Yesterday, I fell off the wagon.
By that, I mean I took a flying leap off the wagon, only to grab on tight by my fingernails at the last second to keep from hitting the ground.
Last night, I drove to the college he teaches at. I don’t know what possessed me to do it. As I sat in traffic waiting to take the exit that would bring me there, a place I used to go so often, I told myself a thousand times not to. I told myself that I should drive past that exit and continue home. To avoid the heartache that going there would inevitably bring. By myself in my car, I said out loud, “Don’t. Go home.”
But I didn’t. I sat through the traffic, and drove onto the campus.
I was surprised to find I still knew all the roads by heart, still knew which turns to make to get to the places I wanted to see. It was like I’d been there just last week, instead of six years ago.
The funny part is, I wasn’t going there to see him. I’d had a bad day, I’d been crying; the last thing I wanted was for him to see me and think I was a mess these days. Running into him personally was not on my list.
I wanted to see his truck.
It’s been so long since I’ve spoken to him, so long since I’ve seen his face or smelled his scent or heard his voice, that sometimes it genuinely feels like I made him up. That he doesn’t even exist anymore, or maybe that he never did. It seems odd that someone who was such an impactful and important and emotional part of my life just….isn’t in it anymore. It’s strange that someone I used to share everything with is now someone that I avoid talking about and most days, avoid even thinking about.
The first place I went was the theatre building. I took a tiny little back road to reach the side door, where the loading dock was. Where he always parked, the back tires of his truck bumped up against the edge of the ramp. I figured at 630pm, he’d probably still be in showtime and would be spending late nights there, so I expected to see his truck where it always used to be.
It wasn’t there, so I turned around in a parking lot and drove up the hill to the scene shop — the workshop where he designed and built set pieces. I approached it slowly, hardly daring to breathe, looking for his truck. I wondered what I would do if I saw it. Drive past it? Get out of my car and touch it? Leave a message on it?
It didn’t matter — the truck wasn’t there, either.
So I sat there for a short moment, looking at the building where he fucked me bent over a table saw and where we had a threesome, the building where I showed up one night when he was working late and surprised him in a trench coat and heels, the building where we laid naked on a futon mattress on the floor and talked about getting married someday.
But the building was dark. He wasn’t there.
I left campus and was relieved that I hadn’t cried. I had expected to, assumed that the rush of emotions would break me down the way thinking of him usually did.
I pulled up to a red light, radio on, and suddenly saw a silver truck two lanes over from me.
My heart stopped. My whole body froze. I felt paralyzed. What if that was him? What if I had just driven around his campus, only to see him at a red light? What if he saw me? What if seeing me made him decide to call? What if he wondered why I was in this area at all?
I couldn’t see into the cab of the truck from the angle I was, and I didn’t move forward. When the light turned green, I drove off and didn’t look back. It probably wasn’t him, to be honest; there are a hundred thousand trucks just like his and the chances are small that he and I would end up next to each other at a light. But after seeing that truck, I was seized by an intense desire to get as far away from there as possible. I wanted to be somewhere, anywhere else. Far away from this town and this campus and the memories it held. I felt stupid for going in the first place. I felt crazy. I felt like a stalker. I felt dirty. I felt out of control. I felt like I’d failed myself by falling off the wagon and caving to impulse.
I didn’t realize I was driving 95 miles an hour until I was almost home.
I went three years without knowing or asking anything about him, and last night I went to his workplace. I left without making contact with anyone, without anyone seeing me, and without anyone knowing I’d been there.
I still feel like I failed myself.
My knuckles are bloody for the first time in years.