by Ashley Suarez
I’ve never gotten back together with anyone. Much like my disdain for sequels, I’m convinced the second round will never be as good, or as stable, as the first. If it failed, it failed for a reason. If it was great, it can’t get any better.
This is what I’m thinking, as Eric stands with his hands shoved in his pockets, during mid-winter, breaking up with me. If he goes, this will really be the end. And I’m not ready to let go in such a permanent way, because to me, leaving once means leaving forever. But an hour later, he changes his mind. I’d like to say it’s because of my brilliant argument skills, but really, I think he just ran out of things to confess.
He says that he doesn’t believe in marriage. He doesn’t want kids. He doesn’t want to live with anyone. And he’s questioning the legitimacy of monogamy.
“Okay,” I think. “Why are we breaking up again?” I’m only twenty and nearly all of these relationship milestones, far off in the distant future, have failed to cross my mind. In fact, the only time the thought of my own marriage had come up, was when I had to buy a wedding dress for my senior year debutant ball. I was 17 and self-consciously busty. I remember throwing on dress after dress in the bridal shop up the street from my house, until I found one with a corset that could sufficiently make double D’s seem like small C’s.
“We keep arguing about the same things,” Eric continues. I start to use the gloves I’m wearing to wipe off my lipstick, while he dumps out his anxieties about our relationship. I’m only half listening.
“We think of love in different ways,” he says. He tells me that he interprets love from physical contact and verbal affirmations, which conflicts with my idea of love as a day by day process; someone just sticking around. He says he’s never told me this, because he’s never felt like he can be himself around me. Okay, fine, I say, we’ll work at it.
“We shouldn’t have to. We shouldn’t have to work at anything. If this was supposed to happen, then we would just be happy.
I have no response to this. I can’t imagine a world in which things come so naturally – where no work is ever involved in getting what I want – so this argument takes me by surprise. After a few more angry words, however, he calms himself down, takes it back, and with all the sincerity a self-oriented person can muster, apologizes
Two months later, we break up anyways. A year and a half relationship ends over something trivial – I win a poetry award and have a reading, but he doesn’t come. He’s busy with a play, and I’m unsympathetic. The whole thing lasts about fifteen minutes, via text messages. And I feel nothing.
The surprise is minimal, the shock is hardly debilitating. His words have been slowly corroding my feelings since he let them loose a few months back – how do you trust someone after they try to leave you? The fragile illusion of stability and consistency is missing. And that’s all I’ve ever really cared for to begin with.
My mother is equally unsurprised. Her satisfaction is only slightly masked by her concern for my potential hurt feelings. But she approves of the result. To her, I am the sensible daughter. I give my boyfriends expiration dates, I don’t take them seriously, and Eric is, thankfully, not an exception.
“Eric wants to get back together.” I break the strangely shocking news to my mom over the phone. It’s been five months, and we’ve never even mentioned him since the break up. But she doesn’t miss a beat, “Are you considering it?”
“I don’t know, I guess. We just get a long so easily. And I’m too busy to try and start over with someone new.” I approach the situation with cold logic – the only way my mother will understand.
“What about BC guy?” This is how men are usually discussed with my mother – they have nicknames, possibly to dehumanize them, possibly because she doesn’t remember their real names. Eric was “film boy.” In this case, she’s referring to Joe, the PhD student I dated during the summer.
“I think it’s too early to make a decision.”
I continue the facade of indifference over the phone. But the truth is, I’ve already made the decision. I just don’t have the energy to admit my weakness to my mother. Eric and I have been on two dates already. I’m on my way to see him now. He says things have changed, that he’s sorry, that he’s different and willing to try and doesn’t expect every aspect of our relationship to be perfect like he used to. And I’m an idiot for believing it all, but the relief still flows through me in approval of his restored affection and it’s only pure feeling, not logic, that pushes me forward.
And I tell myself that not every sequel is so bad after all. Not every relationship is undeserving of a second try. And regardless of whether or not I believe anything I tell myself, whether or not I believe what he’s told me – I’m still here, with him – trying to continue an impossible plot-line – never being content with the first version of our story.