There’s this nude beach Sean and I used to go to on the regular. A place we could go to get away from life, to frolic naked in the water and sand. Close enough to Portland to visit often but far enough away for it to feel like a respite from the city.
It was a place heavily populated by tanned gay men and ignored by most other people. The trees, beach grass, and drift wood made alcoves perfect for men to rendezvous or admire one another in. I felt safe there, no leering eyes or unwelcome attention.
The last time Sean and I went there together we were sitting in the sparkling sand. I smiled to look out over my lover’s naked curves, simultaneously admiring the forms of nature in the background. It was the perfect day until his voice knocked me out of my lusty daydreams.
“Look at all this glitter. Can you imagine how many fabulous gay men it took out here to get this much glitter all over the beach?”
He examined a handful of sand as I looked at him nebulously. Next I turned my gaze up and down the empty middle-of-the-day, middle-of-the-week beach. The sun twinkled off of the sand and water as far as the eye could see.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” I searched his face for an iota of sarcasm but found none. “It’s not glitter, you know? It’s shards of rock in the sand.”
His smirk doesn’t change but his eyes narrow to dubious, the beginning of a combative mood growing there. It doesn’t matter if he’s uneducated on the topic at hand, he knows everything. Or at least thinks he does. I used to adore this, that he was clever, an adorable know-it-all with an opinion on all things. Except as I argued the likelihood of mica versus body glitter, his inability to admit to being wrong had lost its novelty.
A few weeks later and its one of our rare date nights. Sean isn’t a fan of my living space, we almost never spend the night in my room. So as the party rages in my back yard celebrating a roommate’s birthday I cuddle up to him and say, “Hey let’s go back to your place, hot stuff.”
He looks at me like I’m an insane person, “What do you mean? We can’t go back to my place, Jenna is in my bed tonight.”
My entire body warms to an uncomfortable boil, my blood turns to rusty thumb tacks stabbing my insides. I count to ten but the anger endures. It isn’t the other woman in his bed that’s a problem. It’s the continued lack of communication. His inability to understand any emotions other than his own. The realization that he’s not poly, rather he was enjoying having two women fight over him.
Somewhere inside I’ve always known all of this, but I suddenly realize it with clarity and realize I’m done making excuses for his bad behavior or his other partner’s constant manipulation.
I’ve lost nearly two years on someone that never had any notion of growing up or working to repair this broken triangle we’ve been calling a relationship. He liked it dramatic and just the way it was, with him as the center of attention. So I finally say what I should have said long ago, “Are you fucking kidding me? What the fuck is Jenna doing in your bed on our night together?”
All sad puppy dog eyes he says, “Why is this a big deal?”
Out of habit we fight until we’re both exhausted yet he never comes close to comprehending why I would find it upsetting that his other girlfriend is in our space. He’ll never understand, has no desire to. So I give up and try to enjoy spooning up to him despite the resentment and disappointment. Try to give into the simple and constant joy of his body near mine, but it’s gone so I spend the night listening to him snore, aware that this is the last time we’ll share a bed.
He disappears into this other partner not returning my bids for attention or closure so it’s days later when we meet in a park to chat. In his mind, he just needs to apologize for his part in our most recent argument. I stop the conversation to palm him my copy of the key to his house.
“I’m done. I can’t do it anymore. I choose me. Choose to go make myself happy, you don’t get to make me sad anymore.”
Those puppy dog eyes make an appearance again but he doesn’t argue, doesn’t say anything actually. Instead he wraps me in his arms to whisper, “I’ll miss you so much. I love you, I’ll always love you.”
It’s sweet, just the thing that would have been nice to hear months ago. But it’s too late, much too late. I hold back tears as he turns his back on me to walk away, turning to look at me over his shoulder when he makes it to the top of the hill. I watch him disappear on the grassy horizon thinking, “Are you fucking kidding me? Did that really happen? Did any of that really happen? Because it was all ridiculously cliché.”