I’ve never broken up with anyone in a room with walls. I’ve been through numerous breakups and really then it’s only three but really it’s only ever One. When a breakup happens it happens over and over again. It’s like you’re breaking up forever.
There was the time in the patch of grass next to the concrete stairway leading up to Gardner Hall at McGill University in Montréal, Québec, where we moved together from high school. There was the time we walked across the entire city of Buenos Aires, past Puerto Madero, to a bench on Av. Int. Hernan M Giralt, where we looked out over the sparse and swampy ecological reserve and beyond that, the Atlantic Ocean that is dark and cold and impossibly deep. And there was the time outside JP Seafood Café, a restaurant we had never been to and would never return to, in the neighborhood where we lived together. When we walked home that night, we turned from each other at a 120-degree angle outside the Stony Brook T station and carried our heavy bodies in separate directions.
It could have been days, weeks, months that you were planning it; usually, it is. But when it happens, it happens violently. It feels like the words are falling out of your mouth. The familiar body language of a couple in distress is instantly identifiable, like those inflatable tube dancers announcing sales outside of car dealerships. Your bodies grow and collapse involuntarily. Full of hot air. The environment becomes a scrim to your own private telenovela.
How many people have played audience to my breakups? How many lovers have they recalled in the most secret corners of their bodies?
On and on, breaking up forever.
“Don’t cry, don’t cry,” I cooed at you. Your face was swollen with grief and your eyes luminous with fear and I remember distinctly the pure astonishment I felt witnessing all of the liquids gushing from your face.
My mother once told me a story about a time my brother was sick as a tiny infant. His sinuses were severely congested so she put her mouth over his nose and sucked all of the snot out and then she swallowed it.
I considered pulling you toward me, cradling your head in my arms, putting my lips over your nose and gently sucking, but I did not.
Instead, I let you turn to me with the snot running off your chin and tell me that greatness can be squandered, that our relationship was beautiful and a death deserved to be mourned.
Swallowing it. Breaking up forever.