It was a brisk, sunny morning in September. There were a few crunchy leaves that had fallen off of nearby trees in the woods that surrounded Sally’s house but I wasn’t in the mood to go out of my way to step on them. Ted was parked in his Jeep at the top of the driveway; I looked down at my feet as I walked toward him with my bag of clothes from the sleepover at Sally’s.
The night before there was a huge football game. It was a blackout game so all of us seniors decked out in black for the game and some guys even painted their entire bodies. The girls wore black sports bras and painted their stomachs. It was crazy, but for some reason I didn’t feel in the mood. Ted being around me made me uneasy because I’ve been resenting him a lot lately. Sometimes I felt like the only reason we’re together was because I didn’t have the heart to break up with him and disappoint everyone that was supporting us (aka the entire school plus my family and his). Ted was pretty drunk and always followed me around. I made a quick escape from the crowd and wandered to the back path by the woods outside the game. I resided in the shadows of a group of tall trees on the side of the path up against the fence and listened to the chants and cheers of my fellow seniors in the stands. Why was I so upset? My thoughts and emotions were a complete mess. Yes, I was maybe a little bit tipsy but not nearly enough for me to blame my weird behavior on it. I was pretty sure that I didn’t want to be with Ted anymore but I had no idea if I was ready to make that change. The rest of the night I sulked and ended the night texting Ted and saying we needed to talk.
Ted: I’m guessing we’re done?
Those words hurt more than anything I could ever explain to anyone. There was no emotion behind them, no thought or feeling. It was just a casual question; how could he be so casual when we’ve been dating for over seven months?
Me: Don’t say that so casually it’s not like that
Ted: Ok sorry I didn’t mean to say it like that.
Me: How do you feel about it
Ted: Well I just know you’re gonna break up with me and I said that if u don’t love me anymore then I want u to break up with me so if that’s what it is then I understand. And when we talk tomorrow I just wanna tell u some stuff cuz u mean so much to me and I just want to know that ur ok
I’m sorry if I’m getting the wrong impression I’m just scared.
Me: No you’re not I just don’t feel it’s right to text you about this. I’ll talk to you tomorrow
Ted: Ok yea understand.. Night Lauren 🙂
I was happy he took that well, or so it seemed. I knew although he didn’t show it, it must have been killing him inside.
Walking up to his car felt different. We haven’t even really broken up yet and I felt the change already in the air. The leaves crunching and crisp, autumn breeze sifting through my hair whispered change in my ear. Everything was different. Nothing would ever be the same.
As I approached his car door he reached over and opened it for me. I got in and glanced at him.
“Hi,” I said in a soft tone. He tried to say hi back but it was stuck in his throat somewhere. He didn’t really cry, although he did get choked up here and there, but as I sat there and explained my feelings through the tears that wouldn’t stop coming, he comforted me and rubbed my leg. He told me that it was okay.
“I just hate to hurt you because you are such a great guy and you deserve so much that I just can’t give you. And it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault or my fault or anyones it’s just how I feel and I wish so much that I didn’t feel this way because I know you’re what’s best for me. I’ve tried so hard to love you the way you love me but I just can’t and I feel like such a bitch I’m so sorry.” I paused halfway through to tried to calm my voice down because I couldn’t make out half of the words I was trying to communicate. My throat was at war with my lungs, holding back the breath I needed to let out my feelings. It was hard to sit there and break his heart because at the same time mine was slowly breaking at the sight of it. I could tell he was upset but he didn’t start crying like I thought he would. He just sat in silence.
His hand stayed on my knee until he had to switch gears to stop at a stop light. I took his phone that was plugged into the car and put on the song “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley. Bob Marley is his favorite.
“I like this one,” I said and we looked at each other and smiled. Bob sang and sang through the car ride all the way to the diner where we got breakfast. “Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is gonna be all right.” I willed this song to become reality as I listened intently and looked out the window. I knew it would be. It wasn’t that hard; after all, we were smiling just a couple of seconds ago.
At the diner we ordered the same thing we got last time. I ordered the “Greek Yogurt Experience” (what else) and he got the short stack of french toast with a side of bacon. We talked and laughed and made old jokes like we always did. He seemed happy, so I was too.
The car ride home was very different. The same in the beginning, but at the end of the ride when he dropped me off in my driveway, I gathered my things without making eye contact as I kept my one hand on the door. I looked at him for a short moment until I couldn’t look at him anymore.
“Goodbye Ted.” I opened the door and stepped out of his Jeep. I kept my head down and stared at my feet as I walked around the front of his car and toward my garage.
“Wait-” Ted cried. I turned around and saw him standing outside of his car. His voice was shaky and soon he couldn’t help but break down in tears. I’m not sure if at that point he asked for a hug or I just assumed, but either way I ran up to him and he wrapped me in his arms. He was so hysterical that he couldn’t even get a word out with his chest choking up with tears. I am such a bitch. This is absolutely terrible, how could I do this to him? He doesn’t deserve this. He’s been nothing but perfect towards me our entire relationship. My thoughts were filling up my stomach all the way to the back of my throat. I thought I was going to be sick.
“I-I-” Ted struggled to get out another word. I didn’t let him.
“You don’t have to say anything. We’ll just talk later.” I couldn’t bear to see him like this any more, especially when I knew I had caused it. He was breaking my heart with every tear he shed, every breath, every choke. I wanted so badly to make everything okay. But I knew that if I took back everything I just said it would just be out of pity and I would be back at square one again. I want to love him; I want to want to run into his arms and kiss him all over. I want to want to tell him how much I love him, proclaim that we do something crazy only lovers do and go somewhere romantic and have spontaneous sex in the park like we used to. But I didn’t- I just couldn’t. I couldn’t lead him on any longer. I loved, and still do love him very much, but the reality of it is that I don’t love him enough. I didn’t love him enough to respect him the way he did towards me. I was so bad towards him, I couldn’t handle the pressure to live up to his unending love. I couldn’t pretend any more that he was the only one I thought about at night even though Gary would still have a tendency to sneak into my dreams. I couldn’t pretend to enjoy sex and then cry in the bathroom afterwards of guilt. It had to end. I had to be honest. I couldn’t go on my whole life pretending just because I was scared of what other people would say and think of me, and scared of what it would bring to Ted, scared of change. Because although it breaks my heart to see him like this, the more I go on, the more the guilt breaks my heart even more. It’s not fair to him. He deserves someone to treat him right, to love him right, although he might not want anyone else.
I hugged him one last time and made my way towards my garage. I stepped inside my house and avoided my mom as I ran upstairs and got into the shower. I cried and cried and cried under the shower as it rained down on me. I choked and cried some more as I relived the moment I hugged Ted goodbye until there was nothing left inside of me to cry out.
Breaking up with Ted was the hardest thing I have ever done. Harder than saying goodbye to Gary, harder than accepting my parents’ divorce, harder than running the mile in gym class in middle school when I was fat and out of shape, harder than taking a chemistry exam, than studying for ACT’s, everything; and it hurt more than any pain I have ever felt. Thinking about what I put him through still sends tears rushing to my eyes. I look up and blink them away. Did I make the right decision? Do I miss him or do I simply feel bad about what I did to him?
I got out of the shower and checked my phone. Four texts from Ted.
Ted: Don’t get in the shower I wanna tell u something I have to I can’t wait
Ted: I’m outside if u didn’t get in yet
Ted: I’m across the street I just need to tell u something
Ted: Ok nevermind I’ll talk to u later
I quickly texted him back apologizing and asked if he was still there. He didn’t respond or read my text so I assumed he was driving home already. I told him it was fine and he shouldn’t turn around. The last thing I needed before heading off to babysit was him to come back and cry to me again. I couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to rip out my heart and stomp on it until it whimpered in pain while I screamed at it, questioning why it didn’t love Ted back. Why it felt like it had to get to the point where it had to break up with him. Why it was so selfish, why it couldn’t just accept the fact that Ted is the best thing that it will ever have to love. But it didn’t. It was just a heart, it didn’t understand my brain when it spoke to it. It felt what it felt, and it has done so thus far and will do the same for years to come. There is nothing I can do about it.
Ted: Ok no I wanna come back can I just rly quick?
Me: I guess
Ted: I’m sorry I just need to
Me: It’s alright
Ted: Ok I’ll be there in like 2 min
Me: Ok just please don’t make this harder than it already is
Ted: I know I’m trying not to I’m here
I slipped on my solos and a sweatshirt and made my way downstairs as I shook out my wet hair. My mom and my little sister were practicing pitching on the driveway when I walked out, and I saw Ted at the top of the driveway waiting by his car.
“What’s Ted doing here? Just saying hi before you go to babysitting?” My mom asked confused and unaware of the situation at hand.
“Yeah I’ll be right back,” I said figuring I will explain later. I walked up the driveway and stood in front of him. I looked up and met his eyes for a moment as he told me what he had to say.
“I just wanted to say that-” he took a breath in an effort to calm his voice. “I want you to respect yourself and never let anyone disrespect you.” He took another break as he choked out the last sentence. “I love you so much and I know you’ll go to parties and stuff and I just want you to know that you shouldn’t have anyone disrespect you. I love you and you will always have a special place in my heart.”
I looked down at my feet and took it all in. How could I push something so perfect away?
“Don’t worry I wont let anyone disrespect me I promise.” I looked up at him and hugged him goodbye for the last time. This is hard. This is very, very hard.
I walked back down the driveway and my mom asked me if everything was okay.
“No, actually it’s not.” My eyes got hot with tears again as she asked what happened. I explained everything and how I felt like it wasn’t fair for me to be in a relationship with him because of the pressure I was under when I didn’t feel genuine. She felt horrible for me and related a situation when she was younger and broke up with her boyfriend. Apparently he was laying in fetal position and crying out in his bed when she broke it off, and then he screamed at her to get out. So that kind of made my situation not seem as bad, but then I looked back in my memory and remembered Ted’s beautiful blue-green eyes washed out with the tears that I put there. It didn’t make anything better.
After babysitting for a couple of hours and being confronted with the heart wrenching “so how’s your boyfriend?!” question, I was picked up by Sally and headed off to work. I started working at Osteria Morini with Sally as a hostess a couple of days ago, and that night was my second shift. I was still in training so I only got paid seven dollars an hour, but as soon as I stopped I would get twelve and plus coat check tips in the winter would give us $70 tips in the course of one night to split! It was exciting having a real job like that, but at the same time I was not in the right mood to stand around for five hours with a smile on my face.
After the hard-working hours, Sally and I decided to go to a party at Link’s with the rest of our grade. We picked up Phoebe and Mitch at Phoebe’s house along the way. Earlier in the night, Phoebe stopped by the restaurant to say hi. She said that Ted was talking to her about it earlier and said he was such a wreck. She said how he was crying about how he would do anything for me to get me back …She has a tendency to say the wrong things at the wrong times.
“Oh, and by the way I don’t know if this like changes your decision or anything, but Ted is going to Link’s tonight,” she informed me. I kind of had a feeling he might be going. It shouldn’t sway my decision. And after Phoebe left, Sally said it would probably be a bad idea for me to not go especially if all of them were because then he would wonder where I was and know that I was avoiding him. I didn’t want to avoid him anyways, I wanted to confront him as friends and make a next step towards a happier relationship with him. I wanted to move on, I wanted to be single, have fun, and enjoy my senior year. And I not only wanted that, I still do want that! But I can’t help feeling bad about breaking his heart, and guilty whenever I text Shane.
Shane is this guy that I used to hook up with for a little bit last year. He was a senior then, and now he is graduated. He was never the sharpest tool in the shed, and he was kind of fat (and some might say greasy) but he was popular and, I thought, adorable; like a big cuddly teddy bear. He goes to a community college so he’s still around and at the football game that night I saw him when he was walking out. I texted him because when I was talking to one of my best friends, Jen, she kind of convinced me to just because she’s kinky and spontaneous like that. We both are in a way, and I think our artistic side kind of brings it out in us, especially when we’re together. She’s a great friend and picked me up from the game when I said I wanted to leave because I wasn’t having a good time. When I texted him I immediately got giddy and started flirting even though I knew I shouldn’t have.
After that conversation that night, Shane texted me the night of Link’s party and asked to hang out. I was too much of an emotional wreck to put up with Shane’s pathetic bull shit, but I didn’t tell him that exactly. I just told him how I just broke up with my boyfriend and I didn’t expect for it to hit me so hard. Then I said maybe we can hang out another time, but I knew that by “hang out” it really meant hook up. That’s all he wanted me for, just to hook up. We were always friends for the most part throughout high school, but things started heating up when he got my number and started texting me junior year. I always thought he was adorable even though all my friends thought he was gross (and still do think that), but there’s just something about him that I can never seem to stay away from for too long. I know he uses me, but in a sense I use him just the same. I just couldn’t ever bear to think about hooking up with anyone but Ted at the moment without crying and feeling like an evil bitch. So, I don’t really know how long it will take for me to get over that phase, but I will get over it. And Ted said he would always be there for me if i change my mind. So for now, I’m going to hold off on Shane, and hopefully maybe come back to him later in the year just for some YOLOing purposes. Is that okay that I just said that because I feel like a lesbian….
Anyways, Link’s party was sweaty and crowded. Practically our whole grade was squeezed into the tiny basement and garage of his split-level house. I saw Ted as soon as I walked in moving across through the crowd but I didn’t say anything at first. I slowly made my way over to him once I greeted a few people who saw me and hugged me and asked if I was okay. It was hard to avoid the questioning, especially when everyone was drunk and confused. I didn’t know what else to say when people asked why I ended it. If I tried to shorten the story I sounded like a bitch, but if I went into complete detail they usually just forgot and asked me again five minutes later.
“Hey Lauren!” Harold shrieked at me with a drunken smile while his arm was propped up around Yadon’s broad shoulder. “Why did you break up with Ted?!” I stood there speechless. “You’re a bitch!” He continued to flip me off and laugh. I immediately raced out of the room and tried to go into the bathroom but there was of course a long line. I rushed up the stairs and out the front door; I sat on the bottom step and wiped away silent tears as I tried to pull myself together. I knew this would happen. Everyone think’s I’m a bitch.
“Lauren-” I heard Mitch and Sally approach me from behind. “It’s okay he didn’t mean it he’s just really drunk.” The thing is- I know Harold. Harold is a pussy. He’s anyone’s bitch and I could have easily chosen to set him straight right then and there but that’s not what bothered me. What bothered me was that he brought the memory of Ted from that morning back into my head and it still made me feel like shit. No one understands where I’m coming from in this situation and it’s rude and inconsiderate for them to judge me like that. I know Harold was drunk, and I know he can be a jackass, but he could be easily put in his place.
Within the next minute we were back inside. I was able to quickly pull myself together, and all I could think about was how much I needed a beer. There were barely any left, so I drank floaters while Link’s mom ran out to get more alcohol. In the mean time I took some shots from my friend Kathie’s boyfriend. It was weird to see her with a boyfriend because she was never the type to settle down. Her body type doesn’t fit his toned-and-fit-yet-thin body type at all, and they are kind of awkward looking together, but hey, to each his own I suppose.
After thanking Stanley Travis for his vodka, I quickly gulped it down. Three shots in two sips I would estimate. But still it didn’t give me the buzz I was looking for. Link’s mom wasn’t around with the beer and I assumed she wouldn’t be any time in the near future, so I just kept mooching of Stanley’s supply.
Ted was starting to look really cute. Well, he always is of course and just because we had broken up didn’t make him any less attractive to me, but maybe now so even more. It’s terrible how people want the things they can’t have. But I enjoyed Ted’s company at the party and talking to him was really nice. At one point he was sitting in this chair by himself in the corner of the room holding this tiki head with a blue ribbon around it (don’t ask). No one really knew where it came from, but it kind of looked like a carved out coconut. The ribbon glued to its head was a light blue color.
“What are you doing?!” I asked above the noise.
“Nothing just sitting here holding this tiki!” he responded and I laughed.
“Why is there a ribbon on it?!” The tiki continued to confuse me with each appearance it made throughout the night. First, Rory was walking around with it just holding it in people’s faces. It was only scary in the beginning, but after five minutes or so it was kind of predictable. It didn’t seem to stop him though because he kept going at it for a good half hour.
“I don’t really know, it’s a nice ribbon though! Kind of like a Tiffany one, haha.” He laughed and slurred the last two words over the music. He looked up at me and rubbed my leg as I stood there in front of him. I looked down at my feet and smiled, suddenly feeling uncomfortable that he would bring up something so special as the Tiffany necklace he gave me; I realized I was still wearing it. I touched my neck slightly and slipped away from the conversation into the next room.
“What was that…?!” Mitch exclaimed as she popped up from behind me in the garage.
“Why was Ted rubbing your leg..” She looked at me wide-eyed, as she usually is when something dramatic happens.
“I don’t know, it was weird. He brought up the Tiffany necklace and things got kind of awkward so I walked away,” I explained with confused emotions. It’s hard to not still be attracted to someone you used to be in love with. It’s not like I even broke up with him because I never loved him and don’t want anything to do with him anymore, I just don’t like him enough to be under the pressure of living up to how much he loves me. I still like him though, a lot actually. But just not enough to let it hold me back senior year especially with all of the school work I have to focus on with college and stuff. I can’t be strapped down. Relationship pressure is too much to handle. But I have no doubt that later on in our lives we will find each other again if it’s meant to be; when the time is right in both of our lives we will find each other. Fate has a funny way with things.
Later on in the night I didn’t see Ted so much until people started clearing out. Him and a bunch of his friends were dancing like crazy people in the garage and I laughed at the sight of it. It made me happy to see him happy. I would catch his eye every now and then and at one point he came up to me and tickled me just like old times. I laughed and pushed him away flirtatiously accepting his kind gesture. It was good though. So what, Clyde Pasquini (most popularly refered to as Weenie – “uini” deriving from the end syllables of his name) started a rumor that I have Chlamydia? I don’t give a shit. I even confronted him and told him to apologize but of course he’s too much of a hot-head to let go of the past (we were neighbors and strived to make each others’ lives miserable in middle school) and man up. He’s such a dick, and I didn’t even know he still hated me because of that. As far as I knew we were neutral class mates, but whatever. He is stupid to think that I care and naive to start talking shit before he knew my side of the story, because I know that Ted already stood up for me and no matter what Weenie says he will still be a lonely dick at the end of the day.
After Harold started calling me out again I pulled him aside.
“Listen. You don’t know where I’m coming from here.” Before I even started, he already held his hands up in surrender.
“All right, all right I’m sorry I didn’t mean it,” he said with a pathetic smile on his face and a Natty in his hand.
“No, like you don’t get it I am genuinely upset about breaking up with Ted, it’s harder for me than you think.” He felt terrible after that so the rest of the night he went around telling everyone how cool I was hahaha. That’s Harold for ya.
At one point in the night, Phoebe made Ted take a picture of her on the couch in between Kelso Chives and Blake Tamburino. She was going a bit crazy that night ever since her and her boyfriend broke up. I suggested he uploaded it to Facebook her ex could see it but Ted said he wasn’t friends with him on Facebook so I took his phone and insisted on sending it to myself so I could do it. He let me take it and sit down on the side couch while he was talking to Kelso or Blake or whatever. I noticed that my name was changed in his contacts, all the hearts were deleted. Okay, not a big deal it’s natural to do I mean we aren’t dating anymore. Just because I didn’t get around to deleting his hearts yet didn’t mean he shouldn’t have. When I clicked send on the message, the picture popped up into a little blue bubble in iMessage form. I quickly noticed the lack of texts before it; as in there were no texts before it, as in he deleted all our messages. I was kind of caught off guard. I handed him back his phone in a daze and he asked what was wrong.
“Nothing!” I said as I hyped up my happiness. I shook it off and wondered why it wasn’t processing correctly. I don’t have a boyfriend anymore. We aren’t dating. I’m allowed to look at other guys now. I’m allowed to want to hook up with other guys. I’m allowed to delete the hearts after Ted James in my contacts. I’m allowed. It’s weird changing gears like that, and even now I am still adjusting to it.
After the party, Mitch, Sally and I slept over Phoebe’s and got breakfast at O’Bagel in the morning. It was hard to realize that after I got dropped off there was nothing else to do. I was alone in my house at a time where I would usually be hanging out with Ted. It still hasn’t connected in my head that the new normal isn’t to want to hang out with him, and of course I still want to hang out with him like I still like him. It’s just the relationship and lovey-dovey shit that put me over the top and put all the pressure on me to be someone and feel something I didn’t. It’s hard to forget everything that I love about him still. But I know it wouldn’t be fair to get back together with him when I still want to see other people and live my senior year without and strings attached.
I walked upstairs to my room and glanced at my backpack in the messy corner amongst inside-out jeans and t-shirts. I should probably do some homework, I figured. Even though it’s only Sunday and we don’t have school until Tuesday this week (Jewish holiday), I had nothing better to do. I pushed back the urge to cry as I pulled out my assignment pad and read the homework I had. Nothing accept reading for Lit. I opened my book and started reading in hope that it would get my mind off of Ted. It did. But then I finished. I rested the book down on my comforter next to me and curled up on my big, yellow pillow. A tear slowly rolled across my cheek and fell off the tip of my nose.
It will just take time, I told myself. Change is never easy.