Set the story in the winter of 2015, in Portland. You will have just been broken up with by a dude you were bonkers in love with, in a way that rattled you to your core. Go grocery shopping, feel it coming on, leave the grocery store before you burst into tears on the way home. Think to yourself, Can we all agree that grocery stores should not play slow, sad Christmas songs any fucking more, please? Or at least have a trigger warning beforehand? Imagine it like that, fully: a red and green-striped rotating light descends from the grocery store ceiling, spins silently. Shoppers look up: some keep shopping but others abandon their carts, drop their baskets. Eggs shatter, a ball of iceberg lettuce rolls down the aisle as they leave the store in a row: the lonely old cat lady in her housecoat, the gutter punk in the pleather jacket, the middle aged bearded gay man wiping back his tears. Behind them, the beginning strains of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” start playing in Safeway.
Think: This is fine. This is just How Things Go. Make it through Christmas without another of what you call Mike’s “Everything’s Really Bad” Safeway Crying Episodes (MERBSCE). Make it through New Year’s Eve with good friends; secretly wish on each holiday that this will be the one that he reaches back out on, have that hope diminishes with each passing one. Realize you are holding your breath.
Winter in the Pacific Northwest lasts about 20 months, or roughly 6 months longer than it does on Game Of Thrones. Get back in the dating game too soon, because of course you will. Have that go badly. Decide instead to throw yourself into your creative projects and your job, keep writing and working a lot, keep taking dorky staged photos for your dumb Instagram. Be interviewed for the lovely and talented Matt Baume’s podcast series! Manage to make it almost the entire podcast without crying, then weep slightly when asked about the breakup, make some dumb shit up about what lesson you are supposed to learn from it. Secretly know that there’s no lesson; this is chaos. The universe was not put here to “teach” any of us anything about love and loss. We are all that baby iguana in the BBC Earth 2 preview, and we’re just lucky if we don’t run across too many sea snakes that break up with you in jarring ways along the journey.
Take a deep breath, and then here you go: travel to New Orleans to finish your Brother’s Keeper series about finding the person your family has held responsible for your brother’s death so many years ago. Despite your new, cold, mathematical understanding of the universe, your new relationship with the notion of destiny, the concept of love, still feel a palpable almost measurable magic in the city. But COME ON does the Uber from Charles DeGaulle airport have to be THAT expensive?
Anyway, don’t find “Marcia”, don’t find yourself, maybe find a little peace, make out with a cute boy who you still occasionally flirt with and have him still politely but firmly deflect your online flirtations.
Valentine’s Day happens, as it sometimes does in February. Wake up from a dream where your ex and you are still together because that is what this holiday was designed for. Be reminded of the year before where you got him flowers and the bouquet they actually sent David was not as large as it seemed online, and if that isn’t the perfect metaphor for your relationship in hindsight, you don’t know what is. It’s months after the breakup, but still be in love with someone who warned you almost verbatim (and yet, strangely, in Italian) in the beginning of the relationship that he was an Asperger’s bomb with a ten month long fuse. Decide to put that in the webseries too.
Oh yeah, that! Decide to continue with your idea to create a webseries of your blog, starring a puppet playing yourself. Make a trailer, put it out into the world. Have a possibly huge opportunity to produce it come your way from your old stomping ground in LA (maybe you weren’t stomping, maybe you were shuffling passive-aggressively). Anyhoo, write scripts, send them off. Then wait. In the meantime, experience what you think may be your last summer in Portland. After all, New York is in your future still, you just put the move off due to this Big Opportunity, and you know that the first season of This Ends Badly has to take place in Portland.
Travel back home to Albuquerque to see your dad. It’s a great trip reconnecting with him and friends who live there, have a driving tour with him of houses you grew up in, have the nostalgia be palpable. Then the Orlando nightclub shooting happens. It’s horrible and strange, but also so reassuring to watch the horrors of the news unfold with your dad by your side. You talk about growing older, about your favorite meal growing up, the one you always asked for for your birthday meal: Ring bologna (Google it, friend) stewed in tomato soup, mashed potatoes, and canned green beans.
Continue your long summer trip to Missouri for a reunion with three of your closest friends. Both before and after the trip, answering the question “where are you going on vacation?” with “I’m going to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and then Columbia, Missouri!” is met with the kind of tilted-head expression that dogs get when they hear a high-pitched sound. THE TRIP WAS STILL FUN YOU JERKS.
Keep seeing your therapist. Feel everything when processing the breakup: anger, sorrow, love, in one big confusing mix, like a nauseating Slurpee when you mix all the flavors together and then shake the cup. Keep seeing your therapist, until suddenly you stop seeing him. Get your big boy pants on and try to work it out yourself. Realize that this whole year, you have still been holding your breath.
Have your webseries rejected for the Big Time, reset the clock for your New York move. Have a racist win the electoral vote. Have friends and acquaintances harassed and threatened.
This is growing up. This is growing older but not feeling older. This is seeing your childhood idols die over the course of a year, one at a time. This is bad things happening to good people. This is your faith in true love, your faith in God, bent and broken. This is you dusting yourself off. This is you deciding to make your webseries yourself and it starting to turn out pretty great. This is Black Lives Mattering. This is you voting for optimism and that not quite turning out the way you had hoped. This is not the dress rehearsal. This is your life. This is your life. This is your life.
Wake up on the morning of Thanksgiving. Your eyes grow wide, like they did when they saw your favorite birthday dinner as a child.
Finally exhale the breath you’ve been holding all year. Breathe in. Start the rest of your life.