Hi. My name’s Kirsten and I love to save things. That’s right, I’m the girl who found just about any and all types of stray animals and wanted to keep them. Wild bunnies, frogs, lizards, birds, and even hermit crabs—you name it, it was coming home with me. I’m the girl who brought in her rescued baby squirrels to third grade show and tell. Yes, squirrels. Some might say I have a penchant for rescuing things, taking in the lost and forlorn. My parents were certain I’d become a veterinarian… or zookeeper. I probably would have had it not been for ninth grade biology and that whole dissection of a frog thing. Well, turns out the same little blonde who fed baby bunnies with an eyedropper when she was eight graduated to her own species as she got older.
Without fail, I seem to find those who are wounded, lost, or troubled for friendships as well as romantic relationships. I don’t seek out the wayward and wandering, but without fail, that’s who I find. It concerns me they say, “like attracts like” because if that’s the case, I must be completely insane. Whether it be an alcoholic, narcissist, schizophrenic or sociopath (I specialize in sociopaths), I’ve opened up my home and heart to all sorts of human personality defects. After many tears, broken hearts and promises, I started to realize my pattern. Admission is the first step in the road to recovery, you know. After my last breakup and a “pal” who couldn’t seem to pull it together, I made a mental note to be more wary of those telltale red flags.
So when my dear friend, ironically the same one who introduced me to my ex-fiancé– which should’ve been my first clue– brought me to a SuperBowl party hosted by another one of her friends, I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone of dateable interest. As our gracious host came over to introduce himself, I found myself attracted to his boyish charm mixed with nonchalance. My friend must have seen the glimmer in my eye because she immediately put her hand on my arm and warned me, “He’s not your future husband, but he’s definitely a good time.” What sealed the deal for me was his reaction to a gaggle of bitchy girls foreign to the East Village who pitched a full fledged fit over his inability to switch the sound from the evening’s playlist (bonus points for a shared love of gangster rap) to Beyonce’s halftime performance. Somehow phone numbers were exchanged and so began the dysfunction.
Heeding my friend’s warning, I hadn’t taken things very seriously. It all started off as some kind of joke. A form of entertainment for me and my girlfriends. I shrugged off the 3am dinner invitation. We laughed about the 13 missed calls ranging from 2 until 7am. The nonsensical text messages that poured in well past my self imposed curfew were topic of discussion over frittatas and mimosas. The strange promises that we’d some day be taking our children to Epcot seemed like silly ramblings, but somewhere along the way, I fell for this little lost bird. And I fell hard.
Sure, his clothes never quite matched, but in the most endearing manner. I never knew what he had been doing all night or where he’d spent the evening doing it. I couldn’t be certain where he’d be the next day or when I’d hear from him next. We could barely make it through brunch without a minor to moderate meltdown. But as I looked at him lying in my perfectly pristine white bed, long lashes, perfect teeth, floppy brown curls, and long limbs, I was hooked. The moment he walked out of my door with an inaudible adieu, my heart ached. I wanted more. And the cycle repeated. Over and over again.
After one particular raucous evening out, one might say that I could be labeled as “intoxicated.” Let’s not play Mary Magdalene, we’ve all been there. The problem was when we returned back to my apartment, my little lost bird said to me, “Maybe we should hang out some other time when you’re– less wasted.” The tables had turned. The caretaker had become the responsibility, the charge. I awoke the next day not only feeling hungover, but confused, hurt. How could someone who I’d been not only tolerant but nurturing of, turn his back on me in my time of need? That’s the pattern though. In a functional relationship, partners take turns with the ups and downs. As a zookeeper, you’re always going to be making sure the elephants have clean water and the tigers have fresh meat. They won’t bother worrying about if and when you take your lunch break or how you slept last night. To be a successful zookeeper, you need to make sure you’ve taken care of yourself before you take a step into the lion’s den, otherwise you’ll become their lunch.
And so, painful as it was, I had to let my little lost bird go, at least until I could reconfigure my own wellbeing. I can’t lie, however. If a hippopotamus with a sprained ankle and narcotics dependency showed up tomorrow, I’d make room in my queen size bed for him to recover. This time, I’ll just make sure my own deficiencies are handled first.