It’s all Mary Karr’s fault. In The Art of Memoir, she writes about sharing your work with the people who might want the opportunity to dispute its veracity, and in the spirit of Truth, I message Bunny last week and explain this project to him and ask if he wants to see the bit about him or express anything.
OK, maybe it’s not all in the spirit of Truth. He got out of the fire of that breakup so clean that even fifteen years later I still want to hand him the charred photo album and say, Look. Look how damaged it is.
I don’t hear from him all week, and then he sends me a text reading I’d rather not be involved at this point. We knew each other so long ago.
I can tolerate a wide range of bad behaviors from men: tease me, hit me, infect me, and I will find forgiveness for you. But ignore me? Ignore me and I will fucking kill you.
The rage is instant and astonishing, a bank of heat like opening a furnace door, the kind of anger that blows back your hair and makes you feel like crying. I am angrier than I was when he suddenly moved away with no explanation, taking with him a bunch of my hopes and my signed copy of Civilwarland in Bad Decline in which George Saunders complimented my sweater. I am angrier than I was a year ago, when for one weird week he would call me at four in the morning because his new girlfriend had broken up with him. More fool me, I would answer the phone, make comforting noises. Once he felt better, he ignored my solicitous texts. How are you, bun? Are you OK? I was pretending I was checking on him, but actually I was showing him how much of a better person I was than him. Irritatingly, he didn’t take the bait.
I guess I don’t really blame him for not wanting to read about all this. Look at this charred photo album of the two of us. Remember how you left all those candles burning? But he has dismissed me, like I’m trying to sell him some bibles (I’m not interested, Tippy), and now my ears are ringing with anger-induced tinnitus as I try to message him back. I want to remind him of things. I have things I want to say. But I can not write him back, because apparently he has defriended me, and so a carefully composed retort along the eloquent and mature lines of Oh yeah, fatty fat fat fat? slips right between social media’s couch cushions.
The moral of this story is, when people tell you who they are, believe them. He’s been telling me for years that he is not available to review the past, and still I have persisted. How about now? How about now? Acceptance is always the latecomer to the party. Sighing in the face of the inevitable, knowing I won’t talk to him again, I dig out his email address. Parting words should always be simple and not labored over, so I type three little words to him while I walk to the train: Die in fire. And hit send with a wistful sigh.
I have been laboring for years under the pleasant fiction that I am friends with my ex-boyfriends. It’s a thing I tell people, especially new boyfriends, that is not even close to true. My ex-boyfriends: two of them are dead, three of them are crazy and in the wind, and then there’s Sketch, who is not my ex so much as he is, to cop from Richard Burton talking about Elizabeth Taylor, “my eternal one-night stand.”
There is just one ex I am legitimately friends with. I saw him and his wife and kids this weekend; his other ex-girlfriend was there, willowy and beautiful and aging in that refined way I can not seem to master. His wife is amazing and sends me off from the party with packed food; I feel like a bit of an orphan, albeit a well-cared for one, every time I come here. He asks me about the necklace I am wearing, a brass shovel with my initials in it, and when I explain that it’s a sort of totem for this blog I write, he immediately pulls it up on his computer to look at it. I watch him for a moment, a face I once was in love with illuminated by words and words and words about other people I have loved. Loved, and sometimes hated. The anger is so misdirected and diffuse, like a fire hose with pinprick holes in it, the pressure diverted in a thousand trivial directions. This ex I am friends with, he looks at the screen for a moment. Cool. And he x’s it out, closing the browser and we, at least, are good.