In the 90s, I had a friend who had invented refrigerator magnets. Or I guess he popularized word magnets for the fridge, that’s more precise.

It was cool knowing an inventor, but I probably would have had a set of fridge magnets anyway. Everyone did. 

Also sometime in the 90s I had a boyfriend, a sparkle-eyed, intense man who was, it was becoming clear to me, not meant for me. For one thing, he needed so much attention, from as many people as possible. I don’t think I knew the term sex addict at that time, but later would think of this guy, sadly and wistfully, whenever I heard it. There must have been other issues. He told me when he was a kid his father had dragged their couch into the back yard and set it on fire. I’ve often thought of that as well, maybe more since becoming a father.

In those days all decisions felt monumental, though I guess matters of the heart always are. I was frequently making pro and con lists, or writing cryptic notes in my calendar. I forget the code, but in a dozen ways I was telling myself it was time to break up. On the fridge, I nudged together “End” and “It.”

And of course the next time the guy came over, he made a beeline for the freezer door. I couldn’t believe it, but in the hundred words he went right to my declaration, and gave me a pained look. “Are you trying to break up with me?” he asked.

I’ve since learned that whatever brings it up, when you have the chance you must say the words that need to be said. You will have to say them eventually, and it’s almost always true that the sooner you do, the better.

“No!” I said. “Why would you think that? No.” 

We limped along another week or two, maybe even a month. Finally I coughed up the truth.

But he had known the truth already, and it shook me. My secretive, coded “should I or shouldn’t I” approach. I’d spent so much time trying to spare people, but everyone knows everything. It’s just kinder to say it.

I think of my own father, so much younger when having his family than I am now. A baby really. I’ve recently scanned a bunch of old photos, and the family dramas and issues that took me years and years to unearth, to sift though, seem so clearly written on people’s faces. In their posture and clothing. Is it just retrospect? Maybe we always wish we’d said more of what needed to be said at the time. They probably do as well.