The Moment A Guy Knows A Break-Up Is Coming
It's getting warm out, so Jimmy and I went fishing. We couldn't bear another night at the corner bar, all stuffy and stinking of sweat. So when the sun went down, we went to the pier to clear our heads. He brought the beer. I brought the cigarettes.
I've known Jimmy most of my life. I didn't like talking women with him. I was good with women in bad ways; he just had bad luck with them. He picked women who got him arrested. He picked women who gave him shit. One even died on him, right before our prom. So he knew a thing about letting go.
He asked me what was going on with Wendy, the one everyone keeps telling me I'm supposed to be with who keeps letting me go. I can see it in everyone's eyes – they all see me and Wendy picking out patio furniture in North Jersey as some excellently inevitable outcome.
I said she's gone. Looks like for good. Don't know when I'll be seeing her again.
It had been eating me up a bit. Then Jimmy said something that stuck with me, something I hadn't really thought about before.
“Guys like us...” he said.
I nodded. “Mets fans…"
“We always know when the pennant is finally out of reach. We come up short so many times that we can literally feel the moment that it's over.”
“The Mets are in first place,” I said to him, jokingly. “They're rolling.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I know,” I said, and took a long, cold swig of beer before flinging the bottle into the river.
I really did know. There's always that moment when you know you've lost her. It could be when you've said one too many stupid things or dodged one too many questions or puked on two too many of her shoes. It could be your hair, or how for a second you looked at someone else, because there is so much to look at and we all have so few eyes.
And then she gets ticked. Her glimmer is gone, and she's decided, No, I've had it, and I won't be trying him again.
Way before Wendy, there was Roza. With a Z. She was from Barcelona, couch-hopping her way around Manhattan. She had no money, and yet she was always on a rooftop bar or in the Hamptons -- that's how beautiful she was.
She made me chase her around for months. I was always on my best behavior around her -- never double texted, never even cursed. I knew I was only giving her half of me, but she was proper and that was probably the only half I could safely let her see.
I lost her one night around Christmas. She had come over in a Santa suit and heels and pranced onto my bed. Her eyes went cold when she saw the white powder sprinkled over my end table.
Then there was Colby. She was a sorority girl from Rhode Island and weighed about 90 pounds. The first time I took off her clothes, I thought she disappeared.
In bed, she ushered up something animalistic in me -- I was always scratching, pushing, directing our movements in rough ways that weren't at all me. Once, toward the end, I mounted her and actually growled. I could see it in her in that moment that she wasn't even going to let me walk her back to the train.
The last time I saw Wendy was the worst. She found some texts, and when I got home she was burning my shit in a bucket in the side courtyard of our place. My photos, my notes, my cigarettes, my Mets hat – anything she could find, she was throwing in there and torching.
She yelled as I put out the fire, and I pulled her inside so she wouldn't get arrested. Then I yelled back. It was futile. I was stupid.
But what I thought in that moment was maybe one more kiss could save us. One more lip collision could knock away all the rage, a few tongue curls could slurp off all the tears. Maybe, if I pinned her forcefully enough against the molding and at the same time stayed gentle, the serendipity of the moment, the choreography of it all, the hair-yanking, ass-palming and heavy breaths could trick her synapses, overwhelm her nerve endings to trick her into forgetting how we'd spent so much time flinging our shit at one another and flexing our gums like chimps at war.
So I pressed my mouth against hers and held it there to see if she'd slap me. When she didn't, I clawed her lips apart. I reached for her tongue with mine, and soon they were interlocking.
I expected alarms to sound, trumpets to honk, confetti to fall from the sky. When that didn't happen, our waltz devolved into more of a throe. We wrapped our arms around one another. The room started spinning and we spun with it, staring into the back of our eyelids, searching for some semblance of unison. We kept digging our hands into different parts of each other's back, like we were both looking for something, that fire, to engulf us again.
I didn't want to admit it, but all that sparked was a nostalgic hint, like the taste of a low-calorie cookie.
Then I realized I hadn't brushed my teeth yet that day and started to think maybe she hadn't, either. She didn't taste very good, like food left out too long. Stale. Her lips felt more chapped than I remembered. I kept accidentally scraping her teeth. Hair kept finding its way into my mouth. It felt like she was about done with this whole charade.
She tried to pull away. One of her tears slid down and landed on my cheek. You ever actually carry someone else's tears? What a shit privilege.
I let the tear drop run down my face. I didn't want her to leave, so I held her close. She resisted. Still, I grasped and tugged at every last second we had, tasting her unbrushed breath, smelling her unwashed sweat, feeling us dying.
When I let go, I did so because I knew she felt it, too, that final degree of separation, and she disappeared behind the bedroom door, which slammed so hard it boomeranged open again.
In the beginning, we'd always been so in sync.
It wasn't getting any easier to spot these final moments before they came. But they kept coming. Looking back, they were all obvious: Each moment represented a clear line of demarcation over which there was no return. In one moment, I had her. In another, I'd lost her. Sometimes you push too much; sometimes not enough. Sometimes you're too caring. Sometimes you're too cold. It doesn't matter; there so rarely comes a second chance.
Maybe, if I could start recognizing these moments before they came, they'd stop coming. But then again, maybe I'd be picking out patio furniture in North Jersey. I'm not sure which is worse.