They were the beautiful couple, the couple that smiled and cuddled and clearly loved each other. They were the couple that defied the beach bar odds of random hook ups, ruthless players, ex-girl- and boyfriends, and the usual drunken debauchery. In our casa, where the drama incessantly churns, this couple floated above the fray, happy in their world that only allowed the good to enter–happy in a world in which they had existed for almost a year.
“Did you hear?” I overheard someone say several nights ago. “Melissa and Carl are done. Over.”
No way, I thought. This is stupid gossip founded on nothing. I knew they had some kind of disagreement on election night, but no. Not over. Not them.
Then, last night, when my confident and positive girlfriend was feeling anything but, and she needed a girlfriend to whom to vent, she said we needed to call Melissa and invite her, too. “She’s not in a good place since she and Carl split up.”
So it was true, the golden couple was now tarnished silver.
When you hear that a couple who seemed so right has gone wrong, it makes everyone’s relationships seem at risk. You know the sentiment–if THEY can break up, then what hope do any of the rest of us have in our fledgling attempts to try on companionship and see if it fits? Because if the best of the best can fall apart, why should we bother?
Melissa fought tears as she chain smoked cigarettes I’ve never seen her smoke and gulped down an orange-someting martini. She detailed Carl’s heinous personal attacks on her psyche, how he had an uncanny way to always find an opportunity to remind her why she should doubt herself, how he reveled in his “retirement” but resented her having to work so hard and so much. A 20-year age difference between the two that had once seemed as insignificant as it was endearing, proved to be an unspoken deal breaker. Because at 35 she is in the prime of her work life and ready to start a family. At 55, he is in the afternoon of an early tropical retirement, content to walk the beach and drink at the beach bar.
Then there was the night it all fell apart. When he continually berated her, saying he “couldn’t believe” how she had voted, she left. When she was barely around the corner, he started kissing one of the girl players, and then he brought her back to his and Melissa’s apartment. After a long walk on the beach, Melissa came home to find the boyfriend about whom her mother had said “has to be the one,” in various stages of undress with the girl player.
As she spoke, I had to wonder, had they ever been a happy couple? Had they ever been right? I asked her as much.
“I don’t know,” she sighed. “I had just come out of a relationship that was so emotionally abusive, I wondered how I could ever love anyone again. And suddenly, there was this handsome older man who showered me with affection and told me over and over how beautiful I was. So beautiful.”
We were all silent then, each of us fighting tears and our own personal demons.
How easy it is to fall for the guy who gives you a fleeting feeling of worth. How easy it is to be swept along and ignore the little annoyances that will soon explode into relationship-killers. How easy when you feel beautiful.
A gentleman who knows he hurt me–devastated me–as I gave myself to him in a misguided attempt to purge the boy once and for all from my heart, has worked hard in the past week to show me how truly sorry he is, how he’ll do anything to prove to me that he is a gentleman who adores me “because you are so beautiful.” And while I believe him and sense that his apology is sincere, I can’t muster the strength to welcome him back as more than a friend, despite an unexpectedly wonderful weekend of wining and dining together far away from the beach bar bedlam. He knows this, and he says he understands this. As he reminds me, again, how beautiful I am.
To be held, loved, and told you are beautiful. For an hour. For a night. For as long as possible. Would that it was that easy. That it was enough.