So, guess who invited me to have dinner with him last Wednesday night?!
That's right, the Former Object of My Affection.
You're thinking, "but of course you didn't accept? It's too soon, right?"
I accepted. Despite the advice of all of pretty much everyone, including my friends and my hairdresser, and especially the cat. He's had just about enough of this coming-from-a-broken-home bullshit.
Wednesday afternoon was pretty much like getting psyched to get on a train that you know is going to crash off a giant steel-arch bridge and land in a ravine hundreds of feet below. If I didn't die in a watery grave, the whole thing would explode into a conflagration that would make Jerry Bruckheimer peep his tighty whities. Oh, and crash it did. It started out awkward and aloof, then progressed to both of us alternating between trying to impress the other and then getting competitive with each other. Did I mention the part where we decided to hang out not in a safe, public place, but at my apartment, which the Object offered up?
"Look how great I'm doing!!!!!" the Object's pistachio-encrusted salmon shrieked (as it burnt, overcooking the inside into fish leather). I countered by making a cocktail of home-infused Douglas fir gin cocktail, St. Germain (biked down from the Alps by little Frenchmen and distilled the very same day), and fresh lemon juice. As I flamed an orange peel into the concoction, the rind hissed, "Did you notice that I'm made out of an actual, motherfucking Christmas tree?!?!?! And you know she's busted this out at all the potlucks that you weren't invited to but were far, far more fun than any party you could have been at." A retort from his buerre blanc spat, "Yeah, well I threw an eclipse watch party on my roofdeck that was well-attended by all the old friends you lost in The Settlement. Oh, and he'll only vaguely allude to it, but I'll just come right out and say it: his new special lady friend that he told you about three weeks after you moved out was there."
And so it when on and on, the desperate fruits of our dinner-making labors hashing out what we thought. No wonder the cat is exhausted. Eventually the atmosphere thickened into a boozy miasma of bitterness in which we flung off our pride with the same abandon we used to reserve for our underwear. This went on literally all night and involved darting sulky eyes around my house and pointing out with asperity The Things That Used to Be His. The breaking point was when he tipped back another mouthful of benedictine and milk and said, "I shouldn't have given you my Soccernomics book."
Oh, Dear Reader, how I lost my fucking shit. And then, I packed up all of his. I got out a bunch of bags and boxes and threw anything and everything that was in any way reminiscent of him, symbolic of his and my years together, or that I acquired after The Settlement that he less-than-secretly coveted, (including Christmas presents friends had given me that he thought were "his" because apparently if you work as a transit advocate, you then get a monopoly on anything and everything related to trains, the environment, and urban planning). This ended up being about half the contents of my apartment. When I was done, the Charlie Brown Christmas tree I'd decorated and the stockings I'd hung (because I'm doing just fine, thank you very much) evoked less a sense of holiday cheer and more a feeling of post-Grinch apocalypse. When I was done, I made him take it all back to his apartment (three blocks away), and stuffed it all there, making the tiny place seem ridiculously full, like one of those people who hoarde National Geographics and spoons until they can't even see their stove anymore. I ran home as the dawn crested over the trees. In my barren apartment, I didn't cry, I didn't fume, I didn't rage. I just squeezed my cat so close that he actually squeaked at one point.
So that sucked.
I'm not sure if the stuff made its point or that we were so utterly and completely emotionally spent that we just called a truce. He picked my clothes out of the trash helped me bring my objects home and washed the dishes from the night before while I put the contents of my life back on the shelves. He left to go to his family's house for Christmas.
I thought I would be devastated, but I was just relieved. I had a a real-life epiphany.
The Object and I cannot be friends.
No calls, no innocent e-mails, no witty jokes, no swapping music. I won't even allow the Object the luxury of the thought that maybe one day 10 years from now and in a parallel universe in which we are both happy to know the other person moved on, we can reconnect to be friends. Nothing. If I never see the Object again, that will be fine.
And no, that had not been completely obvious before. We'd both thought naively that our relationship was somehow exempt from human emotion. We kept making stupid excuses to contact each other - my mom is sick; can you get me a yoga mat, we still need to spend the penny jar money that we never used. Stupid little things. He'd been keeping up with me on Facebook. I told him I'd blocked him, which is true, but neglected to mention the part that I still looked him up specifically by name. That all ends now. I defriended him on Facebook and almost immediately had a panic attack when I remembered that was my only access to a good number of vacation pictures for five years. "Shhhhush," I consoled my hyperventilating brain. "We sent those pictures away to a farm where they take very nice care of them. They'll have all the gigabytes they want and one day they'll be turned into archival-quality prints and framed, knowing how very special they were. If you're very good, we'll get you new pictures."
"I don't WANT new pictures!" My brain howls, rivaling the epic tantrums of my girlhood, pissed off that it's not getting what it wants when it wants it. I had no idea how much mental energy I'd been devoting to him. Having dinner with him was like getting punched in the face but then feeling manically giddy about it. Since then, my Object-starved brain has become punch-drunk and loopy, obsessing over him, conversations we had, Object this, Object that, Object, Object, Object, Object, Object, ARE YOU LISTENING, GODDAMMIT, OBJECT. Thursday night I went to the Columbia Room and as I listened to the exceptional banter of my date and the witty speakeasy repartee around me, my brain would not shut the fuck up about the Object. It's an addict that just got a giant fix knowing it's the last one. I don't want anything bad to happen to him; I just want him to dissolve out of my life and now have to go about the excruciating business of extracting him from my neurons.
And so I need to retrain my brain. Just like having a puppy that starts to piddle on the carpet, I try to shoo it back onto the newspaper. I've gone far enough to start reading out loud in my mind the phrases on street and parking signs, ads at bus stops, license plates - anything that is not thinking about the Object. When that doesn't work, I just say over and over and over, "it's done, it's done, it's done; I'm free, I'm free, I'm free. I don't feel sad, pitiful, nostalgic, or any of the litany of post-breakup emotions I've felt the last four months. I never cried during this awful episode. The only emotion I have at this point is calm determination. I feel relief that this is the way to have my life be mine, not that of the Girl Who Used to Be with The Object. I spent the day with friends and at yoga, meditating, just taking breaths in and out that were the evidence of me, living right now. I cooked a bright, colorful, and nutritious dinner, then let my senses crowd out the chatter of my mind. I stared at the richness of all the colors. Before I ate a bite, I took breated the aroma in over three slow, full breaths. I rolled it around my tongue, feeling each part of my palate kick in. Then I took another bite. Lather, rinse, repeat. I think of this as my Christmas gift to myself, as much promise and hard work as a floppy-eared puppy with a big red bow. Every time my brain starts whining Object, I put the puppy back on the newspaper and remember that smacking it around will just make it fearful. I'll keep moving slow and patient, until I'm my own best companion.