Columnists :: The Dating Diet
Don’t Heart My Lover
Did I do something wrong? Please, tell me. Have I maddened the gods? Well, if so, I apologize. I mean, I’m all for taking my share of bullets, but can we maybe, possibly, allow time in between rounds?
I mean, seriously. Was getting the flu not enough? No? Well, fine. I’ll take that. I suppose that’s the fate of any man facing the change of season. But when you’re single and vomiting your stomach out, the last thing you give a damn about is the concept of inevitability. Why? Well, because somewhere in the pit of your stomach, you know the inevitable is bound to happen - you’re going to get a call from your ex, just to say hello and inform you he has a date.
Thank God I’m already kneeling in front of the toilet. But don’t mind the multi-colored puke on the seat. Gays, we call that glitter!
"A date? That’s...great!" I say, perfecting my pitch.
"Yeah, we met on a plane," he says. "And he’s got one-up on you. He’s a doctoral candidate."
Vomit. Vomit. Vomit. "You don’t say?"
Yes, welcome to my life as a single. How soon my ex forgets my PhD in fellatio, even though his dick was the subject of my thesis. But I’m not going to say that. No! No! I’m going to pretend everything is peachy fucking keen, even if my temperature’s risen 5 degrees in the last 5 seconds.
"Do you have any ideas about where I should take him?" he asks. "I haven’t been out in forever."
"Uh, I have to go," I say.
"Because I...I have to go. Have fun tonight." Hanging up, I stumble out of the bathroom.
Where I’m headed, I don’t know, but my father, planted on the couch, stops me.
"You’re sick. Get back in bed!" he yells. On his feet, he trails me as I zigzag on the white tile. Crying, I try to lose him. "What’s the matter?" he asks.
"What’s the matter? WHAT’S THE MATTER? You know what, dad?" I say, turning violent in the kitchen. "There are some things I really don’t need to hear in my 30’s. Like I don’t need to hear my dad telling me to get back in bed, and I don’t need to hear my ex calling to tell me he has a freaking date!"
"Well, I told you not to answer the phone on the toilet," he chuckles. "It’s never ends good."
"Ugh, you’re enjoying this," I moan. Then dashing off to my room, I lock the door. Outside, I hear the footsteps of dad. Pacing back and forth, he reminds me that I’m not supposed to talk to my ex. It’ll only worsen things, especially if I have still have feelings for him. "I don’t have feelings for him," I respond. Then with a slug of flu medicine, I turn off the light, stirring for two hours until the nightmares hit. Each one, more unpleasant than the last, paints the image of my ex’s happy face, cutting and slicing my heart. And yes, on several occasions, my entire body spasms to the point where I’m propelled out of bed, doomed to remain awake, thinking of his ’date’.
"Feeling better?" my ex texts the next morning.
I don’t want him to know...to know that I’m mad with jealousy, with hatred, that this entire time apart, I never actually considered the possibility of losing him.
I don’t want him to know, but then again, I do.
"Feeling better?" I text back. "Well, I was until my ex told me he had a FUCKING date!"
"Well, I never wanted to be your ex," he writes.
And I give him credit. "Hm. Good comeback," I admit, electronically. You see, the break up was my choice. I was young when I moved in with him. It was all a whirlwind - so quick, so fast. I was literally planning out my will and my funeral with him a year later. You see, he’s a ’planner’, and he wanted each of us to be prepared for the worst, just in case. But in this case, in the process of living for the future, I lost sight of the present day. I was drowning, in cat litter, in laundry, in dishes, and I resented him for it, resulting in a separation and a break-up, leading to paralyzed state, where I haven’t been capable of going on one date in a year. And now, I find myself, miserable without him. Why? Why? Why? It seems I hadn’t been prepared for the worst after all.
A phone call later, my ex tells me, "What happened? I gave you what you wanted, a family, because you said you didn’t have one."
Yes, except for a brother who won’t friend me on Facebook because people may think he’s gay, and a dad who has trouble talking about anything ’gay’ at all. But for now, dad tries, sensing my distress. Still, he’s most uncomfortable, refusing eye-contact when he brings me orange juice.
"So, uh, what are you going to do?" dad asks.
"I don’t know...I just want to go on a date."
"Then ask him out."
"Who? My ex? We were together for 8 years. Are you even allowed to do that? I left him. SHIT. It’s a MESS. I’m a MESS."
"You think relationships are easy, that they always go smooth?" he asks. "So, you left him. So what? So you’re sad, you’re lonely, you miss him. That’s the bed you made. YES, it’s a mess." he says. "BUT, that doesn’t mean you can’t change the sheets and get back in it."
So thinking about it, I call him with a change of sheets and a change of heart.
And I ask him, "Next week, would you consider going on a date...with me?"
Anthony Paull’s debut novel Outtakes of A Walking Mistake was recently chosen as an NPR Finalist for Best Teen Novel Ever.