My First Love

Breaking Bad

The way he broke up with me basically negated the 7 years leading up to it. It was callous, it was cruel, and it was over.

I'd like to title this story "When My Boyfriend of Almost Seven Years Broke Up With Me the Day After Christmas Over the Telephone." That's how I describe it, every time, when talking about him. I can't really say his name without tacking that bit on. The way he broke up with me basically negated the seven years leading up to it. I couldn't get over it. It was callous; it was cruel, and it was over.

Danny and I met in high school, during a three-week wilderness survival course we both elected to go on, for a similar reason: to escape the suffocating boredom of French, algebra, history and English. He was tall and skinny, with fabulous shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair. I was short and chubby and I envied his hair. I don't really remember how and why we grew close during those three weeks in the woods, except to say there was something familiar about him, something comfortable and easy. Maybe that's what love is: just two people who don't know each other somehow recognizing something in the other. Anyway, that's what it was like for me.

We started going out together when wilderness survival ended. We survived high school, then four years of college, and almost two years after. Danny went to a different college about an hour away from me, so we didn't see each other every day. Over the years we both had a few dalliances: me with a tennis player I couldn't get out of my head, as well as a super-sweet Swedish fellow I met during one summer abroad; him with a girl we both knew in high school (I never liked that bitch!), as well as a fraternity groupie his frat brothers kept mistaking me for (very irritating). There may have been others on his part. I don't know.

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At any rate, we weathered these indiscretions and carried on, together. Once in awhile, I'd try to break up with him. He'd plead with me not to do it. I honestly thought he could not live without me. So I'd take it back, and we'd go forward. In time, I'd say we became more like best friends than anything else. We talked on the phone every day. His friends were my friends, and mine were his.

We went through alot together: a close friend of ours died slipping off a cliff while we were all hiking, and two more friends committed suicide on the same night later that year. In fact, Danny and I went to more funerals together during our college years than weddings, christenings, even birthday parties. I can't explain it. But we always had each other to talk to.

Even our parents became best friends, and oh did I love them. I fit into his family as well as I fit into my own. Everyone expected us to get married. We expected it ourselves. I don't think we were particularly excited about the idea, but we expected it.

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I should have known the jig was up the last Christmas we spent together. He came out to my parents' house, driving his Volkswagen bug, and handed me a wicker table from Pier I.

"Merry Christmas!" he said.

I accepted the table, slightly confused. "A table?" I asked. "Why a table?"

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"I don't know," he replied. "I saw it at Pier I. I thought you'd like it."

"Oh, I do like it," I rushed to say. "Just seems like a funny gift. But it's really nice. I guess I do need a table."

I was confused. It's not like I expected a ring or anything, but a wicker table just had never been on my list of anything I had ever thought of wanting. Strangely enough, I hadn't known what to give Danny for Christmas that year either. So I got him a subscription to Esquire magazine, at my older sister's recommendation. He seemed as confused by my gift as I was by his.

"Oh, thanks," he said. "I've never read this before. Looks interesting." We went in to have dinner with my family.

Next day, I called Danny to discuss the rest of the plans for the holiday. He didn't have much to say. "Danny," I complained, "you don't seem very interested in making plans for New Year's Eve at all. I feel like you don't care WHAT we do!"

"Mmm. Yeah. I guess I don't," he replied.

"You don't care what we do? Or you don't want to do anything?" I persisted.

"Um. I guess I don't really want to do anything," he said.

"You don't want to do anything for New Year's Eve?" I couldn't understand it. We always celebrated New Year's Eve. What was going on? "You just sound like you're not into this relationship at all anymore, Danny. Do you even want to keep going out?" That was it, my Ace of Spades. I knew he'd backtrack quickly, like he always did, and assure me all was well. Only this time he didn't.

"Um. I guess I don't want to keep going out. Sorry." And he hung up. After seven years. The day after Christmas. Over the telephone.

I heard later that he'd met somebody, a waitress at a seafood restaurant in town, promptly dubbed "June the hash-slinger" by my loyal family. They didn't stay together long. Meanwhile, although my heart WAS broken, I agreed to go out with a guy I had met a few months earlier at my new job. We've now been married for 33 years. Danny got married too, twice, to women I know nothing about. I think he's happy.

I'm comfortable, even grateful, with the fact that Danny broke up with me. It needed to happen. We were close friends—best friends, even—but the spark between us had long gone. I would never have broken up with him because I thought he couldn't live without me, so he did have to do it. But did he have to do it so badly?

I wondered about this for years. Except for once at a wedding, I never saw him again, and then I moved some 3,000 miles away, so I could never ask. Until one day, I saw he had joined Facebook, and I pounced.

"Hey, Danny. Cool to see that you are finally on Facebook," I wrote. "I've been wanting to ask you something all these many years. You know I don't regret that we broke up—I think it had to happen—but I've always wondered if you have any regrets about the WAY you broke up with me."

He replied, "Yes, I do. Unforgivable. And I been kicking myself over it ever since."

Case closed. All is forgiven.