This is the first installment of
The Circumstantial Breakup
Say wonderful. Means something which inspires delight, pleasure, and admiration. Say wonderful because it fits, like compatible and forever night conversation — every cliché come to life.
Say perfect. Means euphoria can be casual, locked between fingers on errands and commutes, wrapped wide and warm while you slept. Say perfect because every part of you fell so easily into place, as if by design.
Say intimate. Means a language of glances. Codenames and inside jokes. You were a connoisseur of the rougher parts, the acquired tastes, those subtle hints which others failed to appreciate. You drank it up, all of it, and it stained your lips.
Say opportunity. Means the doors finally opened, like you knew they would, like you hoped they would, and you felt a reflexive joy at their success. Smiled with pride. Your own opportunity followed. They smiled with pride. Two goons smiling at each other — sprinting across shared furniture.
Say distance. New York and New Mexico. Miami and Minneapolis. Paris. Something far — the distance as manageable as the opportunity was deniable. The first of many long talks. You want the best for them. You want the best. This is best. Mature. Correct. No infidelity. No ill will. No problem but the distance. So an amiable break then. Victims of circumstance. But the better for it. Only the best. A Circumstantial Breakup. And hey, you know, maybe a few years down the road?
Say unlikely. Split items into boxes and move to a room devoid of color. Wonder what you’re doing there. Your decorations cover only half the walls. This is an opportunity. Make spaghetti. Realize they took the colander. Use a fork. Verb alone from now on. No.
Say denial. Call them to talk about your unshared day. Try to remember the names of faces you’ve never seen — the cast of characters in a narrative to which you no longer belong. Smile with your voice; be happy for their success. You don’t need a Word file to keep track of their new friends. You have stories. Today on the train there was this bird and, oh, you say, I guess I didn’t realize how late it was there. Time zones. Skype. Dead air. You don’t say regret. But neither do they.
Say months it’s been now, months you tell your friends, the new friends, the ones with names your Someone has trouble recalling on the every-so-often phone conversations. You flash your friends a picture of a Boston Terrier puppy you saw at the park. That Someone loved Boston Terriers. So you texted them the picture, and they didn’t respond, not until two days later, when they asked if you’d seen the Banksy documentary. Should I resend it? you ask, Cause I think their phone is pretty bad, so sometimes they don’t get my texts.
Say confusion when they stop calling. Send a text asking for their new address, though, and your phone rings almost immediately, the voice on the other end muted but alarmed. They say you’re not coming here are you? and you say I was just gonna mail a birthday present. You feel inexplicably guilty. Overwhelmingly guilty. Sickly. Strange. They say they’ll be out of town for their birthday, visiting the parents of a name you have in a Word file somewhere. Your gut retreats. You smile and hope it carries in your voice. Oh, cool. They acknowledge how great their new lover is, and ask — so casually — if there is anyone special in your life at the moment.
Say yes. They stained your lips.
Say regret and let the color drain. Bind yourself to misery with a string of joyless f-cks. Close your eyes. Pretend. Pantomime what worked before. Feel the weight of your failures — let them anchor you. Sink. Drink. Smoke blow kiss fight die a little over and over until you’ve died a lot. Discover that ‘emotionally vacant’ is a look someone, lower-case, finds attractive. Date them. Say wonderful. Say compatible. Say perfect. Say intimate. Mean it as hard as you can. Fail. Feel the weight. Hate their colander. Hate having to retell your stories, the forever redundant night conversation — every cliché come to life. Suffer through this person who loves you, this kind, giving person, perfect on the page, this beautiful outfit that won’t ever fit. Wonder: how hollow is your commitment when a single call could change everything? Love swings for the fences; it doesn’t wait like a minor league pitcher for a call from the majors.
Say sorry and go it alone. Write words like these only better. Listen to old songs. Wish they would’ve slept with your best friend or, or something, something which allowed you to hate them. They never gave you a reason to hate them. Would that all your future relationships could end in hate. Blinding, final hate — fiery like Cortez and his ships. Permanent. Something so explosive it propels you forward. Means it’s too painful to look back. Means you never relive the first date stop the vacations together come on the way they’d wake up ten minutes before your alarm to kiss you to consciousness just stop.
Say acceptance. This is the prize you earned for your maturity, for letting the logic of opportunity win out over emotion:
A relationship without the protracted descent into resentment. A friend. Sweet memories. Freedom in your twenty-somethings. Self-aggrandizing what-ifs. New lips, with their own stain. Awkward hugs. Facebooks you don’t check. A job. A school. A relocation. All your old tricks made new. Tension again — tension over comfort — you never knew how much you’d been missing it. Forever middle couch cushions. Bridging the distance. Walking the streets. Collapsing in bed. Hoarding the sheets. This was what you chose, remember? This was what you chose.