She looks out the tiny window of the airplane at the universe, earphones in her ears, exhaustion in her eyes. Her loneliness feels poignant from this vantage point. As if this is a story and she’s the protagonist. She keeps playing the same song over and over, so many times that it feels like the background score of her life. The interview trail has meant a lot of time spent on flights lately. She always picks a window seat. It gives her a chance to go into her cocoon, where it’s just her and the universe. Also, that way she doesn’t have to look at all the young happy couples with their adorable babies. Why do all Americans marry so young?! She feels annoyed. The sitcoms she grew up watching were so misleading! Nobody falls in love at work! Yeah, you can stop looking for your Jim Halperts and Derek Sheperds girls. They don’t exist. The dearth of desirable single men in her everyday life has been so profound that she would now be very surprised if a cute guy did not say something like “so my wife and I moved here two years ago.” She had tried signing up for Tinder and it’s likes, only to always end up deleting her accounts in frustration. They simply did not work for her. The best place to find a mate was in college, she realizes. Men and women who are intellectual equals put in competetive environments for extended periods of time? Sparks are bound to fly. She imagines the subconscious drive to be something like “Oh you and I got into Harvard so we must pair up immediately so we can make ultra successful superhuman genius babies.” Like when she met S. It wasn’t his looks or charm. It was his intelligence, wit and talent that made her weak at the knees. Well she blew that, so thanks for that again universe. She scowls at her reflection in the window. As for the old school going to a bar hoping to get picked up? Well, that was another thing her Indian Catholic upbringing had not prepared her for. The fact that she was in a committed relationship during the ages of nineteen to twenty six did not help either. It might sound unbelievable to the average American but she simply did not know how to respond when she was hit on. Her responses have involved a lot of incoherent sentences, fumbling and the dropping of things. Besides, what if they were a serial killer? A great comedy show she had recently watched at the Second City had commented on how women repeatedly put themselves in physical danger in the hope of finding their Prince Charming. Maybe we don’t need a Fucking Prince Charming was the much applauded conclusion. The show had left her all goosebump-y with inspiration. Well, for a while at least. Before she had to come home to an empty apartment and Chinese takeout. S used to cook for her so much. He would have elaborately baked chicken dishes waiting for her when she came home after a long day. And wine. There was always wine. And comforting hugs. And slow dances around the kitchen. Yeah, the boys on Tinder never stood a chance.
Her fingers rested on the keyboard, wondering where to start. She had started many times before, only to stop immediately through unbearable tears. Now she felt that uncontrollable urge to write again. To pour out her self. Her weary, ragged self. Two years. It had been two years since she last knew happiness. Since she had been carrying that heaviness in her heart, that knot in her chest that let her know she may burst into tears at any moment. She had been with S for seven, eight years? Until she left him for the first smooth talking soldier that came along. She always had a thing for soldiers. Those damn men in uniforms. There was something undeniably romantic about being a soldier’s girl. Those first few days she had felt jubilant, feminine, beautiful even. Like those delicate women in movies who waited for their men at war. She sighs. How foolish had she been!
It was barely a month before her jubilation paved way for an uneasiness. And then horror. She realized that the smooth talking soldier was mostly just that. And couldn’t compare to the man she had left behind. The man that she now realizes was home. She had thrown away almost a decade of love and friendship for her vanity. She had lost the love of her life.
It had felt like the absolute right thing to do at the time, she remembers wearily. She was so sure. Like an inevitable decision. Still, she remembers getting out of the house so she did not have to hide her agony from her mother who was visiting. She remembers walking to the park. There was no stopping the tears once she was there. Why was she crying if it was the right decision? Why did that not stop her in her tracks? Instead she had told the man who had done everything possible to make her happy, that she wanted a break. Over text. When it had been barely a week into a huge career setback for him. She had fucked him over when he was at rock bottom. She screwed her eyes shut trying to block out the memory.
She had pleaded with him and begged him since then to take her back. To no avail. He was beyond hurt. He said he had sworn off relationships, at least for the foreseeable future. Made sense. It was time to move on now, everyone said. She wanted to tell herself that she had accepted that it was over. But in her heart of hearts she knew she never could. She held out a glimmer of hope that he would show up at her door. Maybe this weekend?
She feels a flash of anger. It was one of those rare moments she remembered why she might have left him in the first place. She sighs. If infidelity were a person she would tell them to go fuck themselves.
They had been together almost five years when that woman destroyed her world. A. She din’t let herself remember the details for fear it would unravel her. Like she did at church today. One minute she was thinking the ‘exchange of peace’ was her favorite part of mass, the next tears were rolling out of her eyes. It baffled her. She struggled to wipe them away discreetly, her voice faltering on the hymn that she knew so well. She wonders how the woman must be doing now. She surely must have heard they broke up. Ugh. She felt weak again. Well. She was always weak. Her protected Catholic upbringing had not prepared her for the other women. It had not prepared her for the aftermath of her man’s infidelity. She had struggled to get over it for three years. She could not fathom how someone could do that to a person they love. Maybe she would be able to get over it if she did it herself. Jeez. She had been young and stupid. And a perfect fool for the next smooth-talking soldier that came her way.
She wipes her tears again now at her kitchen table trying to put in words the anguish that permeated every moment of her life. It had been a real roller coaster. She had felt empowered this morning. Maybe she din’t need a man after all! She had made herself coffee, watched the morning news, had a long shower before stepping out for mass. It was a cool fall day, slightly overcast – her favorite kind. Then she had looked up her clinic patients for the next day, deposited cash at the ATM and paid her bills. She had felt like a responsible adult. She had then settled down under the covers for a few hours of Netflix. She had been on the road for a month interviewing – she deserved rest, she reasoned. Before she knew it, night fell. Darkness crept into her room and her mind. She absently Facebook-ed his name again.
He wasn’t at all active on social media these days so she had to be satisfied with looking at his old posts. Something about him wanting milf’s back in 2012. Wtf. Yeah, they were still together then. Year six. The guys in their class were telling him something about him already having one. He retorts, “Which bloody idiot would not want more than one?” God. She thinks. Offensive to her on so many levels. She hates herself for still wanting his arms wrapped around her. She wants to confront him about the post. She decides against it. She gets up. She needs to get up. She should get out of the house. Maybe she would go out for groceries. Wait, she needs to get her laundry done first. She gets the washing machine going and then sits back down to write.