Art by Kim Salac
It wasn’t like this the last time.
How silly am I?
He felt betrayed, and there I was, with my rain jacket on. It wasn’t rainy, but I wanted to be ready for anything.
I knew, I could visualize it. Him walking away from me, the stiffness of his shoulders, his head bowed in anger and frustration. He felt betrayed, and there I was, with my rain jacket on.
It wasn’t rainy, but I wanted to be ready for anything.
I tried so hard, so, so hard, to be ready for anything. To be ready to take the fall, to be ready to be hated. I wanted you to be able to live. That’s all I wanted, in that moment; that was all that mattered.
And I knew, deep down, that it was the end-all-be-all. He won’t understand why now, or for years, just like he didn’t understand then. I couldn’t explain it through my teeth grinding down so hard on top of each other that the little circular ridges on my two front teeth were actually being smoothed — straightened.
I took hit after hit after hit of grief, of anger, of sadness. Of the “why didn’t I just let him fall?” and the “why didn’t I just let him take it? fail? fall into his own pit of failure?” But I knew the answers to all of these questions. And I am no saint, either. I didn’t take the hits just because I loved him. I took them selfishly, too. I knew there was a slim, slim chance that the world would be okay afterward. I was wrong. That’s okay.
Through those nights, I cried over the loss of these moments. The good was poisoned. “The good moments will still be there,” he said. They weren’t the same. Not enough.
Six months of agony later, I met someone again. Through the nights I laid in bed, thinking about how you cut that sunflower for your mom with so much care. Thinking about the cookbook I bought you for your birthday (I still have never met another man that I wanted to date that liked to cook). Thinking about how excited you were that I sent video vlogs of my time in Providence only to you. Through those nights, I cried over the loss of these moments. The good was poisoned. “The good moments will still be there,” he said. They weren’t the same. Not enough.
And then you showed up, just when I was supposed to be starting over. I panicked. But I was six months stronger. Six months more of myself, and six months less of you. I looked over your shoulder and saw a new, but somewhat familiar face.
I should thank you for setting me up for the happiest next two and half years.
So, now the “you” is a new man. A happier man.
One hour flipped into three, which flipped into five, until it was 5 AM and everyone was drunk and passed out, and we were still sitting on the trunk of your friend’s car. “The Big Dipper is right there.”
You love fishing and you have a past that could make anyone weep like drops of rain pushing leaves down during a thunderstorm. You were so nervous, I was new. I was so nervous, you were new.
How incredibly rare it was for the both of us to be new in that moment, and yet there we were. Time stood still.
One hour flipped into three, which flipped into five, until it was 5 AM and everyone was drunk and passed out, and we were still sitting on the trunk of your friend’s car. “The Big Dipper is right there.” “You’re kidding me, you don’t know the stars...” Do you know them now?
I don’t want this to be like the last time.
Am I a fool?
I tell my therapist that I’m doing better. She thinks I am, too. But I hope to God that I am not lying to myself.
Does the smell of rain not smell like a new day anymore to you? Does seeing couples picking apples and pumpkins on our stomping grounds not give you flashes of laughter, my red lipstick, your Coolwater Cologne? Does the memory of our last moments together not bite at your fingers and toes as they feel frozen, unable to move because what is the point?
I tell my therapist that I’m doing better. She thinks I am, too. But I hope to God that I am not lying to myself. I don’t want to think about next fall without you. I’m an idiot that wants to pick pumpkins with another idiot. That’s all.
I want to sit in front of your fireplace (have you even figured out how to start it?) and watch the worst Christmas movie I can find, and then you put on How I Met Your Mother, and we laugh as I try and fit as many cookies as I can into my mouth at once. You light four candles, what a nice-smelling new obsession. Everything is okay.
I know I’m silly. But I have been right about so many things in the past, things that I didn’t even want to be right about. It was my gut that told me the truth. What’s the truth?
I knew, deep down, last time. I just did. I don’t know now.
I try to fill my time. I try everything I can to get my karma right enough that something good this way comes.
Is it because we talked about my wedding dress? Who we’d invite?
Is it because staring into your eyes is like staring into emerald green pools with gold glinting in the bottom? Because I could find myself drowning in the middle of the ocean if I didn’t pay attention?
Now I try to fit everything into a metaphor, and I try to set up new moments. I try to fill my time. I try everything I can to get my karma right enough that something good this way comes.
I stopped asking questions weeks in. I couldn’t take it. I never pictured myself as weak until hearing the first letter of your name sent my body into a rigid form. “What will they say?” I didn’t picture myself as weak until I was sitting on my bed, two months later, about to cry because I saw some stupid meme that used to make you burst into laughter. A meme. I really can’t.
I just hope, and I’m amazed that I can still do that. I find solace in knowing that the universe (hopefully) would not be so cruel as to leave me with this feeling forever.
How silly am I? Just silly enough.