the difference: four love haiku

the difference between

feeling a part and falling

apart is a word

*

the difference between 

being seen and understood

your eyes recognize

*

the difference between

being heard and being hurt 

is just a word

*

i still recognize

your eyes in mine, your smell on

me, your touch burns skin

Advertisements

Thoughts on What I Want: A Love Letter to My Ex

I knew that in spite of whatever passed between us: you would leave, and I would be left. That you would never choose me. I knew the price of the ticket, so to speak. And I bought it anyway. But I knew, also, that you would eventually be back from your time abroad, and I’d be forced to reckon with you once more, in an immediate way.

And when you came back, I thought about what I felt. I did not want to see you at first, feared the lows that I knew would underscore any of the highs. And I wanted to talk with you, like a brother, and I wanted to share food with you, like a friend. And though I did not want to want you, sexually, I wanted you, regardless. You cannot blame me for that, nuclear physics being what it is. And since then, we’ve exchanged words, in anger and in love, in injury and perhaps in its own kind of grief. And I have thought about you, wondered about you, imagined you, while you were gone and since you’ve returned. I have considered you, cared about you, indeed, loved you, from a distance of thousands of miles and from your very neighborhood.
But I did not claim romantic love for you; there is no romance between us now, to the extent that their ever was. I did not want to bind my life to yours, to follow your rear end to whatever continent you happen to land on, as I thought I did on your departure last spring. I loved you no less, but my love was different, also. Things have grown constricted between us, as I said in my last letter: they are fragmented and arthritic and frankly broken. I feel something for you, and perhaps I even “want” something from you, but I don’t know what it is.

Nevertheless. I know that I love you, and because I love you, I can imagine loving you in any way, in every way. From near, from far, and in a romantic sense. But also: like a brother and a keeper and a witness, as a sister and a confidant and a friend. Now, you come, you go, and I know: there is much going on in that beautiful mind of yours, much more than–even in our closest times– I have ever been able to fully witness. And the manner in which I love you enables me to imagine anything between us, or nothing: I can see you, and in that itself, there is completion.
But I did not ask to be with you, in a romantic sense. I have always known in what could be called my heart that whatever the state of your emotions: I would ultimately be discarded. And here we are. That is where the sense of emasculation enters. It is not self-deprecation or self-anniliation or anything other the sense that I had the chance for self-preservation, but did not take it. And I should have taken it.
So what I want, Manuel. I want to not think about you. I want you to have a sweet and happy and beautiful life, and I want to not see your face or hear your name or think about you in any capacity, ever again. I want a heart of stone, and I want you inside me, sometimes still–and I want you 100,000 miles away. I want to share books with you and talk about thoughts and I want to drink whiskey and be with other men and I want to remember everything that we never were to one another, and forget all that we never could have been.
And I want to not remember whatever it is that passed between us, and I want to pretend that you don’t exist, and I want to forget that I ever knew your name. I want to hold on and I want to let go. I want to stop comparing every man who tries to put it on me to you. I want to be able to be in the Horse with a man on a Saturday night, for whatever reason, and not have it subjected to questions.
But mostly I want to read Baldwin again like I did a year ago: without the imprint of your memory. I want to not smell your skin, anytime we’re in a room together. I want to forget what I felt, and I want to remember everything else instead. I want a future unmediated by all of this, and I want the past to have no bearing on the present. I want to secure myself against my memories of last spring, and I want to not feel anything at all. And more than anything, I want to discard those incipient moments, in which the thing that carried was the beating of my heart: always louder than anything else in the room, mapping a cartography of possibility, sounding out the echo of your name.

What Do You Even Want? Questions from My Ex

What do you even want, Adina? my ex asked me, over the telephone yesterday. Do you even know what you want? 

I did, or I thought I did. I wanted him to leave me be, to wrap his arms around me, to stay far away, to come closer. I knew that whatever I wanted, it was futile.

Don’t you know that I love you in the best way I know how? he said, Even if it’s not in the way that you want? Do you recognize that–can you even see who I am?

I thought I did, I said, tears streaming down my face, but I was very wrong.

I’m not sure why I even entertained the conversation. In my deepest heart, and for all of his imperfections, I really do love this man, in all the ways that matter. I know that he is not the one for me, I know that for all the love that exists and persists between us, we are better off apart. And I know that nothing will change that. But something about him compels me deeply, that avoiding it is inevitable, and that I need to secure myself against the very idea of him. Because in weak moments, I still imagine him in my life, in all the wrong ways, and for all the wrong reasons.

 

Birdie Did a Bad, Bad Thing: A Tale of Two Men

I won’t mince words in this case. I will use this space as a springboard for understanding my own motivations, a pulpit for preaching against bad boundaries, a confessional for one woman’s atonement.

I went out on a date with this fellow last night, a beautiful, sweet man who is nothing like any man I’ve ever encountered in the romantic sense. He was generous, traditional, and kind, a door-opener–a military officer, a musician, a gentleman and a scholar. He was also very young (which is to say, younger than me), rather charming, and what you might call a looker.

I was surprised when he asked me out; like most women, I get asked out by all manner of knuckleheads and chuckleheads and wise guys, which is interesting, until it isn’t. When I am asked out, it is more commonly by the sort of man whose approach entails rolling up at the eleventh hour and saying things like “Will you help me find my condom?” or (this one’s a winner) “Do you want to come to church with me, because I’d really like to get to know you in the biblical sense.”

WHY AM I NOT MARRIED?

Okay, moving on, or back to the point, rather: Last night, I went on this date. Sweet guy. We had dinner at this Thai restaurant and then went out for an after-dinner drink. 

And this is where the trouble came to town.

Do you want to go to the Horse? my spirited young date asked. Why not? I asked.

The question was rhetorical, but there was a very good reason not to go to this venue, a reason obvious, self-evident, really, and requiring no explanation. The reason: my most recent ex, a doctoral student, bartends at this venue on Friday and Saturday night. 

Well, we probably won’t run into him, I reasoned as we walked toward our destination, I mean, there are multiple bartenders, and even if we do run into him, who cares? He’s the one who doesn’t love me!

Of course, we sit at the bar, and this man, my ex, our bartender presents himself before us.

“DO MY EYES DECEIVE ME?!” he asks, a huge grin spreading across his face. Somehow, the smile seems at once all-encompassing and wholly insincere. It was all that was left between us, but I took it. I looked him squarely in the eyes. I felt something pass between us, a feeling of one kind or another. The feeling was fleeting–so brief that it might not have existed–but I missed him, in that moment, and I wanted nothing more than to feel his arms around me. I shook the thought from my brain. It was unfair to my sweet young door-holding date, and it was a distraction and it was ultimately a curse.

Every time the ex passed by, I looked at him, his eyes–a huge, luminous brown–appeared to be aflame. 

You chose your choice, I wanted to say, and now you get to live with the consequences. How does it feel?

I observed as he flirted with customers at the bar, calling women mami and flashing smiles that felt more genuine than the one he offered me, even if they were only given in exchange for tips. I mostly focused on my date. The ex made it hard, he stood in front of me, took off his hat, put it down on the bar directly before me. He made my drink weak; he ignored requests for the check; my date asked for water (on my behalf), and rather than pour the glass of water, my ex looked at me with those huge disarming eyes, and called me by my name, and made a production of asking if I was sure I really wanted it.

My sweet young date and I left the establishment not long thereafter. As we walked to the car, my date commented that the bartender did not seem to like you very much. And maybe he doesn’t, or maybe something else was at play. Maybe it wasn’t a very nice thing I did, to go there, where there was potential for great discomfort for everyone involved, including an innocent and outsider to the situation. That was bad form, at best, and there is no rationalizing it.

But maybe, on some level, I needed to prove to myself that I could. That I could be in the presence of this man who claims not to really love me, or in the right way, who does and does not, who is conflicted and confused. That I could be there, with another man, in spite of whatever feelings might be had (and restrained, or badly expressed), and we would all ultimately be okay. And that whatever the ultimate outcome, and for all its changes and its limitations, the love might not ever disappear entirely. But life, in all its complicated glory, always finds a way to go on.

“I Can’t Believe What You Say, Because I See What You Do”*: An Open Letter to My Ex

I have said it before and I will say it again: I am of the mind that love isn’t what you feel, it’s what you do. Feelings are great, but they only really matter to you; that which impacts those around you is how you walk in the world, how you engage with those around you, how you treat them. And that is the only thing that means anything.

So if we love someone, it’s not enough to say that we love them, and to assume that this fact alone has any impact. The expression of love as an emotion, while significant in its own way, bears limited weight on its own. The articulation of love, while important in its context, is meaningless when it is devoid of accompanying action. If we are to really love, in a way that matters and in a manner that means something to our beloved, we must also carefully consider the way in which we engage them. We must hold them in a high regard, we must listen, we must learn, we must know when to hold on and when to let go. 

Now, Ex Boyfriend, let’s revisit our particular history. When you left the country for the better part of a year, we broke up, and you stayed gone, and our contact was limited, and frankly I can only imagine what was going on for you, during that time. And I have a vivid imagination, so suffice it to say, my imagination allows me to consider it in all its lurid dimensions, to my everlasting regret.  

And now, all this time later, you’ve returned. And when we saw one another, after a long absence and hurt words and a month of no communication at all, you told me you still loved me, and we went to bed together. Subsequently, you tell me that your love is not in the way or to the extent that I deserve. You accuse me of having some sort of chronic self-esteem issue. You claim that I exist in a state of anger. We can talk about projection, if you’d like, but I am of the opinion that it is not my job to tell you about yourself, as it is not your job to render ill-conceived judgments of me.

Everything you have told me about myself, ostensibly offered in the spirit of “helping” me, has been so ill conceived as to be ridiculous, and suggests that you have no idea who I actually am. You don’t know the contours of my mind, as you once did; you no more know what I feel, to the extent that you ever did. And that’s fine, Ex Boyfriend. I can’t make you love me if you don’t. And at this point, I am sad and sorry to say, I no longer care if you do. 

But for you, in light of all this, to approach me and tell me you are throwing our love in the trash, to suggest that I do not honor our love? That to me is egregious, it is almost laughable, and it a slap in the face. My perceived disregard for the “love” that we share is being held out against me, by a man who left and stayed away; by a man who in his return, remained distant; by a man who claimed to still love me, but sexual interest notwithstanding, whose heart seem hard to me as well.

Love, for me, is not about what you say; it’s about what you do. So when I think about what you do, and how that comports with what the words that fall out of your mouth like dust in the wind, or bits of broken trash, I am frankly unconvinced. And yet you tell me I do a disservice to our love.

So tell me, Ex Boyfriend, how would you have me interpret this love? Am I supposed to continue loving a person who does not really love me back? Am I supposed to hold you or the things you say in high esteem, in view of their great remove from everything that you do? Truly, Ex Boyfriend, I wonder: am I supposed to tend to a love that is one sided, to nurture it, to drape my hope upon it and watch it wither? For I am the only one who’s there. Your train has left the station, and I  am standing under the sign that reads “Departures” by myself.

So I ask again, the question I have asked and will continue to ask, until I arrive at a satisfactory answer, or any answer: how would you ask me to consider the love we share. How would have me regard it? And more to the point, what am I supposed to do with that, while you are off, near or far, doing you. I love you, and I have loved you, and I frankly wish I did not, but keeping me in this jealous periphery in a state of perpetual half-friendship–in a state of judgment and jealousy and pain, in which you want me to want you, though all desire ends there–strikes me as unjust and cruel. The thing you want from me, at this point, is some sort of limited friendship, but you are not my friend, and I have never been your friend, and at this point, the friendliest thing you could do for me, the kindest and most loving, is to please just leave me at peace and alone.

 

*Thanks to the dearly departed author and sage James Baldwin for this quotation.

Love and a Broken Nose: When Your Friend’s Fiance Hits Her

There is no gentle way to say this, so allow me to apologize for the bluntness of my delivery. My oldest friend is engaged to a man who beats the crap out of her.

This is how it started:

The engagement happened very suddenly. They had known one another informally for a while (we went to high school together, not incidentally), but they did not begin dating until this most recent fall. It was a whirlwind. By Thanksgiving, they were engaged. She was increasingly isolated from family and loved ones. He made her “un-friend” all of her male Facebook friends, so jealous was he of those around her, especially men. He called her terrible names for saying hello to the neighbors.

“Hi,” she said to the man who owned the garage on the corner of her street. “Why do you have to be such a whore” he said, “always looking for attention.”

Okay.

He berated her in her bathroom and shouted at her in her kitchen. He deprived her of contact with friends, or insisted on joining us for social outings. He was deeply unpleasant to be around, despite a charming and friendly demeanor. I could see what was happening, although I didn’t know how bad things were. And I didn’t want her to be alone, so I always welcomed his involvement, at first. I later learned that he terrified her dog, and he threatened to kill himself if she left him. You are all I have in this world, he said, and he might have been right.

That’s not your problem, I said to her over the phone, during what was a rare solo conversation, you have to get out, whatever you do. What if he hurts your dog? What if, g-d forbid, he tries to physically hurt you?

She stayed silent as I went on. At the time, I thought she didn’t want to hear it, but maybe she knew it was impending, if it hadn’t happened already. And in retrospect, I wonder if he might have been there at the time, if she remained quiet as a means of self-preservation.

About a week after that, she blew off plans. It turns out, she was in the hospital, having emergency reconstructive surgery. Her fiance punched her in the nose in a darkened bedroom. This took her by surprise. She could not see it coming.

I often write about matters of emotion, this thing you could call love, and heartbreak. My contention is not that anyone should aspire to be perfect; on the contrary, I believe our humanness resides in our strivings and in our imperfections and in our struggles. We will never achieve perfection; in our engagements with others, romantic and otherwise, we hurt one another and fall hurt, in ways large and small.

But there is imperfection and there is breaking someone else’s face. And I think we can agree: these are not the same thing. The margin of error acceptable in human relationships is not, in my view, wide enough to allow for breaking someone’s nose. But that’s just me. We all have our own  ideas of what love is, how it works, and why that is.

Still, I wonder: what does it mean when you have to protect your face against the thrashing of the man who claims to love you? The last time you left your face exist freely, without fear or anxiety or protection, an all-encompassing sense of where it was in relation to him, how quickly you could shield it from attack, was before he broke your nose. He broke your nose in the dark. You could not see what was coming. You don’t know why he did it. He was angry or jealous or upset, in the state of rage that permeated your relationship and his entire life. You did not know until you heard the snapping sound of breaking and tasted blood that your nose was broken.

You swore after he broke your nose that you would not take him back, promised your friends and family and therapist and the police officer who lives across the street that you would never take him back. But he’s manipulated you, and he controls the part of your mind that used to trust itself, he inhibits your ability to stand strong in your conviction, and you love him, and you want to take care of him, and you believe that he loves you, and maybe this time will be different. So you take him back, as my friend took her fiance back, after she received a restraining order, after he threatened to kill himself, after he broke her nose.

Love need not be perfect, it is not always easy, and it sometimes comes or goes with an accompaniment of pain. And I am the first to say: if we are to know love, we must first know forgiveness. So I’m not calling for a simplified notion of love that is nothing but magic and sugarplums, candy hearts and sparkly lights.

I’m not suggesting that love ought to look like the interior of a Hallmark card, the script of some romantic comedy, or the bright side of a fairy tale. But a broken nose? I am a woman of great imagination, and even greater acceptance. But even in my most imaginative thoughts, in my most accepting heart, I can tell you: nothing you’d call love could ever look a thing like that.

It’s Not You: A Primer on Why People Leave

It is easy to blame yourself, when love dies or fades or walks away. It is easy to think: I should have done X, I could have done Y, Why did I do Z, if only, if only.

If only you had done something different, she would have stayed. If only you had been better, he wouldn’t have left. This, my friends, is magical thinking. The fact is, there is nothing you could have done. 

What do you know? you’re probably thinking, and I understand. You don’t know me, what could a stranger possibly tell you about the depths of your own heart, your misdeeds, your heartache? But trust me, for I understand.

We are characters of order and creatures of habit, and it is compelling–beyond compelling, really–to blame ourselves. Not because we wish ourselves culpable, but because we want the possibility of change. To restore order in the short and long term, we need to know what the problem was and how to fix it. If I am the problem, I can resolve it. Redemption is possible, for I only need to do something differently next time to ensure a better outcome. Perhaps I can even fix the past, by changing myself. What could be more attractive? If I lose weight, or gain confidence, or stop smoking, or stop putting work before my relationship, or start taking an interest in her interests, or give his idiot friends a chance, or take up pinochle, then maybe I will win him back, and my heart will return to its rightful state of imagined wholeness.

If only it were that easy, we would never know a broken heart.

The truth is, it wasn’t you. You can blame yourself, but it wasn’t ever you. It was him. It was always him. The reasons he left were bound up in who he was as a person, as a man, the ways in which he was broken, the ways in which he was whole. The fact that he needed or wanted or sought something or someone else, that’s on him, too. 

But I’m not what he needed or wanted or sought, you might say, so isn’t that about me?

No.

Now, it might be true that you are not what this one specific person (on a planet of billions, I’ll remind you) needed or wanted or sought, at a given point in time. This is a hard truth to swallow, when the one who leaves you is the one you want.

However. This person’s departure does not reflect any failure or misdeed or shortcoming on your part: you are exactly the person you are supposed to be, at this moment in time. Although you might not know it yet, the universe has something else in store for you, and whatever that may be, you need not resign yourself to a state of misery in the meanwhile. You are loved, and you are love, and you are whole, and wholly beautiful. Whatever the particulars, and whatever the reason, it isn’t you. And it wasn’t ever you.

Some Thoughts for Brokenhearted Valentines

My last love was a man of many contradictions. He walked in great beauty and in even greater pain. He was my greatest love, thus far, and while he had no shortage of wonderful qualities (he was handsome; deeply compassionate; and in possession of a gifted mind, an immense talent, a transcendent sort of grace), he was also more than a little broken.

There was a heaviness about him, an almost ancestral weight that limited his gifts, that compromised his ability to love fully and to experience the world freely, with openness, in a state of grace. He was both beauty and beast. He could not reconcile himself with his own pain, in our time together, and perhaps he never will. Life had been hard on him, in various ways, and he had never come to grips with the traumas of his past or the resounding pain these traumas dragged into his present. So he drank–not heavily, mind you, but enough to smooth out the edges. And he fought–in word and deed, in thought and heart, in mind and soul. And he carried a deep anger as he walked in the world, and he wore that anger like a merit badge; proof of a certain honor.

And I loved him in the best way I knew how: with joy in my heart and a rare depth, in a spirit of openness and radical acceptance, with an eye toward my own self-improvement. I felt the same from him, at least initially. But it is not an overstatement to say that for a time, his love sustained me. It was an immediate sort of love, magnetic and almost involuntary; I felt it from our first interaction, after which the look in his eyes and the sound of his voice stayed with me for days. 

It wasn’t perfect, but then, what is? It wasn’t imperfection that broke us, not the flaws that endangered what we had; on the contrary, the imperfection was what made it beautiful. Idiosyncrasies are what made us human; indeed, they are what made us beautiful, what made us sing.

So it was with the love we shared. The imperfections weren’t the problem; it is what we did with our humanity that eroded us. Like many things, it was beautiful, but it bore holes, and we did not tend to them. And so it unraveled over time.

It was me as much as him; I wasn’t any saint. At the end, I picked fights, in anticipation of departure; I showed up late and left early and kept myself distracted. I stopped looking at him, for fear of what I felt in his eyes. I fell silent, as a means of keeping my thoughts from him and building a wall around my life and my body and my heart. As if I could spare myself by saying nothing. As if my silence would protect me. And now, we are gone from one another, and silence is the only thing that’s left. And for my part, I dearly wish that I could be near to him, look at him, and say something–anything at all, really–just one more time. This is what happens, at least occasionally, when things end. We yearn to hold on but know we must let go.

Still, we are fine, really, if we know it and if we do not. We are still whole. Life goes on; hearts do not really break; there is nothing in us that needs saving. So happy day, sweet valentines.

Ten Things They Don’t Tell You About Heartbreak

In the words of the inimitable LeVar Burton, you don’t have to take my word for it–but these are the facts, as I understand them.

1. You will suffer from exhaustion. You want to sleep, but you can’t sleep without your beloved’s arms about you. You lay awake nights, thinking of her, hoping that she will one day return to your raggedy ass, well aware instead that she is having a fabulous time nursing her non-existent emotional wounds with smooth alcohol and a fine man in some tropical paradise. This thought prevents you from getting the rest you so desperately need, rendering you even more emotionally fragile than you would have been otherwise (which, for the record, is plenty). In the alternative, all you can do is sleep, which unfortunately, does nothing for your unprecedented level of exhaustion. But you should rest while you can; for another thing they don’t tell you are that being well-rested will serve you immeasurably well when it comes time for the rebound that is sure to impinge upon your near future.

2. You will find yourself emotional. You will hear Bonnie Raitt, or Passenger, or John Legend, or Macklemore (in which case, you have bigger problems than your heartbreak) on the radio and burst into 1,000 irrational tears. You will look at photographs of your beloved, doing sweet things, and remember him in a state of grace, or recall the joy that radiated from her face when she smiled. You will grow pensive, thinking on the way his mouth moved when he was speaking and how you’ll never get to kiss his perfect lips again. You will find sorrow in the mundane, in the ordinary, in the everyday. The memory of her beauty will leave you weeping. The smell of the undershirt he left at your apartment–to which his scent still clings—will send you into an emotional overdrive. So, yes: you will cry, a lot, or listen to a lot of Billie Holiday, or eat a lot of ice cream, or read and re-read your favorite Michael Ondaatje poem, ad nauseam, until your eyes are burning. Emotions manifest differently in different people; some people cry them out, others stuff them through eating, or drinking, or sex. Whatever your poison, remember: this too shall pass, but unfortunately, not yet.

3. You will engage in small acts of self-destruction. The possessive investment one stakes in having a broken heart is enough to destroy any otherwise rational human being, at least temporarily. I once did not eat a single morsel of food, so despondent I was at the loss of a man I loved. He did not love me in the least, which was the fundament of our relationship: I loved him so much, he did not love me at all, and we both spent a lot of time crying about this catastrophe. A person full of self-love would have shed no tears about the loss of such a man (who, not incidentally, suffered from a terrible admixture of alcoholism and depression, which rendered him incapable of the emotional availability a functional relationship required). I told him (nine or seventeen times) that I would take him back on any terms. And I did. And, shock of the century, it never worked.

4. You Will Lose Weight, Or Maybe Gain Weight. You will lose five pounds, or maybe ten. Or, you’ll gain five pounds, or maybe ten. This brings me to another, more important point, which is: Who cares. When it comes to a broken heart, your weight is immaterial, your appearance is immaterial, your personality is immaterial. Many times, women emerge from a breakup defiant, convinced that they will lose weight, get hotter, and get the ex back/have revenge sex/take over the world. Relax, comrades. You are hot enough already.

Contrary to your deluded expectations, there is nothing that you could have done to change the outcome here. The universe, as they say, is unfolding exactly as it should. What that means is that there is no failure, misdeed, or flaw on your part that drove her away from you. Unless you slept with your boyfriend’s brother, or killed his pet monkey, or stole his job (and if you did that, you suck, hi), there is nothing you could have done differently to keep him in your arms. What this also means is that there is nothing you can change about yourself to get him back. If losing twenty pounds will bring him back, everyone’s priorities are wrong (or maybe you just live in Los Angeles County), and he does not deserve you in the first place. In other words: you are perfect exactly the way you are, and when you recognize that your inner beauty is great, your spirit is wonderful, you are hilarious and beautiful externally, a man will come along who sees that, too. That’s all.

5. You will see and speak to ghosts. You will, at times, endure mirages of your beloved, although he is not there. Nevertheless, in your bed, you will feel him pressed gently beside you, his hairy torso scratching against your smoothly moisturized back. You smell him in your car, a smell that never goes away. You imagine the sound of his voice, calling to you that the coffee is done while you are in the shower. You hear him singing, and the timbre of his beautiful baritone lingers in your bones. In the street one day, you will see a portly white man with a handlebar mustache fedora and imagine he is the person you are still not really over–a bald black man who is cleanly shaved and wears a skull cap. They were both wearing jackets, you insist to yourself, well aware that you are rationalizing, firm in the knowledge that all attempts to dispel the sense that you have lost your mind are for naught.

6. You will rationalize with a precision generally reserved for sociopaths. You never really loved him anyway. (Oh, but you did.) You did not want to be in a relationship, because you need to be single for spring break in the DR. (You are lying.) You should have sex just one more time, to get over him (this doesn’t work) or to prove to him how good you are together (yes, but only in the sheets). You can still be friends, after all, and that is what counts, because you weren’t meant to be as a couple does not mean that you should leave one another’s lives indefinitely. (Only it probably does.) You won’t have sex with her. (But you might.) You can have sex with him, just as a sort of goodbye, it won’t impede your ability to move on in a healthy way. (It will, honey. It just will.) And the most painful rationalization: Everything will be okay, as long as I don’t see her again. So I just won’t see her again. Ever.

7. You will see her again. You live in the same one-horse town, and you will run into her again, at the library or the bar where he tends on the weekends or on the local bike path. And maybe you have the luxury of imagined distance, by virtue of living in a city of millions, or on opposite coasts, and cling to guarded hope that you will successfully avoid one another indefinitely. But geography does not matter; you could move to Siberia and she in the American Southwest; your bodies will cross in time and space, and there is nothing that you can do about it. Other than cry. And there is a small chance that with the passage of time, you will no longer see her with love in your eyes or nostalgia in your heart but with a gritty sureness that you never cared for her to begin with. So there.

8. You might sleep with him again. I’m not saying that I’ve ever done this myself (I most certainly have not), and I’m not saying that you should. What I’m saying is: you might. You shouldn’t, but you might. You will walk into it with a falsified innocence, a sense that you are just giving her a hug that lingers a little too long, a kiss on the forehead intended to be endearing, a small touch on the back, a gesture of kindness and goodwill in spite of your recent folly. You might accept what you hope will be a tepid hug, but find yourself lingering a bit too long, inhaling the heady admixture of  his skin commingling with the Drakkar Noir your middle school boyfriend also favored. You will be done for. It’s best to avoid these situations wherever possible, but if you must engage in breakup or post-breakup sex, get in, get out, and get it together. Oh, and this goes without saying, but for the love of yourself, use protection.

9. You might sleep with someone else as comeuppance. This one is a no brainer. You shouldn’t do it, but you probably will. The same rules apply as with ex sex: use protection, and do not get emotionally attached. If you think that this is easier said than done, you are right. But this is sex, not love, and there is no wedding canopy above your head (and if there is, that’s a little strange, but who am I, Mazel Tov). In short, rebound sex is practically inevitable, and it can even be cathartic, in its way. The key is: you have to be reasonably sound and stable of mind when you engage in the rebound so that you don’t engage in a literal sort of erotic transference whereby you transfer all of your emotional baggage and unmet psychic needs and heavy drama from your relationship onto this woman who is just supposed to be a source of release for one night, or afternoon delight, or what have you.

The alternative is crazy, which is to say: if you are thinking about your next relationship, do not have rebound sex. If you are thinking that if you just have another boyfriend, you will forget about the last one who broke your heart, do not have rebound sex. If you are having “revenge sex” (i.e.: sex to make your ex feel badly), don’t do it, this is passive aggressive, unfair to your new sexy friend, and just bad form. So take careful stock of your emotional inventory before you go whoring around, and I said it before but it bears repeating: use protection. It is bad enough that you’re mending a broken heart, you do not want to deal with an STI or an unplanned pregnancy on top of everything else. Trust me.

10. You will find work as a revisionist historian. You will revise your history, in ways large and small, so you can convince yourself: she was a terrible person, you are better off without him, or (worst  of all), you might have been meant to be. I am especially predisposed to this practice, so I understand, believe me. In the right lighting, my mind’s eye can turn your average ax murderer into a generous and gentle soul: He was just misunderstood. For my own part, I love all histories, especially revisionist histories, but then, these are the only kind I know. And in due time, the dust will settle, and you will find clarity. Maybe the revisions will reveal that you were ill-suited to one another, ill-matched, a temporary distraction from the things and people and circumstances that really mattered. But, you never know: maybe something more is still between you. And maybe when the revisions are all that’s left, the record will reflect that you loved one another, however imperfectly, and that you were open, even when you were fearful, and that through the depths of your fear, you never ceased to be brave.