[“Dark Ages” is a series wherein I reconsider memories of boyfriends past through the lens of new knowledge and hope to make it worth my while (and not just a depressing trudge down memory lane) by learning something new about myself.]
I wasn’t happy. Stuck in a relationship and stuck in the big city with little money, few friends, and no fun.
At some point, Gamer and I came up with an idea for a business and, because we were broke, we decided to try to save money by moving home — back to our inexpensive hometown, and back to the parental abodes. I didn’t believe in the business idea particularly deeply, but I enjoyed coming up with ideas and plans. More importantly, having the specific goal to save money for a project seemed to legitimize the decision to move home: it gave me permission.
By the time we moved back, we had spent a little over a year in the big city and we were approaching our second anniversary. Overall, my stress was significantly reduced: I had effectively no expenses, I had my friends and family, and living in my hometown was easy and comfortable in so many ways. But there was a new stress. I hadn’t been able to move back home because there was no room for me in either house: my dad had moved into a smaller place, and my mom had given my former room to my half-sister. That’s how I ended up living with Gamer and his parents for eight months.
Things got better with Gamer for a while, but then the relationship cooled off again. The reduction in stress had improved things temporarily, but deep down I still didn’t want to be with him. So although I wasn’t reliant on him to help pay the bills or help me move across the country, I was now reliant on the goodwill of his parents to keep a roof over my head. And under those circumstances, I thought it would be in poor taste to break up with him. But I withdrew emotionally and physically. Not surprisingly, I ended up feeling trapped again, but this time in a slightly more comfortable cage.
We were still a couple, and we still shared a bed. One time he tried to initiate something during the night by touching my back and waking me up. It pissed me off to be woken up, and the fact that he wanted sex put me on my guard immediately and made me feel deeply uncomfortable.
But I was still loyal. When he decided to shave his head, I braided it and cut it off neatly so he could keep it. And after he’d finished with the clippers and his conservative parents saw and reamed him out for making himself unemployable, I came out swinging. (His parents were, I think, entirely in the wrong on that issue. His inability to get a job had nothing to do with his grooming: it was mostly his lack of effort in looking for a job, and the crummy economy didn’t help anything.) I dislike confrontation but I sure gave them an earful, which, considering I was in their house only because of their generosity, was probably not a great idea. But still, the hair was gone (until it grew back) and he was more or less a grown-up, so what good would a lecture do?
I don’t remember when Gamer and I discussed the possibility of an open relationship, but I do remember mentioning it to my friend Metal. He was short and slim, with long blond hair, and not bad looking. I liked him as a friend and wasn’t particularly attracted to him, but he was male, and being a musician earned him some bonus points. At the time, that seemed like enough. So I dropped my hint, and he either didn’t understand or just tactfully ignored it. Just as well, really.
Then I started fantasizing about Wolf, the guy Gamer had warned me away from a couple of years earlier. We had been running in the same circles for some months at this point, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that most of what was going through my head was complete fiction — I hardly knew the guy. I decided that getting wound up about him was silly, especially while I was still technically with Gamer, and I turned off that line of thought. But what I knew about Wolf I liked, so I started spending time with him and just getting to know him as a friend. Wolf, Gamer and I hung out together sometimes. Wolf was intelligent, self-contained, and had an air of competence.
Then, a breakthrough! My part-time job became full-time and suddenly I could see a way out. I decided to save up for a month; I stayed at Gamer’s on the weekend and during the week I crashed at my mom’s, on the bottom bunk in my half-sister’s room, which had once been mine. Gamer’s place was across town from my work and mom’s was really close and I hated the drive, but the deeper reason for the arrangement was simply escape. It was sort of a break-up in slow motion.
During this month, I allowed myself to think about Wolf again, and this time I wasn’t making it all up. I had gotten to know him fairly well and now had actual facts on which I could conclude that I was indeed attracted to him. One evening, we met up for drinks and nibbles. It was early spring and the air, though still quite cool, seemed heavy with potential. As we prepared to part in the parking lot, I hugged him, too long, and then we went our separate ways. On another occasion I was hanging out at his place, staying late while willing something to happen, but he never made a move.
At the end of that month, there was an event going on in another city; Wolf was driving, so I and one other person caught a lift with him. Mutual friends gave us crash space on their living room floor. And at one point, when we had something resembling privacy, we started playing around and kissing. Finally.
The following Monday was moving day. I was free! And it seemed that Wolf and I had started something together.
I have no recollection of what I said to Gamer to officially end it. But I’m sure I told him.