I tell everyone about the first time. That’s because it’s a funny story and I need to make people laugh. But what I have never told anyone is about the second time when you told me I liked it too much and I was too intense and it was weird, and when you said those things it was exactly like when I’d watch my mother clamp the lid closed on the pressure cooker. I did that to myself. I am still closed and whatever is inside of me is still not done even though the pressure is sometimes unbearable.
You carried me fourteen city blocks across a summer dusk and I was crying and covered in blood. I even had blood between my toes and my blood got all over you and so did my snot from crying but you never said a word and you took me home and still never said a word. It was from you that I learned to be quiet in the presence of another’s grief. When I stopped calling, it was not for the reasons you think, which some people say were obvious. Don’t listen to them. I stopped calling because you saw me like that.
Everyone always thinks it is them I am writing about. I am never writing about anyone even when I am always writing about you.
Eighteen times I fold a post-it with your name on it before I stuff it in the cracks of the Western Wall and pray to God to make me forget you, which works. Years later you find me on Facebook and you have three kids and a shitty job and the same wife and you have aged so badly that you look like Lou Reed, and basically no one aspires to look like Lou Reed no matter how talented he was, so I give thanks for answered prayers.
If I could just stop falling for guys purely because they like cats, that would be perfect, okay? Thanks. Also, remind me that good taste in music is in no way an indicator of decent husband material because it is not. I should probably change my MO and start looking for guys who like Celine Dion.
I am like a can of soup. The vacant spaces inside of me are filled with all the letters of the alphabet repeated over and over again. Here is something I do not like to admit to myself at all: I liked your name and its spelling and the way the letters are shaped so once I even saw it spelled out in a tangle of oak branches. And I know I am only finding these things because I want to look for them, but I took this as a sign anyway. Later that night when you called me I decided that finally hearing from you had something to do with the tree.
Girls don’t like this. I don’t like this. Who made you think we did? I know who it was. Someone who pretended that she loved it so you’d love her. I want to hunt this girl down and give her a piece of my mind because no girl wants someone to do this to her, except she is me and right this second I am pretending to love it so that you will love me even though I hate what you are doing. That you will never love me is more painful than your dry fingers and sharp nails anyway, so who even cares?
Hand to God, I am shocked that I have never seen you on the news for a double homicide.
Your wife is not as pretty as me. She wasn’t back then either, before she became your wife. I have always been the prettier one, and we aren’t talking about a subtle difference here, or a matter of taste. By everyone’s standards, I am significantly more attractive than your wife, which is pointless because you married her over me regardless. I would’ve said yes, for the record, if you’d asked me instead. I guess you know that, but that’s not the point. The point is that I never felt pretty and I think she did.
That I did not go to prom with you was a very poor choice on my behalf, but I have always lacked good sense when it comes to these things. Look, I need you to know that I never forgot you, that you were the first boy who ever brought me flowers and they were daffodils and you bought them at a school fundraiser. I need you to know that I took care of them as per the instructions on the card and that they bloomed and that I kept them long after they dried up and the water turned to mold and evaporated, and I kept them because even at fourteen, I knew intuitively that I was going to have the kind of life where daffodils would be rare.
Who dumps someone over a payphone from the airport when they are on their layover on their way to see you? You couldn’t have told me before the first leg of my trip? For Christ’s sakes. Do you know how annoying and expensive it was to change my flight? Do you know how hard I cried on that prop plane back to Albany? Probably. But what you don’t know, is that on that night I cursed you, because you straight up did me wrong and you deserved to be cursed. I like to think that this is why you grew up to be so ugly, because seriously, when I was with you, you were actually hot. Now? Ugh.
I am intelligent and you are a know-it-all. These are not the same thing, however, I believe that you are secretly insecure and so when you try to teach me about things I already know about (more than you, actually) I smile and let you think you're the smart one.
When they told me to kiss a boy against the brick wall of the middle school, I ran to the swings and got on and I swung with my back to the whole lot of them round robin jamming their tongues in each other’s mouths. I am glad that I held out, because if I hadn’t, then you wouldn’t have been my first kiss and it wouldn’t have been so special and that you made it so cinematic (I still love train tracks to this day) would’ve had to have meant something else entirely, though I can’t even imagine what. I can still hear your Walkman playing in my ears.
It never would have worked out between us. You don’t like cats. Except we both know it totally would’ve worked out between us.
The last time we spoke was before my wedding. It seems like this conversation should have held some significance but I remember little else than that you were upset and that I didn’t know it would be the last time we’d talk. If I had known, I would have said something special. I think you were looking for a moment, and I couldn’t feel your need, but I am clueless and I can’t read people very well so I didn’t give you that moment. Is that why it’s been eleven years and you still have me blocked on all your social media?
I’m glad that I don’t have the body type that you prefer even though you took me on the best date of my entire life, platonically, but whatever. It was still the best date. I’m glad because being your girlfriend and having to eat nothing but grilled chicken and steamed vegetables so you’d keep liking me would suck, and also because I like cake more than trying to force people to find me attractive in spite of the fact that a good portion of my life to this day is dedicated to trying to force people to find me attractive.
Call me lovely. Say you’re lucky. Tell this to all 774 of my friends for me.
I think you believe our worth is determined by how easy we’ve had it, and there is a part of me that won’t stop believing that obviously the suffering deserve love more. Watch me suffer harder. I could win a medal for my suffering.
The night before you met your future wife I was trying to sleep in your bed mostly out of guilt, and I got up and left because I was hungry and I realized we never even got to the part of unbuttoning my jeans and when I drove home in the middle of the night I remember thinking “I’m okay with being alone for a while,” and wondering how I could tell you that, because it wasn’t you. Maybe it was you. There was nothing wrong with you. Not that. But the catch is that we never had to have that conversation. If people ask me why I love your wife so much, I tell them because she was the girl you really needed, which is true, but I leave out the part about how she saved me too.
Yes I know that you should never ever make your booty call banana bread. I mean, I know it now, anyway.
Your worst fear is that I am going to fall in love with you, and even though you never say this explicitly, I sense it. I never address it, but I wish I’d had the guts to grab you and say listen to me, you fucking idiot, you wish I would fall in love with you. If I fell in love with you, you’d be the luckiest man on earth. Sometimes I think you already know this and just don’t want to admit it because what you really fear is that you have already fallen in love with me. You are such an asshole.
Remember after we broke up but you cheated on your fiancée with me because it was “one last time” and I told you not to marry her and you thought I was being jealous and you said you were going to do it anyway even though you had some mysterious reservation about her that you wouldn’t disclose, which should have been the fact that you wanted to fuck me one last time, even though that wasn’t it? I’m really glad that after your divorce you can finally admit that you should’ve listened to me. I may have been jealous, but I was also right.
I had to make myself this visualization exercise where I imagined unraveling my entire brain and rinsing it in bleach and running water to get every trace of you off of it, and then I had to figure out how to put my new clean brain back into my skull, but you were like some kind of mutated, resistant strain of virus that wouldn’t be killed no matter what I did. It was terrible. You made me a mix cd and I only ever listened to the first song where the words were about trying to rid you from my bones and I always wondered how you knew or if you felt that way too or if you just liked the Decembrists and coincidences aren’t meaningful and nothing means anything anymore. God dammit, this went on for more than a decade. I am impressed with our endurance for torturing one another. At least I can say we accomplished that.
You were so weird. There is no other word for it. I dumped you because you told me you refused to take your meds and because you picked a fight with your sister over breastfeeding. I’m glad I didn’t overlook your red flags, which is a miracle for me because I like to make excuses for the horrible behavior of men. I am thrilled we did not end up together. What I am not thrilled about is that we had to stop hooking up, or whatever you call doing everything except having actual sex, because that was so good that it feels unfair that the Universe had to go and make you a freaking lunatic.
On the day you got married it poured rain and I cried all day long. I worked a double. For a little while the electric went out and we had no customers so I painted a cracked piece of bisque while it thundered and a thousand miles away the sun was shining hard on you and your bride.
Are you reading this?
I was much more in love with your house than I was ever actually interested in you, but how could you blame me? It was a three story Victorian with a wisteria-covered pergola. I know you understand because you bought the damned thing. So on the positive side, at least we had something in common in loving that house.
The reason I slept with you was because you were smart, and I thought you’d be the kind of guy who would fall in love with me, and we would end up together and we’d have this great story about how we met, but I was wrong. I have never felt so lonely as the moment a military plane flew over your house and we saw it from your bedroom window and you told me your ex, no your girlfriend, you corrected yourself immediately, was trying to get a flight back from Europe. A few minutes later she called and you were so obviously happy to hear her voice that I could feel your happy too. I knew I never had a chance. After that, you made me stay because you didn’t feel like driving or paying for a cab. In the way the mind represses trauma, I forgot your name. As in, the next morning I woke up in my same clothes in your bed and you were already getting ready for work and I had no idea what your name was.
Please tell me that you have finally come out of the closet. I saw on Facebook that you are now divorced. Please let this be because you finally figured out that you were actually gay and could no longer live a lie. Please let that have happened.
I am a lot less bitter now than I used to be about what you did to me. Someone saw you sitting on your front step with your head between your knees on the day I left. I always wondered about this. There are days when I hope you drink too much and make yourself sick because you could never hold your liquor, and I hope find yourself drunk on your ass and filled with regret. Maybe shame. I think I want you to feel shame, but then somehow I eventually stop feeling like this and I no longer hope I run into you somewhere when I have lipstick on, and I no longer worry about running into you when I don’t have lipstick on, and I guess this is what getting over someone is.
My book, This Is Not My Beautiful Life, is on sale June 7th, 2016. Pre-order now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and Indiebound.