The following is a side-story within my Ordinary Sex Life series, and takes place after the events of OSL: Morris Camp and AOCSL3. Familiarity with the OSL series is a requirement. If you haven’t read the series, don’t bother starting this story.
-- SEPTEMBER 2006 --
For what might have been the very last time, I’d hugged her goodbye. She’d wished me well, I’d replied in kind, and ... well ... I’d let her go.
Moments later she was in her car, waving through the window as she drove away. I’d watched her go all the way down the main driveway, beneath the archway sign that read “Morris Camp”, onto the road, around the bend, and finally out of sight. I’d remained in the parking lot for several minutes, staring at the spot where her car had disappeared, struggling to come to grips with the idea that she was gone.
That had been weeks ago. She and several other ranch hands had left early to return to school. Cal Berkeley’s semester had started in late August, but the rest of us had remained until the end of the program, looking after guests through Labor Day and training the next generation of ranch hands who would take care of the beloved camp throughout the next year. Some would even stay on for another year, working for peanuts while enjoying the simple tranquility of this unplugged oasis far, far away from urban insanity. And I had been sorely tempted to remain here with them.
But she was gone, and my life during these last few weeks hadn’t been the same without her. So now that it was time to go, I was ready to go.
“You’re not him,” she’d said before she left. Three words, very simple, but very hard for me to deal with.
She’d also said a lot of other things, stuff like how much she truly cared about me, how much she valued our relationship, and how she wanted us to stay friends. But at the end of it all, the only thing that mattered was: “You’re not him.”
I’m not him.
I can’t be “him”.
I’m nobody but me. And unfortunately, the “me” that I am isn’t good enough for her.
Tragic, right? Boy loves girl; girl doesn’t love him back but wants to be friends. It’s the stuff they make movies about all the time, the stuff they made Greek plays about thousands of years ago. It’s like the most common, most tragic stereotype in existence.
Okay, that’s hyperbole. It’s not the most tragic stereotype in existence, but it’s still pretty tragic. And it’s not the most common stereotype either, but it’s still pretty common.
I’m the nice guy who finishes last. She’d actually told me I was “nice” less than five minutes into our final conversation, and I’d felt my heart crack a little bit when she’d said it. Hot girls never want the nice guy. They want the bad boy, and from what little I knew about “him”, he was a bad boy. Racking up conquests into the dozens. Knocking up her little sister for cryin’ out loud. Other hot girls flocking to his orbit solely because of his reputation in the bedroom, hoping they could be next.
Shit like that never happens to ME. Why would it? I’m a lazy, overweight schlub who lacks self-confidence, and hot girls aren’t attracted to lazy, overweight schlubs who lack self-confidence.
Okay, so maybe I’m not as overweight as I used to be; a year spent doing ranch hand manual labor took care of most of that. “Fat Nick” was a moniker I hadn’t heard in a long time, and sincerely hoped I would never, ever hear again. But I could still stand to lose a few more pounds.
Maybe I’m not as lazy as I used to be, either. I’d gotten used to waking up at the crack of dawn ... and ... well ... the crack of Dawn. The point is: it’s amazing what a guy can do when properly motivated, and she had become my motivation. I’d worked harder, I’d worked smarter, and I’d taken care of the people around me, both guests and fellow ranch hands. I didn’t want to let any of them down, because that would have meant letting her down. She hated the term “perfect”, but she was as close as I’d ever seen a human being come to it. She set the example for everyone to follow, myself included, and although she wasn’t capable of doing everything, she never failed something for lack of effort. So how could I do any less?
But the self-confidence thing can be hard, especially when the girl you’re in love with tells you she’d rather be with someone else. Before Morris Camp, I’d been a cocky asshole flashing my money, my expensive toys, and my parents’ Malibu beach house to get through life. Upon arrival, I’d had my soul crushed beneath the weight of my stomach flab and the physical demands of the job. The only self-confidence I now possessed was the self-confidence she – and others – had helped me build. It would have been difficult to NOT feel confident spending my days and nights with her and Deedee both by my side. And finally gaining the acceptance of the other ranch hands who had initially been so unwelcoming added to my self-confidence as well.
After a rough start, I’d come to love being at Morris Camp. You always knew what to expect out of the day, and that expectation bred comfortable familiarity. I knew who I was, what I was supposed to do, and who I would do it with. Assignments were posted in advance, many of them physically demanding but ultimately predictable. I knew my capabilities and felt confident I could complete my tasks. And the small group of people I’d worked with built a camaraderie I’d never felt before.
All of that was gone now. No more ranch hand assignments; I had to go out and find a real job. No more shoveling manure or working a table saw; back to the blood-sucking world of business consulting, most likely. And all the friends I’d made over the last year in the program? Splitting up to return to other lives.
I’d miss them. I’d miss the friendly banter, the sense of brotherhood. I’d miss my friends, period. I’d try to keep in touch with some of them. I knew I’d lose touch with many others. And as for her?
I didn’t know. There was no way I could know.
And it’s hard to feel confident when you simply don’t know.
We’d exchanged phone numbers. We’d exchanged emails. I gave her the links to my Friendster and MySpace accounts. But she told me she wasn’t into the social media thing, and there was really no way of knowing how often she’d send me an email or give me a call. Why would she? Girls don’t dump their boyfriends and then spend the next year sending a lot of emails or making phone calls. And as much as I wanted to keep in touch with her, I didn’t want to be one of those guys who can’t take the hint and pester their ex with a bunch of unsolicited, unwanted voicemails.
That was me: the ex-boyfriend. Honestly, I’d seen the writing on the wall ever since she got back from the Berkeley graduation. She’d been different. ‘Marie’ had left camp to go visit, but ‘Dawn’ had been the one to return. It hadn’t been obvious at first. She gave me the same smiles, the same laughs, the same orgasmic cries; but something had been ... off. The smiles took a little longer to appear. The laughs weren’t quite as boisterous. Even the orgasms were a little harder to come by, and more and more of them came while her eyes were closed.
She’d been hiding it from me. Maybe she’d even been hiding it from herself. She didn’t want to let him affect her like that, but he did. When I called her on it, when I offered to help, she’d shut that part away. We’d talked about helping each other get through things, helping each other move past our old lives and build anew. She tried to let me in, tried to let me see her fall apart, but even she couldn’t help but wall off the feelings about him. Even when I told her I’d accept her for who she was, she couldn’t let me see that part of her.
Maybe she couldn’t let herself see that part of her.
Until she couldn’t help but see that part of her. Undeniable. Unavoidable. Destiny was calling, and it wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
She’d wanted to try. She’d wanted to start over with me. But she couldn’t let go, and she’d strung along a really nice guy once in her past already. She couldn’t do that to me, so she had to let me go.
She hadn’t been cruel about the break-up. She tried to let me down easy, tried to explain that it was her, not me. But no amount of sugar-coating would hide the fact that it was a break-up, and not a mutual one, either. -I- didn’t want to break up, and I told her I’d be happy to follow her to Berkeley, happy to do anything she needed so we could stay together. But she insisted that she just wanted to focus on her schoolwork without distractions or boyfriends, and in the end I wasn’t going to try and trap her into a long-distance relationship she didn’t want. I went along with it, told her I understood and that I’d be alright, and at the end of the day, she dumped me.
I’d been in love with a girl who didn’t love me back.
For no other reason than, “You’re not him.”
Greek tragedies, you see.
After that conversation, we still had two more days together before she actually left. And since our official “break-up” wouldn’t be until she drove away from Morris Camp, we spent those two days still technically “together”. We spent a lot of time in each other’s company – talking, walking, making love – and I clung to those two days trying to live them to the fullest, knowing that they’d be our last. There was a lot of awkwardness between us, but she tried her best to make them good for me. She couldn’t NOT try for me – she was perfect her, after all – and she’d never fail me for lack of effort.
But in the end she’d still gone away: back to home, back to school, back to friends and to family and to him.
And I’d stayed here.