Continuation from My very first love (Part 2)
Following my first love, Mihai, across the country was an exciting prospect. I was just so happy that he loved me enough to want me to join him, and not leave me in New Jersey. I was only about 22 years old at the time. I had never lived with a man before. I guess deep down I thought this was a first step to an eventual marriage.
Mihai went to California before me to search for living arrangements. He found a small basic furnished apartment in the south of the university town. It looked no better than a university apartment, but the price was right and it was within walking-distance of the university, the main drag of town, restaurants, grocery stores, and everything else. We wouldn’t need a car since public transportation was widely available and cheap. We were close to San Francisco, so could take occasional trips to the city.
When I arrived, I had just two big suitcases full of clothes, so it was quick to settle in. Within two days I started a job search. In the meantime, I played housewife, and did so brilliantly. I have always prided myself at being a good cook. Mihai would immediately have a stipend for his study at the university. I knew if I could get some decent work, we’d maybe be able to even save a bit, to boot. I would not be “cared for”, but wanted to be a equal partner.
I found out right from the beginning that I would spend a lot of time by myself. Mihai was expected to spend long hours in the Physics lab and as a TA (teaching assistant), including on some weekends. At first I understood this and it didn’t bother me. I did eventually find some work, but in the beginning it was short-term temporary work.
Some evenings we hung out with his graduate student buddies, but I’m afraid that I was a real odd duck to them, knowing little about science. I remember one of his buddies asked me if I was “along for the ride”. That question struck me as rude, I’ll admit. As if I was a leech or something. I would come to find that all of his “buddies” seemed to feel this way. That, or I rubbed them the wrong way, which I had done to others in the past.
Those of you who have lived with a boyfriend or girlfriend know that their deep down “true” self (or weaknesses) eventually show over time. It can either break the relationship or strengthen it. Both Mihai and I stopped idealizing each other, and saw each other with clearer eyes.
The stress of being far from home, rather lonely, and frustrated with my job prospects, seemed to depress me (not hard to do for a person with bipolar disorder). But Mihai didn’t know I had bipolar disorder at the time, so my depression instead seemed to rather frustrate him. I tried to “snap” out of it by getting out more. My choice, which at the time felt helpful, was to hang out at happy hours in the many local micro-brew pubs. Hey, people can be pretty friendly in pubs or bars. It got me talking with new people, for sure. I’d find $1 pints, and often they’d give me another (or couple) on the house. I’d order a third in thanks, and before I knew it I was feeling pretty darned good.
When Mihai would come home each night he’d want to talk all about his work in the lab. I either had no interest, or just plain didn’t understand the scientific language. Nothing I talked about seemed to interest him anymore. I started to find over time that he acted superior to me. Anything I mentioned seemed to annoy him. Frankly, my depression with a mix of hypomania made me quite irritable, too. I guess I bitched a lot. Sometimes I was even prone to tirades for little reason. He had never seen that Cindy, and didn’t like her much.
I eventually did get a long-term job at the university. It felt good bringing home steady money and having a place to go from 9 am to 5 pm each weekday. I made more money than him. I eventually found an apartment in a nicer part of town, which Mihai really liked, but it wasn’t furnished, so we had to invest a bit of money into the move. Mihai wouldn’t have like that too much, but most of the money was mine. Even the stereo we had was mine, shipped from New Jersey.
Despite the move, my habit of pub crawling continued. With Mihai gone all of the time I also ate out a lot. The college town had loads of different cheap restaurants, so I’d enjoy various Asian foods, Middle Eastern, Mexican, American, whatever. My mixed hypomanic depression persisted and the added anxiety brought on both overeating and more excessive drinking. Instead of three drinks per day, I’d drink maybe four or five beers in the pub, followed by a bottle of delicious California wine at home. Almost every day.
I don’t know if Mihai fully knew the extent of my drinking, but he obviously noted my eating habits. Whereas in college he praised my 118 lb (53.5 kg) body, now he started calling me “chunky” on a regular basis. I had reached what was an all-time high (at the time) of 152 lb (69 kg). The frequency of our sex decreased, which further affected my self-esteem. Actually, he started criticizing me about a number of things, further making himself look superior. The worst, however, was his cold silence.
Mihai was obviously a very intelligent man, especially in the sciences, but he also considered himself highly creative. He thought he could play the guitar, and considered himself knowledgeable about music. When he danced, he pranced around like as if he was doing a favor to the music. I looked at all of that initially with admiration, but as the relationship started to sour and my hypomanic irritability spiked, I started to look at it for what it was, pretentiousness. I knew more about dance and music than him, though he’d never admit as much. The decrease in our sex life plus a more critical look at his body language, made my hypomanic mind almost think he might be bi-sexual. I don’t really believe that is true now, but when you’re frustrated, all kinds of things stir through your mind.
The second Christmas in California came, and I was excited to have bought him an electric powered model airplane. He opened it up and seemed quite excited about the gift. It cost me well over $100. I was excited to open mine, but when I took a look, my stomach went sick. All he bought me was a catalog of graduate programs in the United States. I looked up and asked what he wanted me to do. In response, he told me that maybe it was time for me to think about graduate study.
I nervously asked him “Do you want me to go away to study?”
“If you get into a good program elsewhere, sure,” was his response.
To that I said nothing, and days passed, but my bipolar illness ramped up and our fighting ramped up, as well. There were days when I yelled in such tirades, that he left for the lab, leaving me at home to drink or sending me on miles long brisk walks with my mind racing.
I was getting in trouble at work for being “too loud”, “slamming phones”, being “short with students”. I’d leave for lunches and go straight to pubs to drink. My boss gave me a tough warning, and I burst out in tears.
The weekend came. I hadn’t been sleeping, so spent entire nights in the living room. In the morning, Mihai came to me and simply stated “I don’t love you anymore”.
What?!?! That statement was like a smack across the face. I yelled “You don’t mean that! Why would you even say such a horrible thing?”
“I’m sorry, Cindy, but it’s true.”
How could he just stop loving me? I still loved him despite our fights, and thought when you loved someone, that it’s forever. Eventually, I learned this is not the case, at least not for all people. I just screamed in desperation for a few minutes and then stormed outside. I thought that when I returned he’d apologize, and this horror would all be over.
I pressed, “Tell me you were kidding!”
“No!” he grunted with a painful look on his face.
After another moment, I looked at him and then with a gruff voice challenged him to prove it once and for all. I told him if he meant it, to call his mother in front of me, and tell her that he was ending our relationship. He did so in cold blood, while I was standing next to him in complete and utter shock. Later I would realize that he likely made his mother’s day with that call.
So, that was it. The break up was real. He left the house and I was crying and screaming for what seemed like hours. But then I wiped away my tears and had to decide what to do next. I decided it was time to really concentrate on me. Everything about California was about him. I needed some adventure to wipe this pain out. I thought it was finally time to continue my studies of Chinese. I would go to Taiwan.
If you would like to read about my time in Asia, read my Mental chaos half across the world series.