Today is my first day off oxygetmeaddictedplease after having a molar pulled 96 hours ago. I’m still bleeding a bit, still in pain between ibuprofens, still on antibiotics, still kind of weak. But the inability to think clearly after anesthesia has returned to my normal inability to think clearly and the true horror of the last four months, a winter without depression but without much meaningful depth, is settling in like a hacking cough.
Source: Riccardo Brescian/Pexels
I will look back on my winter of 2018 as a long stretch of skating on the surface of my life, of being afraid of what I was feeling and missing under the ice, and afraid that I couldn’t meet the summons of that nest of eels.
We had an unfortunate winter, he and I, first very honest, then exciting and titillating. It didn’t, as things with him never do, progress any further. More recently, I could feel I taxed him. Mostly I tried to stay out of his way, easy enough since we live 1200 miles apart. Thanks to social media, it’s less easy to do because access is always there. I found myself trying to write provocative posts that would draw him in. I shyly liked or laughed at his posts, which were all about the city he lives in and his old friends.
And I waited.
There’s a reason my other blog is called “Car on the Hill” and I think Joni Mitchell would identify with the situation I was in.
History was repeating itself without enough upgrades to make it to History 2.0.
A couple of months ago I sucked it up to have coffee with the man I wasted my 30s on. A mutual friend was there to divert attention from our old days but I came away from the meet-up thinking I was right to have loved him. He’s fascinating and gentle and funny, and, now married, has veins of love I never got to see.
On the other hand, why the hell did I waste ten years on him? We lived thousands of miles apart, although there were times when I spent summers hanging out with him in our hometown, speaking to each other every day. I was so ashamed of being fat that it was impossible for me to tell him how I felt. Often enough, something happened or was said to give me a teaspoon of hope. And so I waited until one day a book arrived in the mail. On the fly leaf he’d written that he was getting married the next weekend.
The book was about a homeless gay man and his dog. Was there a message in that? Did he see that kind of bleakness in me?
I quickly gained weight on a diet of grilled cheese sandwiches, tomato soup and Tater-tots. That was all I wanted to eat. I ate it for breakfast, dinner and at three a.m.
So, yeah, I told another mutual friend after that cup of coffee, he attracted me like a fly to dung and I could tell her exactly why. But I was an idiot not to see that it wasn’t going anywhere. A normal person – someone who had dated in high school, lived with a couple of men in college and her early 20s – would have walked away in two weeks. And I didn’t even walk away.
But he had a part in it, too, I could see with a lot of hindsight. I fascinated him. Ex-students would approach me on Facebook and ask if I was the Frances Kuffel he talked about. I was funny. I listened. My parents had a place at the lake.
He absorbed the years I gave him; he even asked for them. Then he was done.
When we met, he spoke of his wife as “my wife”. I wonder if he did that with the other people in town he saw.
For a stupid while after that coffee, I prided myself for being past all that.
This weekend, high and hurting, I saw a photo on Facebook of the most recent of the hims. He was kissing a pretty woman on the cheek. A friend commented, “Sweet”. In one of those horrible moments of realization, I saw that I’ve done much of what I did in my 30s, although we’ve had fights and silences and times when we both forgot about each other. I’ve unfriended him. I wrote a book based on a break-up (of what???) with him. I’ve deleted his phone number and email address and, later, he’d get in touch with me not knowing any of those erasures had taken place.
One other thing happened this weekend. I answered a question about Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë on Quora and found a whole new understanding about the form of the novel because of it. I felt like a gleeful English major nerd again, young and unbroken in, discovering Shirley for the first time. It was like putting ten pounds on the counter and walking away lighter and freer. A part of my brain came home to my body, such a rare occurrence. My body was aching and high but lucid when asked the right question.
No one talks about that stuff anymore, I told a friend the next day. But it’s really, really part of who I am. It made me miss other pieces of myself, swimming and writing especially. Unfortunately, I’m editing a manuscript that’s painfully slow and it will be a while before I can swim, what with this hole in my mouth.
Still, I thought about the pieces. And then I saw the photograph.
It could have been innocent. There were other photos of his friends, hanging off of each other after a hike. But I knew. I know. And It. Doesn’t. Matter. He’d left me waiting, skating, trying to be quiet enough, challenging enough, funny enough, smart enough, ambitious enough.
Here’s the thing about Fat People. We are either not enough or too much. The Not-Enoughs have to compensate for the Too Muches – too much space, too much compensation (that makes us loud or bossy or weepy or depressed or socially inept), too smelly and sweaty, too ugly. It’s a finely honed tango of offsetting deficits with surplus. You have to be extra-funny in order to make a stranger comfortable. You have to sit on the sidelines because you take up too much room. You have to get little or get gone in order for the men you’re in love with to have you and their lives as well.
I’d thought I was past that. By early spring I was thinking that I’d get him back in his box and up on the shelf in the closet behind the Christmas punch bowl. It hadn’t happened. Every day had been a struggle of silence or searching for an instigating thought.
Sure, I’d made progress in 30 years. I’d been a lot more open about how I felt. I didn’t reply to every email. I’d even, a few months ago, told him that I was out of words and we stopped emailing for a while. But the plain truth is, I saw in that photo that if he was going to return my feelings, he would have.
On Sunday I did one thing. I found out how to block him on Facebook.
On Monday I found out that blocking him also blocked me. I couldn’t look at his page either.
I laughed, not merrily. I was stuck in a one-way break up. It would be too embarrassing to request his friendship (ugh: the vocabulary and the means of this age) and it would be dumb to go back on what I knew was the right thing to do. I have to get away. I had a sip of my life via Charlotte Brontë and the only way to really get into my life was without showing it off to him.
I know I have to grieve this passing. We’ve both come to this place because we like each other and because we are sexually attracted enough (an improvement on Mr. Coffee). Of course it hurts. Problem is, if I gave into the tears I know are there, it would endanger the vacuum my mouth needs to be right now. Irony on irony: I have to keep skating for another week or more when I’m weary of skating, worn out from sleeping and Netflix, overeating and waiting and online jigsaw puzzles. I’m especially weary of the inevitable garbage that comes with this: will he notice I’ve cut him off? How long will it take for him to email me sometime? How do I try to find those pieces of myself when I can’t swim or ask a friend to lunch? I can neither connect with my life nor skate much longer. Will I give in to another depressive episode in order to do something? Will I run up a credit card, hoping to buy peace and freedom when I can’t cry or swim it out?
And what about him? If Mr. Coffee kept me along for the long ride, hadn’t he also done this? He’d told me once that he didn’t think he was quite in love with me. This winter we’d traded endearments and, um, other stuff. He likes me a lot. He wants me in his other-life, the one without the pretty girl and the gang of friends. He has played into my weakness until he hit my strength: I will not be an other-life. The strain of jealousy and anger is too much: I will destroy.
Am I protecting him or me by blocking him?
And what kind of fuckery is it not to have told me he’s dating?
These are the feelings I have to let go of in order to dive beneath the ice.
So I blog because I can’t do anything else.
He won’t check here. He can’t check on Facebook. I think there will be one more confrontation, when he misses me in a week or a year, and emails me. I hope he will miss me desperately. I hope he never has fun again. Those are expectations I have to blow off into the maelstrom as well.
I am safe. This could be a beginning.
Please, God: no dry socket.