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Solving for Zero


Sorting through my stuff after I’d moved into the FBI Surveillance Van, I came across a picture taken many years ago. One of my Pranksters had suggested that I find a truly happy picture of myself and put it somewhere important to remind myself that there is happiness to be had again, so I slapped it onto my fridge. That way, when I go for my diet Coke, I’m stuck looking at a happier version of me.

The picture had been taken years ago, during a party at my parents house.

Being a server meant that, because everyone else on the planet was snuggled up in their wee beds, we were like an insta-party – just add booze. Every night, we’d go out to clubs, bars, or (rarely) party at someone’s house.

That night, my parents were out of town, which meant it was party at Becky’s. We managed to invite everyone – bar patrons, serving staff, friends of friends, restaurant managers, you name it, we were there. The picture from that night had been taken by one of those old disposable cameras, and clearly shows me with my arms around a dude, smiling brightly into the camera, his arms still in the air, caught before he’d had a chance to put them around me.

It’s a fitting picture, I think, for our relationship, which had begun years before.

I’d met Mikey at my first job: an upscale dining establishment that had been around since the beginning of time, where I, not yet 18, was a hostess. He, also not yet 18, was a busboy. We struck up a friendship of sorts, at least, the sort of friendship you have with someone you are also crushing on. And boy, was I crushing.

The guy had everything that made my young heart go pitter-patter in my chest: he was wryly funny, clever, could, upon occasion, be sweet, was kind, and showed me the little things in life.

Once, I remember, when we were both old enough to serve liquor, we spent the 4th of July working the outside part of the sprawling restaurant complex, serving beer in plastic cups and nachos with day-glow cheese so bright it nearly glowed in the dark. I’d just come out of the bathroom, where I’d been sneaking a smoke, when he grabbed my arm and led me across the pond, not speaking, refusing to answer my question, “Where the fuck are we going?”

Eventually, we stopped. He turned my shoulders so that I was facing North.

“Look,” he said. And I did.

From that vantage point, we could see the fireworks going off in three separate towns, peppering the sky with shimmery reds, whites, and blues. I breathed in, deeply, happily. It was beautiful.

Mikey was always doing shit like that. When I dyed my hair a terrible shade of red by accident, he insisted that I come over for an inspection right away. There, in the hot sunlight, he peered at my hair, studying it. “I like it,” he finally said. “It suits you.”

We stayed friends after my first son was born, he and I driving around late at night, the baby strapped in the backseat, soothed by the music I played and the gentle rocking of the car. We’d get out, now and again, to look at the stars, far away from the lights of the city, the silence filling the air deafening as the baby slumbered on.

I often pictured life together, he and I. Raising my son. Helping each other grow and learn. Relying on the other to remind us to do better; be better. I never spoke these words to him, of course, because, I suppose, I didn’t know if we could solve for zero. Knowing that some words, once spoken, can’t be unspoken.

With him, I was never sure where I stood. Did he like me? Did he like me as a friend? Did he respect me? Did he love me?

I couldn’t answer those questions. In small part, because I didn’t want to know the answer and in larger, more annoying part, because I don’t think he even knew the answer. Trying to decipher Mikey was like trying to solve for zero – impossible unless you know the other factors. And I never did.

Eventually, after seven years of friendship, it happened. One drunk night, we hooked up. It was nothing I’d dreamed of. No romance, no courtship, no flowers, no nothing. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Entirely unlike either of us.

After that night, nothing was the same. I wanted more. He did not. But, of course, these words remained unspoken, probably because we finally understood where the other was coming from.

Things finally came to a head seven years after I’d met him. I’d been invited to an unveiling of Sam Adams Light in the city and G Love, one of my favorite bands, was playing. Having some extra tickets, I, of course, invited Mikey. Ten of us crawled inside the limo that was already full of booze and we began the party before the party began. By the time we arrived at the club, we were all toast.

Mikey chose this opportunity to start hitting on my friend and coworker. I pretended not to see.

That is, until he began to tell me, in his drunken stupor how much he liked her, and began to grill me for her phone number. Disgusted, I took off and wobbled in my heels down to Rock ‘n’ Roll McDonald’s to “catch some air” and “eat a cheeseburger.” When I returned, he was still all over my friend, who was trying her best to dissuade him.

I rolled my eyes.

In the limo going home, we were all silent. That is, except for Mikey, who was still drunkenly hitting on my friend.

The next time I saw Mikey, we’d gone out to the golf course where we’d once watched the sunset on the 9th hole, a couple of friends along for the ride. Once again, he asked after my friend, specifically for her phone number. I stared at him.

Seven years.

Seven fucking years.

For seven fucking years I’d held this guy in the highest regard, never solving for zero, never asking after the formula, always assuming that we were “meant to be” or some happy-crappy bullshit.

At that moment, I knew that it was over; I’d never solve for zero, not with him.

He continued to look at me as I stared, not quite understanding my behavior. Finally, I spoke, “Mikey, you’re either an idiot or an asshole. Either way, I don’t need you in my life.”

Flipping the bird in his general direction, I turned heel and walked off across the perfectly maintained lawn, chastising myself, knowing he’d never follow. It simply wasn’t who he was.

Slamming my foot on the clutch and starting the car, it dawned on me.

I’d finally solved for zero.

17 Comments to

“Solving for Zero”

  1. On January 24th, 2013 at 11:35 am Aunt Becky (@mommywantsvodka) Says:

    Solving for Zero:

  2. On January 24th, 2013 at 11:44 am Beth Says:

    That post should have been depressing, but it wasn’t. The truth is, as much as it hurts, I’ve always thought it feels kind of GOOD when you finally reach that, “Oh, this is done” moment because that hurts soooo much less than the waiting.

  3. On January 24th, 2013 at 12:10 pm Your Aunt Becky Says:

    I don’t find it depressing at all – I’m sorry I wasted my time hoping that someone would love me. I think he did in his own way, but it’s irrelevant now. And it’s a good reminder for me to never, ever make that mistake again.

  4. On January 29th, 2013 at 10:12 am Soni Says:

    I spent several years hoping beyond hope that Scott would change his mind and decide that he did love me, after all. We had fun together, the sex was toe-curling. The last time I saw him was when I flew to D.C. to visit him on summer break from college and as soon as we arrived at his house, he sat me down and reminded me that our spending the weekend together would not change his mind. If I had had even a shred of self-respect, I would have insisted he take me back to the airport and flown home immediately.
    I can’t say that I’d change anything because I learned many, many hard lessons that I may find useful, now having a daughter of my own. Good for you for having the courage to walk away from Mikey.

  5. On January 24th, 2013 at 11:46 am Grace Says:

    Man, that kind of thing sucks balls. But I’m glad you were able to say that your heart couldn’t take anymore and walked away.

  6. On January 24th, 2013 at 12:10 pm Your Aunt Becky Says:

    I deserved better than that. I deserved (and deserve) someone who will be straight up, honest, and true to themselves and to me. Mikey wasn’t it.

  7. On January 24th, 2013 at 11:49 am Melissa Says:

    Sigh.. I have had my Mikey too. Only I waited around for 16 years AND the one nighters were more than one time so I think that was why I waited.

  8. On January 24th, 2013 at 12:10 pm Your Aunt Becky Says:

    I think so too. I’d have prolly waited longer had he not pulled that stunt with my “friend.”

  9. On January 24th, 2013 at 11:55 am Lovelyn Says:

    It’s better to know the truth and deal with it than be caught up in a fantasy. It may not be much fun, but it’s certainly healthier in the long run.

    Great writing. I really enjoyed it.

  10. On January 24th, 2013 at 12:09 pm Your Aunt Becky Says:

    It’s much healthier to see things as they really are. I’m glad I learned that lesson way back when.

  11. On January 24th, 2013 at 3:06 pm Triplezmom Says:

    Oh my gosh, I think I knew Mikey too. Except his name was Brad, but he was known to everyone in my life as “Freakboy” because of his confusing behavior. Clarity is good.

  12. On January 24th, 2013 at 4:21 pm Alexis Anne Says:

    You can solve for zero, but you cannot divide by zero. Ever.

    This reminds me of some stages of my relationship with Jared the Mormon. For a time his father forced him to break up with me because he seemed to think I was an unwholesome influence. Who would have ever thought someone would consider me an unwholesome influence? I never knew whether Jared was sad or relieved that we were forced to break up, and even after his dad lifted the embargo, things wre never the same.

    I did one thing out of spite that i would not have done if his father had not forced him to break up with me. I had always said I would totally stay out of his decision tob go on a 2-year mission. Then i got mad at his dad for splitting us u[p. Then the lDS church made a big announcement that the minimum age for Mormon missions for boys was dropping from 19 to 18. I told Jared, mainly out of spite, that he should not change his plans at all. he should go or not go, but he should wait until he’s 19, jut like he had always planned, then make his decision. If his father had gotten his way, Jared would probably be riding around in a black suit on a bicycle somewhere in Spain right now handing out espanol copies of The Book of Mormon. Instead he’s being corrupted by influences at UCLA who are far less wholesome than I could ever be even if i tried.

  13. On January 24th, 2013 at 4:22 pm Alexis A. Rousseau (@TheAngelAlexis) Says:

    Solving for Zero via @@mommywantsvodka

  14. On January 24th, 2013 at 8:11 pm Mishka Says:

    I am a closure gal…if I don’t get absolute, confirmed closure with something, I will turn into a hamster in a wheel with it, just running around and around and around. I had a boy that I LOVED in highschool…my first really big crush (I thought I was in love because I was a teenager). He was popular, and athletic and everyone wanted to be his friend and he liked me. We would talk for hours on the phone and he is the only boy I ever really broke the rules for (yes, I am a rule follower). I would sneak out to see him, stay on the phone longer than I should, skipped 1/2 a day of school to hang out with him, even lied to my mom about where I was once just to spend time with him. The feelings were mutual for a really long time, even through a summer of him living in another state.

    Right before our junior year, he broke up with me saying that I was so intense and that he loved me so much that he didn’t think he could take it if I ever dumped him so he was getting out now. I don’t think I ever really knew what the hell he meant by that, but we were over after that and he moved on to another classmate of mine eventually….but I wondered for a very long time if it was a compliment or a copout and never felt like I got good closure with that one.

  15. On January 24th, 2013 at 8:13 pm Erin Margolin (@ErinMargolin) Says:

    Solving for Zero: Sorting through my stuff after I’d moved into the FBI Surveillance Van, I… via @MommyWantsVodka

  16. On January 25th, 2013 at 10:44 am Emelie Samuelson Says:

    I think that everyone has a relationship like that at some point in their life. It’s completely badass that you solved your equation the way that you did. Me? I wish I was that strong. I took the coward’s way out.

  17. On January 25th, 2013 at 3:17 pm Cynthia Medina Says:

    Beautiful piece Becky. Bravo.

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