The Friend Zone
(Twilight Zone music: Di-di-di-di-di-di-di-di, di-di-di-di-di-di-di) There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to men seeking love. It is a dimension as easy to fall into, as it is impossible to crawl out of. It is the middle ground between fear and joy, between desperation and devotion, and it lies in the mind of an associate, rather than the heart of a lover. This is a dimension of insecurity; Its an area which we call…The Friend Zone. (buhd-oo-bud-up!)
Written by: Michael Hempen on 11/24/19
Brought to you by: Cous’n Hemp’n Entertainment
Featuring: The Ghost of Rod Serling
Episode 13: The Break-Up
The Ghost of Rod Serling: The ship’s name is the S.S. Michael Hempen; His registry: American, gross tonnage: 277 pounds, age: indeterminate. At this moment he’s three months single, course heading: a new relationship. Duly recorded on this ship’s blog is the sailing time, distance to destination, weather conditions, temperature, longitude and latitude. But what is never recorded in a blog is the fear that washes over a single man like fog and ocean spray. Fear like the throbbing strokes of engine pistons; each like a heartbeat parceling out every hour in to breathless minutes of watching…waiting and dreading. The year is 2019, and this particular ship has lost its convoy. It travels alone like an aged blind thing groping through the unfriendly dark; stalked by unseen periscopes of past mistakes. Yes, the S.S. Michael Hempen is a frightened ship, and his cargo is a premonition of being forever alone…in the Friend Zone.
I’ve gotten a lot of questions about my recent break up, from women on the few dating sites I’m on, as well as some friends and people who read my blog. I didn’t really want to talk about it because it’s not flattering to me or the ex; the catalyst for our breakup was entirely my fault and that’s fucking embarrassing. Plus, there’s no way to really delve into my feelings on the subject without sounding like a pretentious cry-baby. That said, I kind of mentioned my break up in an earlier installment of ‘The Friend Zone’ and I cannot stand it when people make nonsensical non-sequiturs that only have meaning to themselves, so you asked for it:
Part one: The Dream
I drive up a rain slicked hill in San Francisco. The windshield wipers: ka-THUMP…ka-THUMP…ka-THUMP as pouring rain pounds heavily on my car. I crest the hill and I see that the two-lane road I’m on is merged into one lane just before the Golden Gate bridge, crossing the San Francisco Bay ahead. It’s not dark, but It’s getting there. The world spins and slowly pulls the sun away.
Hump back whale song cries out from the distant ocean and mingles with the falling rain and: ka-THUMP…ka-THUMP…ka-THUMP. I slow down at the top of the hilI. Three cars ahead of me, a man runs into traffic; he’s hard to make out through the pouring rain, but he’s holding a sign. I can’t make out what’s written on it. Although it has plenty of time to stop, a purple truck runs this man over with no more effort than it might run over a kitten; it leaves a blood smeared, fleshy stain on the road.
I struggle to see as my heart beats faster in my chest. Cause and effect of a tragedy. Rising blood pressure makes my body heat, mixes with the chill air in my car and brings a fog to the windshield. I reach to turn on the heat, struggling to see as the fog evaporates. Blood washes down the hill, dark and diluted in the twilight of a stormy night. There’s no scream or screech, the world doesn’t shake and nothings comes to a stop; all is as it was and that stoic indifference shatters civility.
The truck quickly makes a U-turn and speeds off hurriedly up the hill. Out of sight…out of trouble. No consequence to a thoughtless act; the driver takes no responsibility. The two cars ahead of me swerve to avoid hitting the man again, but honk at him as they speed off to points unknown. As if his situation were of his own making; as if his situation weren’t dire; as if he wished to be there, a crumpled and crushed mass on a road that leads to nothing, in the way of people going nowhere.
Empathy and horror grip me. The horror of the helpless man lying in the road; the horror of the truck speeding away; the horror of the cars not stopping; the indignity of them honking blame…Ka-THUMP…ka-THUMP…ka-THUMP. The fucking horror.
I try to pull off the road and the cars behind me honk in frustration at my slowing vehicle. Rain, whale song, wipers, horns…the sound is a cacophony of anguish, impatience and inevitability. I get out of my car and run to the man, he’s dirty, homeless, helpless, gurgling for breath as blood runs from his mouth, over his cracked lips and through his rough beard to melt in the down pour. We are one in the rain, illuminated by headlights in silhouette. Dirty, disheveled, clothes torn, the man looks at me, pleadingly…knowingly.
My heart stops beating as I realize…this is me! Older; white hair, yellowed and unkempt. He’s…I’m thin, so thin. He has something to say. He grasps my collar and pulls himself close to me and struggles through his dying breath to say it…blood spits from his throat and into my face as he coughs one final time. Life leaves his eyes and he slumps to his final resting place.
I shake him, slap his face yell at him: “MIKE! MIKE! What is it; what are you trying to tell me!” I call him by my name with a familiarity that is unearned. He doesn’t answer. Confusion brings tears that mingle with all of the other wet things on this dark road. I hold his lifeless body close to me and sob “whatisitMike…whatisit…” Then I notice the sign lying on the pavement discarded, upside down. The cardboard is soaked; the tape holding the cardboard to the stick, coming undone.
I push the body aside haphazardly, separating our illumination, and desperately reach for the sign, struggling to turn it over without ripping the wet corrugation. In a panic, I manage to flip it…flatten it out…it’s soaked in blood and rain and reads:
“It’s. All. Your. Fault.”
And I wake up.
“It’s. all. Your. fault.” The image of those four words, four simple and everyday words, bring a crescendo of pain to my heart. You didn’t fuck her enough and you were bad at it when you did, you punched your refrigerator and screamed in embarrassing and irrational anger at times, you whined that she bullied you, you weren’t a gracious host when she left her dog at your apartment, you didn’t hang out with her friends, you complained all the time, in seven years you didn’t ask her to marry you, you had no interest in having kids, you’re fat & unattractive and no woman will ever date you again. You have no family and the family you had didn’t want you. You’ll be alone for the rest of your life. You don’t have any friends, you have no connections to anyone, you have no one to share your accomplishments with, no one to watch TV with, no one to give you a ride if your car breaks down, no one to care if you fall down the stairs, no one to drive you to the hospital if you get cancer. You are completely and utterly alone in a universe that’s indifferent to your existence. You’re a fool. Ka-THUMP… ka-THUMP… ka-THUMP.
It’s fucking irrational, dystopian self-pity, and more than a little pretentious to think that I matter enough to have these dripping wet puddle of shit feelings, but there they are. That was an actual dream I had two days after the ex and I broke up. Although she’s been gone for a while now, it’s not so much the past that I’m lamenting, it’s the uncertain future that has me tied up in knots. Being IN the relationship was great; I was like “I GOT this” that part of life was complete; I could focus on other things. The problem was that I focused so hard that I ignored the relationship. Irony can be a fickle mistress.
I think we were happier at the beginning because I didn’t have any money. I was working in retail and she was working as a teller at a bank. I’m not going to say that I changed myself FOR her, because I was on that path before we met; but she was definitely an inspiration and isn’t that what we all want in a relationship? Someone who drives us toward being a better person?
Now my accomplishments seem empty. They mean nothing because I’m alone with no one to share them with; no one to brag to; no one to put me in my place when I get too full of myself. And that’s the system of checks and balances that a relationship brings to your life.
When I started making money and repairing my credit, instead of investing in our future, I bought things. I never had the kind of money I make now. Hell, my electricity was shut off a few days after the ex and I met. I started spending like Steve Martin in ‘The Jerk’. Oh, sure I bought her things and I was always so excited to do it. But what I didn’t realize, or maybe I did and just ignored it, is that she didn’t want anything other than a house and children. When she picked up her things, most if not all of the gifts I bought her over the years stayed behind for me to throw away.
But this break-up isn’t all self-pity because relationships are a two-way street. The ex did things that bothered me as well. She never cleaned up after herself and face-fucked her phone for the entire time she was at my place. She refused to even try to watch any movie or TV show I was into, insisting on reality TV and ‘Glimore Girls’. But that’s what comes of dating someone 11 years younger than you.
I believe that people should live together before buying a house and getting married. But the ex wasn’t having it. She wanted a house, marriage and two kids. Nothing less. Had we simply got an apartment together seven years ago when I asked, we might be living happily in a house now. Instead, she stayed living with her mother and spending the night here most nights of the week. Her mother doesn’t really ‘keep house’ either, so she didn’t have to clean up after herself there.
This may seem like a small matter, but to me it’s not. If you want to have kids and dogs and cats and take care of living things that depend on you…you kinda have to fucking CLEAN THINGS. This ain’t the Baldwin household where we’re gonna have 7 kids and 12 nannies to take care of them. If you can’t wash your own dishes or bother to cook, and in fact take umbrage that someone would dare to ask of you to do these things, then you’re sending some mixed messages and it’s hard for someone to take your demand of parenthood seriously.
I love to cook. I think it’s one of the seminal things that makes me stand out to women. The ex only likes very bland food, so anytime I made a big dinner, I’d have to make two big dinners to accommodate her tastes. I didn’t mind doing this ever, but she could have cared less and would have just as well have eaten a ‘Smart-One’ and steamed broccoli. She wouldn’t touch seafood of any kind, not because she didn’t like it, but because it ‘smelled funny’. This is the stance of a three-year old. No matter the expense or the place, she would never even try seafood. I dislike when people are unwilling to try new things and grow. If you don’t like it? Fine, but TRY IT.
When we first met, I could make her laugh uncontrollably. I can still picture her head thrown back and tears forming as she laughed fit to burst; these last few years she’s barely laughed at all, and she came over later and later. This past year, she didn’t even come over until eight at night, go to sleep and leave for work by five in the morning.
Then there was the ‘family’ debate. It’s not so much that I didn’t want kids, I mean…I kinda don’t, but it’s a conversation I’m willing to have with a woman who’s desire to do so is a bit more grounded. Our conversations on the subject were short and argumentative.
With the ex, I was skeptical of the motivation behind her desire. It felt like she wasn’t realizing the reality of children, just that she wanted them as a child wants a puppy. That kind of frightened me. She liked going out drinking with her co-workers, or jet-setting to different countries with her friend. She got a cat to keep at my apartment and never once cleaned out it’s litter box, she rarely fed it and took it to the vet only once in seven years. When she left, she abandoned him and left him behind. I will say that she loved him very much when she was here, and there are two German Shepard’s at her mother’s house so she couldn’t have taken him there. If I did have a child with someone, it would have to be with a ‘partner’, and I just was unsure if the ex was ready to be that kind of parent. But that’s speculation which isn’t fair to anyone.
On the subject of kids, I offered the opinion that the world is too populated and there are too many negative influences both in media and in schools. I’d want to teach my child self-reliance, respect of others, confidence, and how to adapt without compromising your principles. But how do you reconcile those standards against a world that values celebrity for no reason other than having a big ass? People whine in public over the slightest indignation, and we have a President who inspires nothing but fear, blame, and childish contempt.
I suggested that even though neither of us is remotely religious, we bring our child up with the church because I believe that it can offer some moral structure. We could use that structure to teach our child right from wrong and when questions of homosexuality and other negative things are brought up, we can teach our child that it’s okay to disagree with authority and that one can always choose a path that’s right for them.
Those are just some of my child rearing thoughts that were summarily and angrily dismissed. No conversation at all. I further tried to compromise by suggesting that we have just one child, but she wasn’t having it. Had to be two. I would have no voice in bringing children into the world or influencing their personalities, but it seemed that I would be wholly responsible for taking care of them.
The ex’s mother is of a whole other concern. She’s petty, vindictive and controlling. She has no personality and is impossible to get along with; there were many nights when the ex would come over crying because her mom suggested she was fat or some other bit of assholery used to exert control over a child. She couldn’t see this, and would get mad at me when I tried pointing it out, only to comfort her and put her mother’s bullying into perspective. Yet the ex’s plan for us was to have a child, get a house and have her mother move in to take care of the child. We had to live in a town that her mother wanted to live in. HELL, no. I’m sure that her mother in no small way has a voice in our breakup.
Eventually, the ex began to contradict everything I said. I’m a confident man, sometimes I can be overconfident and arrogant, but those are things that are part of my charm. At some point any opinion I made, any TV show or movie I liked, was wrong. Coming from someone you love and respect as much as I did the ex, this caused a lot of self-doubt, which drowned my confidence. I’m not a confrontational guy, believe it or not, so rather than argue or retort, I just sunk into my shell and said nothing.
Then the sex stopped. I still found the ex just as attractive at the end as I did in the beginning, I think even more so as HER confidence grew. But I think when I felt she had no respect for me or my opinions, I stopped initiating. Lack of confidence is a mother-fucker and because I didn’t communicate how I felt, we hadn’t had sex in more than a year. So again, I take the brunt of the blame for this because I didn’t open up and talk to her. I even started profiles on Tinder and other dating apps, not because I wanted to be with someone else, I really just wanted to talk to another woman so I could feel like my opinions mattered again. I think I was looking for my confidence.
When the ex got a new dog, I was a little upset. She didn’t really consult me other than to say she was doing it. He was an all-white German Shepard who I named ‘Fargo’. I knew that Fargo would be spending nights at my place, and I already have a dog and a cat that she never took care of. This was going to be another mess for me to clean up. The ex did it anyway and I found myself so enamored of this dog, that seeing him warmed my heart like it hadn’t been warmed in long time. We raised this puppy together. She works from home, so she was able to be with him, to help him grow; we took him to training classes together and loved him uncontrollably. I thought, if this is what having a child is like, maybe I could do this with her. I thought it, but I never said it.
Her mom got a puppy around the same time as she did; a female all-black German Shepard. When she went into heat for the first time, Fargo had to stay at my apartment full time for a month because the ex’s mother is a nut job. During that time, the ex went on a vacation, leaving me with two dogs and a cat. At the same time, my boss at work was on a leave of absence, forcing me to work 30 hours a week overtime. I was so resentful the ex leaving. Again, without consulting me, she just left for a week. I thought, you can’t just pick up and go if we have a child. There was an argument when she came home and I think she felt that I was saying Fargo was a burden, which was easier for her to hear than that SHE did anything wrong. What I couldn’t express was that her leaving when I needed her to be responsible and help me, was the burden. I would literally take a bullet for that dog. My life means nothing if Fargo’s can go on because he’s such a good boy. I haven’t seen him 90 days and I. am. broken.
When the ex turned 29 earlier this year, her 30th birthday loomed large on the horizon. I knew it was coming, I thought it was time to shit or get off the pot. Sometimes relationships need a kick in the pants to move forward, so I decided that I’d rent us a cabin this Christmas maybe in South Dakota, in the snow…and while there, I’d ask her to marry me. Not just for her, but for both of us. I would give her the only thing she really wanted from me, and what I want now as well. I even took out the acoustic guitar that she bought me a few years ago. I was going to learn how to play ‘The Wonder of You’ by Elvis, and sing it to her before I proposed. I had a whole thing planned. Then last month, she suggested that we go to Germany next year on vacation. PERFECT! I could propose from a cabin overlooking the alps.
Then came the break-up. It was…a pretty humiliating way to go out.
The ex had gone to California with her friend for a week. Another vacation. Her friend works for an airline, so she gets tickets to anywhere in the world for almost nothing. Because of this, she’d been to Greece, Italy, the Caribbean, England and now California, all in the past year. Never invited me, but…whatever. I should have known something was up before she left, because she wouldn’t leave Fargo with me. She just kept making excuses as to why he couldn’t stay with me. He was going to stay with her mother, which I didn’t like because her mother was just as psychologically abusive to the dogs as she had been to the ex.
When the ex came back after being gone for ten days, I was excited to see my honey and my dog. Her and Fargo came over while I was in the shower. Now, folks…I like to fuck around, ok? I just do. Most women enjoy a guy who can make them laugh, and when you’ve been in a relationship for 7 years, you develop a level of comfortability…so I did a ‘dry run’. This was a stupid thing I started years ago because it made the ex laugh her ass off. Instead of toweling off after my shower, I ran out of the bathroom, butt nekkid, yelling “DRY RUN!”, “DRY RUN!”, “DRY RUN!”, letting the air dry me as I ran around the apartment. It’s a pun on ‘dry run’ people…work with me here.
Fargo was super excited to see me, hopping along next to me and barking joyfully as I ran all over the apartment, cock slapping my wet flesh, my fat body jiggling (Calm down ladies, my eyes are up here), water going everywhere. Then I ran into the living room with Fargo by my side, both of us panting, both of us naked; he jumped on the couch and excitedly licked my face; such a smile on that boy’s face; he’s so expressive. I looked over…and the ex sat there on the couch, a deadpan serious expression on her face; wringing her hands and not looking me in the eye or wet cock…then she said “I’m breaking up with you”.
And that was it. We were broken up; no longer boyfriends and girlfriends. My “DRY RUN!” led to a dry run. She left with Fargo and I haven’t seen either of them since. Now, I know a lot of ladies out there are saying “Oh, she’s DEFINITELY fucking someone else.”, and still more of you are saying “Terry, how is ‘dry run’ a pun?” and you’re right on both accounts. Thank you for pointing those things out while I’m in such a vulnerable state.
Anyway, now I’m back on the market. Lucky you.
A few days after the break up, her belongings littered my dining room table, eager to go home with their owner. Items she hadn’t touched in years. All the photographs were taken down, as if I could erase them from my memory. They’re hers now. Picture frames filled with us on vacation, us at the pumpkin farm, us at Christmas time. Pictures of Fargo, her dog…HER dog. I thought he was our dog, but he’s gone too and I have to pretend he never existed because the thought of losing his innocence, his purity is enough to drive me insane. When the ex would come over, Fargo was more excited to see me than she was. He would lick my face and teeth as I laughed uncontrollably and shouted “HE’S LICKING MY TEETH! HE’S LICKING MY TEETH!”. I’ll miss that more than anything I’ll ever miss in my life. I will never forget that feeling. Ever. Writing this now, I’m sobbing uncontrollably, but I have to get it out of me… I have to. Like a big shit I have to just get it all out of me or it’ll poison my blood. Please forgive me if I ramble.
When the ex came to get her stuff, I did all the things you’re not supposed to do. I was desperate, afraid. I cried, I bargained, I begged; I told her it was my fault and that I realize now all the things I’ve done wrong, I can change, I will change, let’s go house hunting tomorrow, let’s get married on Monday, we can have a kid within the year, whatever you want just PLEASE don’t leave me…alone. I thought if there was a SPARK, an ember of what things were, we could work through this. There was nothing. There was almost a cold indifference as her only reply was to look down at the carpet and say “I’m sorry” to all of my pleading. She didn’t cry, she just wanted to go. Her eyes begged me to let her leave, and that hurt most of all. The last thing she said to me was “It’s not your fault, I just want something different.” And with that she left and I’m alone again. Alone, with all my things. Alone with nothing. Alone with grief and regret. Just so alone. Not even in a ‘friend’ zone.
It took a few days to realize that her leaving was right for both of us. That’s kind of scary…a few days. When I was younger, this type of break up would devastate me for months; hell, it took me years to get over Jackie (Read ‘The Friend Zone: Love Lost’ for more on Jackie). I think that passion drives your break up as much as it drives your relationship, so it frightens me to think that I can get over a seven-year relationship in little more than a week. What does that say about my ‘passion’ reserves? I don’t know.
They say that the light that burns twice as bright, burns half as long and brilliant intensity has always been a non-negotiable in any relationship I attempt; maybe that’s why they don’t last. Maybe that intensity wasn’t there with my most recent ex and that’s why it didn’t take long to bounce back. Maybe we should have been friends and not lovers. That fucking friend zone again…
It’s scary out here in the big ‘ole dating world and break-ups come with the territory. But I’ve been in a lot of relationships in my life with some amazing women, so I guess I’ve been extremely lucky in that way; however, the older I get the more desperate I have to be to get it right because my dating ‘value’ falls with each ensuing year. I know that desperation is a huge turn off, but now that I’m seven years older I’m more desperate than ever to find a girlfriend whose life I can touch as much as she influences mine. I know I’ll meet someone; I know this, but the in-between time is a killer.
You’re out there though, burning bright…waiting to add my light to yours. Maybe with a similar story of love lost, desperation and fear. We’ll find each other.
See? I told you it would sound pretentious.