When He Left Me

Kevin Dooley
Kevin Dooley

I was standing in an apartment which had nearly half of my worldly possessions, but which didn’t belong to me. I only realized at that very moment how alone I actually was, how much I had grown to depend on someone who could easily throw me out at any moment. The fact that, after eight months, I still didn’t have a key, should have been a sign — it wasn’t. I only believed what I wanted to believe, and “you are only partially welcome” was not something I was interested in realizing.

He gave me a few extra boxes he had left over from his move a few years back (who keeps boxes that long??) and offered to help me get my things together. I somehow managed, in my delirious grief, to interpret that as an act of kindness. Looking back, it seems the very portrait of pathetic to be flattered at someone’s offer to help me get out of their life faster, but we tell ourselves what we need to.

I called a cab and got in it with a few bags in my hands, one containing dirty laundry that never had the chance to make it into the washing machine. I had to pay several dollars more to put the boxes in the trunk, but “insult to injury” wasn’t something I was ready to think about. Part of me still felt like he was going to come running up to me when I got out of the car and tell me that I had imagined the last hour and a half. Part of me could still feel his hands on my shoulders from when he awkwardly embraced me “goodbye.”

My apartment had never seemed more cold. It had never felt less like the place I actually lived, or more like a vague insult to my current state of aloneness. For so long, I had been living somewhere else and convincing myself that it was where I really belonged, and the fact that I only passed by my real home occasionally to get a new bra was made painfully clear when I finally went back for good. It was mocking me, the prominent display of a Chinese take-out menu on my coffee table a talisman of all the nights I was going to spend eating greasy food to make myself feel better.

I gained ten pounds that month. I started wearing only sweatpants or dresses which stayed fully away from the body at all angles. Anything tight reminded me too much of having someone’s arms around me, as pathetic as it sounds. I didn’t want anything touching me, even a cotton-poly blend.

I was too lazy to go see a psychiatrist (or maybe just too afraid of all the things I’d actually have to talk about), and so I didn’t get a prescription that I absolutely needed. I started buying Lexapro and Xanax from friends, and spending most nights in a comatose state in front of the television, wishing I could take enough drugs to put me asleep for several months.

Maybe I was asleep. I could still feel my extremities, but only in pain. I could feel little needles pricking the ends of my fingers. I could feel bruises on all the last parts of me he had touched, and I wondered if they would ever feel good again. For hours, I would try to give myself an orgasm, touching myself raw because I was convinced that even a moment of serotonin would make me want to eat less or stop staring with disgust at my expanding body in the mirror. I couldn’t come. It was like that part of me had withered and died, and I was touching a corpse to try and remind myself how it felt when it was alive.

I came back from the dead, of course, but part of me never really returned. Part of me still lives in my little designated drawer in his perfect downtown apartment. Part of me is still waiting there because it feels it belongs, and you can never kick a ghost out when it still has something to haunt. TC mark

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