remembering ash.

I remember afternoons with Ashley. In her home, I felt at home. The hours would pass as I lay spread across the carpeted floor, studying the books on her shelf. There was no more calming feeling, and I felt truly loved. Not just by her, but by her mom, her sister, her Dad. 

For reasons I don’t understand, we don’t appreciate things very much when we have them. That is a lesson that no matter how many times you are told, you won’t understand until you experience it and look back. 

I never had any doubts about Ashley, even though I can say I am a chronically jealous person. But her love felt genuine. The only thing I doubted was my ability to make her happy, and perhaps hers to make me. As I have struggled with depression and self-doubt. But beyond that, it was perhaps the purest love. So today, I want to write a little bit about my favorite days that I shared with this beautiful person. 

We went on a hike somewhere in upstate New York, I remember it was still icy at a point, and I slid down the hill on my butt. I could have died, and I was known to give her mini-heart attacks because of my impulsivity. So I got to the bottom of the hill so fast, and then I waited. I remember seeing her figure when she slowly trekked down. From a distance, I marveled and thought to myself, I am going to marry this woman. 

As I write this, I have no doubt that Ashley would have made the best wife. We have similar mindsets when it comes to competitiveness. She really is a beautiful soul, a writer, someone who hasn’t had the easiest path, and so much of she reminds me of me. I think I just wasn’t ready because I was also scared. Besides, I’ve never really understood what it meant to love. Or, I’ve really struggled to put it in practice. 

Maybe one day, I will know. But I am happy knowing that I came this close. 

Today, my friend told me I should stop thinking about what went wrong in relationships and think about what went right. Well, I felt loved, a part of a family, brave, handsome, cheered on, smart, supported, understood. 

Today, I am grateful, and hoping to provide all of those things for myself.

hardwood floors

I slept on hardwood floors with my two cats and a blanket. This was one of our regular arguments, before I could acknowledge that we weren’t right for each other. We had broken up before then, and this time we reconnected in Washington D.C. with high hopes and good intentions. The times in D.C. would lead us to where I found myself now, in Boston, on the floor of our small studio apartment. 

I left an internship as an Editorial Assistant to make the move to a brand new city. I think we drove their together, and before we knew it, we had two cats. This was the start of our life. We would start our mornings together, with coffee and tea, and we would end our nights eating dinner on the floor. I would get creative with our dishes, but not too creative. I never truly had a knack for cooking, but I could make dishes without consulting recipes. This was something she could never do. 

Our fight was probably not even that big, but there were times when she’d throw something at me, an object, and I would try to get away from the situation. The space in the apartment hardly seemed big enough to support both of us, and then she would take out her anger on the cats. I didn’t think they did anything except be cats. They were playful, they climbed our pants legs when we got dressed, and they made fabrics less fabric-y and more raggedy. 

Our biggest cat, Gnocchi, would dash out of the apartment door as soon as we returned from outside. Then we would have to chase him, and he was not an easy catch. But again, they were nothing except cats. Young ones, playful and frolicky. 

In the beginning, I didn’t have a job. Having left the internship at Akashic Books, I also didn’t have much experience. So I found myself in the predicament of many recently-graduated, college-educated kids at that time, jobless and with no prospects. Luckily, I didn’t have many loans. I owed $4,000 at the time, but as I write this I owe nothing. Not to the loans at least. 

So in the mornings, I applied for jobs and within a week I had an appointment with a temp agency. This place was soulless, but at one point they offered me work at a gig at MIT where I basically just gave people name-tags for the event. Any less meaningful work I could not imagine. Then I landed an interview as a Global Cash Specialist. Here, I would process transactions for Brown Brothers Harriman, and now I was in Investment Banking doing a job that is probably extinct by now since a good programmer could have easily supplanted my duties. This was the job I had when we broke up. I made $14 an hour.

I think that she just didn’t believe in us fully, and when she drank, she believed in us less. So most of the times, when we argued it was because of liquor involved. And I have never really craved liquor, it has no appeal to me, but I didn’t know that then. So I drank when people around me drank, but now I know, and am confident to say I just don’t care for alcoholic beverages. Not like I care for Haribo gummy bears and Chewy Nerds. 

So, back to the floor, it was hard and cold. The blanket hardly provided any comfort, and I woke up groggy the next morning. I carried these emotions to work with me, and eventually we were enemies under the same roof. I didn’t want to take the train back home with her, I wanted to take the one after. I didn’t want to respond to her text messages, but I don’t think she wanted to text me either. I couldn’t really talk to people, but I talked to my friends about what we were going through and they urged me to leave. But I didn’t. 

This is where I discovered, or rather experienced, first-hand the battered partner syndrome. Like when someone treats you bad, but the feeling of love convinces you that this is not permanent, that they will be kind to you. Well, she was really bad at this point. 

One day, she left. And I don’t know where she went, but I remember leaving too. I had my things packed in some vehicle, and I left a bag of her favorite chips on the table. I think I wanted her to know that I cared, or to feel that I wasn’t that horrible after all. But the feeling is much like dying, you don’t really know how the person reacts afterward. 

I learned to live alone in Boston. I eventually became full-time at the Boston banking job and started earning $40K a year, but then I left. And since then, I’ve carried this story with me – of how things ended, and I didn’t know how to start telling it. But in all the time that we spent together in that apartment, and all the memories we formed, what I remember was trying to go to sleep that night on that floor with my two cats beside me. The tears streaming down my face, and The Smiths playing on my headphones. While she slept in the bed, on the other side of that door, and we accepted that we were never meant to be. 

Today, I carry the pain of the past. It’s ok though. Oddly, its my own pain and that feels good. Forming my own accountability is hard though. I know there are so many things I did wrong, but who cares. I am writing the story, and I can tell it how I feel.