The Full Story Pt 1: Getting to Know Her

This is everything. I do mean everything.

Preface

I was going to write this as far back as mid-2019, but I decided not to, because I figured it would be a waste of time. I knew that nobody, on my side or hers, would change their mind about anything. My original point in wanting to write this was so that all my perspectives and thoughts and feelings could be right out in the open, and Brooke could no longer say I was trying to be deceptive or manipulative or whatever, at any point in time. But I didn’t write this, for so long, because it would take far too long and I saw no point. Nobody’s mind would change at all. But I’ve had a change of heart, for one reason and one reason only:

Our daughter. That is the reason. It’s become obvious that my ex-wife and I will never stop despising the other, and at some point in the future, our daughter will notice this, no matter how hard we try to hide it for her sake. As she continues to go back and forth between us for her entire childhood, she will eventually become desperate to know what happened between her parents. When she asks her mother, she will get nothing but selfish, immature bias in which she did nothing wrong and I am to blame for everything. (I seriously worry about how much her mother’s immaturity will rub off on her.) But when she asks me what happened, I will have to admit that I have far too much to say. My short version is: We separated because we were both immature, but we stayed apart because your mother had no desire to fix things. So, that’s my short version, but that’s still unsatisfactory. The short version doesn’t tell enough.

So, here’s the long version. If I write it down, I can just give it to our daughter later in her life. When she’s ready. I won’t include this preface, of course, and I’ll rewrite and polish this accordingly when she’s ready to read it.

This is … everything. Everything I experienced, and everything I was thinking.

Part 1. Getting to Know Her

For most of my life, I wanted to be the father of a daughter. I have two younger sisters whom I still, to this day, have never met. While I was growing up, I didn’t like being the youngest, and I also wanted to have little sisters to teach and protect. Eventually, I accepted that I wouldn’t get to meet my little sisters before I grew up, and after accepting that, I wanted to grow up to be the father of a daughter. This is important to note, before I start telling this story.

Random thing to know before I start, so that you don’t get confused later: My name was originally Zak. “Michael,” as you know me, was what I later changed it to.

It was February 2016. I had just quit my job as a welder, putting oil barges together. I quit because I didn’t want to do it for the rest of my life, and since they threw extra money at me every 3 months (either through bonuses or wage increases), I knew the longer I stayed, the more likely I’d do it for the rest of my life. A month before I quit my job as a welder, my girlfriend and I broke up (she was the girlfriend who was 16 years older than me).

I lived off my savings account for the next several months. I was severely depressed. So, for several months, I lived off my welding earnings, not caring much about my future. I admit I occasionally thought about suicide. Without a good job, without someone to love, and without knowing what I even wanted to do with my life, yes, I sometimes thought about suicide.

When my savings ran dry, I got a job as a dishwasher, just as something to pay the bills while my life continued to drag on aimlessly. I started this new job on June 1, 2016. It was on that exact day, while I was in the middle of training, that I first saw Brooke. She was a host at the restaurant. She had briefly come into the back room, talking to somebody. In that instant, the first time I ever saw her, I fell in love with her. It was like getting hit with a brick.

She was all I thought about for the rest of the day. And this was before I knew anything about her. I didn’t even know her name yet. Yet somehow … SOMEHOW … I knew this girl would be my wife, and be the mother of my daughter. Yes, that feeling I got also told me our child would be a girl. I can’t explain that feeling. That was the only time, in all my life, that I’ve ever gotten such powerful feelings for someone, I also had never gotten such strong feelings for someone before I technically met them.

I officially met Brooke when I saw her reading in the back room before her shift started, which she always did. I asked her what she was reading, and it was a YA novel of some kind. I thought, Oh, she likes to read. That’s a good sign!

As time went on, my feelings for her didn’t fade, they only got stronger. I kept trying to repress these feelings, because after my disastrous previous relationship, I had decided to be single for a minimum of 3 years. June was only 5 months after that breakup. My feelings weren’t cutting me any slack. I wanted to be single so that I could feel I’m worth a damn to myself and especially to a future partner. But did my feelings for Brooke fade? No, not at all. Something kept telling me I had to marry her, I had to make a child with her. I couldn’t shut this feeling up. Nothing worked. Distracting myself at work, distracting myself at home, nothing. Nothing got Brooke out of my mind. It wasn’t until I finally just said to myself, “Fine!” and gave in to my feelings and started giving it a shot.

Sara, who I called my lesbian best friend, who worked with Brooke and I, was the first to find out that I liked Brooke. Sara said, “… I think she has a boyfriend?” I asked Sara if she was sure, and she said she wasn’t sure. After a bit more talking, Sara eventually said, “I can find out if you want? I’ll talk to her and ask.”

“Don’t make it obvious!” I remember saying nervously.

Sometime later, Sara said she talked to Brooke, and sure enough, Brooke confirmed she has a boyfriend. And that was nice to find out, because I thought knowing this would make my feelings for Brooke go away. But that didn’t happen. My feelings for Brooke didn’t fade whatsoever.

One night, Sara invited me to hang out with her at a bar that she frequently went to. Earlier that day, I found Brooke on Facebook and sent her a friend request. When Sara and I got to the bar and were hanging out, Brooke’s name actually didn’t get brought up at all … until she accepted my friend request. Sara and I were playing a game called … Cornhole, I think it’s called?… And in the middle of the game, my phone notified me that Brooke accepted my friend request, and it made me smile. Naturally, Sara asked me what I was smiling about, and in a childlike way, I told her, “Brooke accepted my friend request!”

Sara gave me a weird look when I said that. She gave me a look and said, “Zak, it’s never going to happen. She has a boyfriend. You gotta find somebody else.” I remember looking at Sara and saying, “I know, but I still can’t help that I like her so much… Trust me, I’ve been trying not to.”

Later that night, Sara brought me over to her apartment and we watched some Rick & Morty. While we were there, I started pouring my heart out to Sara. I told her about how I wanted to stay single for 3 years, so that I can figure out what to do with my life and such, and how having such powerful feelings for Brooke was messing that up.

I think it was July when all my friends at work decided to go swimming. We went to a place in the next town over, and that’s when I first met Brooke’s boyfriend Dylan. Brooke and Dylan gave me a ride over to where we were all going swimming. I liked Dylan quite a lot. He was very nice, he liked to joke around, and the fact he was chubby made him seem like a big teddy bear… I couldn’t find anything wrong with the guy. This made me even more excited, because I thought that if Brooke has a boyfriend, and she’s such a great guy, then there’s no chance I can be with her, and therefore, my feelings for her will have to go away. I had no desire to break those two up.

They looked so happy, I just had to take this picture.

I remember we got a bit lost on our way back from swimming. After figuring out where we were going, we stopped at a Starbucks. Overall, it was a fun time.

So, I assumed that after seeing what a wonderful guy Dylan was, my feelings for Brooke would HAVE to start fading. No, still didn’t happen. I figured the only way to make my feelings truly go away is if I give this my best shot and Brooke outright tells me it’s not going to happen. It’s weird to think about in hindsight: The whole time I was pursuing Brooke romantically, it was only to get to a point where she would turn me down, JUST so that my feelings for her would dissipate. Because I wasn’t ready to be with someone, and she was happily with another guy.

In August 2016, another swim day was planned by our coworker friends, this time at a completely different location about 20 minutes-ish away. This time around, Brooke said she couldn’t come because she gets anxiety trying to find new places herself. I suggested Dylan just navigate for her, but then she said that Dylan wouldn’t be coming either, because he had to work. So, I offered to take Brooke myself, in my own car.

When we got to the location, we were the first ones there. Brooke and I sat on a bench waiting for everyone and passed the time by talking about Pokemon Go (which was very recently released at the time). When everybody else arrived, we went down to the river and started swimming. The only thing I really remember from that day was when Brooke and I playfully took pictures of each other … taking pictures.

That’s her. Behind her is our coworker.

One day, not too long after this, and still in August, Brooke and I were talking at work, and she made mention of how she loves photography, but never gets a good opportunity to go out and take pictures. I said the place we went for swimming the second time was a good place for photography. I offered to drive Brooke back down there to do just that. And she agreed. I made no mention of Dylan, because I was indifferent about him coming along or not. He ultimately did not come along, and I’m guessing it’s because he was working again.

So, we went back to that same swim spot 20 or 30 minutes away from our town. I jumped right into the water as Brooke walked around taking pictures of the place (which actually was beautiful). I don’t remember clearly, but I think she brought her dog along as well… Or maybe we just talked about her dog? One of the two. Then, once Brooke was done with her photography, she got in the water as well. She didn’t actually swim, she just floated on something the whole time. I remember while we were in the water, we were talking about subjects I usually focus on, like politics. It was this day that she told me her political beliefs were liberal, which I liked because mine were the same back then. And that’s all I remember from that day.

Ever since that day, I genuinely wanted to encourage Brooke to be more into photography, while at the same time (2 things can be true at once), I was trying to get close to her. So, I texted her one day, during the last week of August, saying we should go to the coast, because the coast has the greatest places to take pictures of. And she agreed. So, on September 1st, we drove all the way to the coast, in my car once again.

I wanted to go to the Astoria Column, and I printed out directions that I had Brooke read while I drove. I remember making the instructions as humorous as I could, and she seemed to find my directions funny. (Though I’d later find out, while we were dating, that she found them annoying. It really didn’t seem like they annoyed her, but alrighty then.) Somewhere in the directions, I even wrote something like, “Be sure to smack me upside the head to let me know we’re going close to such and such road.” And she most certainly did smack me upside the head when the time came. While at the Astoria Column, she took some pictures as planned. I felt happy about that. I was happy that she had a friend in her life who truly wanted her to pursue her passion. And remember, at this point, I still didn’t think we’d ever become a couple.

(Her dog was definitely with us that day, because I remember she had a very difficult time getting her dog to walk up the steps of the Column. I didn’t help her dog get up because it was a German Shepherd and I used to live with a trained German Shepherd attack dog, and so I’ve always had caution getting those dogs to do something they’re not comfortable with.)

On the way back from the coast, I got my first (and still only) speeding ticket. So, that was great. But by the time we got back to town, I came to realize something. I came to realize that Brooke still had no idea I had feelings for her, and I started feeling very guilty in not telling her that. So, when we got back to town, and we were just one block away from where she and her boyfriend lived, I pulled the car over, and told her straight-up, “I feel it’s the right thing to tell you: I like you.” When I told her this, she didn’t say anything, nor did I expect her to. I started driving again as soon as I spilled the beans, because I didn’t want her to feel obligated to say something. I knew the rejection speech was coming, but I was too scared to hear it in that moment. So, I told her the truth, then drove her 30 seconds away to where she lived and dropped her off.

There was at least one day (maybe two) where Brooke and I didn’t work together, and during that time, she didn’t text me anything at all, either. It was two or three nights later when she and I worked at the same time again, and as soon as I walked into the building, I was certain she was going to avoid me, and she was going to gossip with the other girls about how I liked her… That night at work, I avoided both Brooke and everybody else. I assumed she already told everyone, and I felt very uncomfortable. But to my utter surprise, when I went to the cash register to punch out for break, Brooke approached me, very slowly, and she said, “Hey. How are you?” I said I was doing alright. And then she … just continued to converse with me. She didn’t say anything about what I told her, she just talked to me like she did any other time we worked together. And the whole night went by without anything awkward or heartbreaking (for me).

Still, though, the suspense was killing me. I just wanted her to get it over with. Remember, my feelings hadn’t faded at all, and at this point, we were good friends. We’d spent two whole days together, alone. Even if I hadn’t told her my feelings, I still would have been in agony.

Now, sometime after I told Brooke how I felt about her, Sara and I hung out again. I don’t remember if this was before the ‘awkward night’ or after, but I remember Sara took me to a new restaurant I’d never been to before, and we saw Brooke jogging, which was quite surprising. Brooke was wearing something on her knee as well, and I didn’t know what it was.

Finally, the time came when Brooke would bring up what I told her. But it wasn’t in person, it was when neither of us were at work. She texted me her thoughts. I archived this conversation, and the reason I archived it was because I was SO certain she’d give me the rejection speech, but instead, she told me how she wanted to stay friends and that she trusted me and respected me.

Here is that whole conversation, down to the exact letter and grammar…

Brooke:

I really want to stay friends with you. I know we haven’t known each other for very long but I do consider you a good friend. I respect the hell out of you, and I really appreciate your honesty. There are only 3 people that I really respect. I’m not mad or upset that you told me. I was just shocked. It also brought back an uneasiness I’ve been pushing down for awhile. I talked to my cousin and she was bluntly honest with me and confirmed that she also saw what I was afraid to admit to my self. I’m sorry for rambling for so long. I’m terrible at talking about stuff and getting a coherent thought in my head when I talk about something I have trouble talking about.

Me:

What did your cousin see that you were afraid to admit to yourself? What do you mean by ‘uneasiness’? I’m sorry. I just don’t quite understand everything there.

Brooke:

She said that even though I love him and that it’s making me blind to my own happiness. She said that she can see me growing as a person and trying to better myself. But she worrys that he has no problem working the job he hates and has wanted to get a better job but isn’t willing to put in the commitment to getting to a better place. That I’ve fought so hard and long for one thing that brought me happiness at that time, that I’m afraid to let it go because it’s the only thing I know. She said that some day that he won’t be enough. And I’ve been thinking about it all day yesterday and today. I only slept about 2 hours last night because I realized that she was right. And I’ve slowly growing less happy.

Me:

:/ I’m sorry.

Brooke:

Yeah I’ve also fucked my self over because I can’t afford an apartment my my self there’s no one I can move in with. Well, besides my parents but I will be homeless before I ever move back in with them. I refuse to be treated like a slave again.

Me:

I’m still looking for a place but I know that’d be inappropriate since I’m a dude. So what did you mean by uneasiness? Do I make you nervous?

Brooke:

I really dont care about you being a dude and living with you. Your trustworthy in my book. As long as your honest and dont pull bullshit, I dontt care what gender you are. Because there is nothing I hate more than being lied to straight to my face. I’m not an idiot and I see right through it. It doesn’t matter if your family or friend. No, no I guess uneasiness isnt quite the right word. Its more like a fight or fliet defense. I was so used to getting my self into trouble by talking and saying the wrong thing that i slamed down a wall to any response or thought because I was always wrong and  it was a usless battle to argue. That only made me more worked up. So no its not you its just a really annoying defense I us to try and save my self some pain. That I no longer have any control over it. When my brain doesn’t know what to do it shuts down my thinking and I just stand there blinking like an idiot. I can’t make a complete thought to save my life. It’s pissed my step dad off quite a few times. Had a few things thrown in my direction because of it.

Me:

And I brought that back? Sorry I’m still a tiny bit confused. I think you’re saying this shutting down thing is what you did when I told you how I feel. Yes? Haha sorry if I’m miles off

Well I mean it is just living together. Don’t really see what lying and honesty has to do with it. It’s not like borrowing money or something. Well, dude or not, it’s still inappropriate because of how I feel about you and you’re not single. I wouldn’t treat you any different than I have for all this time, but it’s still inappropriate even if I was a chick

Brooke:

No your right. Well no you’re didnt bring it back, the last time it happened was with my mother when she told me if I moved out I was going to get pregnant and be left alone with out enough money to support my self.

 Well it does to me I would never room with Kay for instance. I wouldn’t consider her as a roommate. I trust her as much as how far i can throw her. She’s nice and we’re friends and all but… I won’t live with someone I don’t trust. Honestly I don’t feel like I should keep dating Dylan. And knowing that I can’t live with him much longer. I gave up going to college  for him just so I could move out and I really wish I hadn’t. I know going to college doesn’t mean I’ll get a job as what I want, but I loved going to class. And I’m definitely going to need sometime to a just. I would want to be friends because I have fucked my self up so so many times because I was lonely. I realize now that Dylan and I were so broken as people that we needed each other to help get back on our own feet. And that brokenness and building our selves up was the only thing keeping our relationship working.  I not going to jump into another relationship. I need to teach my self that not to rely someone else for my happiness. I thought that I had but I now realize that.

So, as you can see, I didn’t get the rejection I expected, and Brooke was even now about to break up with Dylan and live somewhere else.

Nothing was going according to plan. Getting rejected was part of the plan. I needed to hear her say it couldn’t happen between us ever, but instead, things were only getting better between us. I didn’t want her to break up with a good guy, and I wasn’t ready to be with anyone, let alone someone I had such powerful feelings for. But because my feelings were so strong, I wasn’t strong enough to have the self-control to put the brakes on.

So, I offered to let her live with me, and she accepted. I was renting a room from one of my parents’ neighbors at the time, and I knew we’d have to share that room … and there wasn’t a whole lot of room. I felt very stupid after making this offer. I still had no idea how she felt about me. Trusting and respecting someone doesn’t mean they have feelings… So, I was about to have Brooke live in not only the same house as me, but the same room as well, as friends.

I’m pretty sure I remember it being a Wednesday when she brought her belongings to live with me, so that must mean it was September 7. I asked her how she left Dylan, and she told me the story. Basically, she sat next to Dylan, told him it was over, and gave very little explanation as to why she made that decision. She still spent that night with him, though, but she always insisted she slept separate from him that night. The story she told me of how she left Dylan felt very cold to me. But the most I told Brooke at that moment was, “Don’t you think that was kind of cold?” I don’t remember how she replied.

So, after she was all moved in and everything, life carried on as usual. But as 2 friends sharing the same room together, I made sure to respect the fact we were friends. I changed my clothes in the bathroom (we had our own bathroom), and Brooke did the same. She had a complete-set … twin bed? … on the other side of the room from my queen-size mattress on the floor. We kept it strictly platonic those first couple days.

Since I had a routine of going on night walks, I invited Brooke to come along one of those nights. We went to the school about half a mile away, and just walked around it for about an hour. Then, we went to the playground and just sat on the structure for a little while. I started talking about Jasper, one of the only dogs I ever loved (because I’m a cat person), and after talking about Jasper for a while, I started getting philosophical. Because Jasper had died 4 years earlier, and I still missed him a lot. In my philosophical rambling, I remember saying, “You never know when your time’s up, and no matter how long we live, we’ll be dead longer than that.” Which sounded very morbid to me, and that made me certain, “If Brooke didn’t like me before, she definitely doesn’t have feelings for me now.”

I think it was the following night that all of this buildup came to a close. It was right as Brooke and I were retiring for the night, and shut off the lights. I sat up from my mattress and softly said, “Can I talk to you, Brooke?” She said sure. I don’t remember asking her to sit next me, but I know she did as I was talking. And I told her everything. I told her it’s been painful for me to share the same room with someone I have such intense feelings for. I told her I expected her to reject me, and I asked, politely, if she’d let me know what she felt about me. (My meaning was, “Please just tell me you don’t want me as more than a friend.” I was hoping she’d just get it over with.)

But once again, Brooke surprised me. She half-paused, and then said as time has gone by, her feelings for me have been getting stronger. I’ll never forget her exact words. “I’m becoming more and more in love with you.” Honestly, it took me a second or two to process what just happened. But once I did process it, I asked her if she’ll have a relationship with me. And to be even more honest, I’m quite fuzzy on the exact response she gave. I don’t remember if she said, “Yeah,” or if she said, “Okay.” But either way, she answered yes.

I smiled. I smiled very bright. A few seconds later, I looked down and I asked her, “Can I touch you?” Now, in hindsight, I realize that was probably interpreted as being sexual, but I didn’t mean it that way. We didn’t have sex for the first time that night. No, what I meant by asking if I could touch her was just … touching her. I wanted to feel her touch, because I’d never felt her touch before. And I’ll never forget how it felt to touch her for the first time. It felt like my whole body suddenly came alive. Kind of like when you eat a mint and you’re like, “Oh, I CAN breathe easier than I was before!” Same kind of thing, but it was with my whole body. Not in any one of my previous relationships did simple skin-to-skin contact make me feel so happy.

When you piece it all together, it should make sense why I wanted to marry her, and marry her so quickly. The very first time I simply looked at Brooke, I fell in love with her. I spent months fighting this feeling, because I didn’t want to be in any relationship for at least 3 years, I wasn’t ready for the emotional maturity required to be in a relationship, and I still hadn’t gotten a job yet that adequately replaced my welding job. But my feelings for Brooke were too damn powerful. I still, to this day, can’t explain how or why I had such strong feelings for her…

Okay, so this is the end of Part 1. Naturally, I will cover my entire relationship with Brooke in Part 2.