On December 29, 2010, Blue Valentine was released in limited theaters. On that same day, my fiancé was on a plane headed for rehab.
The story of how he became an addict isn’t mine, so I won’t tell it (it involves misdiagnosis and general medical fuckery), but, along the way from high school to that December, it happened. We dated off and on throughout college, always falling apart spectacularly following yet another disaster I would try desperately to hold his hand through. Twice we broke up long enough for me to date someone else, meaning I have the grand fortune of being someone’s crazy girlfriend from college (and if he’s reading this for some reason, I am super sorry about that), but ultimately I was always his. I could coat it in a gooey layer of “this was just the rocky road that lead us to forever” bullshit they etch into driftwood on Pinterest, but, really, I was just kind of pathetic. And, no matter how much you love someone, eventually, things go un-awesome when both parties become broken people.
Between the drinking and whatever other substances wormed their way in here and there, our situation became less than ideal. This relationship was not something I was part of; it was something that was happening to me. There is a certain type of numbness that is so empty that it starts to physically ache, and that’s what I felt constantly — the staggering pain of nothingness. It was a kind of ridiculously dark time where I wouldn’t move or blink when I was near him, but I’d burst out laughing in the shower and cry in the car to Jordin Sparks songs, thinking “you know, love really does feel like a battlefield.” And, trust me, I’m aware of how supremely angsty this all sounds, but trust me again when I tell you it was much more so than I am even describing, so, on top of everything else, I was embarrassed, too, for I had become such a human melodrama. And I couldn’t tell anyone, because the only advice any sane person could give me was to break up with him, and breaking up didn’t seem worth it since he’d be dead soon anyway.
So, when I saw Blue Valentine, it was the first time I’d seen a movie that genuinely felt like my very life laid out on the screen. And it was a terrible feeling. Every single scene had been played out in my real life at least once (with the particularly cringe-worthy scenes playing out at least weekly). Dean’s gentle goofiness, his seemingly oblivious nature with devastated anger just below the surface? Cindy’s quietly seething just-barely-tolerating-this-shit? I know these people. We were these people.
Luckily, the only thing that saved me from having to be carried out of the theater in complete hysterics? I didn’t see this December 29th. I saw it three months later, when my fiancé, my now-husband, was three months sober. And, in yet another weirdly inappropriate sensory response, when the movie ended, I felt happy.
Because, at least for the moment, our story wouldn’t have that ending.
When he got on that plane, I was finished. I’d burned out. And, like a chickenshit, I told him over the phone that I needed to break off our engagement. For the first time ever, the smoke of drug and drink cleared, he said, “I just want you to be happy, and if you can’t do that with me, I understand.” And I knew everything would be okay.
It wasn’t as simple as “okay, we’re fixed now, let’s buy those 50th anniversary party napkins.” When he first came back, I was terrified. Continued heartbreak seemed an inevitability. But, now, I don’t feel that way anymore. I can’t control how the movie ended. It ended how it ended. But my ending, our ending, that’s not determined yet. We went through ugly awful, and we made it through. And, for now, hopefully for always, we are happy, better for having gone through it, feelings restored and reignited and all that. I feel everything now. Now, he’s my favorite person, my best friend. Today, things are good. Today, his song still makes me tap dance.