I never thought I’d agree with anything that Neil Sedaka ever voiced in song, but in this one respect he is correct: breaking up is hard, so hard, to do.
Having made that stony blanket statement, now let me backtrack a bit. Breaking up, if you’ve fallen out of love, is not hard to do. Then, actually, it is remarkably easy. It’s like ripping a Band-Aid off a cut that’s healed and on a patch of skin without hair. Breaking up with someone with whom you’re now longer in love is, and forgive the extreme visceral metaphor here—and I warn you, it bears a kind of X-Games intestinal intensity—is like taking the perfect shit. When you no longer love someone, dumping that person has a kind of gliding excretory grace. It’s nearly pleasurable. And when it’s over, you clean yourself up a bit and all you feel is relief.
Not so when you break up with someone whom you still love. Then it’s kind of more like those medieval torture devices where they dragged your intestines out and wound them like yarn upon a spit. It’s a long, slow death, from what I’ve read, and you’re likely to pass out from the pain. As rococo as this image is, it’s also the most apt metaphor for what I’ve been enduring with Donny, my X, since last September when he messily told me that in fact, no, he wasn’t ready to marry me.
The upshot of all of this red, gooey gore is that I’m out here on the beach and I did not invite Donny. Rather, I invited a few other friends and a couple of them are joining me. We three girls will undoubtedly pillow fight vigorously while wearing pastel panties and twee tank tops, until we melt into a heap of tanned limbs and Sapphic intent. Actually, we won’t. But you’re free to let that sugarplum image dance in your collective heads if it pleases you.
And yet, even here on this little island with its sand and its chirruping birds and its crashing of the surf and its sun beaming in a charming, non-fatal way, I am enveloped in the emotional aspic that is the lingering break up. Donny, apparitional, haunts my thoughts, and as much as I want to exorcise him, I like him lingering, kind of like the rank, pink smell of flowers so past their prime that they approach the loam readiness of mulch.
I probably need a lover. I vacillate. I masturbate. Mostly, I masticate. Though I’m currently on a bender of beach waddling/wogging, an endeavor that seems to put a gentle kibosh on my cookie eating. I try to think of myself as incorporeal, which is difficult at the beach. There’s just so much skin-ness here. I’m brown as the proverbial beetle. My feet are so tan they look transplanted. I recognize that part of the process of this compulsive sun exposure (with sunscreen) and beach exercise has buried within it the attempt to reunite me with my own flesh. The break up took a physical toll, you see, and for many months I wanted to pretend I simply had no body, now that I had nobody.
It’s probably a good sign that I want to turn Donny into a ghost, that I want him to thaw, melt and resolve into a dew, because for many months I desperately wanted to be the ghost. This break up has been so very painful that I’ve had fantasies of simply vanishing. I’ve wanted to walk the streets invisible. I’ve pondered the glorious obscurity of the burka. I’ve wished that I could be as alone as a ghost, a solo shade flitting about the Hades of Manhattan. I’ve wanted, frankly, to cease to exist, but not, you know, in a permanent kind of way.
Last night I had a dream that I had succeeded, nearly. I dreamt that I’d taken some obscene overdose of Technicolor pills and that said dose had deposited me on death’s door. I felt this intense desire to just, finally, let go. But I didn’t. In my dream, I was revived, and then in a shocking turn of events that really happens most often only dreams, I was with Dustin Hoffman. I was interviewing him. He was looking at me peculiarly, and I explained what had happened with me the previous night: pills, color, desire, drifting, snapping back to life. He was solicitous.
And then he asked, “So I don’t suppose you would consider something casual, like a fling?” I considered it. I demurred. We continued talking, and Dustin morphed into a forty-ish Robert Redford. A while later I woke up.
What I make of all of this is that I’m fumbling through this break up. It’s not been easy because I loved Donny; I loved him enough to choose him as my husband. I remain hurt that he didn’t choose me, and I remain doubly hurt that it’s taken ten months for me to begin to realize that he isn’t the man I thought he was, that we are not in love any longer, and that I am ready to move on.
But something in my gut is telling me to accept all of that all of that gristly truth. Incredibly I’m almost listening.