New Orleans was the last time I ever saw Brian.
On our last day there together, I kissed him goodbye before he got into his cab to head to the airport. I watched the taxi pull away from the hotel, then I walked down Poydras in half drizzle half sunshine toward the convention center to take down my exhibit. I didn't feel sad, nor did I have the slightest premonition that it was as good as over. I didn't know yet that soon, on a sunny Friday afternoon in early May, I would discover a truth so well hidden yet so easily stumbled upon. I didn't know that this was our last kiss, our last wave goodbye.
When I returned home from New Orleans, I went back to business as usual at my day job and at Nordstrom. I was still basking in the after glow of my culinary joyride through the Crescent City. I was telling everyone who would listen about my mornings walking down to Cafe du Monde for coffee and to split a plate of beignets with my coworker, always managing to get a puff of powdered sugar on my jacket or laptop bag, and about tasting grilled alligator sausage with caramelized onions and sherry-creole mustard cream reduction at The Court of the Two Sisters restaurant in the French Quarter.
At Nordstrom, there was a new sous chef who started shortly before I left on my trip. I had seen him rushing around, red-faced and smelling like onions, back and forth to the backroom we shared with the Cafe. One night around closing time, soon after I got home from NOLA, I was standing by the cash wrap waiting for the all-clear to close up from the Manger in Charge. I had not yet introduced myself and I was bored and still daydreaming about pralines and beignets. So I stopped him and asked him his name. After our brief introductions, I told Travis that I was a part-timer and that I had just gotten back from a business trip to New Orleans. And---what I now think of as pure serendipity---his eyes widened and he told me that he had lived in New Orleans and worked there as a chef for many years! When the all-clear finally came, I knew I had a new "closing buddy" in Travis, and from then on we always chatted about this or that and joked around along with our other coworkers. It seems like I digress here, but you'll find that this is an important event in the course of my 2012.
One night in early May, I was closing with my department manager and we were chatting. She asked me if I had a boyfriend, and I said yes! and that we would be together 7 years this June. Of course, she wanted to know all about this boyfriend who's been just a boyfriend for nearly 7 years. I told her of our situation, that he had to move back to Wisconsin and hadn't yet been able to find a job here so that he could come back and we could finally get married. Well, my manager was skeptical that it would take 7 years to get back together or to find a job, even in a bad economy, for a graduate-school-educated man. But, stupid as I was, I assured her that we were trying and that he was sending his resume all over town with no luck. She then asked me about Wisconsin and his family. Here, I will have to confess my most grievous mistake. I had never formally met his family. In 7 years there was always an excuse. I had briefly met his father at a Brewers game at Miller Park only because he worked there at the gates. We didn't talk and I wasn't introduced. We just walked in through his gate. I should have known something wasn't kosher when his father merely gave his son a smirk and didn't ask who I was. I met his sister in Florida briefly, but it was a short introduction, and I wasn't "allowed" to call her for lunch or coffee whenever I happened to be in Orlando (she lives in Kissimmee). And I had never met his mother. Not once. In 7 years. In 7 years, my future mother-in-law never once wanted to meet me. Yeah, I got enough red flags to open up a Red Flag Shop. My parents had been giving me grief for years about me not knowing his family. I always used to say that it's because they lived in Wisconsin. But the truth is I'd been to Wisconsin so many times through the years and had so many opportunities to meet them and get to know them. Brian always had an excuse, though, and I talked myself into believing each and every one.
My manager, who I now owe my new life to, thought that not knowing his family was a terrible mistake and asked if I had ever Googled him. I honestly replied that I was afraid to Google him for fear of finding something unsavory. Don't you just want to hit me with a baseball bat at this point? Then she said something that changed the course of my life. She said, "Don't you want to know now if there's anything bad about him rather than spend more years not knowing?"
I have to say that I always felt something "off" about or relationship, about the things Brian would tell me, about the poor excuses that I swallowed whole. Now that I look back on all those years together, all the signs that something was very, very wrong were clear as a billboard. But I was in love. I met Brian when I was 27. It was a time when all my friends were getting engaged and married. I suppose I wanted in on the action, so I chose blindly to love Brian and stay with him despite our situation in the hopes that he was The One. Now, I know that you shouldn’t have to hope that someone is The One or try and make them The One because if you have to do that, then they are most definitely not The One.
On Friday afternoon after work, May 11, with my manager’s words resonating in my stupid brain and for other personal reasons I won’t go into here, I decided I needed to know the whole truth whatever that truth may be. My gut was already sure that I would find something in my search because all my little warning bells and flags and whistles and what have you were finally starting to mean something to me. I Googled his name and a 2-year-old obituary notice popped up in my search. It was for his grandmother, Regina. I remember his Grandma Reggie dying a couple of years back. I wasn’t at the funeral of course; that was a family affair. I clicked on the link to the obituary and saw the list of relatives survived by her. Among those listed, I recognized his parents and sister by their names. There was his father, Dennis (her son), and his wife, Marie. There was his sister, Michelle, and her husband, Kyle. Then, there was Brian and his wife, Amanda.
I knew who Amanda was. Years ago, when Brian was still living in the area and we’d only been together a few months, an ex-girlfriend of his called and left a message on my phone saying that Brian was still with his girlfriend, Amanda, back in Milwaukee. She warned me that Brian was not the person I imagined he was and that I would be wise to believe her. I didn’t of course. When I confronted Brian, he said that the ex-girlfriend was extremely jealous and a liar who would stop at nothing to ruin him for other women. He even called her and screamed at her on the phone for leaving me such a spiteful message. Little did I know that the poor woman was only trying to save me.
That weekend I had to work at Nordstrom, which was good because I took solace in my friends there. I told them what I found and asked them what I should do next. Of course the unanimous answer was that I should kick his ass or pay someone to kick his ass. As much as I would have loved to do that, I decided that I would just confront him on Monday. Via e-mail. I never wanted to talk to him again, of that I was sure.
On Monday, May 14, I sent him all the proof I found and told him that our relationship was dead. I actually sent it in a PDF. I sent a copy of the obituary with their names highlighted; I sent the BeenVerified.com information I bought about Amanda, which is what I used to match addresses and identities and such; and I sent copies of return addresses from packages he sent me that didn’t match his parents’ address, where he supposedly lived. Yes, the fool had used the address where he lived with his wife to send me packages. When I questioned him about this “other” address previously, he said that his parents didn’t like him using their address for things and that the New Berlin address was his friend Anthony’s.
So that’s my Lifetime-movie experience. For months after this, Brian would pretend to be suicidal; he sent ALL the things I bought him as presents back, along with tear-stained letters of regret and apology; and he sent all our pictures back. At first, I still cared for him and didn’t want him to suffer. I told him that I forgave him (I truly did; I was raised to love my enemies and do good to those who hurt me) and that I would hold his hand through his heartbreak but I would never ever go back. Eventually, he started blaming me for the death of our relationship, saying I was unforgiving, cold, cruel, a liar (what??!!), and that I already had someone else, etc. He because a true narcissist.
I don’t have any more contact with Brian. I don’t feel that it’s appropriate. And I can’t go on hearing how awful I am for not taking him back.
But I’m happy now and all this is behind me.