The Meeting (Part 6)

You deserve to be happy.

You deserve to be happy.

You don’t have to stay in a relationship that you know will fail in the end.

You don’t need anyone in your life to be happy.

These are things that I needed reminded of. N was in town, having returned from a trip with his brother to Vegas, and I was in my apartment, alone, wondering what I should do. Of course I was going to see him. He made the trip back to Portland and we had a lot to talk about. R wasn’t home wondering where I would be anyway. He was out. He didn’t care. He hadn’t mentioned a word about what happened in Austin. And I didn’t care.

A couple of my work friends were meeting at bar 15 later, and I was supposed to join them. I’m not sure why I keep saying “work” friends because they are the only friends I’ve got. And I chose to have these people in my life, they weren’t forced on me. Maybe that’s why I never feel alone. I’m confident in the choices I’ve made here, friend and career wise.

I glanced at the clock. It was after 9 P.M. Shit. He would be in his hotel by now. I need to just get up and go meet him. It was only ten blocks away. I was so nervous my hands were shaking as I grabbed my yellow flowered clutch and headed to the door- that still hadn’t been fixed yet.

I stepped onto the sidewalk from my front door and the cool breeze and mist of rain made my hair sticky, but felt amazing on my skin. May in Portland. I took my time walking the ten blocks and was there in no time. I didn’t have anything planned to say. My head was rocked that I had actually started thinking he flew in all this way just so he didn’t have to end things on the phone. I walked through the entrance to The Governor Hotel on SW 11th around 9:20. I half ran through the lobby, hit the button for the 5th floor with my elbow, and followed the signs to room 501. Just around the corner. I knocked on the door.

Holy shit this place was nice.

He answered the door beaming. I hear Damien Rice playing from somewhere.

“Hi!” he said.

Holy shit this guy looks and smells amazing. My knees shook.

“Hi.” I was struggling to make words into sentences.

He held the door open for me, and I rolled my eyes at myself and walked in. It was a corner suite, with windows almost completely around, and everything was white or navy blue (including the carpet). There was a sitting room with a TV and white double doors with brass knobs that lead to a bedroom. The view of the city was amazing, and the sight made me feel a little less queasy.

“Wow, you got a good room.” Good job, you made some sense. Keep it going.

“I booked last minute, they only had a couple rooms left because of the parade and everything this weekend.”

Shit. Totally forgot about the Rose Festival. MAX is going to be a nightmare this week.

“Oh, yeah.” WHAT?! Stupid. Stupid. Think of something else to say!! Quickly…Come on now!

“So, how was your flight?” YES. Wait.

He laughed.

“Good. It was fine.”

He sat in the white chair across the room and was just looking at me- smiling. I smiled back- a closed lip, awkward smile. Should I take my shoes off?? I walked to the chair opposite him and sat down. Decided against taking my shoes off.

“Oh. Good.” UGH. Why do I even open my mouth?

“So. Are you happy I came back? Or is this just too awkward?” He wasn’t the slightest bit nervous.

“Of course I’m glad you came back.” Yes, Hilary, keep it going…

“I just don’t know what to say right now.” This was true, but he was looking at me like he expected me to go on…so I did.

“No one has ever done anything like this for me- flown back from a family trip after I tried to end whatever it is we have going on here over the phone. And, and-” I was having trouble just saying what I wanted to say.

“I just feel like there’s still so much to clear up, and sort out, before we can actually say we can keep trying to make this into something. Not to mention, I’ve planned an entire wedding- just two weeks ago- and I have no idea what I’m going to do about that scenario. I wish everything was easier, but it’s just that we’ve got two other people to think about as well. You are engaged, and I know that I don’t think I am anymore, but he’s still in the picture too.” That all came out really quickly.

He paused and looked at me with a hard stare, then took a deep breath and seemed to relax even more before talking.

“I know, it’s not the best situation. I knew the minute I saw you that I wanted to be with you for the rest of my life. This is what I want. I’ll do whatever it takes to make it work. I want you to come to Ireland, I’ve told you that. And I know that your family may find it hard at first, but they’ll understand. They don’t want you to marry someone out of convenience.”

This man clearly doesn’t know my parents. But he was so sincere. And he was right.

I still didn’t say anything, so he continued.

“Look, let’s just say we want to make it work, and just go with it. Let’s just sit back, and see what happens. If we commit to being together, then everything else will just fall into place.”

He grinned and I laughed.

“You really aren’t worried about anything, are you?” I asked.

“Just you.”

I laughed again. His smile faded, and he looked at me with a straight face.

“I mean it. I’m just worried about you. From here on.”

My smile faded.

Uh-oh.

He got up from his chair, walked over to me, knelt down, took my face in his hands and kissed me.

I’m not quite sure how I left that hotel room later that night, but I did. And I was elated. I was so happy. N was the person who made me happy. And I made him happy.

I walked the ten blocks back to my apartment in the rain, and my hair had pretty much taken the brunt of that decision. I jumped in the shower and tried to think about where things go from here. I couldn’t have been in more than five minutes when R walked in the bathroom, flushed the toilet and turned off the light.

“I hope that burns!” he yelled as he slammed the bathroom door shut so hard it made me jump.

I exhaled, closed my eyes and let the water run over my face.

Fan-fucking-tastic.

The Meeting (FIVE)

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N went into the bathroom to answer the phone call. I heard his muffled voice through the door, but it ended pretty quickly. It reminded me that I wasn’t just making decisions that changed my life, I was choosing to change others lives as well.

I hadn’t been really, heart stopping, sing in the shower happy in a long time.  I liked holding hands and feeling electricity again. N brought me to a local vineyard one afternoon, where we sat outside drinking our wine flight, toured the cellar and fought off insects. It was so fun because there was zero expectation. He wore a white, collared France rugby top. He was funny, and calm, sitting with his legs crossed and looking so relaxed. I wanted to take him away from what he was used to, from the person he was used to seeing every day, and keep him all to myself.

A little timeline check: N (and a month or so later, M) moved to Portland in January, when Intel asked him to train on a new system. He proposed to M while hiking in April (with TIFFANY- don’t ask me about it, I’ll get really angry and then weep for hours), and we met May 13. At this point in our relationship, it was May 21, eight days after we had met.

I’m a bitch. A perfectly rational, intelligent Irish woman gets engaged to her responsible, intelligent boyfriend of two years in Oregon, USA, and when she leaves, a perfectly normal, already engaged American woman decides that life just needs to be different and tries to take the man from her. It is in really poor taste, and I’m still embarrassed about it. M didn’t deserve anything like this. And yet, I didn’t stop it.

N was only in town for a few more days at this point. His brother and a few friends were flying over to Portland see him, and they had decided to all drive from Portland, through California and then to Vegas. Irish people go hard when they vacay. From there they were all flying back to Ireland together. The day we met I knew our time together had an end date. He was scheduled to leave his apartment on the 23rd, and boxes had already been packed and ready for weeks. The shipping company was coming any day now. Obviously I was still working, and sharing an apartment with R. Judge away. Time was running out for us.

It’s hard to try and lead a double life. I wanted to spend every second with N, but I was too scared to start the conversation with R. And I didn’t want to know what he was going to do to me. I’m not saying that he was a bad person, he was just unpredictable. And he wasn’t the biggest guy in the world, but he was tough.  Or scared. Ever. That kind of unpredictability is intimidating. So I just left everything as it was and waited for him to figure it out. I know, total bitch.

I told N that I really hoped we could keep talking when he returned to Ireland, and he surprised me.

“I thought that’s what we were doing? I thought we were planning on meeting again soon and seeing this through? Trying it out?” And I smiled and just couldn’t believe that this was happening. I really, truly loved him. In all honesty, I loved him the second I met him. The instant that our eyes met, I was done. In a normal situation, I would have ended things with my fiancé, requested that N end things with his fiancé, and then met up and allowed our relationship to develop. But again, there was always that ticking clock in the background, reminding me that he was leaving soon.

And of course the day came for him to go, and he went.

I called him, like he told me to do whenever I felt like I was losing my mind and doubting everything that happened. He didn’t pick up. So I called again later, and he didn’t pick up. And then I realized what was happening. He didn’t want this to continue. He just wanted to move on, enjoy the rest of his time in the US with his brother and friends, and then fly back home and act like it never happened. I was devastated.

The following day, he returned my call.

“Hi!”

Blah. He sounded so happy.

“Hi. Hey, I just need to end this here and now. I can’t do this. I’m not like this. I don’t really think this can last, and I know you feel the same way. We need to just end it here.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“You know that it wasn’t going to work. You live in Ireland and I live here. You’re engaged. I have a lot of things to sort out here. It’s just bad timing. There’s just no way it could have ever worked. We’ve been wasting each others time.”

“Do you mean this? Really?”

“Yes.” No.

“I just booked a plane ticket back to Portland. I miss you. I can’t take it. I just want to see you.”

Whoops.

I was sincerely shocked and completely, for a lack of a better word, gobsmacked.

“But, but you didn’t answer my phone calls for two days. And your brother and friends are with you, and you’re in LasVegas…are you staying longer?”

“I’m at the airport, my brother just dropped me off. I just booked a flight back and called to let you know.”

I told you, I’m the biggest bitch ever.

The Meeting (part 4)

It’s so hard to put into words what’s happening inside your head at a turning point in life. And I know this is not going to make me look great, but at the time, the day after I met him, I wanted N to call me. I wanted him to ask me to meet for lunch, and dinner and drinks, and dancing…I really just wanted to relive the night we met over and over again. But R was coming home in two days. We had talked this morning about needing to have a conversation about where we go from here and if there was a future for us. But I already knew the answer. I wasn’t willing to compromise my sanity, peace of mind and happiness for what we had. I couldn’t take the lies anymore, I couldn’t take him always putting himself first, and I really couldn’t take the lifestyle. R never really wanted to settle down and get married, that was all me. I realize that, on some level, he must have felt like it could work out. But it wasn’t real enough. And it was hitting me like a ton of bricks as I leaned over the sink and looked at myself in the bathroom mirror that morning. I was shaking. My entire identity was tied to this relationship. Honestly, if I wasn’t R’s girlfriend, who was I? Here in Portland it would be easier for me to adjust to the break up. But at home, it was going to be a gossip fest and division of friends. I couldn’t go back there.

The phone rang. It was N. He wanted to know if I wanted to go “out on a speed boat” with him and a few friends. Of course I wanted to hang out but a freaking speed boat? On the river?? I wanted to think about it and then again I just immediately wanted to say yes, but they were leaving in a hour and I was warned not to be late. So I did what any excited, high maintenance girl would do, and instead of getting ready, I ran (really) up the street to 23rd for a new outfit.

I made it home just in time to put on mascara and lipstick. Phew. They didn’t leave without me. That would have been so embarrassing.

We arrived at OMSI, bought tickets for the boat, and headed to the Willamette River. And I was pleasantly surprised! It was really cool! The boat was a big kind of jet boat, with rows of seats throughout the entire thing. And the important thing to note here is that there were small kids on board as well, so I couldn’t cry or freak out even if I did get scared. Poor things had life jackets on that were clearly for adults. I couldn’t help but give them the “sorry the adults did that to you, I know you must be umcomforable” closed mouth smile. They looked pissed.

But I had never taken a tour of the city on the water, and it was an absolutely beautiful spring day in May! I say Portland is a lot like Pittsburgh all the time, but Oregon is not anything like PA. Oregon has houseboats, and green landscapes all winter long, and salmon runs, and naked bicycle rides, and desert, and oceansides. And from most places, the residents have mountains and volcanoes in plain sight. I love this state, and especially this city. And that day, I got to see more, from a different perspective. I really appreciated it, and I was so happy that N was there with me. He just had a calm about him. Every time I made eye contact with him he was smiling. And just happy. Ah!! What was I doing?

After the river tour, we headed back to the cars. I sat with N for a few minutes, just talking…and laughing.

“Do you want to come for lunch? We’re gonna head to Kells. You’ve got to go.”

He looked dreamy at that moment.

I snapped myself out of it and told him I had to go home and take the dog out (who I haven’t mentioned before- huge, white American Bulldog and the sweetest thing to ever have separation anxiety). And it’s a good thing I did, because that meant I got to redo my hair and change clothes for the night!! You didn’t think I could stay in light blue plaid capri’s all day, right? Nope, frilly white mini skirt will do quite nicely.

I caught the MAX down to the Yamhill bar (if you know this bar and are judging me, then I know you never really lived in Portland because you’re missing out). I hopped off the train and looked through the bars front glass window and there he was…still smiling as we made eye contact. I walked in and realized that our small party of five from earlier had grown to about 20 more Irish guys (and some strippers). It was a little overwhelming when I walked in, having everyone say hi and introduce themselves.

I sat down next to N.

“So, you must work out.”

Everyone looked at him and then each other quietly, before exploding in laughter. I blushed.

After that it’s just a blur of G&T’s, pints, pool and dancing. The Irish guys loved the east side, but I wasn’t all that familiar with the bars on that side of town. I could walk to all my downtown favorites (I’m pretty sure we hit them all), and again, he stayed by my side the entire night. And we ended at Darcelles. We danced (honestly, he actually dances- like hold my hand and spin me ACTUALLY dances).  I was smitten. And he knew it.

And before I knew it, it was 2 AM.

On our way out, he held my hand. The night air felt so good. While everyone was hailing taxis, he just looked at me.

“Do you want to come to my place? We can watch the Big Lebowski and have a couple drinks. Promise I’ll get you home before sunrise. ”

If he hadn’t smiled when he said it and looked me straight in they eye, I probably wouldn’t have gone.

But I did. I hopped in the cab next to him, and he grabbed my hand again.

The next morning I woke up in his apartment, but I didn’t sneak out like the last time. I laid there wondering what the fuck I was doing.

And just when I was about to ask myself why I was still there, his phone rang. And I was reminded that he was engaged too. It was M.

The Unexpected

My cell phone rang on a Tuesday evening.

“Hi!” I said to my best friend, T.

“Hi. Are you home?”

“Yep. Just got the boys in bed, what’s up?” I asked.

“I don’t know how to say this.

A friend called me and told me something, but I don’t know if it’s true or what, but I didn’t want you to find out online or something.”

“What are you talking about? What?” I asked.

“R died. He died earlier today or yesterday, I’m not sure. I don’t know the details, but I wanted to let you know.”

I couldn’t move.

I think I winced. I think I sat down on my green microsuade couch. N sat down next to me and asked what happened. And then I said the words,

“R died.”

“Are you okay?” T asked on the phone.

“Yeah. Yes. I’m fine. I can’t believe it, but I’m fine. I promise, I’m fine.”

“Okay, well, I’m here to talk if you need me. You know that, I’m always here.”

“I know. Thank you. And thank you for calling me.” I said. “I’ll call you back tomorrow.”

She hung up. And I sat there. N apologized and kept packing for his work trip with one eye on me. I held back because I didn’t want him to think that I was too upset. Even though I wasn’t really upset at that moment.

 I immediately called my cousins. After talking to three or four, I called my mom. I don’t know if you’ve ever experience dialing phone numbers and going through conversations and movements like a robot, but that’s what I did. It’s like some kind of autopilot took over my body and just did all of these things for me while I stayed safe in my head and didn’t have to think about anything. I didn’t cry. I don’t think I could cry at that moment. I just knew I had to call people and let them know. So after I did that, I went to bed.

And I dreamt that he sat on the side of my bed, and grabbed my hand and we were out with all of our friends, like it used to be. He never let go of my hand. We must have talked to hundreds of people, but I held his hand as he talked to everyone and just stared at him. He was smiling and joking and acting just like he used to. And then we were back in my room. He was sitting on my bed again, and he pointed to a small door across the room and said, “Please, give my mom that ring.”

My eyes shot open, I walked over to the door, opened it and saw my old jewelry box in a box on the floor. I opened it and wouldn’t you know there was a ring in there that he had given me? And that’s when I started crying. I cried and wailed and sobbed the entire way to work. I called T on my way, leaving her a message that was utterly incoherent. I couldn’t think or breathe. I couldn’t believe that this was happening. 

And this is when life gets so complicated that you can’t really put it into words. I love my husband. I can’t say it any other way. This man that I married is the man who made me a woman and a mother and who supports me and who I could not live without. And here I am, in the car, unable to control the heartache of an ex passing.

Life.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the book. I couldn’t stop thinking about his smile. How he taught himself to play the guitar by listening to Sublime and Stevie Ray Vaughn CD’s. How he made friends with everyone if he wanted to, and how he made enemies if he wanted to. He loved my writing. And he laughed at stories I would write when I was 17 and we were bored on summer nights. He was so wreckless. Everyone knew not to let him drive their new car, he would definitely, unintentionally, do something to damage it. I thought about how we drove across the country together. Our first apartment. When he asked me to marry him in my parents kitchen. All those times he made me laugh until I cried. How he made me feel safe when we were out. And how sad I was that I never got to talk to him about any of these things. When we broke up, it was so awful. It was like losing a best friend. When I left our apartment for the last time, I thought for sure I would see him again, be able to talk to him again. It was just too painful at the time. I didn’t want there to be any doubt that we were through. So I changed my number a few days after I left. And I never told him where I moved. I just cut him out of my life. That was it. And here is life, creeping up on me in a way I never thought.

The weird thing is I did see R alive before he died, four days before. I took my son for a walk one evening, to get him out of the house because his brother had hand foot and mouth (you don’t want to know if you don’t know and if you do know, bleh). I had on black yoga pants and a pink jacket with my hair pulled up. And we walked down our street, toward the park. And as we got closer to a group of people talking on the sidewalk, I heard his voice. And then I saw his face under the hood of his black sweatshirt. I didn’t know what to do, it had been six years since I had even spoken a word to him. I wasn’t up for it. I reached out to get my son and barely caught the tip of his hood to pull him back to me. He was mad. I’m pretty sure his screams made the group look over, but I can’t be sure. My heart was beating out of my chest and I was mad, scared and faint all at the same time. I couldn’t do it. Too much history. Too much to say, or maybe, nothing left to say. I was happy. And seeing him brought back memories and feelings that I had forgotten.

The following Tuesday, I got a phone call.

I can’t help but think that was my chance to talk to him about life and everything that happened, and maybe put some closure on things. But I’ll never get that. And now I have to live with the fact that I didn’t even say hello. Or goodbye.

Christmas Recommendations

In case you’re visiting Ireland this Christmas (or you live there and you really want to see what I’m going to say), I wanted to share a couple recommendations with you.

Lullymore Heritage Park (http://www.lullymoreheritagepark.com/) has an absolutely charming Christmas experience for you and your family. They’ve got an elf hologram, an illuminated walk through the woodland, and an absolutely amazing winter wonderland, complete with Santa (and a SNOW QUEEN!!). Yes, I’m biased, but you’ll thank me for it later.

If you’re going to be closer to Dublin, please, please, please don’t miss a stroll down Grafton Street. You will be mesmerized by the strung lights above and the cobblestone below. Gaze at the Christmas window display at Brown Thomas (and all of the pretty things you can’t afford) and then grab a whiskey at McDaids Pub  (https://mcdaidspub.com/) to warm up!

Kildare Town is home to so many sites worth visiting (The National Stud and Japanese Garden; St Bridgid’s Well), but they’ve also got the most amazing high end shopping experience (but it’s an OUTLET, so no MSRP!!). It’s like a shopping “village” in the middle of a gorgeous Irish countryside. Seriously, that’s what it is. Kildare Village(https://www.kildarevillage.com/en/home/) is clean, relaxing and makes you want to stay. Amazing. My personal favorite is All Saints, but other than designer clothing stores, you can shop for kitchen accessories to designer baby clothes. There are a couple restaurants, but lunch would be better spent at Hartes uptown. The Village also has an outdoor kids area.

And one other thing. When you’re there, enjoy the smell of turf burning in air, the selection boxes, and most importantly, the people.

The Meeting (part 3)

It was easy to follow R to Portland. He got a job with a really great company, and moved in October, 2001, not long after 9/11. He was so scared to fly that he took a train across the country. I was still in school in Ohio, but I flew out to visit a couple times a year. He was really homesick at first. I know it got easier for him as the months passed and he made some new friends. It’s hard for anyone.

I moved out a year later, after some major relationship challenges. R was really great at being the person everyone wanted to be around and making everyone laugh. He was also really great at making me feel safe when I was with him. But this isn’t a story about how my life worked out with R, because it didn’t. As much as I thought I knew what I wanted for the rest of my life, I was wrong.

I walked into a bar right on Burnside (The The Marathon Taverna) on a rainy Saturday night, met with friends and was introduced to an Irish guy.

“H, this is N, he’s engaged to M,” she said.

“N, this is H, she’s engaged to R.”

And I looked up.

And I remember seeing his face for a second.

And then I saw stars. Actual stars. Like I got smacked in the face really, really hard (I have had that feeling before, but it was when I got hit in the face with a softball on the third baseline because I wasn’t paying attention…it hurt).

And then I smiled at him (he was the most gorgeous man I had ever met).

At first he didn’t smile or anything, he just looked at me, straight faced.

So I said, “Hi. Nice to meet you.” And stuck out my hand.

He smiled (finally) and shook my hand. And then we started talking. We talked about where we grew up, went to school, where we worked. It was really nice. And everyone wanted to leave and go somewhere else, so I got my things together (engagement ring in my clutch after all) and walked to the door with him. And then, walking to the next bar, he didn’t leave my side. We kept talking, and walking. And at the next bar we sat next to each other and kept talking. It was like we had known each other for years (yes, I know that sounds cliché). And as the night went on, I didn’t even remember that we were out with other people. I mean, I did, but I didn’t really feel like I was there with anyone but him.

And that’s when I started to get worried. N was looking at me smiling, telling me about his recent safari, and I awkwardly wished I had this in a real relationship, so I excused myself. I gathered my thoughts in the ladies (like ladies do) and came out level headed and composed again (kind of).

The night flew by.

It was wonderful.  That night, N texted me and asked if I wanted to go out with some friends again the next day. Um, yes.

The Meeting (part 2)

You may be wondering how I got here- walking around Portland, Oregon, with my family and friends across the country in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s not an uncommon story.

In high school, I saw a boy walking down the hall. He had light blue eyes, eyelashes for days,  a handsome face and an athletic build. He was always smiling and laughing, except when he looked at me in the hall that day. He stopped laughing and just stared at me walk by. I was new, having come from catholic grade school, and super intimidated, so I just stared back and walked by.

A year later, in mid-fall, he asked me if I wanted to go to a party with him.

“Sure,” I said.

I decided to bring a friend. He showed up alone.

We went to the party, spent some time together, and really had fun with other people who were there. After that night, he called me to hang out a lot. So I would go, because he was so much fun, and hang out with him and his friends, sometimes both of our friends, sometimes just us. We went to the park, we went to the mall, we drove around, he attempted to take me four-wheeling (I got out of the car and refused, as he laughed), we went to lunch. We had a lot of fun just going places together and hanging out with each other. It was really fun. This went on for months, until summer rolled around and he kissed me. I didn’t know what was going to happen after that, and I was really nervous. But, everything just kind of stayed the same, but became more romantic. We were a couple. And we started doing things as a couple, not just as friends. I introduced him to my family (as my boyfriend now), I met his parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. We went to family functions with each other. My siblings and cousins grew up with him there as part of the family. Our first official Valentine’s Day together, I had to work, and he filled my car full of pink balloons and left a bouquet of pink roses on the drivers seat with a note that said, “Can’t wait to see you later.” And when I did finally see him, he had a HUGE box wrapped for me. And he just stood there grinning and said, “Open it!” Inside were a million little things he knew I liked, like make-up, cd’s and clothes. He loved to spoil me. And I really enjoyed it. We spent more and more time together. I was now in college, so it was easy to forget about friends when he was around. And we got really serious.

But the following Valentine’s Day, he did something different. He had wrapped ten, individual boxes for me. He told me to open them in order, so I did.

The first box held a single rose, three pieces of red ribbon, and a page with three holes punched down the left hand side. It read, “R and H” in magazine cut out letters. I was confused. I laughed, and so did he, then he handed me another box. In the second was another rose, and another page, but this time, it said, “Our First Date” and he had written the story of our first date (which he claims is the day I showed up with a friend because I didn’t want to be alone with him). It was written from his perspective, how nervous he was, and how he would never forget it. I was shocked. It too had three  holes punched down the left hand side. Then he handed me another box, which held another rose, and the story of our first kiss. Each box held a page of our relationship together. And after the last box was opened and the final page placed behind the others, he tied them all together with the three pieces of ribbon. He had made me a book.