Lesson 2: Surprise, Surprise



Anna was a woman I used to work with. I had learned a lesson previously (not covered in this text) about not shitting where you eat, so when she told me flat out that she wanted to do wonderful and dirty things with me, I initially refused her advances.

A few months later she got another job, and so it was that I found myself going to meet up with her at a concert where a mutual friend was playing. It was an excellent show, and one of the few that, for other reasons that I won't get into at the moment, I felt like a fan to which somebody had given a backstage pass. Usually at rock shows or theatrical performances I have an underlying phobia that there's something I'm supposed to be doing, but this night a combination of booze, good music and friendship made those worries disappear.

After the show, the three of us (me, Anna, and the mutual friend we'll call Jake) went back to his hotel room to hang out and continue the party. At one point, as the night progressed, Jake was very high, very drunk, and very much distracted by an episode of South Park he was watching on his laptop. Noticing this, Anna took the opportunity to start making out with me, and while slightly alarmed, it was an idea that I liked.

I'll never know if how much, if anything, Jake noticed (he died tragically a year later from a fast-moving cancer), but when she started surruptitously sucking me off fifteen feet away from our friend, I became *very* alarmed. Shortly after that, we made our excuses and headed back to her place by way of a convenience store for condoms.

Kissing and stripping as we stumbled through her apartment, in typical Hollywood style, we landed on her bed in a frenzy of lust. At one point while we were fucking, I pinned her wrists above her head. That was apparently a good thing, and she told me she was about to orgasm.

I said no. I told her to wait, and I kept fucking her, even harder, reveling in the fact that she had followed my order. It was without prior discussion, and without any context at all that I had said the words, and yet she obeyed.

For roughly ten minutes she held herself on the very brink because I had said so, and then when I told her to come, it was like I had flipped a switch. Instantly, she was thrashing and groaning and laughing (she laughs when she orgasms, which is endearing if you know about it beforehand, but slightly disconcerting if you don't). Afterward, we snuggled and settled into a deep sleep.

Fast forward a year and a half.

I was spending nearly every night at her place. We were very much in love. Parents had been met and impressed, siblings had been laughed with, and holidays had been spent. I even had my own parking space in her building's garage.

We had had a couple of rough spots. She had cheated on me at least once, and I had forgiven her. Hell, even at the time, when she told me about the night she'd had, I remember thinking that I would've liked to have watched it. We agreed to be honest with each other about everything, and that, I think, made us stronger.

I was on the edge of broaching the subject of moving in together when she got her dream job in Manhattan.

I was seriously torn, and wracked with self-doubt. It sounds so stupid to me now, but, at the time, it seemed like I had two options, and two options only. Either we could give the long distance thing a try, or I could do what I had been considering anyway (despite some lingering doubts) and propose to her.

The way I thought about it, if I was going to move to New York City, I would need to get a new job and develop a whole new network of local friends (I hadn't yet met any of my lovely NYC friends). I was going to be going all-in on our relationship, so I might as well really go all-in.

On the other hand, I knew that long distance relationships aren't impossible, and I had anxiety about moving in together in Boston, not to mention the doubts about marriage.

I decided to try the long distance thing. After a few months, our phone calls became less daily and closer to weekly, and my visits down there went from every other week to once a month, and so on.

I went to visit her and her family over Christmas, and it was a lovely couple of days. It was enough that I found myself reinvigorated and she seemed to agree. Due to some scheduling difficulties, I wasn't able to make it down that January, and I decided to surprise her at her office on Valentine's Day.

For those of you that don't have as crystal-clear a memory of it as I do, February 14th, 2007 was a miserable day in New England. There was a blizzard that stretched from (I think) Philadelphia to Maine. I know for sure that it covered all of Eastern Massachusetts, all of Connecticut, New York City, and Long Island.

I had taken some time off from work, and so I packed and left my apartment at around eleven in the morning. Even in my trusty Jeep, the drive was hellish. At one point on I-84, two cars did pirouettes at the same time, turning in opposite directions, one on either side of me. Twice I had to pull over in order to chisel the ice off of my windshield so I could see again.

Needless to say, it was taking longer than I had hoped to get to her office, so about a half hour before I knew she'd be leaving work, I gave her a call.

I told her that I was sorry, that I had intended to surprise her by walking into her office with some flowers to go with the ones I had already sent her, but that I wasn't going to make it in time to pull it off, and I wanted to know where I could meet up with her.

She stuttered for a second, and then, after a long pause, asked me if she could call me back in a minute.

When she called back, she was uncharacteristically quiet. She said that she had a date for that night, and that if I wanted to, I could crash at her place, but that she wouldn't be back there until probably one or two in the morning.

I held it together long enough to tell her that I would redirect to a friend's house on Long Island, and that I'd give her a call the next day.

The fact that she had another date, after my stunningly romantic and homeric journey through nearly biblical weather, was a hard blow. It was the betrayal that this story is meant to describe, but it was not her betrayal. I had betrayed us both.

From the moment she told me that she was going to move, which was fully two months before it happened, everything I had done was about what I wanted. It was about what I felt, or what I was worried about, or what I hoped would be.

I, of course, considered what she felt to be an important thing, but what I had failed to do was to ensure that we were communicating properly. I won't take all the blame for the breakdown in communication, but I will take all the blame for not recognizing it before I made a decision that would ultimately lead me on a quixotic quest.

The lesson here is to never base large and/or potentially humiliating decisions on what you assume another person is thinking or feeling. Romance is a fine thing, but it needs to be based on reality. It needs to be based on communication.