The Only One I Still Talk To

We broke up almost 10 years ago after four years together.  I can’t believe it’s already been 10 years!  We met in the Philippines where he was my dive instructor, but not in a gross “Along Came Polly” kind of way.  In any case, I was 22  and he was 28.  I’m American and he’s  Swiss-German.  Despite the six year age difference, he and I did a lot of growing up together in this far away land.  We lived on beaches, went to work in swim suits, and traveled all over the world together.  It certainly wasn’t always great; there were several events that served as major learning opportunities for me, and I think him, as well.

We left the Philippines after three years together there.  He went back to Zurich and I came home to New York.  He wanted to move to NYC but I informed him that he should try his luck with the immigration lottery.  In perhaps the greatest irony of all ironies, I was not going to get married because he wanted a green card.  He applied and didn’t get it.  We continued to visit each other across the ocean for one year, still spending holidays and as much time together as we could, without talking about what our future was going to be.

The last time we saw each other was June 2016.  I flew to Zurich and together we traveled to Gozo, Malta for a dive holiday.  It was memorable for so many reasons.  The diving was cold, the water crystal clear, and the conversation included things like us buying a holiday home there as we zipped around the island on a scooter.  It was World Cup time, and I was one of three Americans cheering at a restaurant when they tied a European country that I can’t recall.  At the end of the holiday, and back at Zurich International Airport,  my flight back to JFK was delayed.  We went to an airport restaurant and were happy to be able to spend a little more time together.  That’s when he asked me to move to Zurich.

I thought about it for several moments right then and there, thinking that I just moved halfway across the world 10 months ago, and now he wants me to move across another ocean?  But he’s such a big part of my life, a fixture for the past 3+ years.  We’d been through so much together, how could I not keep this going?  I loved him.  I agreed to move.

Once I got back to NYC, I started making arrangements for the move and put a timeline together, letting him know that I could be there by March, giving me nine months left at home.  I was excited and he was excited.  He looked at visa types, and I looked at language schools and what the hell I was going to do for income.

A few months passed, and reality was setting in.  Could I really do this?  Did I really want to do this?  Was I just comfortable with him?  I’m only 26!  Is this the rest of my life right here?  Is that so bad if it is?  The people there are so mean, though.  They don’t like Americans, let alone brown ones.  They’re so racist!  I need to learn German and Swiss German fast!!  I’ll be so far away from my friends again.  Will I make new friends there?  I love his family, but I want my own people, my own network.  His friends are his. What if I hate it there?  What if we break up?   I’m going to be so dependent on him… for everything.

Ultimately, that’s what did it.  I couldn’t be so dependent on one person, and couldn’t honestly think that one person would be there through everything with me.  I couldn’t be so dependent on one person, and risk have my heart broken by him again.  It was October 2006 when I called him and told him that I couldn’t do it, and that we couldn’t be together anymore.  I could not move forward in this relationship because he’d hurt me one too many times during the first couple years of our relationship, and the damage was done.  While I knew he loved me, I couldn’t risk him having another lapse in judgement.  In four years together, I only saw or heard him cry three times.  This was one of them.  I cried on the phone with him, knowing that this four year journey around the world and through life just came to an end.  He said he understood my reasons, and also understood that promising me he wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize our future wouldn’t be enough.

A week or so later, I received a card in the mail, and it was from him.  He apologized again, saying that he knew his mistakes cost him our relationship.  I still have that card.  My time with him showed me several things: 1) people can change if they really want to and 2) sometimes people deserve a second chance.

My years living in the Philippines would not have been the same without him.  I still refer to my time there as being the best four years of my life, and he was a major part of that. I’ve only been back to the Philippines once since I left, and it was very weird to be there without him. He continues to be a special part of my life and we check in with each other every now and then.  His parents’ wedding anniversary was on my birthday.  Last year, I sent him an email to wish them a happy anniversary, and he responded, saying that his father passed away.  His brother, who swore he was never going to get married and have kids, now was two.

I wanted to talk about him because we recently exchanged a few messages.  He asked if I was going back to the Philippines, and I said September.  He said that he did not have any vacations planned, and actually broke up with his long time girlfriend.  Truth be told, he remained single for several years after we broke up.  Then they met and dated, then broke up, got back together again and stayed together for a long while.  Until now.  He said that he needs to figure out what he wants and will take some time to do that this weekend.

It may have been out of line on my part, but I said that I got the impression that ever since he moved back to Zurich, he’s been a bit unsettled and unhappy.  But hey, I’ve known him for a long time, so I can say that, right?  I offered a listening ear if he ever wanted to talk about things.  Haven’t heard from him since.

I’ve thought about our situation several times.  We probably would’ve been married with kids by now had I moved to Zurich, and maybe back in NYC or living on a beach somewhere in the world.  Sometimes I think I missed my only chance at finding a caring partner to spend the rest of my life with.  But I wasn’t ready at 26 to make that leap of faith.  But I do think of him often and always hope that he’s happy.



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