I posted a Pinterest quote earlier this week about wondering what songs make people think of me, if any. Yes, I use Pinterest. I never said I wasn’t basic. Seriously, does anyone ever hear a song and think about me? That would be a super cool thing to actually know.

Last week, at Depeche Mode, they played “Stripped” as they typically do and every time I hear it, I am brought back to one very specific memory. It was a party thrown by mutual friends in September during a period of time when my ex and I weren’t speaking. We had those periods a few times over the course of 3 years. But this time, I was serious about it and prepping to move 2300 miles away in order to hit the reset button on my life to find out who I could be separate from him and our friends.

He was there, keeping me within his view. I could tell. I could always tell. He could never glance at me without me not knowing. He was wearing a periwinkle polo shirt which brought out the bluest of his eyes…”I don’t know what it is about the voice of your eyes, I only know it is deeper than all roses.” Ee Cummings. Anyway, I needed a break and sat in my car for a few minutes to catch my breath. “Stripped” came on and just hit me. Why was I moving away from someone I didn’t know how much I loved at the time, yet always felt it in my bones? Why couldn’t I just stay and wait for us to start talking again? We’d eventually hook up and do that for a bit. But then he’d do it with someone else, I’d find out from a hairdresser or something unexpected like that. He’d touch me and I would throw up and then we’d stop speaking again. I guess that’s why I was moving. Most girls would sweat it out, eventually give an ultimatum and hope for an eventual proposal after years of this. I’m not most girls.

When I went back to the party and to the keg for beer, he went for it and asked about the one thing he knew would soften me up. He asked about my dog, Emmett. A dog he had babysat, taken to the beach and walked for me at times when I couldn’t walk him myself…like after he would touch me when I was upset about who he most recently slept with and I was puking in the bathroom.

Of course I gave in and responded. There was just a connection between us I couldn’t steer clear of. We’d split up, he’d tell everyone I was crazy. I’d find out he slept with people I knew, which embarrassed me. And sometimes I was crazy….either in response to him or because of unmedicated depression and an eating disorder. He’d tell everyone I was crazy again, get a new girlfriend and months later, he’d be drawn to the same thing I was and he’d break the ice…single or not. Him, not me. I never cheated.

We wound up having beer together. I knew our friends were in the periphery rolling their eyes and placing bets on us hooking up as they had seen this routine so many times. We walked away to a football field nearby and I leaned up against him while we talked about everything we had experienced during the time we hadn’t been speaking. God I had missed him. He was my best friend but also the worst part of me all in one. I bet he would tell you the same thing. But that night he laid it on the line. He told me I was actually someone he could see himself with long term, even married to, but just not right now. It was actually the most honest I think he had ever been and I completely understood what he meant. I felt the same way. But how do you gamble on waiting something like that out? Especially when he had a girlfriend flying in from Buffalo every other weekend? I have never been good with competition. Either you want me or you don’t. I am not going to stand around auditioning.

Anyone who placed bets on us hooking up that night hopefully collected their money because we did. We did several times that month before I moved. He was seeing his now wife at that time but we were safe because we both knew I was leaving and I even told him to make it work with her. I wasn’t trying to disrespect her and I don’t think he was either. There just was me before her. This was just something we needed to do…a connection we would always have. This was the rawest, most honest, most Stripped period of our relationship because we always knew I was walking away and he was off the hook.

A couple decades later, he is married to her and we are good friends. He even saved my life a year and a half ago. He is my compass in life. And I got to grow into who I was supposed to be with or without him. Maybe with him, I wouldn’t have seen this full evolution. While it’s been rocky, I am living such a beautiful life now. I am experiencing me at full throttle and likely at my best. And while we live separate lives, he gets to see it and I get to know the greatest love of my life, an incredibly critical friend is living his happy too.

Had we not seen each other “Stripped down to the bone” in so many ways so many years ago, who might we have become otherwise? What lives would we be living? I like to think even at our worst, we compelled one another to our best. It may not be the love of fairy tales with fairy tale endings but it’s the deepest, most important love I can imagine coming from myself to anyone beyond my nephew and dogs.