Maybe love is looking for someone to fill the holes we grow up building lives with holes in all our walls the walls could fall but here you were with spare bricks to save the day and we pray it’s not to late spare bricks could be dead weight – Anthony Raneri
By the title of my essay, most people would be wary of my claim. After all, I do not do a rain dance in front of my house to make it rain and nor do I have any control over the weather. Although, I have always thought that meteorology would be an easy job. I believe that my skill of being able to make it rain when it’s sunny has evolved over my lifetime and has included the help of many bad relationships. At twenty-six it is difficult to say that I have become such a skillful cynic. Now, it is the negative quality that I have been told that I possess, but I believe this supposed cynicism to actually be skepticism, therefore, it is a skill and not a negative virtue, because it has always proved to be of assistance.
At seventeen I began a relationship which just ended recently (about seven months ago). I believe this relationship is the origin of my skill of being skeptical, but again it always proved to be a good tool. My boyfriend at the time, John, also has many skills. John’s skills are lying musician, drug abuser, manipulator, self-absorbed, avid porn watcher, and provider. He is far more talented, skill-wise, than I. He was the first real relationship that I indulged in, gave everything, you know how it goes. I made many sacrifices, as many do in relationships, such as school, money, time, ego, self-esteem, love, and respect. This is just to name a few “minor”, sort of important things, that by their loss I gained my skill of skepticism.
At the heart of the matter, I was cheated on many times by John. Once (maybe more) with my best friend, Jennifer. The cheating with Jennifer is one of, what I call “the great ones.” I consider it great because it was the first time he cheated and the circumstances were obvious. Unbeknownst to me, John and Jennifer had previously met and they were apparently attracted to each other. One day Jennifer and I were in a cafeteria having lunch and she said, “So you’re dating Johnny?” The way her face looked as she asked this question is burned into my brain like one of those traumas you try and shove down so badly yet it still figures out how to burn you. I know this was the moment I didn’t trust her, because of my own insecurities I didn’t trust him. I told her, I was dating John and she said, “He’s cute, I used to know him.” I never repeated this to John.
You see, Jennifer was one of those girls that everyone called by her first and last name. I don’t know the logic or reasoning behind it, but I guess some people are just that great. They can’t just go by their first name. Jennifer Ponce DeLeon. The irony was she was my best friend and I thought she was cool and fun to be around. Jennifer and I were friends in high school and we became closer when her father committed suicide. The suicide was traumatic not only because of the death, but the manner in which her father carried it out. Her mother was planning on divorcing her father, only the father could not bear this impending reality. So, before his whole family arrived home one afternoon, he make shifted a gun out of a nail gun. He rigged it so that the gun would fire multiple times and he attached the gun to the back of the front door. His family arrived home and his dead body was the first thing the family saw. As her best friend, I tried to do everything I could for her. I invited her to come and stay with me and she spent all her extra time with John and me. I felt that I was doing the right thing, the best thing I knew how to do to comfort my best friend. It was only shortly after this that I began to feel something in my gut saying, “Ashley, something smells, and it smells bad.” I checked everywhere for this smell, was it me?
Turns out it was John and after confronting him many times about my suspicions, which he never validated (I told you he was more skilled than me) I saw a text message on his phone, from her, that said, “the last time I got tested for an STD was right before the last time we had sex.”
Well, I guess we can also say that this is where my anger problem kicked up. I freaked out. Did I now have an STD? My boyfriend had just given me a promise ring (so sweet, right?) and now he was sleeping with my STD-filled best friend! After confronting him and hours of badgering him, he finally admitted that he had been sleeping with her. It still cracks me up how even with evidence in hand, people still deny the truth. I left his house in Rancho Cucamonga and drove to my cousin Nate’s, where I was living, in Buena Park. While on the 57 freeway heading south I picked up my phone. I had to find out the truth. I did not have Jennifer’s number on my cell phone. I prayed and asked God to help me remember a measly ten digits. The first number that I dialed – was hers and she answered, Hello?” I don’t remember the words of the conversation, but I do remember I was not rude to her or mad at her. She told me John said to her that he and I were not together, that we were broken up. The shitty part about it is even if it were true that we were broken up, she shouldn’t have slept with him. Obviously, I broke up with him and stopped talking to Jennifer. So, after a visit to Planned Parenthood with a clean bill of health (thank god) and a month or so of restful nights of sleep, I decided that we should “work things out.” So we did.
We spent the next seven years full of trust issues, jealousy, lying, self-pity, cheating and an avid use of porn on his part. Now, since this is my story, I never ever cheated on him. With seven years full of these issues, I learned how to adapt to the relationship. Everyone would always say to me, “I don’t know why you stay with him.” The truth is I learned how to be stupid. Not really, of course. I learned with my skepticism to know what was always going to be coming my way (this is why I don’t believe it to be a negative quality). As eight years approached, plus an engagement (yes, I know) I began to realize that if I stayed here, the rest of my life would never be anymore, or any better than it was because it had always been the same – bad. I knew that I deserved better because I gave him better. I know that real love, married love is about reciprocity and he would give that to me eventually because he would realize how he had shortchanged me for so long. Plus, he was a man now. He had just turned twenty-seven. But when beliefs didn’t come to fruition, when I still felt bad, when I would wake up in the middle of the night only to hear him on the computer watching porn I felt the only piece of dignity I managed to save was being killed off. I imagined the rest of my life with these problems only further compounded by children, a mortgage, marriage, and I realized this was going to be the rest of my life. I was choosing to legally bind myself to him and this life. It scared me. We sat down one afternoon in our apartment in our spare room that was used as his studio for his music his life. I was crying and I told him how bad I felt and how bad he made me feel with his actions. It was so tough to say these things because I really wanted to be with him, I wanted everything to work out. I loved him. He was the one that I had imagined the rest of my life being with. I had communicated with him so many times about the things he did that bothered me – things that killed off my dignity. Every time John would make promises to me that he would never keep, “I won’t watch porn so much babe, and I know that it makes you feel bad” or “If I smoke in the house I will make sure to open a window.” They were empty promises and I didn’t feel valued or understood as a person. He began to cry and he said, “I know. I know you’re tired. I know that I don’t make you happy and you do everything for me. I just keep taking advantage of you over and over again.” It was so terrible to watch something die and then call the time of death. It was a terrible time, we still lived together for a few months and tried to see what would happen, but the relationship was just done. There is no way to ever restore something so dead. So we broke up. He moved back home to Los Angeles to become a famous rock star and I chose to stay in Chico to finish college.
Even after all this transpired, I realized that I did not want to be the person who had lost faith in love and in people. Even though as a skeptic it is still my first instinct to question every person’s intention, to the best of my ability. Even with the loss of a bad relationship, my skill set remains the same. I am now dating someone else, who tells me on occasion that I am always so negative. The other day, upon looking through text messages on the current boyfriend’s phone, I found messages to his ex-girlfriend (did I mention that I love technology?) After we had an argument, he texted her and told her, “I will always love you. You don’t just spend a year and a half with someone and never talk to them again. We should move in together. You need a man like me to take care of you. I’m just stuck with my girlfriend right now. I really want to see you.” Luckily, she lives in San Diego and she didn’t seem to buy into his need of an ego pump. It is these types of instances that solidify my skepticism and more importantly the necessity of this skepticism. To clarify, we have been dating for a mere six months. And guess what? I’m still here. Do we see a pattern?
What have I learned? Not much apparently. It is difficult for me to not accept the faults of others because I know that I myself am not perfect. I am never quite sure of where to set the quitting line as I believe quitting is a tragedy, I come from a divorced home.
Unlike many kids who have some instant reaction to their parents divorcing, mine came a little later in life. I suppose if I retrace the steps I could blame my parents for my relentlessness in my relationships and the need for connection. My mom and dad had me young, she was 18 he was 21. My dad is a musician. Surprise! After having my brother, two and a half years after me, they separated. Now, it was not mentioned to my brother and me until much later in our lives, but they had separated due to cheating allegations. Where it gets hazy is that right after my mom and dad were separated, my mom was pregnant. She had my brother Collin, his birth certificate read Collin Acuna. However, Collin came out with blue eyes and blond hair. Did I mention that my dad is Spanish, Italian and Guatemalan? Obviously, the jig was up. My dad knew that Collin was not his biological kid. My parents now have a good relationship, they have both moved on and my mom admitted to me right before breaking up with John, that by trying to tell my dad that Collin was his kid was wrong and that she was just young and scared and didn’t know what to do. After Collin’s birth, my mom married again, to my first – yes first – stepdad. It was during this time that my foundation of my skepticism was truly laid. I used to check my mom’s pockets – looking for anything exciting, usually candy. She is a flight attendant so I began to collect ticket stubs that I found in her pockets. After a while of collecting, I took notice that most of the ticket stubs said that she was going to Idaho. This was also at the height of the technology boom and I knew how to work the computer better than my mom. So I began checking her emails. She had also been chatting online with a man in Idaho. I printed out the saved chats and the exchanged emails. I began to compile evidence for my case. I became so disillusioned with the material that I found that I began to lose respect for my mother. One day I decided that I was going to confront her. When I confronted her she did not look guilty of what I suspected. Instead, she looked furious and disappointed. After all, I was her child and merely fourteen. She told me that I was wrong and that she wasn’t cheating on my stepdad. I didn’t believe her. Then they divorced – apparently he had an alcohol problem. She then had a boyfriend move in that she met on the internet as well. Apparently, he was a pilot with American Airlines. Turns out after they became engaged he wasn’t who he really said that he was. He wasn’t a pilot and he wasn’t well off – like she had believed. They were close to marriage, but it was really about having a double income and a babysitter for us, now four kids. Then she met and married my second and current step dad – they have made it to seven years. I hold a lot of resentment against my mom for creating a very unstable childhood – whether it was the various men, moving us around, or just her job as a flight attendant that never kept her home.
It’s difficult to examine the relationship of my parents or those of my mom’s because I was merely a product of it and not a participant. We all know there are so many complexities to relationships, it is not even as simple as his side and her side, there is always more. As a person, the most difficult thing to attempt to do is to try and understand why people are the way they are. Our individual hearts, stories, and experiences are what make us who we are, and unless we ever possess the capacity to walk in someone else’s shoes, we will never be able to truly understand another person. I know that John, like my current boyfriend, are individually complex people just like me and everyone else in the world and I cannot expect to truly understand them or help “fix” them because I cannot even do that for myself. Whether it is issues of acceptance, love, respect, faith, truth those are things that one must work on alone. I do not believe that any person should be responsible for making someone feel “normal,” so to speak; you should possess that on your own with a strong foundation so that no one can take you down. As my grandmother used to say to my mother and now she reminds me, “Life is not for the weak, so if you want to make it through, you better be strong.”
I’ve been doing some searching to figure out why I am the type of person that stays in these repeated situations, the type I know are bad, yet (call it faith or delusion), I stay. Is this the strength that my Grandma meant? Is strength owned by sticking through difficult relationships? Or is strength owned by leaving a situation that begins to make you weak? Or maybe the strength she is speaking about is the kind that requires a membership to the gym.
Chances are a big thing for me. I know I don’t want to give chances, but I do. Although I’m beginning to believe that I must have an ad out somewhere that states, “She doesn’t give just one chance, like the other girls, she gives as many as you can exhaust!” The funny thing about chances is that they teach you a pattern of behavior to expect from someone. John cheated on me, lied to me about girls, more times than I have fingers or toes.
Years after cheating on me, John decided to add to his reputation. I was on my way to meet John at a show he was playing in Upland. I was expecting to go to the show, but I was waiting for John to call me to tell me to leave my place. When he called he asked me to meet him at the venue. I thought that it was odd that he asked me to meet him there since he did not have a car so of course, he would need me to pick him up. Suddenly I had that old familiar scent in my nose. I knew that something was not right. On the way to the venue, I tried to call him to let him know where I was. The phone rang – voicemail. I called over and over with the same result. I was racing down the freeway, which is a task in Los Angeles, and I knew that I was only racing to face disappointment – again. I arrived at the venue and it was vacant. I waited to see if anyone would arrive – no one. I kept trying to get in touch with John now moving to text messages. Still nothing. Finally when I called for what seemed like the thousandth time he answered. Immediately I yelled, “Where are you? I have been calling you and texting you and you never answered.” He responded, “I’m at the venue.” Furiously I stated, “Really you’re here? Uh, because I’m sitting in the car, in a vacant parking lot at the venue and you are definitely not here.” Then the genius says, “Oh, uh, well actually I just had to leave to get water for the show.” I said, “Well why didn’t you answer my phone calls?” He told me, “I had to take my grandpa to the hospital for some tests.” After waiting for John to return from getting “water” for a half an hour, I left the venue to do some investigating. I decided to go to Grandpa Joe’s. Now, I realize this may come off a little crazy, but given his track record during my previous investigations there was no doubt in my mind he was lying to me. I arrived at grandpas, and to my surprise, grandpa was at home – alone. I asked, “Hey Grandpa Joe how was your doctor’s appointment today that John took you to?” He replies, “I didn’t go to the doctors today.” He even asked me where John was. I left Grandpa Joe’s feeling so disappointed and sad, yet I knew the whole time something smelled bad. I started the car and began driving back to the venue and I continued to call and call John and he still didn’t answer. Back at the venue, there were now a few cars in the lot, mostly the bands, faces that I recognized. I finally reach him on his phone and I say, “I went to your grandpa’s and talked to your grandpa and he told me that you didn’t take him anywhere today.” I plead with him “just be honest – just tell me the truth” he says nothing. Through my sobbing, I yell “you’re a liar.” I watch as he pulls up in a car that I do not recognize. He is dropped off a little down the street and I lose sight of the car. As he walks up to the venue – the sky is a burning red – and his mood delightful. I am still sitting in the car panicked. Sitting with nothing but my thoughts and wondering what the truth is and how will I know; wondering why did I trust him, why doesn’t he care about me, why is he so selfish after everything that I do for him – everything that he’s put me through. As he approaches the car I imagine that he is going to act like nothing happened. He waves to a few fellow friends and “fans” and as usual he looks effortlessly cool – tight black jeans, black vans, flannel shirt with the sleeves rolled up to show off all of his traditional style tattoos that cover his arms, his hair is freshly cut and styled and his smile cleverly highlights the gap between his two front teeth. When he approaches the car, he comes to my window. I roll it down. He says, “Are you going to get out of the car?” I, not caring if I make a scene say through my tears, “get in the car!” He reluctantly walks around the back of the car and opens the passenger side door. I sense he is doing this merely out of obligation and not out of love or contrition. He gets in the car and says, “What’s up?” I cry and yell at him questioning him and ask him what happened. He sticks to his story – lies, lies, lies.
I start the car angrily and begin to drive, not caring that he has a show he is supposed to be playing, I make a right hand turn out of the venue parking lot and I see the various band members watching in awe. As we are driving he finally he admits he lied. I am driving my car over the railroad tracks, sun is barely starting to set, still red, and my boyfriend of five years, at this point, tells me he was on a date with another girl – a girl in fact that he had met while he was living in Hawaii – she was on a cruise. He tells me, “We went to Chipotle on a date.” I asked, “Did you kiss her?” He responded, “I didn’t kiss her, but she kissed me on the cheek.” He told me that she was the one who dropped him off right in front of me.Never, in my life have I hit someone. I, passing over the train tracks, raise my left hand from the steering wheel and smack him across the face and begin to sob profusely. Through my sobs, I yell at him, “Why would you do this to me?!” I made him dial her on the cell phone. She picked up and he said “hello” in a reluctant tone. I grab the phone from his hand – “Hello?” She responded with a confused intolerant tone, “Hello, who is this?” I angrily responded, “this is John’s girlfriend of five years, I just want you to know that you were out with a guy who has a girlfriend and I’m doing you a favor because he’s an asshole.” I hung the phone up and continued to sob.
Now my problem with cheating isn’t that you’re cheating on me, but I feel that if you are going to the lengths to cheat you must not be happy with the person you are with. So why stay with them. Why wouldn’t he just leave me? Yet I don’t make a change, I do the same thing because guess what? I stayed, again.
The other incident that took place was during a period of time in which John and I were separated. After four years of dating, we had officially separated in the summer and remained as such for about a year. During this time, he began dating a girl named Brittney. Even though he was in a relationship we went to dinner one night and had a great time. The conversation was light and highlighted all the common interests that we shared. While we were dating I hated the music that he listened to, yet when we broke up it was the music that I clung too. He made fun of me for this. He told me, “I don’t get it. You hate the music I like when were together and the second we break up that music is your favorite.” The reality was I hated anything he liked because it meant that I was like him – it made me sick. He told me he missed me and we both found ourselves in a conversation that felt normal – healthy. He told me how he realized that he had made bad decisions, but that he really loved me and wanted to try to work things out with me. I was hesitant and told him I didn’t think it was a good idea for us to be together right now. He told me he didn’t really care for Brittney and it was just something for the meantime. I recall he liked that she would go and buy his weed for him. He never had to pay for his own weed. This in his eyes made her good. At the end of our meeting I mentioned to him that I was going to be attending Warped Tour (a punk/rock music festival) in a couple of days, he told me he was going to Florida to visit his sister.
I was at Warped Tour with my friend Andrea. Andrea and I were walking around the arena and out of nowhere John – wearing daisy dukes – grabbed me by the shoulder. He was with a girl. We had a quick conversation and he acted like the girl holding his hand was nothing – he didn’t introduce any of us. I saw this and assumed that it was Brittney. So I began to wrap my arm around the girl’s shoulder and tried to walk away with her and she shrugged me off. I said as she walked away from me that John was out with me just a few days ago telling me how much he loved me and that he wanted to work things out. She didn’t listen. She later paid a price for this. John and I got back together.
Now although, and it’s my worry that I’m coming off as “poor me,” the reality is that it’s not me emotionally that I’m so worried about, it’s the loss. The loss of the relationship, the history, and what seemed to be a future. What pains my emotions is the insincerity that comes with love. The problem with me and the people that I choose to be with is fear. Whether the fear is of abandonment, “forever” commitment, or even just being alone, they, like me, are fearful. It has developed as a theory of mine, which I’m sure you can turn a positive spin on, mine, of course, is grown from cynicism or negativity – you choose – but I believe that everyone is dysfunctional; I mean either mentally or emotionally dysfunctional – some would call these quirks. These dysfunctions act like magnets and they attract you to someone either with the same dysfunction or with one that with compliment yours and vice versa. The hope is to find someone that has one that will compliment yours that way you can lift each other up and foster growth. However, if you find someone with the same dysfunction you will likely do the exact opposite.
At the heart of me, I want it to work out for me like it works out for other people and I am still fearful that it won’t, and perhaps that’s why I don’t let go to the ones that I find. I want to be with someone that alleviates my skepticism. Every time I chose to stay with John, or even my current boyfriend, it’s a fear of losing what I’ve worked for, but also because I believe that you should always try to see the best in people and work through things that you have committed yourself to – for better or worse. I still suffer the turmoil with my relationship with John. I know that I am one hundred percent responsible for me and, therefore, responsible for what happened in that relationship. I find it difficult to reconcile how things got so bad with John. Why did I deserve to be treated that way? How did I contribute to pushing someone away that I loved? And it bothers me that this may be who I am and it may be too late to be anything different. I’m just someone who wants to love and be loved yet when I get close to someone it is either they end up betraying me, or somehow I make them suffer and then they betray me. Because it seems to be, merely with these examples that I am always the same and that it always plays out the same.
But then again I have always preferred rainy days over sunny ones.
It may take a lifetime to make it up to you, if I could turn back clocks that’s exactly what I’d do we keep pretending that everything is fine we’ll take a break the fault was mine. – John Alaimo (yes, that John)