Monday, June 21, 2010

45. Too little, too late?

I woke up in the middle of a full-fledged panic attack. My stomach was in knots and my chest felt tight. I'd never actually had a panic attack or an anxiety attack before, although I joke about almost having one all the time. This was nothing to laugh about.
Did I make the right decision? Am I going to wake up tomorrow and regret this? Am I going to break Cayden's heart?
My aunt's words played over and over in my head: "You need to keep your head on straight. It's going to be too easy to think you fell in love when you're with a hot guy in a romantic city doing romantic things. Be careful."
Is that what happened? Am I actually just in love with London and the idea of having an attractive boyfriend with an accent who just happens to live there?
I took deep breaths trying to revive my lungs. My face felt hot, and I felt a lump rising in my throat. My eyes started to sting and I knew tears were on the way. I had no idea what time it was, but I felt like I had to wake Cayden up. We'd always been honest with each other about everything, so if I was having doubts, he needed to know about them.
I turned around and saw him sleeping peacefully. He was in heaven. The slight smile on his otherwise still face told me he was dreaming, probably about me and our future together and our future white-Pakistani-Cuban babies. My throat tightened again.
I cuddled against his chest and his arms tightened around me. I was suddenly calm. I could breath. My heart was still racing, but I could feel it starting to slow. When I was near him, touching him, with him, I was fine. But how would I be tomorrow when I woke up without him? Would I be filled with doubt again?
Then my mom's words joined my aunt's words in my head: "Sounds like you've got a pretty big decision to make in London. Just keep your heart open, and you'll be fine."
So what was my heart saying? Was it thumping turbo speed because it wanted Cayden? Or were the thumps some kind of Morse Code spelling out the answer and I couldn't understand it? Was it my head or my heart screaming that Cayden was my perfect fit?
A hot tear rolled out of the corner of my eye and across my nose. I tried to wipe it away before it landed on his chest, but I was too late. Afraid to wake him, I rolled onto my back and pressed my palms to my eyes. No longer pressed up against him, my chest tightened again.
Shit. He was awake. Maybe his eyes were still closed and he doesn't know I'm crying.
"Mmm-hmm?" I said without moving.
"Are you OK?"
I nodded without saying anything because my throat was too tight. I felt his body shift and I pictured him feeling the wet spot I'd left on his chest.
"Are you crying?" He asked, pulling me toward him. He sounded confused and concerned.
I shook my head no. It wasn't a complete lie, the real tears hadn't started yet.
"What's wrong?"
Keeping my hands over my eyes I said, "Do you think we can wait until you come visit me in October?"
"Wait for what?"
"Wait for you to ask me out."
I felt his body tense. It was like my words had physically punched him in the stomach. I didn't want to open my eyes but knew I had to. I lowered my hands slowly, my eyes still shut tight. The tears had stopped for the time being. I opened my eyes reluctantly and forced myself to turn toward him. His face was void of his usual smile and cheerful eyes. Instead, his eyebrows came together in confusion.
"Are you having doubts?"
"No. Maybe. I don't know. I don't know, Cayden."
Tears slid across my face. He didn't reach to wipe them. I knew it was my turn to talk again.
"It's just that I'm here in London. Everything is perfect, the city is romantic, your sister and your friends are amazing. Of course I'm going to say yes. I'm in freakin' La-La Land over here. My head is clouded with fairytales and fantasies. But what if it's not real?"
I didn't need X-ray vision to watch his heart break. If my gasps for air had been silenced, I might have even heard it. From that reaction alone I could tell he didn't have one doubt about me, about us. All of a sudden every emotion I felt after reading his break-up email came flowing back: rejection, anger, frustration, heartbreak. I saw them all sweep across his face before he could control them, then he hid them behind a hard, tense face with a blank expression. I never wished those feeling on anyone, especially my Cayden. I wanted to hug him and kiss him and tell him everything was going to be OK, that I was his and he was mine. But I knew if I touched him again my head would cloud over and I wouldn't be able to think clearly. But I couldn't think clearly when I wasn't touching him either.
"Whitney, what is it that's really freaking you out?" He asked, making eye contact with me for a second and then returning his eyes to the ceiling.
I thought about his question. Did I even know what I was freaking out about? Am I concerned he's not my Prince Charming? No, if anything he was charming. Was I afraid of doing long-distance? Four months ago I was telling Addam I couldn't stay with him while he went to Iraq, so was I crazy for thinking I could do it with Cayden? No, that wasn't it either. I trusted Cayden 100 percent, and I knew he'd be completely faithful to me. Maybe I was afraid of falling in love. I fell in love with Casey only to find out he was capable of holding a girl up against the wall by her throat. Then Will fell in love with me, and I broke his heart because I couldn't love him back in the same way. Then I was falling for Cayden until his email broke my heart. I patched it up and guarded it. Decided not to give it to anyone for a while. But then Addam came along and I was lost in his dimples, his smile, his mystery. My heart was his, but his was never mine, and in the end I got my heart back with another tear in it. Was I afraid of giving Cayden my fragile, cracked, torn, and patched-up heart? That was part of it. But then I realized what the real problem was.
"Cayden, with you, I see forever. I see us forever. I'm only 24. I don't know if I'm ready for forever. But I'm afraid that if I'm not ready, I'm going to lose the best thing that's ever happened to me... forever." At the realization of it I was overcome with tears. The last part of it came out in a messy sob.
Some of the hurt left his face and the compassion came back. He pulled me close and wiped my tears, and I rested my head on his chest to try to calm down. But then I decided I didn't want to snot on him.
"Hold on, I need tissues," I said as I jumped out of bed holding my head up, hoping my nose wouldn't drip before I was out of his sight. Then I noticed I was still completely naked. There's nothing more vulnerable than standing in front of your someone special with snot on the brim of your nostril. I sprinted to the bathroom.
I took a look at myself in the mirror. I was a mess. My eyelids were puffy, my nose and eyes were red, and I had red splotches on my chest, neck, and cheeks. I splashed cold water on my face and blew my nose. I wadded up a handful of tissues and went back to the bed. He pulled me in again.
"Whitney, I don't want you to feel pressured. You don't have to give me an answer right now. Maybe your mind will clear on the plane."
I kissed him on the lips, my mouth shut because we hadn't yet distributed Tic Tacs. He kissed me back the same way. Every second after this kiss was different because we knew it could be our last moments together. If I got off that plane and decided I wasn't ready, there was a chance he wouldn't wait around. We wanted to absorb every last second together. So we had passionate, steamy sex and messed around, resulting in the best orgasm I'd ever had in my two years of sexual experience. I didn't hold back and every sensation escaped through my mouth. I half expected to hear cheers from the surrounding hotel rooms.
We walked into the airport terminal and Cayden carried my bags while I checkin in electronically.
"Want to grab a coffee before you head to your gate?"
"I'd love to."
I followed him up to a French cafe on the second floor. I ordered fruit and muesli, he ordered scrambled eggs on toast. Black coffees for both of us. We held hands or touched thighs through our entire meal. The weight of our situation pressed down on us. I fought the urge to blurt out, "Forget what I said. You're perfect. We're perfect. Be my boyfriend." But I forced myself to wash it down with my coffee. It was a big decision, I needed to give myself time to think. I had tears in my eyes when our waitress came back with the check. That check symbolized so much more than eggs and fruit: my last meal in London (until next time, maybe), possibly my last meal with Cayden, and definitely the last time I'd eat muesli (I think pieces of it were lodged in my tonsils). I squeezed his hand as we stood. He shouldered my bag but kept holding my hand while he rolled my other bag behind us. We walked to the end of the security line and my lip started shaking. He set my bags down and wrapped me in a tight hug. I wrapped my arms around his neck and held him as close as possible, wanting to stay right there forever. Do it now, whisper in his ear, "I'm yours." No, no, I should think about this. I need to get away from him to think.
"Well, Whitney. I'm so glad you came. It's been amazing," he said, still holding me tight.
"More than amazing, Cayden. This is perfect."
Say it now. Say it now.
Instead, I kissed him hard, afraid if our lips parted I'd give in. He wasn't eager for the kiss to end either, so it went on for long enough that onlookers probably felt awkward. Finally we pulled away.
"Take your time. Just think about what you really want."
"I will."
He helped me pull my bag onto my shoulder, then kissed me one more time and turned to leave. I turned toward the security attendant with a tear-streaked face and shaky hands. He highlighted my ticket, studied my passport, and moved me down the line.
Cayden and I looked back at the same time. He waved. I choked back a sob. I waved back and moved forward in the line. Then it clicked. What the fuck was I doing? My feelings for him have nothing to do with London or artificial romance. I'd fallen for Cayden well before this trip. My heart was his before I stepped off that plane in London. I did go to London with an open heart and my head on straight. The open heart allowed Cayden in. My head on straight allowed me to cuddle perfectly into the nook of Cayden's shoulder. I was his. He was mine.
I turned around to call him back to me. To tell him everything.

He was gone.

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