I knew it was over by New Year’s Eve.
We were in Vegas visiting Alan’s younger brother. Alan and I had been together for a year — well, together on and off. Off because we kept breaking up. The last time was because he’d expected me to pay for our trip to Mexico since I’d invited him to come along with my friends. It wasn’t so much the money — I was fine with paying my own way! — it was the expectation. But then one day, a month after the split, he showed up at my door looking all sexy and churlish and next thing I knew we were back together.
Vegas was Alan’s way of making up for it. We were staying off the strip, at his brother Hal’s, who had picked us up from the airport.
“What are you doing? Would you watch where you’re going?” Alan yelled at Hal from the passenger seat, grabbing the wheel. The car had veered left. Alan kept screaming at his brother, about his irresponsibility, lack of attention, everything in the kitchen sink.
“It’s all good, bro,” Hal said calmly.
But it wasn’t all good. As the two men joked around, back to their brotherly dynamics, I felt my chest tighten. I could hardly breathe. I’d always suspected Alan had temper problems, but I’d never seen him spewing like that. Perhaps I should have forgiven him because families have a way of setting each other off, but I couldn’t help but think that one day he’d be treating me that way. I felt afraid.
Alan and I made it through our fancy festive dinner, but by the breakfast buffet the next morning, I was a mess. I couldn’t even eat a second bite of the crème brûlée French toast, not even by washing it down with a mimosa.
“What’s wrong?” Alan asked. I didn’t know if he was more concerned about me or the fact that I wasn’t eating the very expensive breakfast.
I shook my head even as tears formed in my eyes. I couldn’t end it, not there, and not yet, anyway. What was the point? We’d fight, make up, fight, make up. That was our pattern. I didn’t want to spend the next few years breaking up and getting back together. If I ended it, I wanted to be sure we’d be, as Taylor Swift sings, “never, ever getting back together.” I decided to give it a month.
But in my coldly logical plan I hadn’t checked the calendar: Valentine’s Day was just around the corner. And Alan, who was feeling more secure in our relationship than ever because I’d stopped fighting with him, was planning something big. I knew it was big because he kept telling me.
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“I’ve got something real big planned for V-day,” he said, like it was WWII Victory Day, not a festivity fabricated by Hallmark. Truthfully, I’d always liked Valentine’s Day: It was just another way to celebrate your relationship.
But what if you don't like the person you're with? And that was what I was beginning to discover in my flawed plan: Alan was a really sweet man, not to mention good-looking and incredibly sexy, but he just wasn’t for me. A welder, he was a beer-guzzling guy’s guy, who thought my writer friends and I were “intellectual masturbators.” “Blah blah blah blah blah,” is how he described it. Which should have been enough to end it, but it was the day before our big night out to celebrate “our love.”
First, he gave me a black lace negligee. It had more strings than material and I suppose it would have been considered sexy if one were an acrobat, contorting herself to get into it. But the piece de resistance was a silver cuff bracelet he’d welded for my upper arm.
“Read the inscription,” he said. I might have visibly shuddered. There was a heart with an arrow and inside it said, “Amy and Alan 4Ever.” I probably won’t be able to give it back, I thought.
The restaurant was sweet, especially with the wine to help us through those increasingly frequent seven seconds’ of silence.
A week later, we ended it. Actually, Alan did it. “I don’t think we have that much in common,” he said after another meal with not much conversation. I nodded. I was sad that I’d been such a coward, vowing in the future to put an end to a relationship when its time had come, instead of stringing it out to wait for a holiday about love neither of us wanted to celebrate.
That night I went back home, wrapped the bracelet in the lingerie (the best use of the flimsy contraption) and pushed it in the back of a drawer, where I’d never see it again.
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