Forget the Gregorian calendar. Summer’s over. Because it was dark before I sat on the front porch. Because I’m pushing aside thoughts of potential trainings for my sharp, new English teachers, confident we can dramatically improve writing scores this year. Because it’s windy, rainy sweater weather. But mostly, because Charming is gone.
The end of our Hampton Roads summer was as inevitable as the future of our relationship was uncertain. Before a couple of months doing life together while Charming took this course and we continued investing in couple’s counseling, we committed to a decision point. Surely, after this summer, we would know, for certain, one way or the other. We’d lovingly part ways or commit to a bigger decision.
As August 26th and his departure drew near, I was grateful for the start of school, a welcomed obsession to occupy me no matter the outcome. We hadn’t made much progress in our conflict resolution strategies. While I sensed a growing strength and maturity developing between us, it wasn’t measurable; Charming wasn’t there yet. He suggested an extension, and I held to our original date. Training new teachers kept me free from worry in the week leading up to it. I was going to know if I was going to spend the rest of my life with this man or begin the process of moving on.
The sleepless nights continue in this transition process of medication for insomnia common in ADHD patients. Rediscovering myself through the lens of the diagnosis has been liberating and cathartic. For the first three weeks after doctors started experimenting with medications, Charming was with me on those sleepless nights. He’d stay with me, so even if I lay awake for hours, his presence, his touch, his breathing soothed and comforted me. Night after night, he’d sleep easily, and I’d cuddle into him with my Agape Cornerstone beads, think, and pray.
I’d try not to think about this partnership imminently ending, but for the first time in two years, we had no future plans. Charming purchased us tickets on Friday night in Virginia Beach to see the Goo Goo Dolls. It was our last shared Google Calendar event. The next day, he’d move back home and resume work at the Pentagon… right after that long-anticipated, final Relationship Defining Talk. August 26th.
If you’re an Xennial, the very mention of Goo Goo Dolls rouses nostalgia – middle school slow dances and hoping a hit from Dizzy up the Girl plays on your friend’s car radio. The concert was amazing. We met up with my friends Angel and Rob after the opening act, then took our respective seats encouraged by good, free conversation and mediocre, expensive vices, expectant for the musical experience to come.
Charming and were surprised by the number of newer songs we knew. I was there for the old stuff, and one song in particular. Ten songs in, they hadn’t played it. The girl beside me mentioned she hoped the next was, “Iris.” It was the only one she knew. It’s what I was waiting for. And yes, it’s because of the movie soundtrack it played on. When it was first released, City of Angels advanced to the top of my film favorites and stayed until I was old enough to question an angel’s desire to give up forever to be with a human woman and live a temporary life, and eventually to be angered at (spoiler alert) the sadistic irony of this woman’s death after two minutes together.
Nicholas Cage played the character well. He fell in love with a doctor, but he was an angel, and when he learned he could “die” and become human, he made that call. At fifteen, I longed for a man to love me that way. How romantic! He’d give up everything, even eternity. It was romantic idealism at its finest, accosting the teenage mind with the irrational power of the abstract, tempting, obsessive, elusive, true love.
I don’t know that I ever really understood the words to the song, but I belted them out along with my girl friends at parties. It paired well with teen angst and immediate gratification. My adolescent brain boiled it down to this: Nothing else matters. No one understands me. Everything is broken. It will end eventually, so I will enjoy being with you tonight.
It’s the narrative of the world, isn’t it? We had a private dance show, it seemed, with some older women who’d had a little too much to drink. I was feeling my age, realizing I looked more like them than the cute teens down in the front row who sing along with nineties’ songs they memorized last month. Charming’s hand in mind tethered me to the present as John Rzeznik gave a real live soundtrack for what might be our last date.
For twenty songs, I waited, hoping the next intro would give me that long-anticipated, nostalgic song from my youth. Slide, Black Balloon, So Alive, Here is Gone, Name, Better Days. They saved it for last. We stood and swayed and waved our lighted devices. I smiled when I heard the words: “And I’d give up forever to touch you ’cause I know that you feel me somehow. You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be, and I don’t want to go home right now.” I loved having Charming hold me at night, and we’ve continued to honor God with our relationship. We don’t ever have to give up forever. One day, I will be in heaven, and so will he… but I could agree that I didn’t want to go home right then and face the decision point looming before us.
I cried when heard them sing, “And all I can taste is this moment, and all I can breathe is your life, and sooner or later it’s over; I just don’t wanna miss you tonight.” The girl beside me sang along this time. Charming sang along. I sang along. I hoped beyond hope that he was feeling what I was, that sooner or later wasn’t going to be tomorrow, that he was breathing in this moment and praying for more, too.
I actually wept when I heard the familiar lyrics with completely new meaning: “And I don’t want the world to see me ’cause I don’t think that they’d understand. When everything’s meant to be broken, I just want you to know who I am.” Charming told me this summer he needed to be heard and he needed to be known. Everything around us can and will fall apart, but he needed me to know him, deeply and completely.
In that moment, swaying slowly amongst synchronized strangers, Charming was the only person in my world. I clung to his hand wishing I’d never have to let it go. If after twenty songs, that last song hadn’t been Iris, would the night have been a waste? No, but it’s what I was there for. And if the next day, Charming told me he wished me the best of luck, we’ll never know what we missed out on. I only know Iris was the best part of the concert because it happened, and it’s when I knew.
Still relishing in the afterglow of the best of Goo Goo Dolls live in concert, we were slow to get to brunch and conversation on Saturday. He was all packed up, so we just needed to make a decision and move forward. It was a bit anticlimactic, I’ll admit. Charming presented a strong case for taking some time process on his own and return in two weeks with a decision.
I’d told him no extensions. I wanted to hold true to my word. But it felt different this time. I was hearing him. I was listening to what he was saying, words just for me, and knowing him. My desire for closure on a set date was semantics at this point; I love him. He needs a couple more weeks. How could I deny him that when just hours before I had my confirmation, swaying beside strangers.
We said goodbye for now. I have plenty of new teachers and preps and students to fill my days. The nights are longer now, though. I miss Charming’s arm around my shoulder in the still, quiet hours of the night when everyone on Earth is asleep. He holds me while I talk to God. The Goo Goo Dolls couldn’t write a song about this unless they’ve experienced the incredible gift of a relationship with another broken human being that brings them closer to their Creator, to a life that glorifies God, an eternity in heaven.
Summer is over. Charming is gone. In two weeks, he promises a decision that is the product of thought, prayer, and wise counsel. Maybe it’s all those sleepless nights with my Agape Cornerstones, but I’m at peace.
I don’t want to miss him tonight, but I don’t believe that everything is made to be broken.