I turned twenty-eight last month. Life is still the same as when I was twenty-seven, except now my bachelor’s degree is paid off and I continue to get thinner due to working out with a trainer and tracking my food intake. Otherwise, life is still the same. My News Feed continues to show happy couple after happy couple. In fact, two of my Masa comrades recently got engaged. Their engagement was very welcomed news. It actually came as no surprise. With these two lovebirds, you just knew that they were headed down that road sooner or later. I am over the moon for them. I am also jealous. I wish those thoughts would not strangle my being, but after yet another Masa love failure that I have never fully recovered from, breaking away from these cobwebs seems next to impossible.
I’d never want to see you unhappy. I thought you’d want the same for me… —A Fine Frenzy, “Almost Lover”
It was June of 2015. I was headed to D.C. thanks to an invitation from Masa Israel to attend the 2015 AJC ACCESS Summit as a Masa alumna (See my post “Masa Israel Alumni Descend On D.C.”). I headed up a day early on a Thursday, stayed with one of my Masa friends, Rachel and hung out with her and our mutual Masa comrade, Allie. I left Rachel’s house Friday morning and headed to my hotel afterwards. I eventually met my delegation of 20+ Masa alumni and had kept my eye trained on one of the men in my group. He worked with some higher-ups who were in charge of a Jewish position I was working on getting—which, not surprisingly, I would later get rejected from since I am never deemed “Jewish” enough—so I tried to shine. It went nowhere. The Summit continued, my knowledge expanded from the various speakers and the Shabbat dinner at the hotel was lovely. Me, the guy I had my eye on and a few people in our delegation headed out after dinner to a bar. The night was fun, but it was clear I was getting nowhere with this guy. I gave up and went to bed.
Saturday rolled around. It was another great day full of wonderful speakers, and great food of course. During dinner, I was sitting near a guy in my delegation. I call him Motek, although that’s only because I’m polite. If I didn’t work with children, I would use a nasty word. But I digress. Motek was seated to my left and I asked him to pour the hot water from the teapot into my cup of instant coffee. He asked me why as he looked bewildered, seeing as I looked like an able-bodied person who was capable of grabbing the teapot myself. I explained that I had broken my wrist a few months prior and that it would not be good to hold something so heavy. Motek said, “Oh,” and happily poured the water into my cup. Later on, it was time for the late-night party. I danced a bit. I drank. A lot. Like a good Jewish event, there was an open bar. Motek had found me at one point and had given me a drink. We watched the people dancing as if it was the most enthralling thing in the world, as opposed to a giant sight of poorly-shuffling people—both Jewish and not—second guessing the life choices that brought them there that night.
I suppose that since Jewish events are more or less supposed to put Jews on the trajectory to get married and raise Jewish babies, they are entitled to dance and drink at a hotel with all the bells and whistles. The music was getting too loud and so we went out into the foyer. We chatted about Israel and our jobs. I get sentimental while drinking, so I talked about my clients. I asked Motek if I would ever stop feeling guilty about taking a few days for myself and getting away from the various children I cared for. I swallowed the lump in my throat and there was rawness to my voice. I had figured that the guilt would just chomp away at my brain, bit by bit, until I was nothing more than an empty turtle shell. Motek told me not to feel guilty, even though I continued to have the feeling of something eating away at me and worrying about having nothing left to give of myself to anyone around me.
Motek and I continued to talk and eventually we headed outside to the front of the hotel since it was quiet and the weather was nice. I was backed up against a column and continued to ramble on about work and how I didn’t deserve my clients. Motek kept rubbing my arm up and down and was saying that I did. I looked into his eyes and saw the fire there. I asked him if he was going to kiss me and then he asked if I wanted him to. I nodded my head. I hadn’t been kissed in months. Time stood still. Motek asked if I wanted to go upstairs and so I grabbed his hand and we headed to the elevators that would lead to his room. He carried me bridal style into his room and we went at it since the room was clear. At one point, the guy I had had my eye on from the day before opened the door. It turned out that he was Motek’s roommate. I was still dressed, so I told him to give us a bit more time. He nodded and left. Motek and I had a lovely evening together, and, to my surprise, came to my room in the morning for another round. I was not used to that. I wasn’t used to that; the simplicity of just being snuggled up in bed together. No worries, no expectations…just the joy of being together. It was perfect. We were perfect.
Of course, all good things must come to an end. The Summit winded down and Motek and I had to say our goodbyes. He offered to come to the airport with me and to try and find somewhere to have yet another round of fun. I declined the offer, but said I’d stay in touch. I then made my way to the airport and headed back to Boston. I returned home after meeting Motek feeling sad and empty. I hardly knew this guy, and yet I had felt drawn to him. Reality reared its ugly head and I knew that rationally if Motek had come to the airport with me, we would have just sat around talking and most likely nothing scandalous would have happened. But the “what if?” lingered in my mind all Summer.
The Summer of 2015 was busy. I was rejected from two Jewish fellowships I applied for, so I tried to stay busy with work. I worked the most I ever had. I did a six-week live-in nanny position out in suburbia. It was an hour and a half commute to head back to my neighborhood on my days off since I relied on public transit. I was the overnight nanny for premature twins. I did these two jobs concurrently. At least the latter was near my apartment. Ironically I slept better in the babies’ room since their house had central air, no loud dogs downstairs and the house didn’t reek of weed like with my neighbors’ apartment. If I wasn’t in suburbia or with the twins, I was taking care of some of my regulars, in addition to maintaining the garden for a client. Once my live-in nanny gig was up, I did ten-hour days two to three times a week with a three-year-old girl, along with still sleep training the twins. I was exhausted, but the bills were paid.
Motek was always there to make me smile on Facebook. He would write nice comments, send me messages and remember details about my kids. He sent me some love songs from a band that he liked and invited me out to visit him in Minnesota. I thought he must’ve been interested in me as more than just a hook up since I had never had a guy invite me to visit him. He told me how Masa was having an exclusive alumni shabbaton in August and got me an invitation. We planned it so I would visit him for a few days and then we could attend the shabbaton together. I kept having to rearrange flights, but everything came together in due time. Meanwhile, I began looking up flight attendant jobs with Sun Country just in case we decided to try and be a couple and do the long-distance thing. One of my roommates at the time, Samantha, had looked at Motek’s Facebook and had inquired about the girl who was in some of the pictures with Motek. Motek’s page said he was single and he never mentioned this girl to me. If he were going to cheat, surely he would not go after me…right?
After my final day of taking care of the three-year-old girl, I was headed to Minnesota. I had dressed up and even gotten my hair and eyebrows done. The girl’s mom had sent me to the airport in an Uber, and I bounced up and down with excitement. I had visited Minnesota once back in 2010. This would now be my first time going in warmer weather. After getting to Minnesota and freshening up my makeup, I went to go meet Motek since he was picking me up. He helped me with my luggage and I gave him a hug. He drove me to his apartment and after getting inside, he showed me around the place and I gave him the saltwater taffy he had requested since it was a Massachusetts specialty. We were pretty tired and fell asleep together in bed. Nothing happened, but I brushed it off. The next morning, Motek made me breakfast. Since he had just started his graduate program, he had to leave for a few hours to go to class. Since I never learned how to drive, I was stuck. I watched some TV on my phone as I waited for Motek to come back. He didn’t want to go anywhere. Or do…anything. I convinced him to go out to dinner. Before we headed to the restaurant, he said I was only allowed one drink since he had seen me drink at the Summit. I wasn’t sure what he meant, but during dinner, I only had one drink. I paid for both the meals since Motek was my host and then bought some hard cider at a nearby liquor store. I had one bottle once we got back to Motek’s apartment, but nothing happened again. The next morning, Motek and I just stayed in his apartment. He kept asking me if I wanted cider with my cereal and spent the day implying I was an alcoholic. Mind you, I had told him about my mother’s substance abuse issues and he had only seen me smashed one time. If he were basing someone’s alcohol history over that conference, well, then entire dance floor would’ve consisted of alcoholics. I was getting offended, but kept my mouth shut. We went for an evening stroll around a nearby lake. Motek had said we could swim—and I bought a new tankini for the occasion—but that never materialized. We headed back to his apartment and watched some videos on his laptop. It was becoming pretty clear that nothing was going to happen between us. I kept texting Cassie who told me that I either needed to make a move or to be quiet about it. Unfortunately, I was not in some easy place to get around like New York City where I would’ve had somewhere to escape to had I made a move and made things awkward. I also kept in touch with my Tumblr friend, Mama Kate, who told me to try and be patient. By the final day of my trip, I was in somewhat of a better mood. Motek had class for a few hours, so I spent my time packing. We would be heading to his parents’ house that night since they lived close to the airport and we had an early flight to North Carolina before our next flight to New York. Motek called his mother to confirm everything and then we were off to the Minnesota State Fair. Motek took a picture of us eating fried food (which I paid for) and put it up on Facebook. It was a completely innocent picture. About twenty minutes later, Motek received a phone call. All I kept hearing him say was, “My friend wants to stay at the fair.” I figured it was his mother; who else could it be?
Motek and I walked around for another hour or so, had some dinner, received some random Minnesota swag and then made our way to Motek’s parents’ house. The ride was fine until Motek pulled into the garage of his childhood home. He got out of the car, grabbed his luggage and stormed into the house. I was left to my own devices in a dark garage. To be insulted even further, Motek didn’t introduce me to his parents, leaving me to do it by myself. They were perfectly nice and his mother, who was a teacher, liked that I had been a teacher in Israel. She walked me upstairs to Motek’s childhood room and told Motek to get me some sheets so that she could make up the futon for me. Motek came into the room, forcefully threw the sheets on the futon, stormed out of the room and didn’t speak to me the rest of the night. I felt about two inches tall. I had done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment. I could hear him talking on the phone to someone, although I couldn’t make out who it was. I wrote to Mama Kate again and she was livid, saying that it didn’t matter who called Motek; no one has the right to leave someone alone in an unfamiliar house. The cats in the house were my only company that night. Sleep was pitiful as predicted.
Having to get up in a few hours was rough. I took a shower, letting the hot water and steam rinse away the stress, then put on my clothes as I sat on the futon in Motek’s room, thinking. I took a deep, cleansing breath, gathered my things and headed downstairs. Motek didn’t offer me anything for breakfast. I was messaging my second cousin, Jackie in Australia from my phone since she had mentioned a few days earlier how she had some relatives in Minnesota. She had also extended an invitation to her son Matt’s wedding in a few months. Sitting in a chair and ruminating about my awful trip, I decided to go for it. I always knew that whenever I was down, I could count on my family to make things better. After finishing my message to Jackie, Motek’s dad drove him and me to the airport. Motek and I almost missed our flight since he thought he had lost his phone, even though it turned out that it was in his bag. We thankfully made our flight to North Carolina and I was secretly thankful when Motek had told me that a kid behind him kept kicking his seat as I viewed this as karma for what had transpired the night before. I went and bought some breakfast and then went to sit down next to Motek as we waited for the flight to New York. He was quiet and still. I decided I wouldn’t be. I asked him if I could ask him something and he said I could. When I asked him why he treated me like a dog the night before, he said that he didn’t I countered back with that he left me in the garage in the dark, didn’t introduce me to his parents and that he ignored me the entire night while leaving me alone in an unfamiliar house Before I could let him explain, I began to say that while I knew someone had called him and set him off, I didn’t deserve to be treated the way I had been treated. All Motek said was, “It was my girlfriend.” My body seemed to process the words faster than my brain could. The blood rushed through my ears and my heart dipped into my stomach, taking any coherent response from me. I just stared at Motek dumbfounded; I didn’t even care how ridiculous I looked to him, my eyes round as saucers and mouth agape, like he had just told me that Donald Trump was a serious contender in the race to become President Obama’s successor the following year. I had to say something, but no words came out. I continued to hear the sound of my own heartbeat, but this was not the usual dunking; it was like waves crashing twice a second.
I buried my head in my hands, leaned forward on my knees and had to suppress the urge to scream obscenities while simultaneously not breaking down completely. If I weren’t worried about getting tackled by an air marshal, I probably would’ve done the former. The realization dawned on me that whatever the other Masa boys did to me, however they hurt me, this was the worst. The minute Motek poured me the hot water from the teapot, he had the chutzpah to make me feel alive. He made me feel safe and valued. He tricked me into believing that not all of my dreams were nightmares. That life could be good again. I groaned into my hands, an anguished, despondent sound. Motek made me feel wanted. I shared parts of myself with him that I had never shared with anyone else. I felt it. Now Motek had walked—no, ran—away from me. I deserved to know why he would do any of this to me. “Girlfriend?” I didn’t even try to mask my pain. Let him hear it. “Were you with her when we were together?” Motek didn’t respond, but I knew the answer. He could’ve cheated on his girlfriend with any girl. Why me? As I tried to calm myself down, I didn’t know what else to do. It felt as if I had a million words ready to pour out of me, but nothing to say at the same time. I was destroyed. Motek destroyed me.
Motek and I didn’t speak to each other as we waited to board our flight. After boarding began and I had sat down in my window seat, the man sitting next to me showed me a text on his phone that had come from his girlfriend where she was asking if whoever was sitting next to him would move so that they could sit together. Tears were pooling in my eyes and I barely saw the text. I grabbed the guy’s forearm, told him how I wasted all my money to see this jerk in Minnesota and that I wanted him and his girlfriend to be happy together. I also told the guy, half-jokingly, that he should buy me a drink. I then proceeded to move my seat. A young woman walked down the aisle, smiled at me and said thank you. I told her how I told her boyfriend a sob story and that she should also buy me a drink. Once the plane took off, I put my sunglasses on and began to cry. How had things ended up like this? I was just thankful my seatmates were asleep. Once the beverage cart came by, I ordered an orange juice. Shorty thereafter, one of the flight attendants came by with a nip of vodka and said how seats 30E and 30F—the young couple I switched my seat for—sent it to me. I never drink in the morning, but since Motek more or less said I was an alcoholic, I figured I’d own it. I only used half the nip, but it was enough to take the edge off. It burned all the way down my throat and chest, but it was a good temporary distraction from the bad feelings growing inside of my gut. Once the plane landed, I waved to the young couple and thanked the Heavens internally for at least one bit of good karma. Although talking to Motek was the last thing I wanted to do, I still needed him to help me find the bus to the shabbaton in Connecticut. I caught up with Motek and told him I was sorry for snapping at him. I wasn’t of course, but I am the bigger person. He said he was sorry, too. I said under my breath that I would stay on the couch if I ever visited Minnesota again, not that I could be paid enough to ever go back. Finally I told him about the couple and how they bought me the nip for switching my seat, but omitted the fact that I told the guy my sob story. We eventually found the bus that we needed to board and sat in separate seats. I texted Cassie to tell her that Samantha had been right about having a girlfriend. She was shocked and said how sorry she was. The bus then started on its way, so there was no going back now. I knew that no matter how bad I was feeling, I needed to focus on my work and to try to make it through the shabbaton with my sanity intact. I had no other choice.
Despite my issues with Motek, the shabbaton was wonderful (see my post “Masa Israel Alumni Conquer Connecticut.”) Being surrounded by good Masa comrades reminded me to try and search for the rainbow in the storm. I did tell anyone who would listen about what had happened between me and Motek. It was cold and maybe even a bit cruel, but I didn’t regret it. I didn’t want to spare his feelings because I was too angry to care. I wrote him a note telling him I would try and remember our good times and gave it to the young woman who headed Masa’s Minnesota chapter. Motek was leaving the shabbaton early, so I was thankful. And of course I felt better seeing Rachel and Allie again, in addition to meeting Michelle, a girl who had been an Israel Teaching Fellow in Netanya the year after me and who was able to update me on my former home and Morgan, a former Israel Teaching Fellow who would end up allowing me to stay with her in California a few months later in order to rest before my big jaunt to Australia to attend my cousin Matt’s wedding. I may never have luck with the men at these Masa events, but I do find great gal pals. That counts for something.
I had no time to relax after getting back to Boston since I had to babysit. I was glad Max, Leo and Penny were good, but children have always been able to sense pain. I also texted the mom of the twins I had been watching overnight since July and she was not happy with Motek. I had my long commute home and only got a few hours of sleep since I was in the process of switching rooms in my apartment and tried to get as much moved as possible. I woke up a few hours later and then made my way to the airport in order to head to Nantucket to watch a three-year-old boy I had been caring for since the year before. After a quick flight and then heading into the bathroom to freshen up, I headed out of the airport to meet little Henry and his parents. Henry and both his parents gave me huge hugs. What a stark contrast to Motek. We headed to the grocery store, picked up food for the eight days, and then I was able to explore the beach house. Although I grew up in Massachusetts, I never had any desire to go to Nantucket. But a nice room, ocean air and cable TV? I could get used to that. I had told Henry’s parents about what had happened with Motek and they were nothing short of disgusted. It killed me how badly my emotions were getting to me and that Henry’s parents were worried about me. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate everything they were doing to take care of me—I did—but I’m used to taking care of people. I’m the caregiver and the person who has spent her entire life trying not to show weakness to others. It was hard to let other people take care of me. But they did take care of me, especially after seeing my bewilderment at Motek changing his profile picture to him and his girlfriend (who is an idiot for staying with a cheater) and then finally deleting me from Facebook. I felt like a bomb was about to detonate in my stomach. During that early evening, I grabbed the biggest wine glass I could find and poured myself some white wine. May as well own being an “alcoholic.” I finally felt the bomb inside my stomach explode and pulverize my guts. My insides were a roaring inferno of jealously, despair and hatred. Still, I pressured on, enjoyed a small break from city life and appreciated Henry trying to grab my bags for me after our eight-day stint on Nantucket. He was more of a man at three than Motek was in his twenties. Maybe that’s how it always will be.
I would be lying if I said that Motek didn’t cross my mind on occasion, almost two years later. But how long can this pain possibly last? There’s no way that a person can feel so strongly for this long. I know that, eventually, the pain will fade and I will be normal again. I’m counting on it, because, after all this time, nothing is helping. And I need to move on. Sometimes I’ll be sitting on the floor with the kids I watch with my arms wrapped around my knees, staring out the window and looking towards the sky. I can see the planes fly over my head. I wonder if they’re full of people going to visit their significant others. Maybe there are girls on those flights naïve as me in thinking that they will get a love story like everyone else. I talk to my trainer about my love problems—he helps me mentally as well as physically—but he doesn’t know why this experience can hurt so much for so long. I truly believed that the pain would’ve faded by now. So why hasn’t it? I still have so many tough days.
Sometimes I wonder how Motek is doing. The last time I looked him in the eyes—when we were about to board the bus from New York to Connecticut—was the last time he ever spoke to me. It’s so bizarre to have someone who meant so much to me, who helped me out through a tiring summer, exit my life in such a cold, impersonal way. But I suppose this was to be expected, given that our relationship began under strange circumstances too, spending the night watching drunk people dance and kissing outside a hotel. Maybe it’s not that strange that our relationship would end under equally odd circumstances.
I don’t cry over Motek anymore; I’m more numb than anything else. How’d I end up here? I ask myself that often. I’m certainly not implying that I don’t deserve this pain that I feel because I am a fool for still believing in finding a Masa—or any—love story. Still, I wish I knew how things got messed up so badly. And there is still the impractical part of me that wants to know if there’s any way to fix it.
Even when I try to forget Motek, I can’t. I suppose that in my heart, I choose not to forget him. The sensible thing to do would be to forget Motek because dwelling on him is just going to exacerbate the heartbreak. But letting go of Motek is still hard. Letting go of all the men who have meant something to me—through Masa or otherwise—is not easy and I wonder why my dreams of a soul mate keep getting dashed. Will my heart ever be strong enough to try and love again? I think of my trainer, the man that I’ve had the longest “relationship” with, and what he would say when he isn’t telling me to do a plank. He would say my heart will heal and that life doesn’t pick and choose favorites while unleashing Hell on everybody else. He would say that sometimes things can go my way and that sometimes they don’t. He would say I can’t control what men do, but I can control how I react to them and that I can control the rest of the decisions in my life. I don’t always make the right ones, I would say. One doesn’t always know if they’re about to make the wrong or right choice. My trainer, a man who has been divorced and still found the strength to love again, would tell me that the right decisions are the hardest ones to make and that even if they’re hard to follow through, they will bring the greatest reward. Of course, the hardest thing for me has been trying to share my pain with the people who I’m closest to because I desperately try to hide my vulnerability. But it’s what I need to do. I need to open up to the people I love. The people that stick by and love me. I just hope that, one day, I won’t have stories of heartbreak to share. I want to share the good work Masa does, not the love story failures that continue to plague me.
I hope someday that a love will come along. But for now, every corner of my room betrays the loneliness of a woman who sleeps within its walls.