I wrote about the what a year ago. But I never wrote about the why.
I don't pretend that this emotional suicide bomb — my need to wrestle publicly with ghosts — matters much, or to very many. Far more distressing things happen in the world; I know that. People have been hurt far more; I know that too. On the other hand, people have been hurt, all people. For me, typing in wrought, concentric sentences and being Queen Overshare is what helps. I hate to be a cliche and emoblog, but I hate more the idea of never giving this a public voice. Thanks for reading it.
It starts with the leaving.
Just after midnight in Brooklyn, when the street was as dark as it ever gets but not quiet, it's never quite quiet, he said he wanted to talk. It was the first time in five years he'd ever wanted to.
One look and I understood he didn't want to.
He didn't look me in the eye. He didn't sit up, didn't face me. One arm flung over his face, eyes knotted against the tears, he said into the crook of his elbow that he'd already signed a lease and — no discussion — he was moving out. He said things, but the things he didn't say were hardest: that my opinion didn't matter; that I was no stakeholder in his life; that he wouldn't do me the respect of sitting up.
After he'd done the saying and the not-saying, and after I'd done the shouting and crying and throwing of utensils, I laid next to the person I'd wanted to marry, and I held him like a vise, parroting, "Please don't do this. Please don't do this."
I hate that I begged him, but I did. I begged.
Begged for an end to the partnership that seemed more like the end to a partnership, and not the end to a one-night stand.
Begged him to admit me into his life, to remember the history, to give me a say in the matter.
Begged to just be allowed in the room.
I couldn't make the complicated ideas about partnership and dependency and severance line up in sentence form, so I condensed it: "Please don't do this." And I hoped that through repetition it would land, because I already saw the end coming.
Not the physical end two days later, when two mirthful strangers — his coworkers — came and removed my life, my cat, and half my stuff. I was glaring at them, I think, or saying emotionally messy things, because he sotto-voce'd "Let's not make this more difficult on them, I'm sure they feel awkward enough." I didn't think to say anything good in response.
("you're right i should be more considerate clearly your coworkers are going through something challenging right now.")
What was going to happen next, after the fall, when the pieces were glued back, once I'd climbed out of the hole, and other metaphors, I saw right away. There would be no going back. He was doing things that I did not have the capacity to forgive.
It is an old story, a Torvald/Nora story. I'd known the guy for 16 years, loved him for 11, partnered with him for 5, and I had no idea who he was.
It reversed everything, the leaving. The decade-and-a-half of goodwill and in-jokes, the history of singing and driving and liberating road signs and flinging handwritten letters across the country, the hours of happy commiserating about politics and god and animals and geography and music — our plain old earnest like for one another, in other words — all that was gone.
And it would not return.
Distance kept my atoms from flying apart and dehiscing my sputtering rage at the unfairness of it all to the four corners. It kept me from thinking about hometown acquaintances speculating on what I must have done (hit him...? cheat on him...?) to deserve this.
It kept me, too, from encouraging my friends to scorn him.
My closest friends, in the immediate aftermath, lined up anyway in sweet and adamantine support to verbally kick and punch him, assuming I needed to vent. They needed to vent, after all. "Who is this person," they would demand, ordering me to make sense of the fact that the Seminal Nice Guy could so abruptly turn, could serve up such unfathomable indifference. "How could he do this? Who is he?"
I had no answer, since I largely believed it was all just a very interesting circumstance that was happening to someone else, and I blandly told everyone to stand by him. I was desperate to keep up appearances; I was desperate to present a bold front; I was desperate not to do something crazy.
("you know... something crazy like post a public emotional barf blog entry discussing the breakup in sordid, shameless detail accompanied by pictures of us in happier days.")
I was desperate because — despite everything — I still loved him and I didn't want him to be alone.
But being alone is his favorite; I don't know why I worried. His parents, his brothers, his friends — nobody gets near the guy. Every effort bounces right off that pristine, impenetrable bubble of self-control and bonhomie as it always has, ever since he was the 15-year-old who nobody took seriously. Now he's the 30-year-old who doesn't take himself seriously.
So I shake my fist at the sky: You can't bury all your hope and care for the world in animals and strangers.
Well, now, I know better. You can. He does.
But you can't do that and be a nice guy. And somehow, he still tells himself that Just Being Nice is the most important thing to him. He even tells himself he was a good friend to me. I don't know how he makes that logical long-jump.
The truth is: I could forgive him for wanting to leave, but I couldn't forgive the way he left. And I had clarity on it right away. After he announced his intentions into his elbow, I told him there was no going back. We won't end up friends. Please don't do this. Not this way. Please don't.
If I could go back and re-script that night, "Please don't do this" would be out. In its place, something cavalier, something cutting, something grounded in the reality of life, which is that sometimes people hurt you for no good goddamn reason.
"Please go get bent," maybe. Or "Please go sleep at Lindsay's."
Zach And Angela — the idea of it — was an immutable cinematic conceit that had been carved very deeply into my psyche. In some ways, I'd loved him from adolescence, and through all my other relationships, I thought that if he and I ever got together, we'd be bedrock.
And we were.
And then we weren't.
And then he was the one who, out of all past contenders, ultimately treated me the worst. When that unfortunate truth occurred to me, I flailed down a regretful and unforgiving rabbit hole of existential crisis where nothing was real and meaning was false and even Sartre was sitting there going "You're on your own here, sister."
So much just never got said.
The memories: How we drove around Big Sur with our feet out the window, singing. How we wedged in the elevator of a building in Brooklyn Heights with his furniture, all sweet anticipation and sweat and the promise of the new. How he broke the mirror, and how we decided to keep it anyway. How we yelled on the roof with the Estonians. How he read me song lyrics over the phone and we were teenagers. How we drank champagne on election night and called everyone we knew. How we jumped in the ocean at Coney Island on New Years Day. How we climbed in the abandoned treehouse in Atlanta and how it almost fell. How we walked out for coffee on Sundays and bought vegetables and thought about the future and California and dogs and donkeys. How he gave me a sip of his root beer under an archway at Virginia Tech. How the neighbors yelled. How Rockefeller Center and soup and winter. How Tumbles. How 930 Club, how Supersnack. How the caliope. How Montauk. How Emily. How Wyoming. How nerd sweater and gin and the cabbie being in on it.
How I brought those pignoli cookies home from Philadelphia, and how he ate them even though he already knew he was leaving.
I forget to be surprised by how long we've known each other. It's been hard for me to let go of the chimera that he was the one for me. I know he's not, in the debate-team-logical sense, because the one for me wouldn't have done what he did.
Still, excising the guy doesn't come naturally; ghosts are tenacious.
But I'm chiseling away at him, dislodging that gooey, inauthentic Hollywood sentimentality and replacing it with the Things I've Learned. A year later (it's already been a year? it's only been a year?) the fact that I have to do that at all still stops me cold.
I really want to say the right thing here. I really want to get all these contradictory, complicated thoughts to line up and mean something, to say something in a new way that doesn't just amount to "you think you know a guy."
Time is slippery. One year ago, I couldn't have imagined the terrible horrible no-good very bad breakup would be a catalyst to get me to go back to school and do the thing I want to do. I couldn't have dreamed I'd relocate to Missouri. I couldn't have known my own capability.
Good change, all, and I'm glad for it.
But I miss the naive 31-year-old girl who believed utterly that the world would do her a solid. I miss that complete, unfoundering certainty that life and time and the zeitgeist would always provide a Disney ending where one seemed due.
Mostly, I miss the ability to believe that things, some things, do not fall apart. I miss the notion that sometimes, albeit rarely, the center can hold.
I guess the wisdom is better.
I'm sure the freedom is better.
I'm not in Brooklyn now, but I know beyond doubt it's just as noisy as it ever has been with ten million said and unsaid stories just like this one. He is in Brooklyn, listening to that quiet noise, and I hope, for his sake, really hearing it.
They call this closure, I think. Let's hope it does its job.