I was an orange blur, furiously focused on getting past my boyfriend’s desk without looking at him. My eyes were trained on the turn for the bathroom while my mind was consciously confirming whether or not he noticed. He did. He told me so when we broke up later that day. That darn orange shirt gave me away.
Max and I had been having our differences – mainly over the fact that he was Korean and I wasn’t. This small discrepancy meant many things. The main one being his refusal to introduce me to his parents or acknowledge the absurdity in their trying to set him up with eligible Korean women at their church while we were dating. It didn’t matter to me that he turned down these offers. What hit low was that I didn’t exist in his declining excuse of being too busy with work.
The spring before the end, my brother was diagnosed with a brain tumor. It was discovered one mundane morning when he woke up having a seizure that led to my sister-in-law getting him into an ambulance, my parents fruitlessly trying to tell me not to worry and my spending an afternoon contemplating what would happen in the near and distant future. That day, I learned the importance of a close-knit family.
Over the next few months, I traded happy hours and lounging around NYC for weekends home in Connecticut. Because my brother was forbidden to drive for at least three months after his seizure and was about to undergo the most invasive surgery I can imagine, I took on the very important role of playmate. He had such an unfathomably positive outlook on the whole thing that at many times the boy was the one cheering up the rest of us. I just needed to be around him.
By the second month of constant Connecticut back-and-forths, everything wrong with Max’s and my nine-month relationship began to rise to the surface. I had originally brushed off not meeting his parents as something he would come around to, but with family now being priority numero uno, I knew putting his to the bottom of the list would no longer work. Both of us needed to be a part of each other’s whole lives with family at the forefront. The fact that Max only came to Connecticut once during this time and never after my brother’s (successful) surgery should have been my clue that it wasn’t working.
Thus, the fights really started to gain heat over finding time to be together – something as stupid as his starting to catch up on Lost without me had me in tears. I was really just frustrated that we were growing apart – our individual priorities taking over. It was these stupid fights that snowballed into the one that ended it all. That year, the July 4th holiday weekend overlapped with my brother’s birthday and, to me, the idea of being anywhere else was out of the question.. Needless to say I was livid when he suggested going to another co-worker’s beach house instead. He brought up the idea at work and it unearthed the explosion of everything wrong with our relationship. I refused to talk to him at the office, making him commit to meeting me that evening after a pre-screening of 500 Days of Summer.
When I had asked him to meet me, I had no intention of ending it that night, but that was how our conversation outside the Union Square subway entrance evolved. We both wanted it, but spent a good thirty minutes dancing around the conclusion. To this day, I credit the movie as being my swift butt-kick to terminate what was not-so-obviously-to-us becoming a flailing relationship. Much like Tom from the movie, Max was the good guy, the safe one I fell for after dating a string of jerks. We had been daily coffee buddies, then outside-of-work friends. Eventually, co-workers’ speculation that we were dating brought me to the light and had me thinking – “Oh yea, I could date the nice guy.”
But that’s not enough. Friendship and caring for each other are part of the success equation, but I knew we had several critical variables that were completely missing. Continuing to argue at the office was not sustainable for either our friendship nor our careers. On screen I watched (and have watched many times since) Summer come to the conclusion that Tom wasn’t the one – even if she couldn’t figure out what was missing with him that she later saw in her husband. So, that night, on the brink of my 25th birthday, I knew it was the moment I needed to stop waiting around for Max to be Mr. Right. I needed to go back out and find him.