“There are people in the world that have the power to change our values. Have you ever been with a girl who made you want to quit the rest of your life?”
-John Mayer on Jessica Simpson, Playboy
I realized I was in over my head when I didn’t look both ways to cross the street. It’s a small thing but a very big one to a proudly independent woman who likes to be in control. The logic goes: I only trust you not to mess up because I trust me to look out for myself. Unless I’m with my mother, I look both ways before I cross the street. I trust her to keep me safe. Unless I am with my father, I always carry his credit card. I trust him to take care of the bills. Anybody else? I’m looking right, then left, hard. RAM was different though. He held me down….and sometimes together. When I was struggling to pay bills, and make ends meet he was right there. There was no need to look. I believed he would never let anything bad happen to me when I was with him. And he never did.
When I couldn’t make it to his part of NC as often as I liked, he drove down to me. I would do anything for him. The difficult I’d do right now. The impossible would take a little while. But I’d do it, because he would do anything for me. That’s why I wasn’t caught off guard when he called me during the first week of spring to ask me to meet him at the Museum. We usually saw each other on weekends, since the drive (for him) and the ride (for me) to and from his part of NC was a little brutal. But occasionally, he would make the long trek to see me on a weeknight just because.
I meet him on the steps at the fountains at seven o’clock. “You look like hell,” I say before hello. He has terrible allergies. He turns his head up instinctively, and I greet him with a kiss on the lips. “I feel fabulous,” he quips sarcastically.
He’s not usually sarcastic. “What’s wrong?” I ask.
I take a seat next to him and lean on his shoulder. Right up on him where life is best lived. He sighs deeply. “I’m moving.”
I sit upright excitedly and face him, stopping myself from clasping my hands together like a child. “To where? Charlotte?”
It’s some family matters that I need to handle.
I nod, waiting for him to get to the part where he asks me to go with him. But he doesn’t.
“How long will you be gone?”
“I don’t know. But I’m coming back,” he offers.
I stare at the ground blankly. My pride won’t let me blurt, What about me?
“You can’t leave Charlotte, Reagan. You came here to experience city living and you love it.
I look up, not bothering to hide the tears in my eyes. “Take me with you. Don’t leave me. I don’t know if I can make it here without you. I want to quit my life. At that moment I would have given up teaching, my family, and all my friends just to be with him.
“You should stay here,” he says firmly.
He doesn’t want me to go.
“What about us?”
Another heavy sigh. “You’ll be fine….without me.”
He doesn’t want me anymore? I don’t get it.
“Did I do something wrong?” I practically beg. I try, but I’m not always the easiest person to get along with. “What did I do?”
He shakes his head. “It’s not you…..” “You don’t get it Reagan, I’m leaving because I have to take care of my mom”
The wind’s been knocked out of me. I feel like I’m going halfway crazy. I gasp for air, I bury my head in my chest, and i watch as my tears fall from my eyes onto my jeans.
There’s an ache in my chest where my soul is tearing in half, separating his from mine. If there was ever a moment to lose it, this is it. I don’t know what else to do.
I yell loudly enough to be heard by the children playing on the steps and the mothers and nannies watching them. Everything goes silent, like the power’s blown at a block party.
I march down the concrete steps, and he doesn’t come after me. I walk back to my apartment, bawling the whole way and not even bothering to wipe or cover my face. No one disturbs me.
At home. I flop onto the living-room couch an put on Lady Sings the Blues to keep myself from lying in the dark. I’m numb. The tears have stopped; my eyes are burning. I make it as far as the end of the opening scene, when Billie’s in a straight-jacket and locked in a cell. She’s throwing herself against the padded walls in a withdrawal-fueled fit, then stares at the ceiling aimlessly, directionless, hopeless. I feel how she looks.
I turn the TV off, ball up on my couch, tucking myself in as tightly as I can, because it feels as if my chest is splitting. I am literally trying to hold myself together.
I cry so hard and so long that my eyes are swollen shut the next morning.
For years, I’ll think of him when I listen to Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic.” I’ll think of him every time I pass the Museum. I’ll think of him when I hear Nina Simone’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well” and every time my iPod Shuffle, well, shuffles to Jill Scott’s “Cross My Mind.”
I know what you’re thinking. Why don’t you just pick up the phone and call, Reagan? He didn’t call me. And you don’t go chasing men who walk out on you.