Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A Philadelphia Story

Gosh, I've been inconsistent about posting stuff here. Until a few weeks ago it had been so long since I was here I actually forgot this blog even exists. And then, when I finally remembered the name of it (!) I spent a long time rereading these entries, all these entries. It's surreal reading all the many, many posts I wrote about feeling so unhappy and unfulfilled and shaky with Robert. I haven't seen him in... it will be two years next month, which also blows my mind -- not because of anything to do with him, really, it's just incredible to consider how much energy I invested into that Titanic wreck of a relationship.
Almost two years ago, we took a weekend trip to Philadelphia. Ostensibly the purpose of the trip was the visit the Barnes, just outside the city, before they moved it. We'd seen a new documentary about the whole thing -- The Art of the Steal -- at that movie theater on Sixth Avenue and West Fourth Street, across from the always-packed basketball courts. We met up for dinner first. Pearl's was closed (it must have been a Monday), Mary's Fish Camp was too crowded, so we ended up sitting at the bar of a little Italian restaurant across the street, after leaving Robert's name at Mary's. I drank a glass of wine, Robert drank a glass of wine, we shared a couple of things, I remember how much I loved the lighting in that place even though there wasn't anything memorable -- even then, while it was happening, and five minutes after left -- about the food. I knew I'd never be back there but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
We held hands as we made our way to the theater. I was wearing boots with heels and we were both wearing coats since it was February or March. March, I'll say.
Robert went to college at Wharton but he hadn't been back to Philadelphia since he graduated. After we saw the movie it felt like the right thing to do, plan a weekend away there.
The last time we made love we were in our bed in New York. It was a Saturday morning, before we packed and scrambled to make it to Penn Station to catch a train down to Philly. I was on top, it didn't take long. I don't know why I'm including these details, they're part of what I remember and they seem significant for some reason, probably because they're part of what came to signify the final end of our almost-seven years together.
On the train I read in the Times' arts section that Lorin had been named the new editor of the Paris Review. I pointed this out to Robert, but it didn't mean anything to him since he'd never met Lorin and didn't know that Lorin and I, while Robert and I were on yet another break, had spent a lot of time together for a while.
We took a dirty taxi -- ALL the taxis in Philadelphia felt so dirty to me that weekend -- to the Rittenhouse Hotel. The lobby was beautiful, grand but not too big, my heels clock-click-clicked across the floor. We took an elevator up to our room. It was a suite with two bathrooms, a view of the city and Rittenhouse Square just outside and below.
I wish I could tell you why I was in such a terrible mood. I'd felt lonely with Robert for so long. And I was codependent, couldn't see my way out of it and couldn't see how it would end happily.
We went to the Barnes twice: Saturday and Sunday. Saturday night didn't go well. It started out fine but over dinner at a fancy seafood restaurant that tension between us swelled up so big and strong that we walked back to the hotel separately. Slept without touching. Woke up on Sunday still feeling shaky and had breakfast in a diner of some indoor market. Everyone around us was wearing sweatshirts, we waited in line for a long time. Robert always loved breakfast food.
Upstairs on the second floor of the Barnes we paused in front of one of Rousseau's jungle paintings. It showed a naked woman by a river about to be attacked by a bear. Behind them stands a man with a rifle about to shoot the bear in the head. Robert said, "You're the woman, I'm the bear, and the guy with the gun is the institution of marriage."
Five minutes later, we were outside, in the snow-covered rose garden behind the building. I was wearing my first engagement ring on my ring finger. Robert slid it off and handed me another ring. He didn't say anything. The ring -- the second ring -- was gorgeous. A canary yellow diamond, exactly what I'd asked for. My phone rang and I saw it was my mom. I looked at Robert and asked him if he'd called my parents. (I'd previously told him, if he ever proposed again, to please talk to my parents first. They hadn't seen him since the 2006 engagement party they threw for us and it felt important to me that they be happy about our getting engaged, again.) He said no.
I can't explain what I felt. For the rest of my life this will probably be one of those few moment I return to in my head, a juncture in a Choose Your Own Adventure. I didn't make this choice with my head; it wasn't rational or logical. Here was the man I'd loved on and off for the better part of a decade -- while I was 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, and 29. Here he was, asking me to marry him. Again.
I couldn't do it. I couldn't respond with joy in the way he wanted.
We took the train back to New York a couple of hours later. I was panicking, he was pissed. He left me that night and he never came back.


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3:29 AM  
Blogger moonlitlake said...

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11:19 AM  

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