Break-ups might be messy or clean cut, but they leave behind their fair share of the unresolved. There is always a “what if” that comes with a person’s absence, and seeing how our minds cannot help but try to instil everything with meaning, we are coerced by instinct to create narratives that can either demonise or sanctify. About three months ago my relationship ended and I found myself lacking the trusted conversation partner I’d grown accustomed to during the time we’d spent together. That’s when instead of blowing up his phone with messages or calling, I tried to remember what we as a species did before we could peak into someone’s life from a rectangle that fit in our palm. Rather than sending Private Messages, I started jotting down journal entries. The image of the addressee was quickly replaced by my own mirrored twin. What was a series of make-believe dialogues turned into a heartfelt soliloquy faster than I would have thought possible. It’s hard to cope with loneliness in an era when everyone is obsessed with staying in touch 24/7. Couples sleep together on Skype if they can’t nuzzle up their dreams underneath the same blanket. I only had a routine to stick to and the intimacy of paper to indulge in. The bane of monogamy requested a narrative. The air in my room had a hole in it shaped like my ex, but the sharp edges of this cut-out did not respond to pleasantries.
First entry is dated November 3rd.
L, I knew this was it for us the second you rode off on your bike that Monday. There was something about the look in your eyes that felt like you’d let go of the floating wreckage and were being pulled somewhere else, somewhere better maybe. I have to forgive myself for not knowing how to dance. I never thought it would be this hard. I have a cold and I’m stuck in my house, but all I really want is to go down to the river and stare at the water until I forget who I am. No, all I want to do is delete myself and then begin again. How do I begin again? Where do the drafts of my personality go when I decide they’re inadequate?
L, I went out on a date, but I don’t know why. He told me how scared he is of death and honestly I’ve never scoffed so much in five minutes since I went to that one awful conference. I miss you dearly just about now. This is the type of feeling I wish I could pluck out of my brain and throw to the cats. I’m sure it’s dark red, meaty in texture and very pleasant to chew on. Maybe the cats could blow balloons out of it and fly away. I remember when we went up to the top of the church tower. My fear of heights made me slow and nauseous. Maybe I should chew myself a balloon out of this feeling and fly my whole room somewhere. Masochism… Not much difference between this and the date.
L, went to see One More Time With Feeling. Huddled between my friends in the dark cinema as Nick Cave recited his poem about the Burj Al Arab, I sneaked a peak at thoughts of you. I didn’t mean to be silly and cry, but I did. Felt better afterwards. When we got out it started snowing and the flakes were so fat and thick me and M decided to walk all the way home to hear them crinkle under our boots. I was needlessly hopeful for my future, but I don’t think anybody noticed.
A man was speaking Hungarian to his little girl today and I understood every word. Maybe you would’ve been proud, I have no idea. Sometimes, when I hear it on the bus, especially if it’s muttered into a phone, it reminds me of when you spoke to your mum and I heard my own name be an island in the foreign waters of your language. I was not a very committed learner. Maybe that’s a metaphor for our relationship. I’ve bought presents for everyone, but they’re not enough presents to mask the fact that there’s nothing in these bags for you.
L, my family asks about you and I have to break up with them for you. I’m good at this. I smile and playfully remind them of the validity of loneliness. I tell my mother there’s a chance I might never find a soul mate, but that it doesn’t bother me. She promptly suggests that I get my head out of my ass and come live in the real world. I’ve recently learned that reality is relative. I don’t say that. I don’t say anything. Last night I dreamed I had opened the door to your room and saw you sleeping next to someone else. I left you alone, quietly shutting the door behind me. I refuse to believe it doesn’t mean something. My brain is solving the crossword of our lives when I’m not watching it.
January the 1st.
I walked past my old high school. What I remember vividly is staring out the window at the oak tree during class. In September its leaves were all a wonderful golden yellow and if the sky was cloudless, the contrast always struck a chord with me.
February the 9th.
The last couple of months I’ve been buried in paperwork, but it all went through and now I’m in Italy, in my new kitchen, listening to Georgia sing on a kitsch TV show. Every day has its own madness. I haven’t slept in so long. I’m out in Café Pinturicchio or The Shamrock, sipping on dry Umbrian red, complaining that the microphone doesn’t work on karaoke night. My brain’s bandwidth is taken up by Italian. Culture shock hit me like a hurricane and I’m trying to walk myself out of the daze piano, piano… I sat in front of a sculpture by Bernini for about half an hour, I could swear it was alive. A faint smile made my lips curl although I wanted the moment to be solemn. I’m in more pieces than many of these ancient things.
That doesn’t matter. I always thought of myself as antifragile.