You keep it together like this: you wake up, you get groceries, you pick up cat food for Ned from the vet. You do this all successfully without crying! You celebrate these little victories since the breakup, these small signs that you’re getting better. You get online on the dating apps (major shout out to the dudes trying to look serious and smoldering in their profile pictures, who come off looking crazy and murder-y). You look at the New York guys to see who might be available to date once you move out there, but instead you’re interrupted by a vivid mental image of every single one of them taking turns on your ex who lives there, all of them lining up for a chance at him, the line extending around the block, extending across the Brooklyn bridge into Manhattan, all the men eager with hungry, mean eyes and bodies far more muscular than yours, and at the head of the line your former love’s door, occasionally opening, letting one out, letting another in, him closing the door gently like he used to with only you, and now a revolving door of sex with anyone but you. You shake your head of this image, grab your keys, head to your first therapy appointment. You have no clue what you talk to therapists about, it’s probably a bad fit because he’s not even gay and what the fuck would he know about your life. You go up to his office, greet each other, look at his walls lined with books. Maybe one of the books has the right sequence of words to make you better again, the magic incantation to make you as good as you were with David. The therapist says: “What would you like to talk about?”
You burst the fuck into tears.
The hour passes by in what seems five minutes, and you leave feeling like you ran a marathon, whatever that feels like. You talk about everything, but mostly how sudden and graceless the breakup was, how strange and cruel the silence since then seems. You go home and make an Instagram account for your cat, because you are single and gay and of course that is what you do. You heat up a pizza, pour some wine, muse that your ex took both your heart and your liver, turn on SNL and let it drone in the background. You get on Scruff, aka “The Dating App For Handsome Gay Men Who Do Not Take Compliments Gracefully”, and see a guy in your neighborhood you’ve spoken to before. You message him to see if maybe he’s interested in having a beer now that you’re single again. He is certainly not! You message someone else. He is, but when you and he text to finalize plans, he fades away, stops responding; gay men in 2016 have the attention span of
hamsters gay men in 2016. You’re disappointed, but then there’s that other feeling too, the one you can’t quite put your finger on, the one you haven’t felt before.
Every failure to connect reminds you of how rare what you and David had seemed, how unlikely it was that the two of you even found each other, that you were both drawn like rare earth magnets across the first 1,700 miles apart when he was in Milwaukee, then the 2,400 miles apart after he moved to New York. You wonder again, for the thousandth time, if the reasons he gave you for wanting to end the relationship were the real reasons. You consider, for the thousandth time, going to his Facebook to see if there are clues, maybe he let an outside influence interfere with the two of you? You instead decide not to, know that will just damage you further and contribute nothing to your healing. You think you should earn a 90-day chip for successfully avoiding his social media since the moment you broke up.
You go on Tinder. It’s all girls. You go off Tinder.
Later that week, you work on your book again, the sequel to your gay science fiction epic (gay science friction, amirite fellas?). You’re proud of the work you’re doing but still are sad that it took this, this weird, empty, lonely feeling to bring the writing back to this level again. There’s that feeling again, though, that feeling you can’t identify since the breakup. What is it?
You meet a guy online, Jack. He’s taller than you which is usually a dealbreaker, but he has incredible furry legs which is a dealsealer. He’s in his late 20’s, has a noble job and an exciting creative life, he directs you to a website to see his photography. The two of you make plans to meet up at a bar the next night, but there’s a catch: he won’t give you his number. You shrug. You walk to the bar the next evening and are actually excited. It’s a wonder that our hearts bounce back, it’s a wonder that so many of us are never aware of how close to the precipice we are in relationships, and we would do it all over again without hesitation, because maybe this time.
You walk into the dimly lit bar, shake the water off your jacket, look around the room. It’s all couples except for that guy over there, wait is that him? You look closer. No it’s not, but then he looks up from his phone at you in the doorway, scans your face with his eyes and quickly assesses to see if you’re the person he’s waiting for. You instinctively glance down to his phone screen and see the familiar grid of a dating app, the familiar layout selling love and sex and hope as commodity. His eyes shift, he puts the phone down, he starts smiling and you realize you’re blocking the doorway for the woman he’s waiting for who’s entering behind you. You mutter an apology and take a stool at the bar.
You order a beer and wait. Ten minutes pass, then twenty, then a half hour. You do some sleuthing: you get back on Scruff, scroll through your messages. Jack’s profile is gone. You remember his full name from his website though, you find him on Facebook and message him, thank him for the lovely evening.
He messages you back as you leave the bar, apologizes, says he has some issues to work out. You wish him well, but out of curiosity you glance at his Facebook page. Oh. He’s with a woman, and appears to be living a heterosexual life. The walls behind you lately appear to be absolutely riddled with all of the bullets you are dodging. As you walk home in the rain, you finally name the feeling you’ve been experiencing.
For the first time in your life, you feel old.
You meet your friend Hannah out for drinks, and the guy she’s been seeing shows up and oh shit he’s gorgeous and it’s on. All of a sudden you’re electric, you’ve never been this funny before, it’s like the tap of your rusty flirt game was finally turned on again. He’s gamely going along, flirting back, throwing in some “bro”‘s and “dude”‘s just to make you roll your eyes as Hannah looks on, amused. The three of you head to trivia night at the local pub to meet up with his friends and all of you win the hell out of it. It’s harmless flirting with a straight guy, but it does the trick. The whole week afterwards you feel the looming blanket of depression come closer, but you beat it back. Your happiness is in your own hands again, you’ve regained control. Maybe this is what it took, this one simple night of being happy and excited to flirt with a guy again, however unavailable this one was.
Later that week, you see your therapist. “How do you feel?” he asks you, getting settled in his chair. You smile a small smile.
“I feel young.”
If you liked this, I feel sorry for you! You might like to read the next chapter about how I’m doing in the process! Or you might not! Either way, let’s be horrible people together.