Saturday night, and I am once again going it alone. My boyfriend is at an all-night gaming & drinking party with 30 of his closest friends (cue my jealous sarcasm), while I’m sitting in the corner of a busy, grungy, institution-of-a-cafe/coffee shop near my new apartment.
It’s pretty crazy, I’ve been coming to this coffee shop for over 10 years now. Not frequently or consistently, but it’s the type of place that is just always there, no matter what. Well, except for that one time a car drove right into the front door. Or the other time when the health department nearly shut them down. But other than that, it’s always been here: late nights, early mornings, regular Tuesday afternoons, blizzardy January days, hot-and-humid July nights.
I first came to this place on a third-date with my ex husband. I got so incredibly lost on my way driving there – gosh, I was only 17, and driving myself through the city like I owned the place, back before Google Maps when all we had were mapquest notes and landmark-dependent directions from friends. He and I sat against the back wall and shared a hummus plate. There was such a soft kindness in his eyes.
In September of 2015, a man I was dating sat with me in a different corner of this shop and, as he looked me in the eyes, he told me I was the love of his life. That relationship was short and ended very turbulently.
Still, I love coming to this place.
It’s the type of coffee shop where people gather. I’m not just talking about sitting together for a cup of coffee or a meal, but actually gathering and blending and embracing humanity, together. Some people come to study for hours at a time. Others come for the hangover-curing greasy spoon breakfasts. Others come just to have a warm place to hang out for the cost of a cup of coffee. This place feels like community and togetherness and the embodiment of everything I love about my city.
Tonight, I’m here alone, writing in this blog, because I found myself wandering around the nearby University campus earlier in the evening with nothing to do, and it was more than once that the idea of drinking popped into my head. The trigger, I know, is loneliness. Coming here felt less lonely, even though I’m still sitting all by myself at a large empty table while the people around me are laughing and talking and eating. Coming here felt like it would be a constructive use of my time, even if it isn’t. Coming here meant keeping myself from drinking.
I don’t know why tonight, of all nights, I feel most vulnerable. Or why I chose to come here feeling so vulnerable. This place has been the symbol of my vulnerability for a long time. Maybe that’s why I feel so comfortable here. I don’t have to pretend. I can just be alone and lonely and sit here with my thoughts and not be bothered. I can sit until I don’t feel at any sort of risk to drink, even if it’s minimal risk.
I don’t know, guys. I’m starting to realize that I have some complex emotions regarding my relationship with my boyfriend, that I don’t quite know how to figure out. And these feeling are causing this loneliness, that makes me miss alcohol. I feel myself growing in two different directions, and I don’t know which direction is the right one to take. I could grow into the quiet, sometimes boring, routine of stability with my long-term relationship. Or I could grow into my own path, with yet another pattern of instability, marked by self-exploration, sporadic intimacy and blissful uncertainty.
I know I’m coming to the point of having to have “a talk” with my boyfriend, and I hate that.
I hate that I’m the only one in the relationship that has ever brought up discussions on process.
What I mean by that, is that I’m the only one who has started conversations about the state of our relationship, or my desires from the relationship, or my discontent or needs or frustrations.
My boyfriend has never been the instigator of a conversation about our relationship process.
I find myself wanting so deeply to just have someone who is sweet to me for no reason, who is affectionate, who calls me “dear” or “hun” or “babe” or something. Anything. But that isn’t his style.
I keep wishing for something that he isn’t. I keep wishing that he’d talk about philosophy or white privilege or the human mind or how much he loves me or what he likes about his job or what I like about my job. He doesn’t donate to non-profits or act terribly concerned about social justice. He spends many hours every week playing video games. He is more outwardly engaged and passionate about sports and Oscar winners and concert performances than he is about me or my life or the life we’re living together. I suppose sports and Oscar winners can’t talk back, question him, get close, or hurt his feelings. They can’t offer him much warmth or affection, either.
But, he’s the quiet type. I know this. I’ve always known this. His affection style is quiet, reserved, contained to the darkness right before we fall asleep. Sometimes he will cuddle up to me as we watch a movie, or he’ll repeatedly rub my back in the same small circle until I move away out of discomfort.
It isn’t that he doesn’t try, it’s that I often want something that he doesn’t offer.
And I feel so lonely for it sometimes.
So I come to places like this – this coffee shop, with its grungy tables and oily coffee and loud music – to feel a little more connected. To myself. To others.
It’s the biggest source of weakness in my sobriety. So I know eventually – sooner rather than later – I’ll have to bring it up with him. Again. For the 10th time.
Until then – eh. Just another night at Hard Times.