It was a very long night. I waited. And waited.
Yes, it was uncomfortable, not knowing what was going on, but I knew Nook to be a strong woman and that she’d likely be okay.
As I review the emails I sent her that night, trying to be as supportive as possible, the timeline plays out in slow motion. Midnight. One am. Three am. Lots of silence. Then at 0536, a short email from Nook. It was over (with him). She wasn’t sure how to feel. I’m sure there was an emotional numbness, which was to be expected.
I sent several more emails as follow-up, but didn’t hear from her again.
Having achieved no sleep that night, I did not bother to try to start at that point. I put my shoes on, injected some coffee, and headed to the office. Still checking for email, SMS messages, anything. More silence.
Eventually, around noon, I got a two word email from Nook:
Before I continue with the story, I need to make a minor digression. This will be something that I think most men in adult relationships can appreciate, so, forgive the indulgence.
There are a handful of words that a woman can use which make men break out into a cold sweat. Obviously, different men may be more affected by different combinations, but there are, I believe, certain phrases which will always make us swallow hard.
There’s something I need to tell you -- This rarely ends well. If we’re lucky, this is an admission that the next month’s credit card bill may be higher than expected. Or perhaps that the car is sporting an indentation it wasn’t a few hours previously. More likely, and tragically, it will be followed by:
There’s someone else -- No explanation needed.
My friends feel ... -- When a woman begins to express her friends disapproval of you, or of the relationship, look out.
I love you but am not IN love with you -- This one has always been a “favourite.” There’s some sort of a magic line in the sand for emotions and once a woman crosses that line (which she does without telling you, or sharing that she sees the line, or even acknowledging there IS a line) it’s game over. You’ll never convince her to love you in That Way again.
We need to talk -- A well known biggie. A woman says that to a man, and we know, instinctively, it’s not a conversation about how much they love us. In many ways, this is the worst of the lot.
Naturally, there are others, many others, but these are some of the greatest hits.
During the early weeks and months of my relationship with Nook, more than once she used words pretty consistent with the last item. Indeed, there was even a certain day of the week that I came to dread for this reason. This happened three, possibly four, times - and always on the same day of the week. Unpleasant feeling. And of course, that was the same day of the week that this latest two-word email arrived.
Given the context of those early weeks and months, and how poor Nook was truly a woman torn, I can completely understand why she had a lot on her mind and the complex emotions and feelings were pulling her every which way.
But it was still uncomfortable to get those emails, that changed affect in her words, the sense of “uh-oh” that washed over me as I read them.
So when, the morning after (hopefully) ending her previous relationship so that she and I could be together I receive two words, a simple request to call her, with no “I love you” - no “I miss you” nothing emotional or bonding for the two of us, well, dread. Dread consumed me.
I was at work. I went pale.
A colleague was walking by on his way to lunch and saw the look on my face. He asked if I was okay.
A billion things were going through my mind. I couldn’t tell him what was wrong, I just said something like “Yeah, didn’t sleep brilliantly last night, feeling a bit out of it...have a nice lunch” and I picked up my phone and went somewhere where I could call Nook.
Remember the chihuahua on meth I mentioned when I heard Nook’s knock on the hotel room door? Well, this feeling was a million times worse. My head was spinning. My breath became rapid. Mouth dry. My mind became filled with “nononononono” over and over...
Yes, I was overreacting, I had no basis for my freaking out, but, given the context of it all, it seemed to me quite probable that after a night of sleep (or was it sleep? Did she end up in his arms again? Did she change her mind after he pushed all the right buttons? Was she now pulling the trigger to end OUR relationship?) she woke up and realised she’d made a terrible mistake.
Think about it, pragmatically.
Why would someone as young, vibrant, beautiful, intelligent, sensitive and sweet as Nook ever want to hook up with an old man like me? I’m not attractive, I have no money, I am the poster child of “he’s got a great personality” and despite what your mother may tell you, that doesn’t keep the bed warm at night.
So as the hours passed and I’d not heard from Nook, and I began to feel all the doubts creep in, all of the facts I knew about her and her past, it became inevitable that once I heard from her and the only thing she said was “call me” that it was obvious what was about to happen.
But I manned up. I got my phone, found a place to call her, took several deep breaths, and clicked dial.
So, with the bullet bitten, as well as the inside of my cheek to give me just enough pain to take the edge off of whatever was about to be said, the call went through.
I wasn’t sure what to say. Did I open with “I love you” or “How are you” or something else? In the, end, I went with a simple “Hi” - and let her decide what came next.
I was surprised.
Nook did not change her mind. She still wanted us. She was exhausted, drained, and going through an emotional turmoil that few of us probably can directly relate to.
But she was okay. She still loved me, and still wanted our future.
Most of the rest of the call was a chance for her to talk. She was fatigued, and naturally ended up rambling a bit, but she needed to. She needed to vocalise her thoughts, with someone, and there really weren’t people near her whom she could open up to at this point.
I listened. I tried to help, offer support, but, really, it was just a chance for us to touch base, and for her to let me know that she hadn’t changed her mind and that the coming week(s) might be very very difficult, but she was 100% confident of her decision, and she was not going to change her mind.
I’m pretty sure that the sigh I let out when our call was over was heard for a hundred or more kilometres. I didn’t expect that. I really didn’t. This isn’t some self-deprecation thing - this was purely a full consideration of objective facts.
But I was overjoyed. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more, well, proud - if that’s the right word. Nook was taking a phenomenal leap of faith to be with me, but she really was taking it.
After the phone call was over, I sent Nook another email, telling her I was there for her, and how much I loved her. She replied in kind.
At that point though, I hit the wall of exhaustion myself, and packed up my stuff and headed home an hour earlier than normal. Thankfully, I can do that with my job.
Once home, I told Nook I was here, computer on, phone plugged in, and that I was thinking of her, loving her, and around if/when she needed me.
The coming weeks were going to be trying for the both of us, but the important thing was that there was an “us” - our future was truly beginning, and despite the emotional roller-coaster that we were both riding, we knew were doing it hand in hand, and eventually we’d be fully together.