Friday, February 22, 2013

Never Go Back, Part 1

The truth is you can never go back. You can never take back something horrible that's been said or done to you or the things you've said and done. You can never change the course of history to avoid painful experiences or the hurt that ultimately changes you. You cannot relive the past for an automatic do-over, fix your mistakes, and delete your exes. But, if you are anything like me you can learn from it, get over it, and avoid the people who remind you so much of the pain and hurt you endured during your past life.

After eight years of avoidance I find myself at a crossroads. In this exact moment I am pulled over on the side of the road in the Hunter’s Hollow subdivision, a block and a half away from the Peay’s house. As I sit white-knuckled in the driver’s seat I’m fighting an internal battle, attempting to convince myself, "You can do this."

Yes, you read that correctly I'm going to WF's parent's home. No, I'm not going to pick him up, fund his life, and tote him around as I did for so many years. After the incredibly sad email I received from WF's Mom at six this morning and the tears that ensued it was only right for me to personally respond. An email sending my condolences to pay respects for Mamaw simply was not good enough. The only acceptable means of communication for an email expressing absolute heart break is a hug.

With the car pulled over and the radio off, I'm reminding myself I'm not going for WF.  Who cares if I see him? I don't care. I've seen him and his tie-dye clad family multiple times this past summer at the Levitt Shell free concert series. His unvaccinated, barefooted children running rampant between the open restrooms and putting their mouths directly on the public water fountains in Overton Park. His wife is oblivious to the children. She is swaying, twisting, and gyrating to the live music. Her obviously untethered, National Geographic breasts are free swinging pendulums performing their interpretative dance Chaos in a Thin Tank Top, while WF frantically tries to herd his free-roaming children.

A safe distance away, lying across the blanket on the mildly sloping lawn of the Levitt Shell, I silently judge the disaster that is WF. Raucous rounds of laughter from friends and my boyfriend torment me, “You dated that dirty hippie? Have you been tested for STD’s?” Although I’m adamant WF used to be a Reagan Republican who dressed like Buddy Holly in horned rimmed glasses, not his current incarnation, I could not help but to feel like I am defending my entire relationship with him. That is something I do not need to do. The time I spent with him was a lifetime ago. I was a different person.

A block and a half from the Peay's home I persuade myself I will not be nervous any more. I give myself an out, “If there are many cars parked in front I'll drive by without stopping; they’ll never know.”  Since WF is the oldest of five siblings, all now adults, there is a possibility of a large gathering at the Peay's home. I cannot help being nervous. I haven't been to their home in over eight years since right after I broke up with WF. 
I remember with absolute clarity the night our relationship ended.  To be blunt it was over long before I pushed past his 18 year old fraternity brothers to find a 30 year old WF holding hands and intertwined fingers with an underage girl. That was the end.  But, for the four years prior to the underage girl there were a string of others.  I remember Carol, Donna, Lindsay, and the time he tried to get his ex-fiancé Barbara to come back. When it did not work with those women he would realize how good he had it with me.  He would come back, cry, and through his tears say, “Are you going to throw this away? I love you.” Like Catholic guilt it worked as if it were a magic spell on a stupid girl that did not know any better. 

Along with the womanizing I remember all of the rules he imposed. I was forbidden from wearing high heels because he was not comfortable with my height.  In the stilted shoes I was a regular Diana Prince towering above Lewis Skolnick. Wearing make-up to work or school when I was not around him was a sure way of being accused of cheating or attempting to attract other men.  He also insisted that I walk behind him as a sign of respect because biblically women are the property of their men.  These are just a few of the rules I followed. I wanted WF to be happy and feel comfortable. I’ll never forget the barrage of insults, snide comments, and looks of absolute disgust concerning my body and weight. I lost myself in the impossibility of never feeling or being good enough. 

Gripping the steering wheel I pull my car away from the curb.  I leave myself the option to ignore my own pep-talk, turn around in the cove, and drive off.  I think better of it.  If I do not do this now I'll never be able to comfortably face his family; I’ll always run from confrontation. 

The memory of knocking on the front door for the last time in October 2004 is consuming as I approach and slide the my car into park in front of the house. Eight years ago his father, Buster, answered the door to hand me my box of remaining belongings minus the large check of money WF owes. Instead of offering sympathy, he gave me an 'I told you so,' "I could have told you your relationship would not have lasted if WF never had his car repossessed, or if he had a car during your relationship, and was not dependent upon you. It was doomed when he bought that truck. Write out an itemized list of the money WF owes you, place it in the mailbox, and I’ll get a check to you." That was the last conversation I had with his father. The money never arrived.

I am relieved that there is only one car in the driveway, hopefully it is Mrs. Peay’s.  The realization that I am doing this is finally sinking in. I am going to the parent’s home of an ex-boyfriend; a guy I usually refuse to talk about because he is not worth the words.  I know if I do not go through with this visit I’ll never be comfortable running into the Peay’s around town, something I’ve attempted to prevent until today. I'm proud of myself because I’m not a person that is eager for confrontation. I avoid it. In fact, it takes nearly breaking down before I’m able to build the courage to confront someone. 

For fear of being persuaded from making the visit I do not tell anyone where I am going, not my best girlfriend, not my Mom, and definitely not  J2.  Would they really understand?  If I am doing this I am going all in; there will not be a feigned excuse to leave with an invented telephone call or text message. By leaving my cellphone in the console I disappear off of the radar and get out of the car. I shut the door.  Without considering my actions and purely through habit I double tap the lock button on my car’s key fob. I could still leave if I did not announce my arrival with a blaring car horn. 

I cross into the driveway, noticing the slight differences in the exterior décor of the residence. The overzealous flowerbed WF and I planted around the mailbox has long been removed. The grass is thriving where orange daylilies, moss roses, and black mulch once resided. Paved, pea gravel stairs line the steep driveway where I once traipsed through a worn brown path in the grass.  A new wreath in the shape of a cross hangs on the front door signifying the loss of a family member. The woven vine wreath in the shape of a cross and nailed to the door is tilted in a fashion that suggests an invisible Simon of Cyrene is bearing the burden of carrying the crucifix upon his back. I cannot help but to remember that for many years while I dated WF I wore a cross around my neck.  The cross was a delicate reflection of my Catholic upbringing. WF and his family of pious Bellevue Baptists would regularly make remarks concerning my necklace, “Your Catholic is showing.” They commented on my ignorance of the Ten Commandments by correlating an invented worshiping of the silver idol I wore around my neck and they questioned, “Why do you find it necessary to wear a medieval torture device?” I smirk at the wreath on the door.

As I approach I remember their dogs barking wildly with every passing UPS truck.  All deliveries from the mailman or a stranger’s push of the doorbell would throw the regularly calm canines into fits of chaos.  Buster’s yells of complaint and insistence for silence would surpass any racket the dogs could make. Considerately, I knock lightly three times on the glass of the front door sidelight.

As a young newspaper girl I was taught to slowly count to 30 Mississippi before ringing or knocking again to allow the resident ample time to answer the door. After I knock on the Peay’s door I count to 12 in rapid numerical succession mimicking the Sesame Street pinball cartoon. I turn around to leave but out of the corner of my eye I see a shadow move in the living room. Immediately the front door opens.