Power Couples, and the Strangeness of Place

In 2007, two loves came into my life.

The year before, I met the woman who would eventually become my wife, the one I called my One Great Love. She lived in a town that, as the song lyrics go, is a “concrete jungle where dreams are made of.” Our very first date was there, and throughout the first year of our relationship, she spent time showing me around this glorious Apple, New York City.

My lady lived in West Harlem, right between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. One of the most beautiful spots in Manhattan, I would pilot my 2004 Mazda6 Sport wagon up the Henry Hudson Parkway, the best views of the mighty Hudson River rolling past me. Then, on reaching my destination, there was of course the obligatory twenty-to-thirty minute hunt for a parking spot.

As things began to change yet again in my life–homelessness; a growing rift in my family over the very woman I’d left pretty much everything to be with, job instability–New York began to mean something I never thought it would. Sure, I spent hundreds of dollars in tolls driving back and forth to be with the woman I loved, but more than that, I had begun to see New York City as a place of healing; a cathartic haven where the pain of past mistakes could be left behind in the dust, never to be picked up again. In April of 2008, I would move to this town, and called 508 West 142 Street my first home.

This past Presidents’ Day, I once again found myself in West Harlem for work. A construction project on the 1 line stopped service between 137 Street-City College and 242 Street-Van Cortlandt Park, in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. On a long break, I walked through the neighborhood, taking in the sights and experiences along Broadway. I walked up Broadway to West 142 Street, and made a right. The nostalgia only got stronger as I walked up the hill towards my very first home in New York City. And as has been my lot nearly three years now, a heavy sadness came over me.

I remembered the first night my lady and I went out and experienced NYC’s night life together, hanging out at the 40/40 Club in Chelsea. I thought of the day she took me to Katz’s Deli, exposing me to the best pastrami on the planet. I remembered the day she took me down to get my first taste of Vietnamese food, to this day my favorite Asian cuisine.

My sadness became almost unbearable that night, because none of those things mattered anymore. On November 17, 2014, exactly four months after losing my lady’s trust over a financial matter, the story of our love ended. My lady became the direct target of my first emotional breakdown.

To this day, it is the greatest mistake I have ever made in my life.

*

What, exactly, is a “power couple?”

If you ask people, they might mention the all-time, go-to power couple of Jay-Z and Beyonce. Those people will talk about what makes those two such a “power couple”: their great wealth, their artistic compatibility; or godhood (just ask any member of the Bey-hive).

As I see it, a “power couple” is defined by the fires walked through together; how many valleys are traversed without losing sight of the things which brought them together. Our broken marriage is proof that a “power couple” isn’t defined by other people’s predictions, desires or hopes; only through the strength, faith and love each person has for one another, especially when money runs out. Or when living situations change.

Power couples don’t fold up and quit when trust is on the verge of being lost, or when things go south in a particular situation. Power couples fight for the right to be together, even when the battle happens to comes from within; when there are no external forces to fight. Power couples build each other up when one falters; will know when the other is hurting, or going through something within. Power couples who stand the test of time are examples of what other couples can be, and should strive towards.

I wonder all the time if my lady and I were ever destined to be a power couple. Obviously with an impending finalization of a divorce, that question has been answered with a resounding no. With so many thoughts and emotions racing through my head these last two and a half years, I’ve struggled with how to view our time together; were they eight years of lessons learned, or a complete waste of the best time of our lives? Did I bring our marriage to an end by my own hand that night, or was it just a perfect storm of unfortunate events over many years? Was it the diagnosis of my mental disorder? Was it interference by her parents?

I’ll probably never know.

*

Living here in New York City, all on my own, feels weird.

I’ve been up here in New York nearly two years now. Despite the incredible gains I’ve made within my own self, I wrestle with the pain of having lost someone so dear to me; even more than my own life. I hurt from the pain I caused her, as my emotional breakdown fell directly on her four months after I lost her trust over a financial matter. At the risk of sounding myopic, her love and words meant everything to me, and I haven’t been able to fully heal emotionally and mentally from such a loss. I have neither spoken to or seen her in over a year.

But even more than that, I have never been able to fully enjoy New York the way I’ve wanted to. When I lived up here with my lady, this city became my “spiritual mother”, healing my wounds and changing my scenery. Despite some struggles, this city healed me, and made my problems seem miles away. My lady and I built a real home up here. We were truly happy up here together.

I’ve returned to my spiritual home, but this time, it’s completely on my own. New York is still very much a place that wants to be that place of healing once again, but I just have not been able to fully let her in this time. It’s funny; how could a city, bursting with life, activities and energy, not be a place where I can heal again?

Or is it because I can’t seem to get past what was “supposed” to happen?

I waited seven years for Transit to call me after I took the test to become a conductor. I had told my lady for years that once the call came, that was our cue to return to New York City. When we left NYC in 2010, I saw nothing but disappointment, heartbreak and pain in her eyes as we drove over the George Washington Bridge. Having lived up there before I did, she never really wanted to leave NYC. She had dreams of becoming a fashion designer, and wanted to stay in the city for life.

By the time Transit called, we were already separated. The trust she had in me, especially after the night we split, was long gone. Her roots had grown far too deep to just simply pick up and leave Baltimore. Besides, her running “career”–something that had become a bone of contention between us, as she used running to build her emotional wall between us after the financial matter happened–was now in high gear. She wanted to “run till her legs fell off”, as she told me one day.

I tried to explain to her that the opportunity with Transit was my way of paying her back for all the years she worked her butt off to keep us afloat throughout all the years I was in and out of work. I finally had something more solid than any other career I’d tried my hand in, and I wanted her to be a part of it.

But alas, it didn’t happen.

And the rest is, well, history.

*

Throughout these years, my writing has suffered greatly. Under must circumstances, I could easily pen something about politics, a movie I’d seen, or just my feelings on any given topic.

But ever since this second separation and impending divorce, I have found myself incapable of writing anything of consequence. My pain has been nothing less than excruciating, as I’ve never felt so ripped apart in my life. My first divorce had its own pain, but what made it much easier to get through was that my lady was there to relieve me of the pain of my loss.

This second time–two divorces before the age of thirty-five–hurts in a way few can comprehend; I don’t even fully understand it myself. I lost a woman I fell deeply and completely in love with, but a mirror was placed in front of me, forcing a serious confrontation with myself. The first marriage could easily be written off as a matter of immaturity, but this time, there weren’t really any excuses. I’d gotten married at age thirty, and we were together five years prior to us getting hitched.

Something wasn’t right, and seeing as I had no one to keep me from actually taking the time to truly examine myself this time, I had to be the change I wanted to see, to borrow from Gandhi. I hadn’t taken the time to sort myself out between the two marriages, and now, I was given that opportunity to do so.

Which is what I’ve done. After a rocky start–including a stint of living in my car– I’ve managed to finally get things to some sort of equilibrium. I’m managing the disorder I have, and am on a real road to recovery. Things are well on the job and, while not fully satisfied with where I am in my life, I am working hard to live my best life.

I certainly wish my lady well, as she is no doubt on her own road to recovery. I won’t lie; I miss her so much. I wish things were different between us, and that we were up here together, in the place where we were truly happy. But instead of any ill feelings and bitterness, I will simply wish her well in everything she does, and be there for her in any way I can, should she ever want to be my friend. I doubt that will ever be the case, though.

For my part, I can only hope that I’m able to fully recover from the pain of the past, and fully embrace my spiritual mother as my own once again. Springtime is coming soon, and as we all know, there is nothing better than New York City when the weather is warm.

Here’s to a new season of healing.

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