Chapter 16: Love Triangle
One week later, I received a surprise call from Tommy. I realized with a start that we hadn’t spoken in well over a month. This was unusual for us, as we had grown accustomed to talking on the phone each week. He said he had some big news to tell me, and that he had decided to sell everything and move to Hawaii. Inspired by my nomadic adventures, he wanted to strike out on his own too. I was shocked at his news, and didn’t quite know what to think. I knew he loved surfing, so it made sense that he would want to live somewhere with the best waves he could find, but I instantly thought of how hot the weather was in Hawaii and how I could never live somewhere with hot temperatures like that. I knew I wasn’t being rational, but I felt betrayed somehow. I wondered why Tommy didn’t ask me to go with him. I wouldn’t want to move there, but I still felt hurt he didn’t ask. Before I left Seattle, Tommy and I had been growing closer emotionally, and even though I was seeing Edward I still didn’t like the idea of losing Tommy entirely. I still wasn’t sure if Tommy was my soul mate from the vision, or if it was Edward.
Then Tommy dropped another bomb on me and told me that he would be driving over from North Carolina to Hawaii, and that he really wanted to finally visit me. I was speechless again. I was very excited to finally have the visit we always meant to have! I immediately offered for him to stay with me, and didn’t give a thought to how my mom would feel about a strange man crashing on her couch. I also didn’t give any concern to how Edward would feel about Tommy staying with me either. Edward and I had just started dating, and things weren’t really that serious. Tommy and I were more friends than we were anything, and with him moving somewhere I couldn’t really live..well in my mind that took him out of the race as a serious contender to be my soul-mate.
So Tommy and I agreed to see each other and catch up a few weeks from then, and I was happy to finally meet my long distance friend of many years. As I hung up the phone, I wondered why I hadn’t told Tommy about my newfound romance with Edward. I examined my motivations, and realized that even though I was crazy about Edward..there was a part of me that was really unsure.
Interestingly enough, a week after my conversation with Tommy, my relationship with Edward began to get more serious. Edward was definitely the wrong guy, a bad boy, but maybe there was something redeemable about him too. I began to think I could bring out his innocent side, and maybe we could heal each other in some way. There were times I saw a different personae in his eyes, a man I felt connected to, but then like a flash it was gone. He would be his charming silver tongued self again. Either way, I had to figure out who he truly was. Edward was the man I had prayed for the universe to send me. He literally was “someone I couldn’t resist”. However, I would soon discover that the enemy sends us ‘gifts’ too.
The day before Tommy’s visit, I realized that I finally needed to tell him about Edward since things had progressed to the next level and we had officially become a couple. Nervous, I picked up the phone to call Tommy and touch base. He told me he was staying with a friend in Tennessee, and that he would be in Oklahoma the next day to see me. I told him how excited I was to hang out, but that I wanted to let him know that I had met someone. To my relief, Tommy was happy for me. Tommy and I had always told each other about our love affairs, and that’s why we remained close as friends. We had become long distance best friends of sorts, so it wasn’t really out of the ordinary to tell him about the status update with Edward. Reassured at how well Tommy responded to my news, I hung up the phone.
The next evening was Tommy’s expected arrival, and around 8pm I got a text saying he was outside and wanted to know which condo unit was my mom’s. Excited, I ran out into the street to greet him. It was late October by this time, and the weather had become chilly in the evenings. I remember Tommy was wearing an old western style suede coat, over jeans and a casual gray t-shirt. He looked effortlessly handsome and had a relaxed confidence about him. His curly sand brown hair had grown out a bit, and now hit the top of his shoulders. With his natural hair and scruffy beard, he reminded me of the cute Colorado boys who sometimes blew through town on their way to the mountains. This was a much different look than I had seen in his online pictures. Then, my gaze fell to his feet, and I noticed he had on a pair of sporty flip-flops. That was the man I remembered from his pictures, my surfer friend from the North Carolina coast. I ran up and hugged him immediately, throwing all my weight into the embrace. After all we’d been through, it felt wonderful to still remain friends. I was surprised at how comfortable it felt with his arms around me. It was like a sense of completion, a return to something I couldn’t place. He felt very familiar to me somehow, like déjà vu. I didn’t expect to feel any of this, and it took me quite by surprise.
He pulled my shoulders back to get a good look at me and stared intently into my eyes. “Jen, you’re so much more beautiful than your pictures give you credit for,” he exclaimed.
I didn’t know how to take that compliment, so I just smiled, happy that he thought I was pretty.
Seeing the confused look on my face, he clarified, “I just didn’t realize how beautiful you were in person; your pictures don’t do you justice. You’re simply stunning.”
Well, that certainly felt good to hear, I thought. I grinned and blushed a little, thinking how shocking it was to receive a compliment like that. Edward hadn’t said anything like that to me, I suddenly thought with a sense of concern.
“I think you’re beautiful too!” I immediately exclaimed with a nervous giggle.
He let out a loud belly laugh, and beamed at me from ear to ear.
The next few hours of our time together was spent in a joyful, albeit frantic effort to catch one another up with all the recent goings on in our lives. We decided to cordon ourselves off downstairs in my bedroom, as to not disturb my mom who was in the upstairs room. I was slightly embarrassed that he was visiting me for the first time while I was living with my mom, but that feeling slowly faded as we began to connect. I offered him a few beers, and we sat back and relaxed a bit into each other’s company. He wanted to know about Edward, and so I told him all the details. He then reciprocated by telling me about the amorous interlude he had just had with his friend in Tennessee. She was an old acquaintance of his from back in his 20s, and her husband was out of town on business. I felt a little shocked hearing that Tommy was admitting he had an affair with a married woman, but I tried hard not to be judgmental. Tommy had always been a bit of a player, and I knew about that, but he had also been married before. Tommy’s first wife had cheated on him with another man, and this hurt him so deeply that he hadn’t been serious with any woman since then. I knew in my heart that Tommy didn’t want to be a player, but that he was afraid to get hurt again. This is why we had become such close friends. We understood each other’s pain and fear of getting rejected. Yet again, I was drawn to a man whom I wanted to help or heal. I thought I had it in my power to save him, to heal his emotional wounds. If I could heal him, maybe then my own hurts could heal as well. Looking back, this was all part of how I idolized romantic love, looking for salvation in something other than Jesus.
Noticing the hour had become quite late, I suggested that we both get ready for sleep. I offered Tommy the use use of my bathroom to brush his teeth, and then I would show him where the couch was upstairs. As Tommy was brushing his teeth, we kept talking and catching up. At this point, I was feeling very relaxed with him and glad that we had gotten this opportunity to visit. As I reached out to grab something off the bathroom counter, he surprised me by intercepting my arm and pulling me towards him in one swift but deft movement. I caught my breath as he began to lean into kiss me… but then I remembered in a panic that I didn’t want to cheat on Edward. I pulled away apologetically, and told him I just couldn’t do anything with him while I was dating Edward. He seemed to understand, and he went upstairs to go to sleep. I tried not to think too much about it, and the fact that we’d had a few beers helped to numb my mind.
The next morning, things seemed okay between Tommy and I, but I didn’t get the chance to really talk to him because I was running late for work. He had offered to help my mom with a plumbing project that day, so I left the house thanking him for being such a help. While at work, Edward had texted me asking how the visit with Tommy had gone. Feeling guilty as if I had done something wrong, I decided to tell Edward what happened. When I told him what happened, I wasn’t prepared for his angry reaction. Edward became enraged at Tommy for trying to kiss me, and began threatening violence towards him. What had I gotten myself into? I thought nervously. I quickly tried to reassure Edward that nothing happened or would happen with Tommy, and that it was all just a misunderstanding. Even so, Edward demanded that Tommy leave the house immediately. After this ultimatum, Edward hung up the phone and refused to answer any of my texts for the rest of the day. Fearing I had blown it with him, I called and left him a message, but by the end of my day I still hadn’t heard back from him.
When I got home after work, Tommy announced he wanted to take me somewhere nice for dinner. Feeling anxious about the situation with Edward, I began to spill the details about how Edward reacted. To my surprise, Tommy began to get very angry too, but his anger seemed more directed at me. I could see the rage bubbling up in his face as he tried to control himself. It both frightened and repelled me, reminding me of my childhood abuser. I suddenly felt an urgent need to get away from Tommy, away from his icy stare. He was shaking with anger at this point, unable to calm himself down. He began to speak, trying to control his tone.
“Look Jen, I don’t like this guy. I think he’s dangerous for you. He’s going to hurt you.” Tommy warned me gruffly.
I just sat there. Now I was starting to get angry myself. I didn’t want any man telling me what I could and couldn’t do, or who I should or shouldn’t date. I had been raised in a very controlling home, and I had zero tolerance for this type of behavior. Any warm feelings I felt for him the night before were rapidly dissolving, as I felt myself getting deeply triggered by him.
“Well, I don’t think that decision’s yours to make” I replied, looking directly at him. There we stood, glaring at one another, frozen in our respective positions.
Finally, I felt a sense of remorse. I turned to him and said “Tommy, I really didn’t want things to turn out this way. I really care about Edward, but you are my closest friend and I don’t want to lose you.”
Tommy softened a bit too, and reiterated. “Can I take you to dinner please? Just tell me where we should go.”
I could tell that Tommy was still mad, but we tried to have a nice dinner together and move forward. We ended up going to an Olive Garden, because it was near my mom’s place. I got the feeling this restaurant choice irritated Tommy even further, and that he wanted to take me somewhere nicer, somewhere fancy. I began to dread dinner all of the sudden, and wish for the meal to be over soon. I couldn’t explain why I felt this repulsion for him. I attempted civil conversation with him, but the tension was palpable. Our conversation felt uncomfortable and forced throughout the entire meal. My head was spinning at how fast our reunion had gone sour. How was this all falling apart so fast? I wondered.
When dinner was over, I felt a profound sense of relief. We walked outside to our cars, and Tommy announced that he would be heading off to California right then and there, instead of staying another day. I could see a look of regret in his eyes, but I felt numb at this point.
I was surprised by my reaction, but it was the same complicated feeling I had felt years ago when we first met—relief for things to be over. I couldn’t understand why each interaction with Tommy yielded the same catastrophic results when he was supposed to be my spiritual touchstone. This deeply confused me then.