thousands upon thousands

His knock is unmistakable: soft, hesitant, trailing off at the end. It's the one he's perfected in the months since we've been broken up. The one that says I texted, but you didn't answer. I called, too. I know you're asleep. I know I don't really have the right to just come down like this, but I'm doing it, anyway. Please get up and answer the door.

And I do, of course. And I was sleeping, of course. And a glance at my phone as I'm getting up tells me that yes, he did text and he did call first. I'm not mad. I'm not mad at all. I care about him so much and I know if he's showing up unannounced that something is wrong. And he's been there for me at my roughest moments, so there's no way I would ever begrudge him my support. But inside of me, for the first time, is a silent sigh of frustration. Will we ever get off of this ride? 

I let Chaucer greet him while I brush my teeth and decide against running a comb through my tangled hair. Fuck it. When I come out, he's lying on my bed. I'm not bothered by this. There is, truly, nowhere else to go in my apartment. My apartment essentially is a bedroom, it's so small.

He's visibly upset. He's down on himself. He's not happy. He's riding out some miserable feelings. He wants a friend, some support, to be around someone he knows sees value in him. I try my best. I tell him the thing I always tell myself, when I start to slip downward - or when I'm already smack against the ground floor - It's ok. It's just a moment. One moment, that will pass. Life is made up of thousands upon thousands of moments, and this one just sucks. But better ones are just a few minutes or maybe an hour away. 

I point out how successful he's been with work lately. How productive and creatively fulfilled. He's making a killing, and he's showing at some amazing spaces, getting great press and exposure. Nothing I say really comforts him, though. He's in an unreachable place. And all I can do is offer my company and companionship, which I do. We catch up on random things, gossip about our friends, field play attacks from Chaucer. The conversation wanders back to us, as always. Light at first, then, more serious.

"Are we going to tell one another if we meet someone?" I ask suddenly, sitting up.

"Meet someone anyone? Or meet someone someone?"

"Someone someone," I say, knowing what I'm walking myself into.

"Why?" he asks, a bit sharply. "Did you meet someone?"

"No," I say slowly. "Not exactly. But I might. I mean, I will. Eventually, I will." I look at him. "Meet someone."

"I told you I went on a date, right?" he asks. I nod. "It was a disaster. She's completely insane. She gave me a bible. She called and sang 'You Are My Sunshine' on my voicemail." I stare at him for a second before bursting into laughter. He shakes his head and reiterates, "She was nuts."

"Ok," I start again, "what if there was someone..."

His voice goes flat. "So you did meet someone."

"No,"I repeat firmly. "But I want to." I try to explain to him that I want to move on. That I'm ready to. He sighs and runs his hands through his hair, nodding.

"I'm lonely," I say quietly.

"I'm lonely, too," he replies, just as softly.

We go around for a while, coasting bigger, then smaller, then bigger emotional waves. He says he doesn't want to run into me with someone else. I say that it's my city, too. He says he's thinking about moving to Hollywood. I say that he's lucky he has friends to room with there. He says that he doesn't want to leave downtown, because he doesn't want to move away from me. I say nothing. He says I'm the most amazing woman he's ever met. He says I'm beautiful, smart, talented, and self-aware. I ask where I'm going to find someone else to make me personalized wrapping paper and arrange stuffed animals, en flagrante, on my bed. I say I've never known anyone as honest and direct and authentic as him. I want him to understand how valuable those qualities are.

Inevitably, we rehash for a while.

- I was really unfair to you toward the end. I'm sorry.
- It's ok. And I know, we fought all the time. I get it.
- That's a lie, we didn't. But you did get really frustrated with me. Really, really frustrated. 
- I know.
- El, this was a mutual decision. We went back and forth for a while, and maybe at the end I was more resistant to giving it another shot, but don't act victimized. We both agreed this was right.

A pause, then him: "Can I ask you something? But don't get upset, ok?"


He chooses his words carefully. "Did I...did I at least help to undo some of the damage that...?" He doesn't need to say anymore, and he couldn't anyway, because I'm already, instantly sobbing and nodding. He jumps up and moves behind me, putting his arms around my shoulders. "See?" he laughs weakly. "I told you you'd get upset."

I cannot get ahold of myself. Emotion is pouring out of me. Anger, even still, at myself, for letting it happen. Sadness, for that time lost, and for the pieces of me that were damaged by it. Happiness that I'm not there anymore, and that I don't ever have to return. And relief, to know that I've grown worlds away from the person who'd let herself be there in the first place.

Never again.

I tell him yes, of course he did, he knows he did. "Good," he says, smiling. Then he laughs wryly. "I'm really good at messy breakups, but leaving the person in a better state than when I found them."

I collect myself, embarrassed and sort of shocked at my outburst. We take Chaucer to The Counter, sit on the patio, and split a cheeseburger in the fast-cooling evening air. Afterward, he walks me back. At my door, he kisses my cheek. "I felt really bad when I came down here," he says. "Thank you." I tell him that I didn't do anything, and he shakes his head and repeats, "Thank you."

I close the door behind Chaucer and I without turning back.

It's a moment. It's just another moment. There are thousands upon thousands more of them to come.