As much as I loved Fred, adored him in fact, there were pulling forces in my heart. There were so many reasons for me to say no to him and so little reason to say yes. Any logical person would have seen the long column of no’s versus the short column of yes’ and would have easily made the decision to end the relationship before it was too late. But love is rarely logical and it was already too late for me long before I sat down to make that list. But I did nonetheless break up with Fred. Not once, but time and time again, but never for more than a day; he always found a way back to my heart. It was so easy for him to scoop me up into his arms and melt my determination with a single kiss. Or, when it was more serious, to come to me with tears in his eyes, leaving puddles of grief all around us, and I would cave. But there was a time when it took more than a kiss or a tear to sway me from my decision. It took 74 blocks.
I went to college on 116th street in New York City. One warm spring day, I had moved all of the things that I had out of Fred’s apartment and back into my dorm room. I was very serious about leaving him in the past and starting a new future. Not that I had stopped loving him, but I found it too exhausting to constantly have to weigh the pros and cons of continuing my relationship with him. I knew there was a heavy price to pay if I had chosen to stay with him, and I was no longer able to bear the weight of it. It was Junior year. I had suffered so much confusion over my future with Fred, my concentration suffered severely, I started taking therapy sessions at Health Services, and I actually failed a class. So needless to say, I was a mess, and I thought that giving him up would tidy up my life — a quick fix.
When he got home from work to see his place empty of my things, he took the dogs on a walk and then made his way to my dorm. He waited in the lobby for hours after I had refused to sign him in. But he continued to wait, hoping that a kiss or a tear could bring me back. Finally, feeling sorry for him, I went down to see him to make sure he understood that it was over. We walked to the park where he tried to win me over in the usual way, but this time I was sticking to my guns… we started walking downtown. We talked. We talked about how it would be to be apart — what that really meant. We walked and walked thinking it would be our last walk. We both were almost afraid to stop walking, knowing that at the end of the walk would be our final good-bye. We walked from 116th Street and Broadway to Port Authority on 41st and 8th. 74 blocks of good-byes, 74 blocks of tears, 74 blocks of broken hearts, 74 blocks of of a new life.
That was the last time I broke up with Fred. A year later we would be married. But it took walking 74 blocks together in pure honesty and good intentions to realize that the problem never lied within me deciding between him and my mother, but me deciding to stand up to my mother. The problem was that I needed to grow up and my make own decisions for my own life, even if they went contrary to my mother’s will. The problem was that I had “no personality.”
And when I shifted my focus from making the decision to have Fred or to leave him to how to stand up to my mother, suddenly I felt free. Free from exhaustion, free from sadness, free from turmoil. But not free from fear. I was scared. Terrified. But I chose Fred, and he was mine, and he lent me his courage freely…