I am sitting here shaking my head, and that is the first (and really only) word that came to mind.  Where is this (topic) going?”

And it was with that reply that Awesome Navy Guy became not-so-Awesome anymore.

His demise came on the heels of a terrible writing slump that had been plaguing me for a couple of months. My thoughts were jumbled and my ideas were trite and cliché. I was frustrated, disheartened, and panicked as I was mere weeks away from the start of an intense MFA program in creative non-fiction. I had a few phrases ruminating in my head, but nothing cohesive. During yet another sleepless night, my thoughts became fixed on Awesome Navy Guy, and I wrote.  I produced 632 words. Some of the strings of thought were passable. Most were weak, in need of structure and loving attention.

I texted him early the next day to thank him for inspiring 632 words. He replied with thanks and that he was curious to see that he inspired…of course…who wouldn’t be? I sent the draft. He sent that reply. I was done with him.

During this brief courtship, my many-months-long ex-boyfriend/friend, Vector, and I were still deciding if we love, like, or hate each other. It was sticky and tense. It got to the point, several times, where I wanted to walk away and move on, but neither of us wanted to let go of the dense friendship we had built. We didn’t move anywhere and flailed miserably during the transition from lovers to friends, instead, morphing it into ‘flovers,’ which didn’t quite work. I was in this strange limbo. A weird place where I didn’t want to date anyone, but I also really wanted to date someone. And Vector and I just couldn’t get our shit straight. So on a whim, and with no expectations, I accepted the invitation to dinner from Awesome Navy Guy, who emailed me after an absence of about three months.

We walked away from that dinner date woozy and dreamy and smitten and longing for more, as good first dates are wont to affect a fledgling couple, gooey with promise and potential.

Yet, as awesome as Awesome Navy Guy truly was, he had one fatal flaw – his communication skills suck. We were matched through an online dating service In October. We communicated via the service sporadically – I assumed he wasn’t terribly interested, so I didn’t give the pursuit much effort. We exchanged a couple of apathetic emails off the site – questions about the other’s day, work, activities, nothing deep or meaningful. His replies would arrive not days, but weeks, and in one case, months later. Always with a reason and an apology attached. I didn’t think too much of it. I was curious to get to know him, yes, but it was as apathetic a feeling as the emails. Until we met – that’s when apathy took a back seat to a simmer. That date, on a humid June evening, lasted 6 hours. We ate, walked, talked, and kissed good night at 1:30 AM. I dreamily agreed to see him again.

Despite the woozy feel-good vibes, the pattern of communication unreliability remained. He would say he was going to call that night, and my phone would ring three days later. He would always text an apology and offer a reason as proof that his non-communicative ways were the effect of a series of unfortunate goings-on: a month-long cold, stress at work, a new phone, Navy Reserve weekend, so tired, last minute happy hour with friends… I kept in touch even though the simmer had cooled. I believed that his faulty communication patterns were the exception and not his usual MO.

We saw each other twice more. Both times he arrived late or changed plans last minute, yet he texted a reason…there was traffic, a big bug was in the shower. When he finally arrived, we functioned pleasantly enough. We enjoyed light conversations, were affable in each other’s company. It was easy. Then that email arrived. My response was veiled: “I don’t know where it is going. Probably nowhere.” The topic was dropped. I knew our fate, but I replied to his texts, curious if he’d explain or apologize.

Neither happened. We hadn’t seen each other in the month of July. Come August, my MFA residency began, rendering me pleasantly stressed. We vaguely made plans to see each other ‘soon.’ A week later, he said he would call; three days later he still hadn’t; I quickly sent him a text message breakup: It wasn’t working. Thanks for everything. Take care.

As for Vector and I, time spent together in July brought us closer. It’s a perfectly dysfunctional friendship punctuated with genuine caring, compatibility, challenge, reliability and rolling, laughter-ridden conversations. We are comfortable living in our present moments, enjoying the companionship and the warmth.

Last week, Vector surprised me with a new travel mug. He is very into high-tech gear, so I should have expected this travel mug to follow suit. It did. The space-age polymers of which the mug is constructed kept my coffee blistering hot. So much so that I almost choked when I took a long draught in front of my 9 AM composition class.  Vector never disappoints.

Which is precisely why I am so at ease with our dysfunctional friendship that sometimes slides into a dysfunctional relationship, but not quite because neither of us wants to admit that we are in a relationship. We staunchly cling to this as friendship. Which it is. And more. And it never disappoints.

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Leave a comment


  1. Jason Flennoy

     /  September 15, 2011

    Wow, I feel like hot cocoa on a cool, fall Michigan morning in October!!! 🙂 Dysfunctional relationship/frienships are truly the most functional part of our existence because they are real and our awareness of them, and all of their splendor, allow us to know that we are sane!!! 🙂



  2. Lauretta Chiarini

     /  September 15, 2011

    You amaze me!!!



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