"Moving on or something like it"
By: Ebonee Monique
I'm slumped down in a 1999 black PT Cruiser and I can barely see over the steering wheel. I grip my baseball cap down a little lower, just in case he does see me. I stare at him, through my oversized shades, and watch all of his movements. The way his hands tenderly glide across her back, the way his smile seems to light up when she looks his way and the way his body is turned into hers; bit by bit it's killing me.
"Dammit." I say to myself as I close my eyes and slam my head against the headrest.
I had been fine, my life had been okay and my mindset was cool before I saw that he'd moved on.
Rob had been my world-wind of a romance for almost 3 years and he was someone I had fought like hell to forget. I'd placed all my belief in the thought that Rob, the one who'd taught me about poetry and the beauty in art, could never hurt me. I knew he'd never cheat on me. I mean, not to sound vain, but I was the looker in the relationship. With a thick-like-gravy body, flat stomach and mind-boggling butt, I made sure that my physique was always on point; since I'm a personal trainer it's never been that hard for me. Rob, on the other hand never seemed interested in his looks, body or what people thought. His once medium build slowly grew, during our relationship, into a border line morbidly obese one and despite my nudges for him to work out, eat right and try to do better by his body, he never budged.
Now as I stared at him, with her, it was like I was seeing the exact man that I had been trying to make Rob into, years earlier. His weight was down and he looked amazing. His skin, which was once covered with small acne scars, was clear as ever and his confidence level- - I could tell- - was through the roof. It was all in his walk, his chuckle and his swagger; it was because he was with her.
But while I stared at all of the improvements, my mind thought back to the day when everything I'd believed about in Rob came crashing down in my lap. The day I'd come home early from a training session and found a naked Rob being straddled by the woman he'd always claimed was his "best friend", Drea, I knew I'd placed too much belief in this man; he had gone and broke my heart.
Despite his begging and pleading, I moved out and we went our separate ways. I moved to South Carolina and he stayed in Orlando, working in his painting gallery. I threw myself into the start up of South Carolina's first independently owned women's only gym. I was doing well, too, and my mind was finally being distracted from the pain that Rob had caused me. Three years later, I eventually gave myself the green light to start dating again. Cautiously, I allowed one of my employees to set me up with her brother Brian; it turned out to be the best thing that could have ever happened to me. Six months after our first date, Brian and I were married in a small ceremony on Myrtle Beach; it was beautiful.
So for a year and a half, I've been living the beautiful married life with my supportive and hard-working husband. I'd found a man who listened to me, when I worried, cried with me during rough times and appreciated the woman I was.
All the bitterness and anger that I'd had towards Rob had been replaced and covered up with the love of the good man I had at home. I no longer had time to think about what Rob was doing, whether he'd moved on or if he even thought about me. I was making love with someone who loved me genuinely and thoughts of the past were pushed to the back burner.
So imagine my surprise when I got invited back to Orlando for a fitness conference, six months ago, to be the main speaker. I hesitantly agreed to go and as I sat in my hotel room flipping through the channels, my mind wandered back to Rob. What had he been up to? How was he? Had he thought of me? Why hadn't he tried to reach out after all these years? It wasn't that I wanted to hear from him, or know how he was doing, but curiosity was clouding my judgment and making me think of things I had no business worrying about.
Normally when thoughts of Rob jumped into my mind, I had Brian around to distract me; but since I was all alone, in a city that was full of memories of my past fling, I could only hope that sleep would fall over me and take the thoughts away.
"Go to sleep." I said to myself as I forced my eyes closed and thought about Brian. I could picture him, with his arms outstretched waiting on me to run into them. After 15 minutes of almost falling asleep I decided that a drive around my old city would be the best dose of sleep medicine I could ask for.
So I got into my rental car and drove; how I ended up where I did is still a mystery to me. I sat in the rented red Chevy Impala with the lights on, in the parking lot of the apartment that Rob and I used to share together. I didn't know if he still lived there or if he was even still in Orlando but I couldn't move. I backed the car into the parking spot and sat motionless for a sign of my past love.
Within minutes, as if on cue, I saw the door to our old apartment open. I flicked the lights off and ducked down into the seat. I saw Rob quickly hustle out of the apartment and into a late 90's model Jeep. It was something that hit me, right then, that I can't explain. It was like I was myself but I wasn't starting the car and following behind my ex-boyfriend, the man who'd broken my heart, as he drove to god-knows-where; someone else was.
All I know was my blood was boiling, my heart racing, my mouth dry and my hands were sweating. What was I doing? I thought as I turned onto International Drive and stayed close on his tail. I watched as he pulled into an apartment complex, not far from the theme parks, and parked his car in a reserved spot. I turned the lights and the car off and sat and waited for Rob to come back out to the car. I didn't know what I was expecting to find or why I even cared; but I did.
I laid my head on the headrest and slowly shut my eyes; I checked my watch "8:51 PM" I tried to keep my eyes open but sleep picked the worst time to sweep over me.
When I woke up it was 4 in the morning and Rob's car was gone. Dumbfounded at how low I'd stooped, following an ex who I'd happily pushed out of my life and moved on from, I headed back to the hotel.
As I showered I got more images of Rob and whether or not he had a new girlfriend. I wondered did she hug him like me, give him back rubs after a long day like me, I wondered if her kisses were soft and gentle like Rob liked them. I thought about the day I'd found Rob cheating on me and I wondered if his new girlfriend would experience the same pain as I did. Because, once a cheater always a cheater, right?
And so after my first day at the conference I found myself parked out in the same parking space, in the parking lot of my old apartment complex. I had to find out something; it was as if my life and my sanity were dependent upon it. I didn't see Rob that day or the next one when I came back- - but I vowed to find something out; soon the Rob mystery was consuming my life.
I headed back to Orlando at least once a month, for 6 months, to find out what I could about Rob. I told Brian that I was thinking of branching out and opening a 2nd gym in Orlando; he understood. That should have been red flag number one, lying to my man, but I didn't see it like that. I loved Brian, this much was true, but I had to know these things about Rob at any cost. I needed to know.
So there I sat, with my Nike baseball cap pulled down over my thick hair, staring at the faces of the man I was consumed with and the woman who had him smitten. I almost felt sick to my stomach.
They held each others' hands tightly and I cringed at the sight as Rob went to open her door.
"He never did that with me." I said as I tapped my fingers lightly on the bottom of the steering wheel.
As she got in the car she reached up and pulled Rob's collar towards her face and planted a huge kiss on his lips- - almost as if she knew I was watching.
I hated her already and I hated that he had fallen for someone after hurting me so badly. I wanted to visualize Rob broke down, hurt and alone; but he wasn't. How could he have done those horrible things to me and then been able to find love? Why hadn't he treated me the way that he was treating the woman that I despised? My mind was racing and the angrier I got the bolder I got.
I sat up straight, took off the baseball cap and the shades and watched closely as Rob shut the door and made his way around to the driver's side of the car. I knew I couldn't answer any of my own questions; only Rob could. So with that, I stepped out of my car and into the sight of the man I'd placed too much belief in.
"L-Lisa?" Rob said squinting his eyes as he got a better look at me.
I could see the woman in the car whip her head around and stare at me with confusion and disbelief plastered on her face. She knew who I was.
"What are you doing here?" He said looking somewhat frightened.
"I-I don't know. I started driving and…"
"You shouldn't be here. Why are you here?" He asked again, this time loud enough for the woman to hear.
I was struggling trying to think of something to say. Why was I there?
"Why'd you hurt me like you did?" I said as my voice trembled. I was trying my best to look like a soldier, not affected by the turmoil my heart was feeling, but I knew I was failing miserably.
Rob threw his hands on top of his head and started pacing right there in the parking lot. He was mumbling all kinds of things and I couldn't tell if he was angry or amused by my sudden appearance.
"Lisa, it's been almost 5 years."
"Yeah, but why? You never told me why." I said firmly as my wild emotions took over the conversation.
"You said you loved me; you said you'd never hurt me and, yet, you did."
Rob blew out air from his mouth and began massaging his temples as the woman, in the passenger seat, looked on in curiosity.
Rob and I stared at each other for minutes before I broke the silence.
"I just needed to know, why?"
I didn't think Rob needed to know that for 6 months I'd been playing private-eye by following him around or that my mind couldn't stop thinking about whether or not he'd experienced misery since I'd left him. The question was bigger than me, it was bigger than Rob; it had to deal, solely, with the trauma my heart had never fully recovered from. As I stared into those eyes, that I fought so hard to forget, I tried to reel myself back in from the embarrassment, but it was too late.
If it was unclear, at any time, whether or not Rob was mad that I was there I could tell by the soft caressing of my hand that he wasn't. We walked towards my car and he stopped mid-way and pulled his head up.
"I did love you, Lisa but I wasn't the man for you. I wasn't ready for all of that, then." He said facing me with confidence.
I wondered where this man was when I was ready for him to be the man he currently was. What was it about me that made him shy away from maturity and commitment and, yet, made him perfectly ready when another woman came around?
"Why—why her?" I said pointing to the car. "Why'd you become a better man for her?"
"This is about me not about Kia." He said nodding his head in the direction of the mystery woman.
I stared at the ground, momentarily sad that the man I had wasn't the man I initially wanted. But I was happy, right? What had I been expecting by coming down to Orlando and running into Rob? I didn't want to cheat on or even leave Brian but this nagging mystery was something I couldn't shut out.
"I think I should be leaving." I said opening the front door and sliding into the seats. Rob stood still, not knowing what to do or say to me. I had popped back, into his life, and was leaving just as quickly.
I laid my head on the steering wheel and was startled when I heard a tap on my window.
I rolled the window down and was greeted by Rob's face right in front of mine.
"I had to tell you this, because I don't want you to think that I took you for granted." He started as he stared deep into my eyes.
"Um Hmm." I said trying to focus.
"She didn't make me a better man, you did. I didn't learn what it was like to love someone and then hurt that someone until I cheated on you." He said clearing his throat.
"My cheating on you was the worst thing I could've ever done and, yet, it was one of the best things I've ever done also."
"Come again?" I asked raising an eyebrow.
"If I'd never cheated on and lost you, I never would've realized how precious love is. When I lost you it was a wake-up call, you know? So, I'm not a better man because of Kia- - I'm a better man because of you. I'm sorry."
All I'd wanted to hear was the words "Sorry" and, somehow, I'd pulled it all out Rob; I wasn't sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing.
"I've got to go." I said starting my car up and glancing over at Rob.
"Do you want to get together for dinner or something while you're here?"
"I don't think so." I said smiling a little bit "This is the final goodbye, Rob; have a good life."
Rob seemed to be taken aback by my statement and as I pulled out of the apartment complex I exhaled deeply. I had done it; I'd found out the answers to all the questions my heart had been dying to know and, still, I felt lower than the day I'd walked in on Rob cheating on me.
I felt like I had, in essence, cheated on my husband with a memory from my past that should have stayed just that: a memory.
The first thing I needed to do was to admit my wrongs, explain the situation and pray for the best. But how was I going to convince my husband that I needed him to help me move on from Rob?
I pulled into a 7-11 convenience store, not far from Rob's apartment, and slowly dialed my husband's cell phone number.
As I held the phone close to my face my hands shook. It would've been easier for me to never say anything to anyone about any of this; but I loved Brian and I needed him if I was going to try to salvage our marriage.
The phone rung one time, then twice and then finally on the third ring Brian answered.
"Hey babe!" He said cheerily.
My heart tore in pieces as I tried to tell myself that what I was about to say wasn't as bad as it seemed; but I knew it was.
I said a silent prayer and began my plea for help.
"Brian, we need to talk. Do you remember…"
Who would've thought that moving on from the past, while in the present, could hurt so bad? But once I realized that the heart has its own pace for healing, I understood that only I could either decide to continue ignoring the healing process or I could finally jump aboard the healing train.
As I swallowed a huge lump in my throat, and tried to continue the conversation I heard a light tap on the window.
"Hold on baby." I said putting my hand over the phone and turning to see who it was.
Shocked at the face I saw, I dropped my cell phone.
There, standing at my passenger window, she was. It was Kia. Rob's Kia.
She stood about 5'2, was slightly overweight and had a bad overbite. Her eyes looked like they had been red, possibly from crying, and her make-up was badly smeared.
"We need to talk." She said putting her hands on her hips and swirling her neck to the side. "And trust me you need to hear this."
And just when I thought telling my husband about my deceit would be the hardest thing I'd have to deal with, Kia came along and turned everything upside down.