Monday, July 19, 2010

The Other Girl

There was a time when I knew exactly what I wanted. Exactly who I was, where I wanted to be, and how to get there.
I miss those times.
Since I left my previous college for a newer one, a newer, bigger, farther away one, it seems like my life has spiraled once more. It's like I'm in high school again, still on a shaky path trying to find myself. I think this life crisis is probably why I ended up in a situation I never though I'd allow myself to be in just this past weekend.
It starts with myself at eight years old. An awkward, shy, and bratty girl in the midst of a horrible situation in which my family was being torn apart. My father had made a lot of bad decisions--and was currently living with one. I'm going to call her The Bitch. Excuse my language, but this is one woman I despise. I cannot ever forgive her. The Bitch was a friend of my father's and didn't start out as a possibly insane homewrecker. My first memory of her was her coming to our house in Indiana, where my family used to live. She played with us kids and gave us dragon tears. (colorful glass stones) Harmless.
She wasn't so harmless when my father decided he couldn't find a new job in Indiana and moved two states away to live in her apartment. I didn't know it then, but my parents were having dire marital struggles. But my determined mother decided to follow him. She packed up us kids and moved into the apartment too.
Many women deal with affairs. Not many women deal with affairs that happen right in front of them. My mother would literally walk out of the room she was sleeping in and see my dad and The Bitch cuddling on the couch. Having more class and grace than The Bitch could ever hope to have, she never said a thing, merely resolutely went on with her business.
Eventually, it ended. We moved out of The Bitch's apartment into our own house. Our family struggles had far from ended, but at least The Bitch wasn't in front of our noses constantly. But these sort of things leave a scar. Scars that affect me still today. For instance, I have a deep distrust of men. I think cheating in any relationship is the lowest thing you can do and the 'other women' in relationships are lower than pond scum.
That's why this past weekend sucked so much.
The next part of this story is a friend of mine. I'll call him Piano Man because he plays the piano and I like Billy Joel. Don't judge me. Piano Man and I connected over a year ago and it was instantaneous attraction. He was extremely good-looking, musically talented, very intelligent, could make me laugh, and was just a generally decent guy.
But he had a girlfriend.
Living three hours away from him three months of the year (I lived eight hours away from him the majority of the year) made this easy to overlook. I became closer and closer to him, flirted with him, and he certainly flirted back. He occasionally talked about his girlfriend and made myself listen and be receptive. But for the most part, I tried to overlook this little detail.
However, this weekend, I visited him. Took the three hour drive and finally saw him face-to-face. It'd been a year since that had happened. During the day, it was innocent. But when he offered to come over later that night, around midnight to watch a movie...
My gut told me this would not be an innocent situation. My gut told me to respect the boundaries of friendship and of Piano Man's relationship. I ignored my gut.
The evening progressed. In all technicality, nothing really happened. We sat on my king-sized hotel bed. We watched the movie on my Mac. I leaned against him. He played with my hair. These things could all be interpreted as innocent.
But they weren't. Deep in my heart, I knew they weren't. The vibe we had that night was anything but a just friends vibe.
The next day, I went to his house with my brother. While my brother watched TV in Piano Man's living room, he abruptly told me, "I really wanted to kiss you last night."
I nearly choked on my jasmine tea.
This was bad. I was nearing a situation I'd never thought it possible for me of all people to be in: being the 'other woman', the 'other girl' to a relationship. Piano Man and his girlfriend didn't have a casual relationship, they were in love with each other for goodness' sake.
The worst part was I had really wanted him to kiss me last night.
The next night, he asked about coming over again to watch a movie. I hadn't had much alone time with him, so I thought maybe, just maybe, we'd be able to talk this out. It's astounding how naive I can be sometimes.
He came over. We watched a movie. Once again, his fingers played with my hair, stroked my arms, even my a little bit of my belly. After the movie, we started talking. He kept hinting how he had been so tempted to kiss me the previous night, and how hard it was going to be, knowing we wouldn't see each other for a whole year. I knew what it was leading up to. He wanted to kiss me. Tonight.
Maybe to Piano Man it would be simple. Something to end a longing, end a curiosity. A pleasant memory we could look back on and then just continue with our respective lives and relationships.
But it wasn't to me. It was a mark of betrayal to his girlfriend. It was a sign that I had truly lost who I was. Even worse, it was a horrible little voice saying...It looks like you're no different from The Bitch after all.
"I can't be her," I said nearly choking on the words. I told Piano Man the story of how my family nearly fell apart because of this woman. He said he understood. But did he?
The temptation didn't die. He didn't move away from me. While he wasn't outright trying to persuade me, his comments made it clear he still wanted that kiss. And Lord, did I want it too. He smelled amazing, his eyes were so intense, I desperately wanted that kiss.
I began to lean towards him. As I did, I heard this voice in my head: You've cuddled with him, in the dead of night, on a king-size bed. His girlfriend certainly doesn't know. You've practically cheated with him anyway. Why not have this kiss?
The voice nearly swayed me. And then I saw her face. The Bitch's face. She was smirking at me, as if to say, How's it feel to be just like ME?
I stopped leaning towards his lips. His eyes were half-closed in preparation for it. I took a shuddery breath and whispered,
"We are defined by the choices we make. And...I choose NOT to be that person."
I then scootched away from him. He smiled at me and said, "That's my girl."
I shook my head sadly. "No. Not your girl. You have a girl. And I'm not going to be the other girl."
I held myself together until he left, and then I sobbed. Was it true? Was I really like her? Had I become the woman I'd hated the most? Was God teaching me some cruel lesson, saying that I should forgive her because she wasn't so much different than me? The idea tormented me. I wanted to die, I felt absolutely worthless. Had I lost myself so much that this horrible apparition of me would be willing to wreck a relationship for a tempting kiss?
I called my best friend, nearly hysterical. She was sleepy (it was nearly 4 in the morning) but she talked to me, God bless her. And she said something that struck me. She said, "We are defined not by the experiences we have, but by the choices we make."
I wasn't like the Bitch. I'd had an experience like her. So had other women. But I'd made the choice. I made the choice to not be like her, to do what was right, to not compromise Piano Man's relationship and more importantly, not compromise myself.
I made the choice to not be the other girl.

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