Do you remember when I broke your heart? I do. I remember you laying wrecked in my arms. You cried yourself to exhaustion like a little kid. You were so like a little kid that day. We took turns mothering each other, wiping snot off each other’s noses, letting each other wail with pain.
I’ve never been good at listening to pain. Sometimes I’d rather smother something into silence than watch it suffer.
I remember when you cracked open. Your yolk ran down my arms, through my fingers. I couldn’t put you back together again. You told me you thought that my seeing the little corner of the world you’d carved out, how you’d been fighting tooth and nail for it, chipping away at the prison cell with a spoon day by day until you finally made a nest big enough to curl yourself up in comfortably, would make me love you even more.
Your roommate ran into me on her walk home. I somehow knew she would. I tried to put on a brave face, but it was in vain. She touched my arm as she walked past. I wonder if she knows how much that meant to me. It was a freezing Midwestern winter. Both of our firsts. You were in therapy in your room. My coat was in there. I took yours. You were much skinnier, narrower than I. It barely fit my shoulders. My hands were exposed to the elements as I called and called and no one picked up. Finally, my mom did. She said we didn’t have to break up. I think I knew we would. I could see it in you when you left. It’s like I’d failed some final test. I didn’t know I was being tested. Raizel said at least if I came home early I could see her. I hated her for that. I hated everyone for a little while after. Myself most of all.
You told me you could tell I didn’t love you anymore because the old me never would’ve strayed far enough from you to miss any thought passing through the wrinkles in your forehead. Maybe you’re right. But the version of me you saw that week feels more accurate. Maybe you were just finally seeing the real me. The real, insecure, anxious, depressed me. That’s what feels real. Not the summer me, but the me who is too in her head. Then again, I’ve never been an optimist, or able to see much further than the current emotional river I’m swept up in.
I had a great few weeks after. Everyone wanted me, or so it felt. Maybe they still do. I’m hot. But I’m not meeting new people. And I’m too comfortable. And scared. And so uncomfortable. My biggest issue, I think, has always been my big head. It’s always in my way. I am, at once, obsessed with my current emotions and anxieties and joys and feelings, and yet so often and simultaneously longing for a romanticized past or an idealized future. I’m over present and over absent in the worst ways.
Everyone does this. I do it more than you. But academics and supposed experts do this too. We paint the past as better and better. We can’t seem to be present. Sociologists Keith Hampton and Barry Wellman say in their essay, “Lost and Saved … Again: The Moral Panic about the Loss of Community Takes Hold of Social Media,” that, “Longing for a time when the grass was ever greener dims an awareness of the powerful stresses and cleavages that have always pervaded human society.”
I’ve been reading this book called The Ethical Slut. Partly because I want to feel close to you, partly because I’m trying to embody that mindset more. I’ve never been quite as intentional as I should be. I tend to feel as though I fall into things, but it turns out I actually have choices in my life. Anyways, it’s turned out to be a good read, and not even so much about sex. It’s more about realizing and deprogramming societal ideals ingrained in us that don’t serve us. You seem to be trying to do that right now.
They talk about this scarcity, competition mindset. It fits with everything I know from therapy about the way anxiety and evolution work. When we’re feeling social anxiety, it’s often from an evolutionary fear of being kicked out of a group that we need to survive. And this book claims compulsory monogamy follows the same fear. That there isn’t enough love to go around, enough resources. That if your partner loves other people then they don’t have enough love left for you, or that if someone got something good you should feel bad because you didn’t get that good thing. We’re emotional hoarders. What if we need it later? If people are doing “better” than me, aren’t we in competition?
You’ve never seemed to have too much of a comparing problem. At times, you’d be jealous. And I’m not a jealous type, romantically. But we take everything so personal.