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. 



  1. "I mean, there are people who are just happy, who don't think about things too hard. They just live."

    Often I just want to live, without thinking so much about it all, but then again, maybe I'd miss out on much too much.

  2. This post is beautiful.

    I'm in Splitzville right now and my senses were able to interpret the picture you painted.

    Thank you for writing, for being who you are.

    I've been reading since January and your work allows me to connect to myself.


    A Gemini, senioritis suffering Biology student.

  3. thank you for this post Stephanie. It's just what I needed to read tonight. It made me cry…but in a good way :)

  4. Beautifully written–I so identified that this piece nudged loose a stubborn bit of writer's block. Thank you. :)

  5. i hate assuming but i'm just not convinced this is for the wasband. i love this perspective of writing its so intimate with a certain degree of disconnectedness from the subject. you are absolutely right; its worse for the one left behind. but i love the earlier post by patti – "being the one left behind was the best thing that ever happened to me…" i felt all this wistfulness but am so happy right now. it almost feels rediculous to be so happy and thankful that something so crappy happened to you…

  6. You hit the mark with the description of life being "muted, a wash." You're the same, but not the same. When I returned to NY after my divorce, living in "our" old neighborhood was unbearable. I was fortunate enough to be able to move and only then, was I able to make a fresh start.
    Thanks for the great post.

  7. I'm 25 and I've been reading Greek Tragedy since January '05 but have never posted. This post is the kind of SK writing that makes me so excited to check the site daily. I love the way you write and the way you express universal emotion and experience (esp about relationships) so beautifully. I LOVE it. Keep it up :)

  8. What a great post. A friend passed this link on to me. I'm currently going through a break-up and reading this was dead on to how I'm feeling. Well was feeling right after the relationship ended.

    Thanks – what a wonderful read :)

  9. I had a hard time wanting to read this post with the first word being 'Splitzville', cause I didn't want to read you and your hubby broke up. I'm so relieved.

  10. Stephanie, this is my favorite writing of yours, when you do these types of writing exercise posts, where you don't explain things, where you just let each of us take from it what we will. I love, just love, how it makes me feel reading things like this. It makes me think and stirs things in me. These are my favorite posts of yours. I know you write for you, but I'm putting in a request anyway. Can you please do more of these types of posts, where it's just the intimacy of thoughts, that don't always need to make sense to everyone? I just love this stuff and cannot get enough.

  11. I also love this post. I was the one left behind and it was also the best thing that ever happened to me (after I learned how to eat, sleep and breathe again). I think we could spend our entire lives with the "nearly" thoughts. Any situation can be turned into a "what if" situation. You just can't think/live like that. Pack the "nearly" in the "didn't" box and turn the "what if" to the "what now" page.

  12. Oh God, nearlys eat me alive some nights as I try and try to fall asleep. I am happy with my life. Great husband, great kid, good times really. But when I least expect it, a nearly will pop into my head and I can't beat it out with the happiest of thoughts. This is why I hate websites like myspace. You never know when a nearly is going to show up with all sorts of dreams of their own to make you sick.

  13. Sometimes when I read your posts I just feel a sense of grateful because you say everything so succinctly. you say what i feel so often that when i read your words i feel it so deeply in my gut…this visceral reaction. I often think about the fact that I think so much – and wonder if it's a blessing or a curse. I know it's both. but i think it's what makes us love food so much too…and sex…and life. that thinking…isn't it? isn't it passion?

  14. this post really hit me, because i'm going through a breakup right now with someone who was a "nearly" and having a really hard time with it.
    i have to say, i just read "straight up and dirty" and absolutely loved it – there were so many lines that spoke to me as i try to pick myself up after this relationship end, and i'm grateful to have read it when i did. especially the idea that if someone's not willing to move something forward, question it, because my relationship was so so good, except for that fact, and i've learned that the moving forward can be everything.
    one curious question – i don't remember reading about stephen on the blog – is that a code name for phil, or was he someone else?
    the idea that you were brave enough to open yourself up to love again gives me hope!

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