t want to make an accusation like that unless I did. The only reason I thought he might be doing drugs was because I saw him in a smoky back room at a party once, and when someone opened the door to the room, the people inside freaked out and grabbed a bunch of things to hide them out of view before someone slammed the door shut,” she said. “And Adam was sitting in there on a bed. He looked right at me.

“You know, this happened before you two even moved in together, too. It’s not like
it was right before he left, so I didn’t even think that the two things might be related.”

“You knew about this before we lived together?” I couldn’t believe that she’d keep something like that from me.

And then I realized that if he was doing drugs before we’d even moved in together
that he must have lied to me at lunch when he told me that he’d only started during
our last year together. What a jerk. I started to feel anxious and question all that he’d said to me today.

“Look, Kel, I have to run. I have to take care of something,” I said, as I hung up the phone.

I wanted to get to the bank to deposit Adam’s check while I still had the chance.