It was one month to the day without talking to Sketch, days counted the way you count the number of days since your last drink or your last time gambling. I itched and I fiended. I dreamed about him, and woke up re-realizing he was gone. My friend Amanda changes his name in my phone from Sketch to Unavailable, but nothing helps me remember. Maybe everyone going through a breakup has built-in forgetters, a convenient and highly specific form of amnesia, requiring Olympic-level feats of mental gymnastics. All I could remember was what a powerful team we had once been. Alone, I took the gold in self-justification.
There is a similar phenomenon that I have noticed in dogs. When you take a dog outside, and its inclement—which in New York means anything from it’s raining in both directions to it’s snowing garbage—the dog will whine and roll its eyes up to you, as if saying, No, I wanted the OTHER outside. The one that doesn’t suck. I often feel this way when I am with my ex-boyfriend. I want to see the OTHER Sketch, the one where there’s not an emotional refraction period afterward that involves laying on my bed eating chips and being sad. And yet, as hope once again trumps experience, I go to see him, like any junkie haunting a familiar block.
He’s living in this posh Upper West side co-op now. I feel rage now anytime I’m west of Central Park and north of 72nd Street and I want to start smashing things with hammers.
To put it in very New York terms, I have always lived in the kind of neighborhoods where the grocery store is C-Town. For those of you not in-the-know, C-Town is a grocery store with many different generic brands of bologna and a bulletin board bedecked with shame-photos of shoplifters holding things they have attempted to steal. Sketch, meanwhile, now lives between a Gristedes and a Fairway. Why does he get organic lychees while I am languishing in fourth-floor walk-up in Queens, where an old french fry decomposed in the lobby for months before traveling out the door stuck to the bottom of somebody’s shoe? There is a bodega downstairs, and it was held up at gunpoint last week. Things for sale in this bodega include potted meat, stale gumballs, and bread with dust on it. It’s that kind of a block. There’s a guy out front who cleans his ears and leaves the bloody q-tips on the sidewalk.
Sketch has a doorman, the kind with braid on his coat, who addresses him as Mr. Sketch and takes delivery of his packages. The only way to get your package from UPS around my building is to lay in the wait in the bushes.
So I’m a little resentful. Which is a new thing. For the longest, I was just telling everyone, “I’m not angry!” And then laughing weirdly. But it was true. Anger is not the first thing you feel when someone drops something out a window onto your head. Shock and bewilderment are great anti-anger measures. It’s only when you look up and see the gaping thundercunt at the open window who just emptied his bong-water, or pitched a bag of McDonald’s garbage, or dropped his baby, that you get pissed.
I have a friend named Jocelyn who’s been going through this tandem with me—her own breakup, her own fledgling attempts at dating. And very annoyingly, these guys often send ambiguous texts, or they don’t call, or they just generally suck. One of our favorite games has become “What’s really going on here?” Why didn’t that dude call? Obviously, it’s because the circus is in town and dude has been eaten by a lion. Why didn’t Bend invite me back to his place? Because he’s a crazy hoarder and he lives in a maze of pizza boxes. Why is Joc’s ex showing up in pictures on Facebook with an attractive young girl? Because the attractive young girl is the ex’s cousin, and she is dying, assuredly, of bowel cancer.
Neither one of us knows how to do this. We are trying to build the plane as we fly it.