Splitzville is always harder for the one who’s left behind. It’s not about whose choice it was to end things, who was the one to initiate "the talk," who screwed up, who was rejected. Well, it does matter, but usually it matters most in the way we tell our stories, the way we want people to think about our pasts, to convince them of how changed we are now. We convince ourselves, too, assuring people that’s not who we are anymore without ever really testing our theories out. We just assume because we’ve been removed long enough to convince ourselves we’re different. In practice though…well, we need practice.
When you’re the one who’s physically left behind everything else is still the same for you. It’s the same life, the same steps and coffee, except now it’s muted, a wash. You traipse around, taking the subway and hailing cabs, grab a paper, or even a Lotto ticket, despite never really playing, struck by the harrowing feeling that you’ve forgotten something. Your keys. To turn off the oven or iron, to fill the water bowl for the dog. You don’t even use your oven, and you have your clothes laundered. You walk the streets thinking in that couple way, knowing what would delight me, what I’d want to hear, your observations. If you had another chance, you tell yourself as you hear the change in your pocket, it would be different. You wouldn’t let me go.
And then you get all quiet and look through bus windows and see peculiar things that only seem peculiar to you. The way purple makes you think of velvet. And the elderly. And then orange. Weird things like that, that make no sense, that no one, no one but me would get. But I’m not there to get it and telling it to me over the phone isn’t the same. It isn’t the moment. And that’s what we lose out on every day. When we catch up it’s in sweeps, in big events. We miss the sidelines of our lives where all the good stuff happens.
In New York there’s a neighborhood you still consider to be mine. There are places you pass, restaurants mostly, which remind you of the steps you once took, steps that led you to meeting me, steps home, steps around all the ways we stepped around something we both remember as great. Nearly.
Sleepless isn’t just a condition in Seattle or New York. I have it lately too. I’m scared in the dark. I lie awake at night and think about life, how we only get one chance. And I worry about all my choices, if I’ve made the right ones and what I’m learning from them. I wonder if I tell myself too many lies to get through all those choices with a smile. I mean, there are people who are just happy, who don’t think about things too hard. They just live. I try to be her and am a lot of the time, but at night, in the silence and dark, it sometimes catches up with me, and I begin to wonder how much convincing I’ve done. And then I’m just scared and don’t want to feel so alone. I want your talk radio, the music you made on your iPod you don’t remember ever playing for me. You.
If our steps had been different, keeping us an "us," in New York or otherwise, we’d be huge. Figuratively, only when speaking of our figures. The rest of us, our being an us, would be subtle and expected. It wouldn’t be drama. It would be a given because we’re that alike. We’d gorge and dine and order in and not move or shower all day. I’d say I felt like an animal. You’d say you felt like surgery and insist on going all monk, starving ourselves for days. Until I’d smell cheese on your breath. "You ate without me, didn’t you?" My eyes would narrow. And you’d deny it to my face! But then a smile would betray you. "I couldn’t take it," you’d scream. Then you’d urge me to share more with you, forgetting our starve pact. We would eat standing up, in front of the fridge, and it would feel like living should.
Nearly is so close. It’s an almost. A yearning we spend our lives thinking about, everything else a distraction, choosing to Crosby Stills and Nash our lives to love the ones we’re with. Nearly is a betrayal without being one. A safe distance from danger. The thing of it is, the thoughts are there always, not nearly. And if it ever happened, I fear it wouldn’t be nearly as good as I ever imagined. Because we’d get in the way, like people and promises of "one day" always do.