When he calls to end our relationship, I'm sitting at my desk, watching Beyoncé's newest visual album, Lemonade. "Sorry" has just finished playing and the line I ain't thinkin' 'bout you has left me feeling empowered. As the screen transitions into the next song, I feel my watch buzz against my wrist, indicating a notification. I look down to see that I'm getting an incoming call. Warren. I turn to my bed, where my phone lays, and see the screen come to life. It lights up with a picture of him and me on our first date--a picture in shades of gray, of me sitting on his lap, of us smiling at each other, of a graffitied curtain playing backdrop to the location of our first kiss. I leap at my phone and answer breathlessly. There is no reply to my, "Hello?"
I say it again. "Hello?"
A pause. And then his voice.
I know why he's calling, but I'm not prepared to have the conversation. I'd thought about ending our relationship many times in the last year and a half. I never did. And even though I entertained the idea of a life without him in it, to know that he's calling to tell me that he wants a life without me in it punctures my ego.
Even so, I don't cry when he says, "I think it's time we end our relationship." I tell him I'm confused, but I understand. That I wanted him, but wasn't in a place for him. That I hope, more than anything, for him to be happy. He's kind and wishes me the best.
And even though I don't cry when he ends our relationship, I do cry while we're on the phone. I cry when he tells me, apropos to nothing, that I'm talented and should keep writing. This is when I realize how essential he'd become to me. This is when I realize I can't have him anymore.
I cry for so long that he asks me if I'm still on the line. All I can say is, "Yes. I'm crying."
I want to clarify that I'm crying because of the comment about my writing, and not about our relationship ending. But I don't know if he'll believe me and I don't know if I believe me and I don't know why it matters. So I leave it at, "Yes. I'm crying."
After we say goodbye and I hang up the phone, I crumble into bed. I knew the end was imminent. I could see it on the horizon. Feel it rattle my bones.
How strange that knowing does nothing to lessen my devastation.
How strange that this end is how he changes my life all over again.
It has been one month since I last saw my ex-boyfriend and I'm sitting in my parked car on the corner of 4th and Spring Street in Downtown. I lean into my dashboard and look up out my windshield at a string of criss-crossed blue lights hung overhead; a makeshift set of stars in a city where smog erases the real thing. I glance down at the clock of my car and realize I'm 30 minutes early for my date. It's not my first date since my break-up, but it's the one that I'm most nervous about for reasons I can't seem to articulate. My insides knot when I think about meeting this man. Warren. I keep thinking that he's going to change my life. He is going to change my life. He is going to change my life. The thought beats in my brain and my chest and my gut. Like the refrain of an incessant pop song, I can't seem to shake it. He is going to change my life.
When he finally appears, he strolls towards me with his hands tucked into the pockets of a popped collar jean jacket. He is backlit by street lamps, accentuating the turnout of his hips as he walks, the slight hunch of his shoulders. He smiles at me and lifts a hand to wave. When he gets near enough, he pulls me into a tentative hug and ushers me into the bar.
He orders a light beer and I order a Jack and Coke. He makes small talk with the bartender, a slender blonde, and I feel an inexplicable rush of jealousy heating me from the inside out. We grab our drinks and sit at a small table with red vinyl seating that squeaks and sticks to my skin. He talks a lot. I'm too afraid to say something stupid. This is how I know that I like him already--if I didn't care what he thought about me, I wouldn't censor myself. I care so much that my voice seems to shut down completely.
At some point he places his hand on my knee and I know, at least, that he finds me attractive. He also probably finds me boring. I silently forgive him for that judgment, even though he doesn't voice it.
Later, he leads me to a photo booth in the back of the bar. I find it odd that he wants a tangible memory of this night, but I'm too taken, and too inebriated, to question it much. I sit on his lap as he fiddles with the machine. Instructions and lights flash on the screen, but I keep staring at him. He focuses his attention on me, looks up at me and smiles, and we kiss for the first time. I don't realize that the booth is even in functioning order until we get out and it spits out a four frame strip of photos of us smiling at each other and making out.
I go home with him.
This is the beginning of him changing my life.