There are things you can’t un-see…things that remain like thick burn scars,
always there to remind you of a fire you couldn’t run away from. Living in the same town as my rock star ex-boyfriend was one of them. Jake Masters, the love of my life and the torment of my existence had moved back from New York City, unexpectedly, and I had spotted him in the most unbelievable way.
Standing in the middle of the Manhattan Beach Pier the ocean waves crashed
against the pier piling, matching the pounding of my heart. My emotions churned like the blue water bubbling beneath me. I felt the heat of emotion rising up my neck. I kept blinking, not believing what I was seeing. I looked back at Nathan, who’d always been there for me during my darkest of days with Jake in high school. My friend Nathan, who became my boyfriend, back to friend, then turned fiancé. He was talking on his cell phone. He’d answered a call from his hospital intern program, stalling our all too serious marriage conversation.
Waiting for him to get off the phone I had leaned against the pier’s railing,
looking out over the sand. It was a warm spring Monday afternoon and there were more people on the beach than usual, too many kids ran around at the shoreline and I thought it must have been a school holiday.
That’s when I saw him – Jake. My hands trembled instantly and my legs grew
wobbly. I took in a deep breath to get a hold of myself. His shirtless back faced me. There was no mistaking him. The tattoo dedicated to me, angled over his left bicep and down his shoulder blade, taunted me. It was as if it were alive, its strands of hair waving back and forth as he dug in the sand next to a little boy and a woman with long black hair. I could see them clearly as I stood above them on the pier. They were building a sand castle. I turned away unable to believe it. I leaned my back against the railing, watching Nathan as he slowly walked toward me.
My handsome Nathan…maybe not mine anymore. I didn’t deserve him. I never
did. This was a sign. My heart would always belong to Jake. No man deserves a woman who would always pine for someone else.
What was I seeing?
I didn’t want to turn back to get another glimpse, but I had no control. I casually
glanced over my shoulder. Now I could hear their laughter as if they were the only ones on the beach and it shredded me to my core. Nathan finally made it to my side and I watched him as he rubbed his jaw, despondent. He’d flown in that morning, just to see me and to give me an ultimatum.
“Alyssa if we’re not gonna set a date this has to end…” – that’s what he’d said
right before his phone rang. I still couldn’t believe he took the call, maybe because he wanted me to suffer. I’d dragged our engagement out long enough. I looked back over my shoulder again. Seeing Jake play happy family made my stomach turn.
Who were they? That’s probably his new girlfriend – I thought, wondering whom
the kid was. Would Jake date someone with a kid? – Obviously. I felt the life rush out of me like the air in a punctured balloon as memories flooded through my mind, lingering on the things that caused our complete and final breakup. What the hell did I expect? Of course he’d move on with his life. I ended it so harshly and heartlessly, but he deserved my cold shoulder. He’d been sleeping with his deceased best friend’s wife, more than once. He was on drugs and not the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. I remembered the pain and hurt in Jake’s eyes when I threw the ring he’d given me, our promise of forever, in his face as if it happened yesterday.
I never looked back.
Nathan tucked his phone back in his pocket and I launched off of the railing,
grabbing him by the arm leading him away. I didn’t want him to see what and whom I was staring at. His face was still serious and his green eyes more somber. I knew the end was near, but not in the way I’d expected.
“Everything ok, with work?” I linked my arm through his. He sighed and pulled away from me. “Aly, what’s it gonna be?” I stopped to face him. “You want an answer now?” “Alyssa, you’re graduating. I…” He hung his head and my heartbeat was in my ears. “I met someone, Alyssa, and I’m interested in taking her out. If you’re not going to marry me…we both need to move on with our lives.”
The ringing in my ears made me dizzy. I watched Nathan’s face as he eagerly
looked at me for a response and all I kept hearing in my mind was – “…I met
someone…” “Nathan,” I crossed my arms, trying to figure out how I was feeling. I was both hurt and not surprised. “What you’re saying doesn’t make sense…” “Yes, it does…it came out wrong, Alyssa, I love you.” He was flustered and it made me feel worse about everything. “It’s about you not wanting to commit to a life with me…” he gulped, searching my eyes, “and I met someone in my program. I spend a
lot of time with her. She enjoys my company…and she made a comment that if I wasn’t engaged, she’d ask me out. It was a simple, flirtatious comment, yes, but it got me to thinking…since you won’t commit to a wedding date.”
Sadness and guilt gutted me.
“Nathan you knew…” “I know.” He interrupted, frustrated. “I’ve grown tired of hoping you’ll come around, Alyssa. I’m ready to start my life with someone. I know we’re young but I wanna build a life with someone from nothing and I wanted that to be you.”
Alyssa. He never calls me Alyssa.
“You don’t even wear the ring I gave you.” He continued. “I should have known
when you stopped wearing it.” His arms flew up in indignation. “I want you to be happy. I want to be happy. I thought I could be something better in your life. I thought I could show you the love you deserve, show you how a man is supposed to treat a woman.” “Nathan, if this is about Jake…”
“That’s part of it.” He said loudly, drawing a bit of attention to us. “I wouldn’t marry him either.” I practically shouted, blurting out more than I wanted, “he asked me several times, too.” I felt heavy like I could collapse from emotional weight.
He looked confused. I’d never shared this information with him.
“Really.” He laughed to himself, almost mockingly. He turned away and his arms
flew out again as he paced back to me sarcastically saying, “I suppose that makes me feel slightly better.”
This was a side of Nathan I’d not seen before and I ignored his biting contention,
“I’m just fucked up, what can I say.”