I found the stuffed bulldog you bought me last fall tonight. I thought I’d thrown it out, but as I rummaged through the storage closet in my sorority house, I found it — him, Bruce — nestled between extra tee shirts and mixer decorations.
Bruce was a vestige from a different time — a poorly made carnival prize that was falling apart at its loose seams, but I still could not throw him away. I snatched him from his temporary resting place and took him back to my room, and my roommate stared as I propped him up on my bed.
Spring began in Atlanta with pollen flurries that seemed more violent this year; for three months, I walked around in a semi-haze — my body assaulted by the new season’s blooming plants. I felt just as physically raw as I did emotionally.
As February inched closer towards March, as the months began to emerge from underneath the harshest winter I’d ever experienced, I became increasingly restless. The dreams and ambitions I had had for myself — independent of anyone else — became louder than ever. I became more aware, than ever, of the transience of all the relationships in my life.
Our relationships are all products of the specific time and circumstances in which we find ourselves. Eventually, we all journey forward on our own, and the intensity of every relationship — platonic or romantic — dissipates, I thought.
So, I broke up with you, the man I truly thought — at this isolated point in my life — I would marry. Because you were going to graduate. Because I still bore the naïveté of a 19-year-old girl dating someone nearly four years her senior — a numbers game that played out in our emotions. Because I wanted to fully experience college for what I believed it should entail.
Because our relationship was transient.
Telling you, whom I believed was and would be the love of my life, that we couldn’t be together was one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do.
I watched you fall out of love with me and in love with another girl. I learned that you had decided to stay in this unbearably warm city (stoic and stagnant like molasses, like the South) so you could remain with her. This was a choice that you had not been willing to make for me, only months prior. And I began to practice the careful art of indifference. It was the only way, it seemed, that I could keep my emotions from crumbling.
“If you’re not going to do it in the long run, why do it in the short run?”
I stole that line from a boy I met in the fine heat of April, who had written it in one of his short stories.
We passed shots of whiskey back and forth and smoked cigarettes on his back-porch until our lungs hurt — a toxic combination that only writers could appreciate. We talked about our past relationships because it is always difficult to escape from them. My cheeks grew warmer and rosier as my body became increasingly whiskey-wooed, and my voice grew louder, more urgent, as I spoke about you. I didn’t love you anymore, but I couldn’t forget the love I once had for you. So I studied the shape of his lips instead.
He and I would be nothing more than the figment of a few fickle moments, like you and I. And I realized there — and later, when that night became hazier in my memory — that he might have been onto something.
There is never a long run because our relationships exist only in the short run. So, why not embrace the transience in each of our relationships? Why not save ourselves the pain and stay indifferent?