I have a tendency to get hooked on a song and have it stuck in my head for days (or sometimes weeks). Recently, I got Maroon 5’s Maps stuck in my head. I listened to it on repeat for a day or two before I really let the words sink in. I imagine many of you know what I’m talking about when I say that I knew all the words, but hadn’t really thought about their meaning. And then it hit me. What the fuck is the narrator doing?
If you’re curious to hear the song before I share my thoughts, here it is:
To summarize the story in the song, the narrator is asking where “you” went and why “you” weren’t there for him when he needed you. And yet, he’s still following the map that leads to “you.” Why follow someone who’s hurt you so much? This passage in particular speaks to me:
I was there for youhttps://www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/Maroon-5/Maps
In your darkest times
I was there for you
In your darkest nights
But I wonder where were you?
When I was at my worst
Down on my knees
And you said you had my back
So I wonder where were you?
I had a very similar relationship recently. I have a distinct memory of being down on my knees sobbing while this particular person turned and walked away. I was grateful in that moment to have other partners there to support me, including one who literally picked me up off the floor and held me while I cried.
So, in November, I wrote the novella I’m going to share with you over the next 10-ish weeks. It is my imagining of how that relationship was going to end. I was WAY off base in a lot of ways, but I am happy to say that it’s over now, and I have moved on to much better and healthier relationships. And reality has turned out to be so much better than I could have foretold.
Tonight is the night. The night for what, you ask? For the end. Or the beginning. Or both, maybe. There’s a saying, right, that’s something like, “Every moment is the first moment of the rest of your life.”
Well, that’s this moment for me. It’s definitely going to be a turning point. Everything will be different from this point on. Maybe it will be better. Probably it will be better. Definitely it will be better.
But it’s still the end of something that had the potential to be wonderful. The relationship I’m ending had the potential to be a forever relationship. But the other person couldn’t be bothered to just be honest with himself and with me. And so instead, I’m going to break up with him on this cold December night. After being apart for weeks with minimal contact, he’s coming over. I don’t know what he’s expecting, but I’ve already packed his stuff. See, he was living with me. Well, with me and my husband, Nick. We’re in a polyamorous relationship.
I could wax on and on about him and the shitty things he did to my family and me, but it’s a waste of breath (or text, in this case).
I’m already nervous, and he isn’t scheduled to arrive for another hour. Sometimes he’s early, so I’m anxiously waiting. The door is unlocked. I’m sitting ten feet away from it, and I’m trying to do anything but turn and look. Instead, I’m playing the piano. I usually try to learn at least a little more new stuff each time, but right now, I’m just taking comfort in my standbys. There is a set of songs I’ve been playing for almost twenty years. “All I Ask Of You” from Phantom of the Opera is the song I’m taking comfort in tonight.
I hear the door when I’m only halfway through the song. I flinch, and adrenaline shoots through me. But miraculously, I don’t lose my place in the song. It’s so much muscle memory at this point. My fingers continue to fly along the keys, and my voice continues singing the words. I am determined to finish the song.
When the last notes play, I turn to look at—
That’s not who I expected.
It’s not my soon-to-be-ex. It’s my soon-to-be…something. I don’t know if he’s going to be my boyfriend or our boyfriend or just a friend or a friend with benefits. But right now, he’s a friend, and one that I’ve been having sex with. And he’s standing in front of me, waiting patiently for me to finish.
“W-what are you doing here?”
Brandon shrugs. “Nick told me what was going on today. We agreed that it might be good for me to be here.”
I look at him wide-eyed. “Why would it be good?”
“Because you’re going to need all the support you can get.”
He’s right, of course. They both are. But all I can think of is out my soon-to-be-ex is going to freak out to find out that I’ve started a new relationship in his absence. We can just ignore the fact that he started a new relationship behind my back when he was living in my house, and all the other shitty things he did. But I still love him, and maybe I always will, and I feel bad. I felt bad starting a new relationship. It wasn’t planned. It just fell into my lap, and I didn’t stop it. I did pump the brakes and slowed things way down. I honestly didn’t rush into it, which is odd for me. I’m usually a jump-in-with-both-feet kind of girl.
I don’t know what to say to Brandon, though. I am so glad he’s here. Nick is right—I’m going to need all the support I can get. I can already feel the panic rising in my chest.
I stand up from my spot on the piano bench, and Brandon takes me into his arms. He’s just tall enough to rest his chin on top of my head. I nuzzle into his warm flannel shirt and resist the urge to slide my hands up underneath it.
“Thank you, sweetheart,” I whisper into the garment.
He kisses the top of my head. “Of course. I’m always here for you.”
I nod, feeling the soft fabric against my cheek. I take a deep breath, and his arms tighten around me. I could stand here forever, except I realize this is a bad idea.
“Listen,” Brandon says, “I’m going to go downstairs. I’ll be there whenever. If you want me to come up, holler or text me. Otherwise, I’m going to stay out of the way.”
I get up and go into the living room to find Nick. Brandon follows me in. He gives Nick a quick kiss on the top of his head. I smile. They’re so cute together.
“Hey,” Nick says, and the corners of his mouth turn up just a touch, which is such a cute little thing to notice. “Thanks for coming over.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I ask.
“We were scheming,” Brandon says with a chuckle.
I sigh and shake my head. “Whatever.” I know they talk without me, just like I talk with each of them without the other. But I don’t know what they talk about and they won’t tell me. I trust them both, though, so I let it go.
Brandon kisses me on the cheek and says, “I’ll be downstairs. You’re going to be okay. Promise.”
I nod. He’s right, of course. I can do this. I’ve been preparing for it for a long time. It feels kind of surreal that it’s finally here.
I sit down on Nick’s lap, curling up and resting my head on his shoulder. He wraps his arms around me. “I hope you don’t mind that Brandon’s here.”
“Not at all,” I say.
I wonder if Nick thinks I’m going to be in the mood for sex when this is over. I feel like the odds are not good. I feel like it’s much more likely I’m going to want cuddles and sleep.
I feel prickles of anticipation on my skin just before I hear the door. He’s here.
Thanks for reading Chapter 1 (Part 1) of Trading Up! Come back next Thursday for the next installment. Saturday, Richard and I will be sharing our next collaborative piece, and Tuesday we’ll be participating in TMI Tuesday.