aida_8341At 3 a.m. on the morning before Independence Day, I drove six hours from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles on a mission to seduce my closest male friend. Nathan and I had been buddies in high school but drifted apart afterwards; it was only recently that we’d rekindled our connection. We’d spent the past year logging long hours in online conversations laced with a potent combo of flirty chemistry and neediness. Our chats were late-night confessionals on crushes, love, and sex; I was his virtual wing-girl. We were building a strong friendship too, but I knew I was falling for him when I wanted to stay up past midnight basking in the twin glows of my laptop screen and my newly minted role as Nathan’s confidante, instead of crawling into bed with my boyfriend of six years, who I lived with.

“You’re paying, right? Remember you promised to take me out the other weekend, but we didn’t go so this can be to, like, make up for it.”

She pulls the crust off of a piece of garlic bread and dips it into her pasta’s sauce.

I resist the urge to slap her and call her a cheap bitch.

She takes the piece of garlic bread she’s de-crusted and squeezes it. The oils run together and dribble onto her fingers.

The waitress drops the bill on the table, smiles and goes back through the swinging doors into the kitchen.

“You were totally checking her ass out.”

It doesn’t seem worth denying.

“So you know that internship I applied for in New York, at the advertising firm? Well, I got it.”

I take what is left of my potatoes and flatten them out on the rim of the plate. I want her to acknowledge how smooth I’ve gotten them.

I smirk.

My silence has no motive.

“Well, I accepted it. I’ve always wanted to live in New York, and it’s a really good agency. It’s such a good opportunity for me.”

The power in the relationship long ago shifted to her, meaning she has less to lose if it ends. To me, being in a relationship makes it feel like I somewhat have my shit together. At least I’m a capable enough male to attract a mate.

I look at the bill and try to calculate the tip in my head.

“Seriously, are you even like, listening? Do you have anything to say about what I just told you?”

I can’t be sure if I do or not. The emptiness I feel seems to be aware only of itself.

“I was also thinking it’d be best if I did this on my own. I don’t want to be tied down to anything. It wouldn’t be fair to me or you. I mean, maybe you can come visit me. It’s not like I want to stop talking. Let’s just see how we both feel when I get home.”

I carve a geometric pattern into the potatoes. It looks a bit like Sumerian runes.

“I leave for New York in two weeks. I don’t want to not see you, but it may be harder, you know? I mean, it’s not like we can pretend I’m not going away, that things are normal.”

She hasn’t used the words ‘breaking up.’

I think about what the waitress with the nice ass is doing and realize how a restaurant is all these different worlds depending on one’s role: patron, wait staff, cook, dishwasher, manager, hostess, but nobody ever really considers another’s because they’re wrapped up in their personal universe.

Nobody’s reality can be felt by anybody else, which goes a long way towards explaining human relations. I have all of these ideas in my head, but to somebody else I’m just a body. A lump of flesh. Not them.

“I don’t know what else to say right now. I should probably go. Just think about things, OK? Let’s talk in a couple of days.”

She stands up and puts on her coat. As she walks by she puts her hand on my cheek and looks at me sadly, then leans in and kisses me not quite passionately, but more than a peck. “I’m really going to miss you.”

It’s not until I get home later and lay down on my bed that I start to cry, and even then it feels like my body is doing it on its own, as if I have no say in the matter.

SACRAMENTO, CA

It’s been a week since I last saw you. Almost two months since we stopped sleeping together. Four months since you started dating someone new. Seven months since you moved out. Eight months since you shattered my picture of our future. One year since we moved into our new apartment together. Sixteen months since you photographed my sister’s wedding. Eighteen months since we returned from France. Nearly two years since I greeted you at the airport in Paris. Three years since we first moved in together. Three years and some months since you first told me you loved me. It was during the same trip when I took you to meet my parents. It had already been two months since I had first met yours. Further back in our history was our first fight: three and a half years ago (still one of my most memorable St. Patrick’s Days).  It was more than three and a half years ago that we first had sex. Almost four years since we began hanging out. And, it was nearly five years ago when we first met.

These are the events by which I have been marking my time – something I have been doing for far too long.

And well past when it should have ended. Yet I find myself sitting here at this computer with tears falling fast because I know that this is the true end of the era of you in my life. I first noticed it last week when person after person asked me when I am leaving. It is no longer the question of how long it has been since us. It is now only a question of me and what I am doing. And I realized that for a number of weeks now I have ceased to mark my time by you and have begun to mark it for the future instead.

It is less than one week until I board a plane to Frankfurt. One month from now I will be arriving in Istanbul and meeting my future roommate. Six weeks until my orientation. Two months until school begins. Six months until my return to Sacramento. From there on out it gets a little bit hazy. The one thing of which I am certain, however, is that I will be coming back to this place with all new experiences, none of which will contain any memory of you.

And when I return, my time will only be marked by when it was that I left.

SACRAMENTO, CA –

When you left I lay there for nights on end, staring up at the ceiling, memorizing the shadows cast there by the street lights outside, listening as the heater clicked on and blew too-hot air at me and then waiting for it to turn back off.

I lay there listing in my head the reasons why you left, filing them away, stacking them up, shuffling them around, reorganizing them, examining them, turning them over and over again, all in the hopes of seeing the why more clearly.

I lay there night after night, unable to sleep, crying, waiting for the world to wake up, listening for the sounds of life outside so I could know I wasn’t alone, thinking to myself that I was unloved, unlovable.

I lay there in our my bed feeling pathetic and lost, blaming myself and thinking I was the one at fault, thinking if I had just done this or that differently, you’d have loved me enough to try.

When you left, I lay here, broken. But since we stopped being “we” I have come to realize I have been freed – free now to do all of those things I thought I’d never do because I was with you.

I lie here now, changed.

I lie here knowing I don’t owe you anything.

I lie here thinking that you were just as much at fault as I was, that it wasn’t only I who wouldn’t change.

I lie here now, hopeful, listening to the world outside my window, knowing I get to be a part of it, thinking that one day I will find someone who deserves my love, and I will be loved, am lovable.

I lie here with the sun casting bright morning light onto my covers, thinking this is my chance, my chance to make my life anything I want without having to worry about how it will effect the someone else in my life.

I’m here! It’s happening! Let’s get this thing moving. No more moping. No more crying over you. No more dwelling on everything you ever did to hurt me.

No more.

SACRAMENTO, CA –

Anyone who has a younger sibling knows what it feels like to be loved unconditionally. If you have enough siblings, you may even know what it’s like to be loathed unconditionally. Me, I’m lucky to have two younger sisters who would have done just about anything I asked them to do when we were younger. It might be said that I made them into my own personal slaves. Kati was about 16 years younger than me, so her tenure was short-lived and she didn’t get into nearly as much trouble as my sister Jess.

I would get Jessica to break into my mom’s secret stash of M&M’s. Or I’d have her steal my sister Melissa’s favorite doll so we could torture it. We’d also dress up my brothers as girls and take photos of them. Or we’d convince the youngest child of the moment to eat bugs, or dirt, or rotten grapes. And if we ever got caught, or if someone tattled on us, Jess would always take the blame. She never once told my mom that I made her do it. Of course, she was (and still is) adorable, so my mom was never too mean to her. Sometimes she’d get her hair pulled or be forced to apologize or sit in time out. But as soon as her punishment was meted out, she’d be back in my room hoping to play barbies (which I was always able to talk her out of because I didn’t ever want to take my barbies out of their boxes).

In my family we all had what I guess you’d call a “soul sibling.” Jess was mine. Even though we were six years apart with two other girls between us we were paired together from the time she was born. When she was a baby, I’d hold her whenever my mom would let me, and as she grew she became attached to me. She would beg my mother to dress us in matching clothes and we’d talk incessantly about how we should have been born twins.

Jess and I also shared a room, and a bed, for as long as either of us can remember. Even when I finally got my own room at age 12 Jess would sneak down in the middle of the night to sleep in my bed with me. I was afraid of the dark and of killers hiding under my bed, so I appreciated the company.

I managed to get over my fear of the dark and I bought a bed under which nobody could fit, but I’ve never been able to get used to being in bed by myself. In fact, I’ve never been able to get used to being alone at all. Since the time I moved out of my parents’ home, I’ve had one boyfriend or another to keep me company. When they weren’t around, I’d turn on the TV and the stereo at the same time to fill up the silence and loneliness threatening to envelope me. Then, two weeks ago, the other half of my bed was vacated, with nobody new waiting to fill the void.

And so it is that, at age 28, I’m learning how to be alone with myself for the first time.

I’m keeping your shampoo and conditioner in case you ever come back to Texas, wind up staying in my bed and showering in my shower the next morning.

I’m keeping the soft, worn hospital blanket your mom “borrowed” from Fort Sam.

I’m keeping the David Yurman ring you gave me one Christmas. It was never really my style but you said it was the first ring you ever bought a girl. You were 28 years old when you said that.

I’m keeping some Skillets in the freezer in case you come back and maybe just want to come over for breakfast. This is your favorite breakfast (besides Eggs Benedict).

I’m keeping my hair long in case you come back even though I really want the Rihanna haircut. You always told me to keep it long. Anyway, it’s so cliche for girls to cut their hair post breakup.

I’m keeping the smiles/sea/drinks/sunset picture of us in Cabo on my bookshelf so you can remember the trip when we fell in love in case you come back.

I’m keeping your phone number and all three email addresses in the manila file folder labeled “Canada Documents” tucked in back of a coat closet. I had to delete them from my phone and laptop because the temptation to use them became nearly unbearable after we surpassed our previous breakup record of 22 days. But I might need them, in case you come back.

I’m keeping up appearances in case you come back. No badmouthing or crying in public. I ran into the Sprockett guy’s girlfriend last week. When she didn’t recognize me I reflexively said, “I’m Harry’s girlfriend.” Her lightbulb went on and mine dimmed. “Well…ex,” I corrected. “Ex-girlfriend.” A quick recovery.

I’m keeping the Spanish Dagger you left at my place. You used to huff on its leaves to speed up photosynthesis. You’ll want to see how well it’s doing, if you come back.

I’m keeping the radio preset to 89.1 in case you come back and want to discuss something from NPR. You’re the only person I know who wants to discuss what they heard on NPR. Actually you’re the only person I know who listens to NPR.

I’m keeping a low profile.

You can’t smoke, drink, cry, fuck or wish a person out of your system.

Can you write someone away? Maybe.

I’m keeping an open mind. To new possibilities.

And to old ones.


1. This American Life broadcast #339 “Breakup” released 08/24/2007. Available for $0.95 on iTunes or I can email the MP3 to you.

2. Sweat. The gym kind.

3. Cary Tenis’s advice in general and in particular this.

4. Moderate seclusion.

5. “Get Out of Your Mind and Into Your Life” by Steven Hayes

6. The blog of NY Times hip hop critic Sasha Frere Jones

7. Mozella’s Light Years Away


Sat in my apartment and cried.

Cried until the tears formed a single stream and pooled in the hollow indentation at the base of my throat, spilling.

If you had been watching you wouldn’t have heard a sound because the air conditioner was roaring so loud it muffled even the cracked sobs.

Thought about getting in the shower. Putting on a great outfit. Getting drunk with friends at the bar.

Remembered how that doesn’t work.

The heart can’t process pain like the liver filters alcohol. Undealt with pain sticks around. Denial lodges it deeper.

So the crying continued.

And continued.

And continued spasmodically.

Got tired of the crying. Changed. Drove to the Super Target NOW OPEN by my apartment and bought some really expensive eye drops, ones that cost more than $3, and did some damage control.

Rohto
(The fact a person can go to Target in any state of disarray and no one will comment or appear to notice makes me truly appreciate living in America)

Came home and sat on the stairs for a long time.

If you had been watching you would have thought the wall had some kind of hypnotic power but actually a slideshow of us was playing in my head.

Highlights and lowlights. The usual scenes.

Thought the crying was going to start again but it didn’t.

Told myself the worst was over.

Put on my sneakers.

Walked to the park.

In the narrow embrace of the trees started running.

Hard running, hard breathing.

Went all the way inside my head until there was no reason to be running and no running and no park and no me.

Got inside the culvert, took my shuffle off and yelled.

At my own weakness. At yours.

At the discrepancy between what love could be and what it ends up being.

Walked back to my apartment.

Booted up the computer and listened to that Sia song.

Wrote this.

Turned off the computer and waited for it to be Monday.