In the beginning, it’s waiting for him to text. It’s a phone with the ringer left on and a screen lighting up in the dark. It’s a not-so-secret hope that it’s him. It’s a small smile escaping, and at least a fifteen-minute wait before replying. It’s three yawns in a row the next day, and more compulsive phone checking, and the first I hope you have a good day.
And then it’s dinner sometime, if you wanted. It’s swirling in your belly and a million things to talk about and the prettiest pink in your cheeks. It’s the best first kiss, the longest goodbye. It’s arms hugged close to your chest, the whole way home.
It’s going to sleep with a good dream. And then it’s a name, almost always on the tip of your tongue. Before long, it’s something sweet, shyly offered. It’s basic and buttery and brown-sugary. (It’s really hoping you like blueberries.)
And then it’s any excuse to get together. And then it’s one of each because I wasn’t sure which one you’d like.
It’s clumsy and then comfortable and then cannot-live-without. It’s a sweet reflection in a shop window, and two coffees to stay.
One morning, it’s be mine, without a question mark. It’s a little squeal — later to be denied. It’s a triumphant text and a phone call home. A big bouquet on the table.
It’s steaks on the grill and elbows in the ribs and kisses on the stairs. It’s the first thing you see in the morning and the last thing you want to see at night. It’s oh, so this is what all the fuss is about.
And then it’s something shifting: something going and something else coming. Until it’s I’m just not sure anymore and is this just comfortable and are we still bringing each other joy. And it’s been so long and but we’re still so young. And then: maybe we should just take some time apart?
And then it’s how can you do this and you’re giving up and you promised. It’s a whole flood of things, and then, finally: please just go. It’s a slammed door and a broken whisper and a single sob. Later, it’s something an awful lot like relief.
It’s the beginning of the end. It’s a lot of long walks at night, and a lot of feeling more and more removed. A lot of standing on the outside, and sort of just looking in.
It’s perfect picture and a horrible fight, not ten minutes before. It’s a thudding everything’s amazing and nobody’s happy.
It’s your time and his time, and then time that hardly ever overlaps, anymore. It’s getting closer and closer to yourself and further and further from him. It’s do I really want to spend the rest of my life with somebody who hums and I bet you his mother said she never liked me anyway. It’s those god-awful pants, every single night. It’s a pile of dishes in the sink and a trash never taken out and a TV always on. It’s a job here and a better job there.
And then one day you just know. That this isn’t making any sense. And then it’s a lot of explaining for something that doesn’t really have a great explanation. And it’s too damn hard to think about being friends. It’s take care, and it’s a concentrated effort not to look back.
It’s a never-again nickname and a new shirt to sleep in. It’s a lot of things dipped in chocolate — eaten almost mechanically, on a soft rug with tall socks on.
And then it’s months and months of did I make the right choice. It’s sleepless nights and loneliness like you’ve never known. It’s a little piece of your heart, closed and locked and lost.
It’s still holding fast and then slowly, slowly starting to let go. It’s a good book to read and a puppy at your feet and more and more friends to text goodnight. It’s Single Lady Salmon, eaten every Saturday night.
It’s not easy. It’s a whole box of tissues, just when you were beginning to think it was going to be fine. (Really a whole roll of toilet paper, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, now does it?) It’s I did live without this person, once. It’s blocking out the what ifs and should haves and maybe somedays. It’s a month without him, and then six months, and then a full year. It’s every small victory, celebrated.
Eventually, it’s a few different dates. (And nothing to write home about.) Then it’s no dates, for awhile. And then it’s another try, and maybe still too soon. And then it’s not forcing it, and focusing on other things. And with some more time, it’s maybe this isn’t so bad. Being single. Eating all the mussels by yourself.
And then one day, it’s a prickle of awareness, and a tiny flicker of interest. It’s randomly wondering about his favorite meal, and which pizza toppings he likes, and which pasta shape is his favorite. It’s wondering how he likes his brownies — from the edge or the corner or the middle. It’s wondering how he likes his burgers, and if he’d ever split one with you.
It’s something to think about.