7.23.2006

The One Who Broke My Heart

Our last few months of college were so stressful, I don't know how Angie and I survived.

We had grown accustomed to all-nighters and the blue cloud of cigarette smoke that circled our side-by-side iMacs -- they seemed to define our college lives, along with strange out-of-nowhere giggle fits somewhere around 3am when we were high on rubber cement and the TV was playing Enigma's "Return to Innocence".

At one point, I had gone approximately ninety-six hours without sleep and decided that I should eat something. I walked into the kitchen (hair a mess and wrapped in a blanket), took a can of tuna out of the cupboard and set it on the counter. I stared at that can of tuna for ten minutes and then started to cry -- I was so exhausted that I couldn't figure out what to do with it. I knew I needed a can opener, but was not able to connect A with B. It was amazing to discover what could happen to the mind when deprived of sleep.

As we were basically chained to our computers for hours on end, we would occasionally take breaks and go in chat rooms on the internet, wreaking havoc with other shit disturbers we joined forces with.

One night, at some typically God-awful hour, I was working on a project and had forgotten to sign out of the Toronto chat room when a message popped up. Some guy was calling me "Mike" and talking about a rehearsal. I informed him that he had messaged the wrong person and went back to my project. He replied to say he was sorry, he must have clicked on the wrong name.

Him: I'm Heartbreaker (obviously I can't tell you his real name), by the way.
Me: Redhead. Nice to meet you.

Little did I know that this accidental message and introduction would be the beginning of a rollercoaster of a relationship...the effects of which would affect my life to this very day. You'll understand later.

I also need to take this time to aplogize for lying to some of you about where I met Heartbreaker and a few other guys -- I was ashamed to admit I had met anyone from the internet, and covered it up for years. Internet dating is much more acceptable now than it was then.

Heartbreaker and I started chatting. He worked construction and was lead singer for a band that had had some play on local college stations. He sent me to the band website so I could see a picture of him -- and he was HOT!! His sense of humour was fantastic and you could literally feel the 'click' between us.

Then he dropped the bomb: he had a girlfriend.

I immediately backed off, wanting nothing to do with a 'taken' man. He asked if he could call me and I refused. He tried to message me a few days later and I ignored him. Then he sent the message saying, "Hey, nothing wrong with being friends?!" and I couldn't argue.

Heartbreaker and I would talk for hours on the internet about anything and everything while I worked on projects. He became my leaning post when I was exhausted, cranky, and had hours of schoolwork ahead of me. He would make me laugh, send me songs and help me get through the night. There was a chemistry between us that I had never experienced with anyone else.

One evening he was going to be in my area, and offered to take me out for a coffee break. As terrified as I was to meet him in person, I decided to take him up on the offer. We connected as well in person as we had on the internet and the phone. He refused to let me pay for my coffee, and told me stories that had me laughing so hard my stomach hurt. He drove around for about an hour while we talked, and I actually forgot all about my schoolwork for once. It was just what I needed.

Over the next few months, Heartbreaker would show up a couple times a week to take me out for coffee. I had fallen head-over-heels for the guy, but I kept my distance due to the girlfriend. I am many things, but a homewrecker is not one of them.

You can imagine my surprise when we were parked on a back street on an early spring night, drinking coffee and listening to the Counting Crows, when suddenly he leaned over and kissed me. I pushed him back and pressed myself to the door.

"HEARTBREAKER! What are you DOING?" I gasped.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" He asked.

I stared at him.

He sighed and looked door at the floor. "Things with the girlfriend are not going well," he said, "I like you, Redhead, and it's time to end things with her. I'm not happy."

I continued to stare at him, completely stunned. I had not seen this coming.

After he dropped me off, I did not see Heartbreaker for a long time. So long, in fact, that I dated a couple other guys. Heartbreaker would pop onto messenger from time to time, but it was always kept short. He told me he was exhausted, working crazy hours, and dealing with personal stuff.

When Heartbreaker finally called me to go out for a coffee, he appeared to be a much happier person, and when I asked him how things had gone with the girlfriend, he said he didn't want to talk about it. He leaned over to kiss me, and this time I kissed him back.

Heartbreaker and I kept to ourselves -- he came from a hardcore Italian family and I'm as caker as they come, so I knew politics were involved. I figured that if the girlfriend had been Italian, the family wouldn't exactly accept me with open arms.

We were seeing each other a couple nights a week and I was infatuated with him. He made me laugh and he made smile and he was everything I was looking for and everything I needed. The sex was amazing and I was frighteningly happy, until red flags began to raise:

1) He would only call me, I never called him. He lived with his parents and I didn't even have a phone number.
2) He avoided everyone, including my roomate.
3) He would disappear for two to three weeks at a time.

One night, I received a phone call from him. He had vanished for about a month and I was tired of the games and completely prepared to confront him.

HB: Redhead?
Me: We need to talk.
HB: I really need to see you this weekend.
Me: Did you hear me? We need to talk.
HB: I need to see you because something big is happening next weekend.
Me: (Laughing) What, are you getting engaged or something?
HB: No...(pause) I'm getting married.

I had no voice, no thoughts, no anything. All the blood drained from me and I dropped the phone. I could hear him yelling my name. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't think. I couldn't do anything. My chest felt tight and my head started to pound. I didn't even realize I was crying.
Shaking, I leaned over and picked up the phone.

HB: REDHEAD?
Me: This is a joke, right?
HB: No joke.
Me: So...so you've been engaged...you've been engaged the WHOLE TIME we've been dating?
HB: You KNEW I had a girlfriend, I told you I was engaged.
Me: Like fucking HELL you did! You told me you were ending things with her! My GOD, I SLEPT with you!
HB: You knew.
Me: I did NOT know! None of this...none of this would EVER have happened if I had known! God, I'm so stupid! You are a fucking piece of work, you know that?
HB: This doesn't change how I feel about you. I need to see you.

I hung up the phone on him and I cried. I had been the other woman and I hadn't even known it. He had lied to me. He had used me.

It took me months before I could talk to him, and about a year before I could see him again. Regardless of everything that had happened, I missed his friendship. I still maintain that without him, I wouldn't have made it through the last few months of college. And yes, I still loved him. For the next four years, Heartbreaker and I would meet up every six months or so for coffee or a couple drinks. Sometimes I wouldn't see him for a year. He never seemed very happy -- his music had been pushed to the side after he got married, and he refused to speak about his wife. He told me the marriage had been a mistake. A number of times, he suggested that him and I sleep together on the side, but I always refused. The Karmic retribution of such an act was more than I could handle, and I felt I had enough bad luck in my love life.

About a month ago, Heartbreaker called to see if he could drop by and see me, as we hadn't seen each other in almost a year. I agreed and he arrived around ten with a buttload of alcohol and a bag, which he handed to me.

"I know you've been living here for almost a year, but I haven't seen you and I wanted to get you a housewarming gift."

Heartbreaker had given me two martini glasses and a shaker. Aw. We cracked open the booze and made chocolate martinis, sat in my livingroom and caught up. He left around midnight, and I walked him out and gave him a hug goodbye.

The next week at work, he sent me a text message to tell me he'd had a great time with me and would like to see me again the following Friday night. I had no plans and agreed. Just like the previous week, we sat in my livingroom, talking about music and life. He kept telling me how lucky I am to be single and have my whole life ahead of me, to not be tied down, to have my own apartment and solitude whenever I want it. I tried to get him to talk about his marriage, but he refused. I knew he wasn't happy, but I also knew he wouldn't change anything. I had realized a long time ago that he wouldn't leave her for me, no matter how much he loved me. Once again, he left around midnight and I gave him a hug goodbye.

Fast forward to the following Tuesday at lunch. I was sitting on a bench outside of work, talking to Stef about a freelance job opportunity that had come up, when my other line beeped -- it was Heartbreaker. I told Stef I'd call her back, pressed the button for the other line and said, "Hey Loser, what's up?"

"Redhead, we've got a fucking problem!" Heartbreaker yelled.

"What?" I replied.

"I don't know how, but someone...fuck...someone saw me leaving your place on Friday and they told the wife and she's really upset!"

I felt all the blood drain from me and my stomach turned. He had hidden me from his wife for four years, he had cheated on her, he had made me the other woman...and now Karma had arrived to even out the score.

"Redhead? REDHEAD?!" He was shouting, snapping me back to reality.

"Omigod...how did this happen? What now?" I asked.

"I don't know. I KNEW I liked you too much. FUCK. Okay, if you get a phonecall -"

I cut him off, "PHONECALL?!"

"You might get a phonecall, and IF you do, you need to do me a favour."

"What?"

"Just tell them you got this phone number like yesterday, okay?" he said.

"Yeah, okay," I told him.

"I gotta go, I'm sorry, I'll call you soon," he said, and hung up.

I was numb, and shaking like crazy. I called Stef back and told her the whole story. The more we talked about it, the more we realized how much bigger and messier this could be.

Let me explain:

My apartment is very discreet; the entrance is at the back of a house and you have to walk down a driveway to get there. He must have been followed by a private investigator or a friend of hers and the ONLY way someone could have seen us together is if we were watched from the parking lot a few houses down. The idea of someone watching me totally creeped me out -- what if there were pictures? And how was the wife getting my phone number? There must have been a slip-up somewhere on his part (he was supposed to be at stags those Fridays, but maybe someone told her he left really early). I gave him a hug goodbye and it was completely innocent, but no suspecting wife would ever believe there was nothing going on, especially after I had been kept a secret for FOUR years!

If this phone call was coming, I figured it would come on my cell phone, as that was how Heartbreaker contacted me. I suddenly had a thought and typed my address into the reverse lookup on 411.ca...and my name and home number popped up. SHIT! The call display on my home phone hadn't been working in months, so Stef and I went to Wal-Mart after work and picked up a shiny new phone with call display and a built-in answering machine. We decided that instead of doing what he had asked, I just wouldn't answer any unknown calls and stay out of it completely.

The next few days were difficult -- I was nervous and paranoid that some psycho Italian chick was going to jump out of the bushes at me with a baseball bat. I felt guilty for upsetting this girl I didn't even know and all the remorse from when Heartbreaker and I originally dated came flooding back. I was always looking over my shoulder, and I felt my privacy and safety had been compromised.

Some friends were concerned for my safety, and I had to check in with them for the next few days. Everyone wanted to know what happened, but I didn't hear from Heartbreaker for weeks...I wasn't sure if I would ever hear from him again. I found it disgusting that after four years, he dropped that bomb, dragged me into their mess, and he couldn't even give me the courtesy of a phone call to let me know what had happened.

While I was on vacation, I was sitting on a bench at Webers (best burgers EVER) with my brother, and checked my phone to see if I had missed any calls. I had missed one call and when I saw it had been from Heartbreaker, I dropped the phone like it had burned my hands. The next day he called back and I answered it:

Redhead: Hello?
Heartbreaker: Hey, Redhead! What, you don't answer your phone anymore?
Redhead: I'm on vacation.
Heartbreaker: Vacation? Where?
Redhead: I'm in Muskoka with the family.
Heartbreaker: Oh yeah, the annual trip. Alright, I'll let you get back to it. I'll talk to you when you're back in the city.
Redhead: HEARTBREAKER!
Heartbreaker: Yeah?
Redhead: WHAT HAPPENED?
Heartbreaker: What happened?
Redhead: With the wife. What happened?
Heartbreaker: Oh nothing, everything is okay, don't worry about it.
Redhead: I don't hear from you for a month, I'm worried sick, and now you're not going to tell me what happened?
Heartbreaker: I told you, don't worry about it. I'll come by with coffee when you get back and I'll tell you about it.

My temper flared. It flared so bad I knew I had to get off the phone or I was going to scream obcenities at him, and I was at a family resort...not exactly the best place for that. I said goodbye and ended the call. Fucker.

I haven't heard from Heartbreaker since, but there's no way I can ever let him set foot in my apartment again, as the wife may know where I live and will be keeping an eye on him. He's not worth the trouble. Not to mention that I would prefer not to have my face smashed in by the Italian Mafia.

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