Pandemic Love Lessons




I no longer have any reason to be quiet, no more reasons to not write the story of what it's like to fall in love during a pandemic.
I'll start by saying, I don't advise it.

Actually, it had more to do with the person, and less to do with the pandemic. But that was certainly part of it.

A little over ten years ago, I met a man at a little hole-in-the-wall bar where I was working. He was one of my regular customers. Back then he wasn't anyone I was interested in, despite his persistent advances. He was flippant, arrogant, and a real ladies man (to put it politely).

Life moved on, I went on to work elsewhere, and forgot about him entirely.

Ten years went by and somehow I ended up working at that same little bar again. And just like last time, there he was. Again. Still.
For whatever reason, this time around he seemed a little more charming. But he still carried all the red flags that were present ten years before.

In the spring of 2019, I finally accepted his offers to go out. And that began a brief, month long "relationship." It ended almost as abruptly as it began, when I wanted more and he just couldn't deal with it. It especially ended badly, since the break-up was delivered to me through a friggin text message. It ended even more horribly when he came into that little hole-in-the-wall bar the very next day, during my shift, with his replacement lady on his arm. I even had to wait on their table. That was fabulous, as you can imagine.

I didn't speak to him for almost a year.

Last Christmas Eve, as I finished my shift and was leaving, I walked by him and wished him a Merry Christmas. It was probably the holiday spirit that had, unfortunately, made me forgiving and friendly.

He texted me almost as soon as I had left the parking lot... "Thank you for speaking to me..."

And before you knew it, we were seeing each other again.

I did well for the first couple months to remain emotionally uninvested. I knew the risks when it came to him. I was single and lonely, he was there and charming, so I figured, why not. But I was safe about it. I kept my guard up.

And then, COVID.

During the shut down, we spent more and more time together. What else was there to do, right? We grew closer and closer. He constantly reminded me that I didn't need to worry, that I didn't need to be "uninvested." I kept trying to keep my emotional distance, but a woman can only do that for so long. He met my family and I met his. Gifts, affection, passion, chemistry, attention... and constant, convincing, deceitful words of reassurance.

What will happen when the bars reopen? What will happen when you go back out on the road for work? Will it still be this way? Will you still feel this way?
With a smile and a hug and kiss, he would say reassuringly, "You'll see."

By June, I had grown to love him.
And he knew.

One day in late June, (or maybe it was early July, I don't remember exactly), just as I had finished my shift and sat down at the bar, he looked me in the eye and said, "I love you."
I nearly fell off my bar stool. I think I cried, too. Right in front of God and everyone (slapping forehead). Through tears I responded in kind, "I love you, too." And I held onto him, probably tighter than I ever had.
He playfully teased... "Just remember, I said it first!"

Two weeks later, it was over.
It lasted six months.

He had begun spending less and less time with me. Often times, it was because he was back in that little hole-in-the-wall bar (as I predicted). He began unkindly reminding me that I was going to have to "get over it" when he went back on the road for work. As I was saying how much I would miss him, how hard it would be, he looked at me and said- "I'm not going to have a problem when I go back to work" (ouch).

I swept those (and countless other) cold statements under the rug. I paid no attention to his distancing, to his indifference. I didn't want to see what was coming.

We had a few disagreements over the weeks, about how things were changing, but we always came around. He reassured me that I was still worth it. That we were still worth it. In fact, he taught me about the "worth it scale" that I wrote about a few weeks ago. His worth it scale still favored us. We far outweighed everything else. He loved me.

I had planned a huge surprise birthday party for him. I was so excited! So excited to make it memorable for him. Excited to show him again how I felt about him, excited to bring his family and friends together, excited to make him feel special and loved.

I rented a lakeside camp for a two-week summer staycation. He stayed there with me about half of the time. Near the end of the second week, we had another discussion about things not being as they were, about how I wanted him to be there with me instead of at home or in the bar.
He had his reasons... He was going to give blood. He had a conference call. He needed to relax and unwind at the bar, have a few beers and play some cribbage. He had to do laundry. There was always something.
Actually, the conversation was quite brief, and as usual, through text message, and one of the last things he wrote to me was "Would you stop with the f$%ing bullshit, Crista."
The next morning, he showed up at the camp to gather his things. He was done.
I asked him- "Are we sure this is what we want?"
He responded, "It's what I want."
I asked, "Would you care to explain why?"
"I don't think you want me to," he replied coldly.
I told him I loved him as he walked out the door.

That was the last time I saw him. And really, the last time I heard anything from him.
He washed his hands of it. Tossed it aside as easily as swatting at a fly.
We were disposable. I was disposable.
Completely, and so very easily, disposable.

I always knew he possessed that ability. It was how he was wired. It was one of our many differences that I feared from the beginning.

A couple weeks ago I wrote him a lengthy email, expressing everything I didn't get to that day that he left me. How hurt I was. How my worth it scale was still for us. How I loved him. I guess I was probably pleading our case. It was foolish and disgraceful and self-abusive. It was a waste of my time and emotions, and I knew it. But I did it anyway. I loved him, I couldn't help it.
I got nothing. I guess I really didn't expect it to be any different, despite maybe hoping that it would be.

Earlier this week he was seen snugged up to a woman who is temporarily visiting here from over 4,000 miles away. The perfect opportunity for him to get what he wants with no investment or commitment.
I shouldn't have been surprised. But, I was. And somehow, devastated just a little bit more.

He didn't deserve it. He didn't deserve anything I had given him. The effort, the devotion, the very best and most vulnerable parts of me, the love. He didn't deserve any of it.
I know that now, but it doesn't make it hurt any less.

And I've been trying to "get over it" for the last few weeks. I haven't had my heart broken in a very long time. I had almost forgotten how painful it is.

Additionally, even though I shouldn't give a shit, it has been a real struggle knowing that he'll never be held accountable. He will never take responsibility. He hates to look like the bad guy, refuses to allow it. And I just could not walk away without making the story known. All of it. The truth of it.

Now maybe I can "get over it." Stop f&%king crying, for gawd sake.
Finally find some f%$king closure.
If only it were as easily done as said.
If only it were as easy for me to do as it was for him.

And so, in the instance that we ever live through another pandemic, my best advice is to not fall in love. Maybe that's my every day advice, pandemic or not. Don't fall in love.
Just. Don't.

And of course, this is advice that I won't ever take myself. I'll go on still trying to love and be loved, again and again. Until I've found the final one, or until I'm dead. Whichever comes first.
I am, evidently, a glutton for punishment.

But hopefully next time, when/if that may happen, I will be wise enough to save it for someone who returns it in kind, and who is worthy of it.
Not some insensitive, selfish, arrogant, narcissist.

The universe gave me a gift when that little hole-in-the-wall bar, your home away from home, was shut down unexpectedly. Now I no longer have to look at your house across the street, or see your face, ever again.

And now I have to go get ready. Because what's good for the goose is good for the f&%king gander, and I have a date to get ready for.