I heard the mailman come into my apartment building, her ring of a hundred keys clanking off her hip. I’m always excited to receive the mail. God knows why. Beyond bills and miscellaneous coupons, I’m not even sure what it is I’m always anticipating. Perhaps, I’m just a ball of curious energy, a seeker of sweet givings and chance. Maybe today a little magic will be waiting for me. Beneath it all, this is how I think. Maybe today I will receive a letter.
As I b-lined for the mailbox, my mind was held by a single thought, a feeling. I felt untroubled. I thought: I’ve never been this independent. This glad. I believed I was happy. This is a big word, I know it. A state of being typically just beyond our grasping, a feeling often unattainable. But, that is how I felt. Calm and proud, resolved and filled up with life. To me this was happiness, or as close as it comes to relief.
And I hadn’t felt relieved or happy in so long.
But then, just there on top of all my other mail—the bills, the coupons—was a letter. A letter addressed to me. Postmarked from Canada. It was my ex, or my boyfriend of three-and-a-half years that had gone missing, that I loved but I had given up on. There he was on top of all my mail, trying to find his way back into my heart.
How strategic of him, I reeled. How selfish. How spot-on. I love letters. Of course, I do. I’m a writer. To be written to is to be loved. At least, a little loved.
But for him to send a letter at this point felt, well, more self-serving than loving, to be blunt. He hadn’t called. Though, he could. To receive anything other than a call just feels defiant, degrading. It looks greedy. To receive anything other than a call illustrates my difficulty with him, my torture. It illustrates a selfish desire for life and love and condolences to be on his terms. Letters and emails and texts, they don’t create conversations. Intimacy. They allow for separateness, for two people to respond as and when and if they’d like. To give in or give back from their own corners of the world, if they’d like.
Letters and emails and texts benefit people in two ways. They give people the immediacy and pleasure to reach out in all their antsyness. And then, also, suddenly provide them the space, too, to press pause. To drift away. To reconsider. Forget about it. To feel like, eh, another day, never mind. Such allowances are inappropriate for a couple who is splitting, for a couple who has loved each other deeply and been hurt deeply by that love, too. I am one half of that couple. Now I sit here having read his letter and suddenly my world has fallen silent. I have no one to talk to about this. My friends barely got to know him and what they know, they don’t like. My family isn’t rooting for us. They aren’t a fan.
Everyone is over it.
They’re over us. And I can’t blame them. I know that right now all I have is myself to sit with, all I have are the effects of his letter coursing through me.
What makes breaking up especially torturous is that I don’t want to break a heart. But I don’t want to be heartbroken either. And my heart is already broken.
It’s been broken while in the relationship. It’s been broken for too long. Which is why breaking up can actually feel so terrifying. So obvious and inevitable. And yet, keep us so hesitant. Because if we already feel heartbroken, if we already feel that this is hell, what will being without him feel like? Being without hope. Without anything to commit to. Being even without hatred when hatred is a drama that can make us feel less alone.
This is why I have always postponed a breakup. Now that I’m so close to being free of us, he is trying to return. He is reaching for me. What devastates me is that I feel so vulnerable again, like I will make the wrong choice, like I will choose the easier, weakest path. What devastates me is that I feel this afraid. What happened to that single feeling though, that feeling that clearly came to me when I heard the jingle of the mailman, as I raced to my mailbox only moments ago?
That certainty, that irrefutable joy, which is suddenly missing.
I’m caught between these worlds. The world where I know an apology from him won’t cut it, won’t cure him of his habit to fade and leave me famished for love,
to betray our relationship as well as my trust. I know his apology won’t cure me either. I know that to relinquish my pain, I must let all hope for us go. I must leave our relationship, finally.
I must be, for once, on my own. It’s the world where there’s nothing he or even I can do that could ever possibly bring my loyalty back. My hope. My fantasy. Then there is the other world I’m trapped in by. Where breaking up for good feels like an impossible effort to initiate. Because even while I’m certain of the direction I need to release myself towards, that doesn’t mean I’m courageous enough to do it just yet.