Broken Strings: Live the Way You Lie

Broken Strings: Live the Way You Lie

In New York City, on the Upper East Side, at 85th and Lex there’s a pub—an Irish pub, a Seattle Seahawks pub—called Carlow East, we always called it Pat’s in honor of Pat, one of best damn bartenders any one of us has ever known. It’s important too to acknowledge Emmett, although Pat always seemed to be our personal bartender Emmett was always around. I always kind of instinctively “knew” that Emmett owned the place, though I don’t think he actually did. The lot of us believed too, in secret, that Emmett was an enforcer for the Irish mob in New York.

We loved Carlow East, for me and around the twenty others (friends), the pub was a sort of community center, one of us was always there. It was our Cheers, in the truest sense of the word, and of the meaning of the word ‘to belong.’ I’ve never experienced anything like it before and haven’t since, there were a couple spots in the Texas Hill Country: Drink Texas and Cibolo Creek Brewing Co., that could have spelled Cheers to the right person for me however nothing has come close to Carlow East.

          I was sitting at a high-top with a pitcher of beer with my friend Eugene, we were waiting for the pool table to open up and watching the current game as it progressed. It was a pair of women and a pair of men playing, Eugene and I assumed they were two couples but as the game progressed and we started chatting with the women, even offering our less than expert advice one of the two women started cozying up to me a bit, and when the game ended the pair of men, realizing they lost—not just the pool game—bowed out and the women joined Eugene and I at the high-top. It wasn’t long before one of the two women left and it wasn’t much longer after that that Eugene would leave, so that she and I, only remained. We exchanged numbers, I walked her to her stoop a couple of blocks away, and then we started seeing a lot of each other.

          I was lonely in New York City for much of the time that I was there. There were at least five women that I can think of right now that had expressed an interest in me throughout those years but until I met her that night at Carlow East nobody really interested me.

I left Salt Lake City when I moved to New York. I had only been in Salt Lake a couple of years, and I was married; we moved to Salt Lake because my then wife enrolled in a trade school in the downtown area. We didn’t know each other that well when we got married, we met only five months prior to our marriage, and we were young. We met when I was living in Idaho Falls, Idaho. My moving to New York City marked the end of our marriage. It messed me up, a lot more than I realized at the time, not the fact that we split up, but rather a number of underlying things that existed within our relationship, and in my head. We divorced and I met the girl at the bar a couple of years later, until then I didn’t think I was ready (or just didn’t want to) be in a relationship again.

          There’s something romantic about walking hand-in-hand with someone you love on the streets of New York City and, especially, in Central Park. We went to museums, discovered coffeehouses and bars, restaurants, parks, bookstores; we were both writers. We became synonymous with each other. I remember walking with her past the Natural History Museum and in the lawn/park next to the museum lying flat awaiting Helium were the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons and we would later watch the parade together. I was more open and more honest with her than I had been with anyone, in part because I felt like I could be and also because I’m not sure that I opened up to my ex-wife as much as I should have—I wanted to learn from my mistakes, and I was learning. We alternated staying at each other’s places, she was living on the Upper East Side (for some reason, she was getting her master’s in journalism at NYU, I’m not sure why she was living so far north of the campus), and I lived in the Bronx, in the second nicest part of the borough.

          One day, completely out of the blue, she sat me down and nervously told me that once she graduated, she had to leave New York, and she was moving back home to Napa, California. That conversation was the first I heard about this, months into our relationship and only a couple of weeks before graduation. I was floored; destroyed. We talked about trying a long-distance relationship, and we were both, seemingly all for the idea (we couldn’t get further away from each other and still be living in the same country but who knows, right? It could work).

She left, and we talked over the phone, texted, and emailed and although we talked it was, of course, still hard, and then it got considerably more difficult when she went unaccounted for. I didn’t hear from her again.

            Days turned into weeks and then into a month without hearing from her. I was broken. I really took that whole thing very hard; I wouldn’t know what or how it would affect me for some years and in some cases, I’m sure, I’ll never really know, intellectually. I internalized it, entirely. I didn’t talk about it, it just kind of found an empty place somewhere where things like that nestle up, die, and then rot inside of me—and I just kind of got used to the smell. 

          I only stayed in New York for another two months.

It was December when she left and the following January, still a mess, there was only one thing, it would seem, that got through to me. Throughout the month of January, whomever I talked to, the conversations I eavesdropped on, the advertisements that I saw in magazines and subway trains, in the books that I read, everything was leading me to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

          After some time, I got the hint, I uprooted, and I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Santa Fe welcomed me with open arms, it was obvious that the city wanted me there. I quickly found and was approved for an apartment a few blocks from the plaza—an apartment that had a waiting list, and I’m still not sure how I was able to get in. I was offered a job, without having even applied to it, doing the marketing for an art gallery on Canyon Road. I was falling in love with Santa Fe. When I first moved there it genuinely seemed as if I was home in a way that I didn’t even know that I needed: the food, the bars, the life, the art, the culture, the people, it was remarkable!

One of my favorite spots to sit and people watch, and write, and just hang out was called Aztec Café, on Aztec Street across the street from Double Take. It’s not there anymore. The location is a restaurant now, a high end one called Zacatlan. I’ve never been there—not even after I left New Mexico and came back to the city years later.

          I was sitting at Aztec one late morning, writing, when I got a phone call…

“Where are you?” “I’m living in Santa Fe…New Mexico.” “I know. I mean where are you exactly, right now?” “I’m working, I’m at a coffeehouse called Aztec Café.”

          It was the first time I had heard her voice in four months.

In less than an hour she was standing in front of me at Aztec Café in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The last time I saw her was at JFK International almost half a year prior. I didn’t know what to say, but the first thing that came out of my mouth wasn’t particularly friendly, I’m sure. Something along the lines of, “Now, where the f$&k have you been?!” I was pissed for a few days, nevertheless I did respond to her calls and texts, and I agreed to meet her when she asked. She would even show up to my place on the occasional morning with a Chai, which was my favorite drink at the time. She had taken a job writing for Outside Magazine, which is based in Santa Fe. She, along with four or five others, was a paid intern learning her way around a magazine. Before too long we started seeing each other again, but things between us weren’t quite the same, as you may or may not imagine. I did still care very much about her, as much as I didn’t want to, I couldn’t help it, unfortunately.

          Two or three weeks into our rekindling, we were sitting at her place off of Galisteo Street watching Across the Universe. I can’t recall why it came up, initially something relating to some dialogue in the movie, but we started talking about her ex-boyfriend. When we first started seeing each other she mentioned that she had been in a fairly serious relationship that ended several months before we met, and it had come up that he was at school now at Oxford. While the white noise of Across the Universe was playing in the background it came out that during the four months that she was ghosting me she was in the U.K., and that during that time her and her ex had started seeing each other again.

“OK, are you two together now…still?” “No, I want to be with you.” “Right, but does he think you’re together right now?” She paused, reflecting on her response. “Yes.” She finally said, and I didn’t say anything in response, I simply stood and walked out the front door. It’s amazing, I think, what people are capable of, we are capable of such kindness and compassion and we’re equally capable of indifference and ignoring completely how those actions might affect another person for years to come, regardless of the fact that we’re capable of empathy of recognizing how we might feel if someone treated us in that same way, and yet…

She was standing at my door the following morning with a Chai, this is apparently my weakness, although, no I didn’t take the Chai and embrace her with forgiveness; I took the Chai with righteous indignation. We talked, and she told me that she wanted to be with me and that she was going to end things with him. I questioned her intention, because I didn’t believe her at first, although I wanted to. Still, she managed to convince me that she would leave him and that our relationship would pick up where it left off in New York months before. It wasn’t long after that our relationship did start to feel, for the first time since we started seeing each other in Santa Fe, like it did when we were aimless walking the streets of New York all those months ago.

A few weeks later she started acting strangely, again. And I asked her about it, again and she blew me off even starting to get upset, so I made the effort to put it out of my mind. One night she was supposed to meet me at my place for date night and she never showed, nor did she respond to a phone call and a text. The next morning, she said that she was hanging out with the other interns, from Outside. I asked her if we could meet up that night and she said that she made plans, again, with the interns, and I started feeling suspicious that there was something she wasn’t sharing. Instead of trusting my gut, my own intuition, I chose to trust her and even though I continued to feel an uneasiness that something wasn’t right I chose, still to ignore my intuition. I brought it up one last time one morning while she and I were having breakfast at The Pantry a week or two later, and she got defensive, and she started getting angry at me for asking and for doubting her.

A couple of nights later, again we were supposed to meet up at my place and again she never showed up, and again she ignored my attempts to reach her, that night my intuition was practically screaming at me. It was forcing me to pay attention. I went to her house and all the lights were off, it appeared that she was either out or asleep; I knocked gently and when there was no response I rode my bike home.

The next morning, I went back to her place, and this time I went inside, and I found her in bed with one of the interns. Amazed and appalled, I stepped back outside and beckoned her to follow. She followed me outside, and she started to say, “I’m sorry…I love you; I want to be with yo…” “Oh Geezus, shut up!” How is it that people do that? Even under those circumstances she was still try to bull$hit and manipulate me, I told her to save it and that I thought she was a terrible person, and I turned around and walked away. I never saw her again after that.

          I do remember feeling at ease while I was walking away, as if a great weight that I wasn’t entirely aware of had been lifted. There was a suspicion following me, my intuition was making desperate attempts to get through to me; I brought it up with her multiple times and she maintained a lie and even added weight to her lie by getting upset with me for trying to trust my intuition. The worst part of it, for me, was that she knowingly and even counted on and actively encouraged me to doubt my own intuition. She trained me to, when my Spidey-senses were activating, discount my empathic feelings, indifferent to the fact that behavior like that and the manipulation can be lasting, and haunting in ways so subtle they may never be exhumed and mended.

          As I walked away, I pulled out my cell, I had managed to find and save the contact information for her ex, and I reached out to him—the one who had been going to school in Oxford, the one that she was seeing before her and I even met in New York, the one who she had gotten back together with and then left for me a couple of months earlier. He got back to me immediately.

 As it had turned out, not only had she not ended things with him the couple of months earlier when she told me she would, they had never actually broken up, not even the several months before we first met in New York City. The pair had been together the entire time! So, I told him about me and about she and I, and I told him that one of the other interns was in her bed right now, as we spoke, and that he should give her a call.

          I’m still amazed all these years later that anyone might be capable of that kind of deceit and at the same time seem so genuine. I mean, how is that possible? That’s beyond selfishness, although there is a selfishness to it of course. And that’s beyond contemptuous, although cavalier of course. And it’s beyond malicious, although there is a viciousness to it of course. As satisfying as it was for me one of my biggest regrets, aside from not trusting intuition, was reaching out to her ex. It served only a selfish desire for revenge, it didn't serve me at all, not really. That action was never going to help me to work through whatever it was that I would eventually need to.

          I’ve struggled to trust people the way I did before I met her, and the next relationship I had that started with another chance meeting at Aztec Café, didn’t help things at all for me either. It's a hard thing to accept and to move forward from when someone you care about and someone who has said they care about you is dishonest and deceitful, a sadness shadows the behavior unlike one that might come after something more transparent or even depression, it comes from a place a little deeper and affects a great deal more searching for the surface.              We have a choice every day that starts with how we’re going to feel about ourselves and that first subtle, unconscious decision that we make every day is going to create a ripple effect and influence the behaviors of people you will likely never know. Agree or not with how some people think or how they live their lives or the choices that they make that shouldn’t influence the decisions you make and you choose to behave and treat people. You’re right; regardless of the mindset you choose to accept, you are going to convince yourself regardless of what you believe, so make sure that it’s something that you care enough about and want to be right about.



*blog title credit to James Morrison's son "Broken Strings," and Eminem's song, "Love the Way You Lie." 

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