I finally realized that the relationship was over when her brother climbed into bed with us.
The warning signs were there from the beginning, but I ignored them. After dinner on our first date, she told me that she was still in love with her ex-girlfriend. But immediately after making that declaration, she threw herself at me with such force that I almost tumbled onto the sidewalk. She kissed me madly for several minutes before skipping off into the night, leaving me baffled and disheveled.
The next few months were a study in confusion ( mine ) and ambivalence ( hers ) . She lurched in and out of my life, demanding that I give up meat for her in one breath and casually dismissing an invitation to spend New Year's Eve together in the next.
I've never been skilled at recognizing when a relationship isn't working. I'm an optimist. A can-do gal. When confronted with a problem, I seek a solution. My plucky good cheer serves me well in almost every area of life. But when dealing with matters of the heart, cockeyed optimism can easily masquerade as deep denial.
She was a high-strung, feline-like creature who dragged problems into the relationship like they were dead rodents. She'd lay them at my feet and I'd clean up the mess while she relaxed in a corner, licking her whiskers with studied indifference. For example, she didn't like my friends, so I got new ones. She wept every time we had sex and I tried not to take it personally. You get the picture.
But even I couldn't find the silver lining in the dark, little cloud that slid into our bed the weekend we visited her brother.
I knew that she and her brother had an unusual relationship before we made the trip. They spoke every night before bed. He couldn't sleep until she 'tucked him in.' This involved several minutes of unsettling baby talk. I tried to explain it away by reminding myself that I also have a close relationship with my brother, even though we express our affection exclusively through traded insults, and if he ever tried to coo to me I'd immediately report him to our mother.
When we arrived at her brother's apartment, he offered to sleep on the couch so that his sister and I could share his sliver of a bed. In the middle of the night, I got up to use the washroom. When I returned to the twin bed, I found him in it, wrapped around his sister like a snake. They were in the midst of their 'tucking in' ritual—two adult siblings cuddling and sharing a chilling moment of intimacy. I think I would have been less disturbed if they were having sex.
I slept on the couch that night. She broke up with me the next day.
'But why?' I asked. I had already started to convince myself that sleeping with your brother wasn't nearly as weird as I'd first thought.
'We don't have anything in common,' she said wearily.
And, suddenly, I realized she was right. I was sane, and she was insane. And that was too big of a problem for even a self-deluded fool like me to ignore.