by Bridget Galvin
Convince him to get a new haircut and when he does, notice the way it doesn’t frame his face the way it used to, notice that his shaved head reminds you of your cousin who, as your mom said, enlisted too young. Listen to him; really listen to him and when he talks watch the way his mouth automatically turns into a smile after every single sentence he utters. Try to talk to him about your fears, try to have a conversation with him about something other than the weather or the people in the restaurant across the street. Watch the way he cannot manage one dialogue without that damn smile after every sentence. Make note of every time he laughs at his own joke and make note of the way he laughs with his nose.
When he tosses you a compliment, picture his last person and how they must have felt when he tossed them the same line. As you’re sitting in the front seat listening to him tell you that you look beautiful for the third time that day, think about her. Think about the way he wouldn’t have let her laugh it off either. Think about the way he wouldn’t have dropped the subject until she believed him either. Think about it and then look at him and listen to his nasally laugh.
As you’re lying in bed try to recall the time before he called you his and consider how long you wanted him. Remember the way you memorized his drink orders, coke with extra ice, and the sweater he always wore on Tuesday—soft and red with black sleeves. Realize that you stopped memorizing him the day he confessed to memorizing you. Make this realization around 2 in the morning and—in the closet so he can’t hear you—call your sister. You’ll wake her up, but you have to talk about how you’re worried you fell in love with the chase and not the man. She’ll soothe you, and even though her voice is soaked in sleep and fake reassurance, you’ll believe her. You’ll fall asleep around 4 am and wake up to the smell of him making sausage patties instead of the sausage links that you like. Don’t mention it to him, but remember it.
Bring him to social gatherings and become annoyed with the way he clings to you. Attempt to ditch him with the cousin who also has a military haircut and find him at your side five minutes later like a lost puppy. Catch him staring at you at least three times in one day and when the day is over compare that number to the zero amount of times you found yourself gazing his way.
His voice will come to annoy you and it is important that instead of shutting it out, you let it in. Eventually this annoyance will turn into hatred so you have to let every word sink in. Let the anger build, but then feel petty for hating someone because of something so stupid and vow to never tell anyone about it. After a few drinks at a girl’s night out, confess the growing hatred to your friends. Laugh about it with them and listen to their stories about their person’s annoying habits. Slink into bed with him when you get home and feel him roll over and wrap his arm around you. Ponder the implications of feeling uncomfortable in a bed with the one person you are supposed to feel the most comfortable next to. Dismiss the notion, because you’re drunk and tired.
As you’re driving home from work one day, find yourself reminiscing about your first weeks together. Remember the time you texted him after boarding a plane. Remember telling him about how you thought waiting to see who your seatmate will be on a flight was like speed dating. Telling him about how you would size up every passenger, judging them on their carryon and reading material. Telling him about how you pray every time you see a college-aged girl with a pink suitcase and a sorority sweatshirt that it’s not her and that you will not be spending the next six hours listening to a bottle-blonde nineteen-year-old explaining why Joe Jonas is the best Jonas. Telling him how you put in your ear buds as they’re boarding the plane in an attempt to warn anyone sitting near, that you are strictly there to get from point A to point B and not to make friends. Telling him about every funny conversation you had, weird person you encountered, and interesting food you ate. Remember how he responded to all of those messages with a lazy laugh and a smiley face. Remember how you felt. Remember that.
You must never talk to him about any of this. All of these ill feelings and doubts must remain locked away until the eventual blow-up. Never let him explain his behavior. Never give him the chance to come up with excuses. Do not discuss your concerns with the one person you really should. Instead, confide in your friends and sister, but don’t listen to them when they tell you how nice he is and ignore the voice in your head telling you that you have to be happy because he treats you right, unlike the last one.
That voice in your head will make this process very difficult. It will remind you of how lonely you were when those late night thoughts used to hit. It will remind you of how scary it was when those late night thoughts started coming through in the middle of the day. It will remind you of how he can distract you and make you feel safe. It will remind you of every person who hurt you before him. It will remind you that unlike the others, he really is safe; he will not leave you. This voice can ruin everything if you let it. You mustn’t listen to its endless reminders of past mistakes.
You cannot keep it together after you’ve dismissed the voice in your head and your friends on the other end of the phone. What pushes you over the edge will not be the build-up; it won’t be that one little thing, like his laugh. What pushes you over the edge is a realization, an agonizing and painful realization; this will be the final push in getting you to finally stop loving him.
Let it finally hit you that you no longer love him, when you find yourself at 2 in the morning heaving, in a dark room, illuminated only by the light of a computer screen displaying the last picture you have of the woman you actually love.
She used my name when she spoke to me. Like we would be in the middle of talking about the weather and she would deliberately finish a sentence about the impending rainstorm with my name and all of a sudden this innocent conversation reached a level of intimacy I had only experienced in bed with another person. It was exhilarating, feeling my name in the mouth of someone like that. With just the way she forms my name with her lips she could make me want to hold hands and waste away Friday nights in the most cliché romcom of ways. Every moment was full, every moment was exciting, and every moment was completely. Fucking. Exhausting.
She was just so present when she was here and so gone when she left. There was never an in-between with her. We never talked about a future because the mere notion of bringing it up felt like it was breaking some unspoken rule we agreed upon at the start of all of this, but it meant that when she left without warning, I didn’t feel like I had the right to go after her. Its scary knowing you can talk to someone every day and make love to someone every night and not have the right to pursue them.
I go over the last day I had with her over and over again. The day she left for the last time. It was a day like any other; I made coffee and she read the paper. We walked the dogs and took a nap together. Yet it isn’t the day itself I keep going over in my mind, it’s that kiss—that very last kiss. It wasn’t special, nothing unique. It was just a kiss. Like we would be doing it for the rest of our lives. And then she left.
I never got over her. My stairs are stained with our favorite kiss and I still have trouble on the seventh step. A few weeks after she left for the first time I was out with some friends and someone made a joke about Boehner’s smoking habit. He made the joke and I laughed and I looked around the room. I looked around the room. It was in that moment that I realized I really wasn’t over her. I didn’t just miss her when I was lonely, I missed her when I was in a room full of people and someone tells a joke and I look around the room for her. Just to see if she’s laughing, just to see her smiling face. I don’t just miss her when I’m lonely; it’s when I’m happy too.
After I broke up with the guy my first piece is about, I called her. She didn’t answer. I never told Bev, my sister, about her, but I just felt so shitty after leaving a message that sounded like a wounded animal begging for its life on her voicemail, I told Bev. A few days after telling my sister about her she sent me an email of one of those tacky Tumblr poems about love, the ones with the cheesy text about love over a completely unrelated filtered picture of an unbearably attractive girl wearing a floral dress and black tights. The quote read, “I feel like I’m singing a duet and I just keep repeating the same line over and over again because my partner forgot to come in. And I keep singing and he just won’t remember.” She told me that the quote made her think of me. I didn’t understand why.
I convinced her to get her haircut after the second time she came back. She looked better with a pixie cut. I listened to her, I really listened to her and she told me about the first time she saw her dad cry and why she didn’t believe in God. Her laugh was the sound of her happiness, so there was no way I could hate it. I was always the one searching for her at parties and I never, ever felt uncomfortable lying in bed next to her. My problem is that I fell in love with the way she used my name when she spoke to me. And even when she no longer said my name, I still loved her.