Tell her that you need to talk, but use that voice you’ve never used before. Like when a family member calls you on the phone (who died, you say as you pick up since no family member regularly calls you on the phone—and who calls anyone anyway?). Approach her where she works at the coffee shop; this is urgent. Use the voice, as subtle as an emoticon scar on your forehead. It sounds like you are reading words but what comes out is Midwestern passive aggressive for let’s get out of here. Wherever that is.
Go to a nice park, one with escape routes. Not for you. It’s for her and you know this before you arrive. Say fractions of things you think you say. She walks away. Don’t go after her; she needs to walk alone. She tells you later that strangers poured her wine and let her use the phone like some other kinder decade. And then she calls you, her vocal cords in the key of done-sobbing, her voice scratchy like recovered album tracks. It is 4:00 a.m.
‘I just want to sleep by you.’
And you think about how these strange eye secretions make halos around your head. You’ve been doing that for weeks and she doesn’t know you can cry. Let her in like a traveling salesperson and suddenly there is a stranger in your bed. You’re not usually this easy and she’s sobbing with her hands over her mouth to not wake your roommates and you think (having abandoned religion years ago, which hurt her) maybe this is prayer. You don’t know when she leaves in the morning, and once there was a time you always knew. Your sheets smell the same and still don’t need to be washed.
Recall this situation to your therapist.
Say (though it feels forced): I felt nothing.
Therapist (though it feels forced): you can’t feel nothing.
Okay, you say, I just wanted her to leave. Your therapist never tells you what to do but you know what to do. That someone can make you want to be alone. And your fiancé is sending you text messages, this whole time, phone buzzing like some cheap As Seen On TV massage wand. I don’t want this to end. I need this. Like she’s reaching the end of a novel, something out of her control.
Meet her in your friend’s kitchen (she stayed there after you denied her sex the night before—yes you are at this point). She is already pre-sobbed and somehow can still produce water like some Old Testament miracle. You stand upright, all Giacometti statue: stiff, brooding, straight in the doorframe. Wails bounce off metal, you tell yourself as she’s crouched on the floor in that pre-breakup heap.
‘I want you to hit me, since that would feel better than the pain I’m in.’
You don’t know what to say to this. You’ve never hit anyone in your life. But god, all these made-for-TV lines, and did we always talk like this? You’re about to leave your cartoon character shape through the screen door. Turn your back for effect.
She places the ring on the kitchen floor. The offering dissected by tiles, some sort of tribal bartering token. Your friend has magnets on the fridge, magnets with Save-the-Date couple’s coerced smiles and brick backgrounds, wedding invitations with fonts that laugh clichéd Papyrus loops. You know, things that will never bear your name.