I saw The Neighbor last night.
It’d been a while since we’d sat across from each other. He’d taken up a lot of conversation when Ann was here and then emotional space when I saw his fancy black car speed off ahead of us on Sunday afternoon. My gut had ached with sadness and loss.
Once alone Sunday night there was a thick stillness about me, about my life. I went from full-throttle socializing to zilch, nada, nothing. I felt hungover and desperately alone. I contemplated texting him. I contemplated texting the Bad Texter. But a cooler head prevailed. I sat with my sadness instead.
And then I sat with it Monday, too, sunken in my mattress surrounded by furry, sighing bodies until it was time to get my two-legged baby from summer camp. Tuesday rolled around and I was bereft, like an empty cage I felt stiff and skeletal. Then, yesterday, I went to a friend’s house to sit with her. Something had changed with her live-in boyfriend, she said. Sunday, out of the blue, he said he was moving into an apartment. Monday she changed her will and is now waiting for him to get the rest of his things.
I remembered that feeling the morning The Neighbor told me, “And I don’t want to.” Those 5 words that ended our relationship. … and I don’t want to be with you, Hy. … and I don’t want to be in a relationship. Just like that. But I’d known that was going to happen when he’d asked for a break. Who ever recovers from a break??
So on my way to her house knowing I was going to learn something about the end of her relationship I caved and texted him. A simple Hi, no punctuation. Immediately he texted back, “Hey!”
We chatted for a bit and agreed we should see each other that night. As I sat with my brokenhearted friend I thought about my own broken heart and the man responsible for it.
I’ve learned a lot about myself in the 4 and a half months since we broke up, namely I’m capable of keeping my shit together. After I left my husband I was sloppy, a wet dishrag of a woman. This time, I was collected and focused. I waited to date, albeit not long, but I am built for contact. I wither away out of reach from rays of men. Collectively, my experiences have been mostly good, but sadness courses through my veins nonetheless.
I’ve also learned that I desperately want to connect dots that might be better left alone.
The knock on my door made my heart skip a beat. As always.
I opened the door and he smiled and we hugged.
“You smell really good,” I remarked. “Is that the cologne I bought you?”
“Damn, I have good taste,” I quipped. It made me happy to know he still wore it.
He declined the wine I opened and we went outside to talk. We caught each other up and then I said, “So, I thought of you today.” He looked at my quizzically.
“I used that giant dildo you got me and my vagina burned.” His eyebrows shot up and we burst out laughing. “That’s right, I don’t think you’re allergic. I Googled it and apparently those jelly toys are basically poison.”
“Wow,” he laughed some more. “Well, that’s nice to know!”
What I didn’t tell him was that I had cried while that giant, poisonous dildo was buried deep inside of me because it reminded me of him, of the way he would twitch inside of me as the Hitachi buzzed on top of me. It reminded me of his scent and his warm skin, his lips on mine and the way he’d grip my breasts as I came. I felt the tear slip into the shell of my ear the same moment the orgasm tore through my body and I sobbed with longing and loneliness. My orgasm made me cry because I still love him; it’s a ghost limb. A reminder of something that used to be. It doesn’t exist today.
Watching him across the patio table last night I was reminded of all the other nights we’d spent like that as lovers. How after a night like last night we would end up tangled in bed, sweaty and filled with lust. Last night ended with a long, warm hug of promises to keep working on our friendship.
We struggle, but we keep plugging along. It hurts him to know I’m dating, but he understands I no longer want to pretend that I’m not. I will let him know if anyone becomes important. He promised the same, though he hasn’t been out with anyone since our split. Oh, how I wish I were more like him; to be able to be alone and safe for such long periods of time.
So we keep picking ourselves up and plugging along. Laughing and learning and hurting and being angry at one another on occasion. I think it’s worth it 5 out of every 7 days. I guess those are pretty good numbers.
He’d scoffed a little when I told him how Amy and Tina were both still seeing their exes. “What?” I asked, “We still hang out,” I pointed out.
“True,” he said, “true.” The big difference between The Neighbor and I and my two best-friends and their ex-boyfriends though is that he and I don’t have sex. We have maintained that line and I am both proud and saddened by this.
He asked if we could hang out this weekend and I said we could. I’m hopeful that last night relieved some lingering doubts I had clinging to me about our relationship, both past, present, and future. I hope he’s hopeful. And I hope that my ghost love for him won’t present any barriers too high to scale as I look for new love to fill my life.
Because I really do want love.