I Set Out One Night

The rainy night I stumbled out of our apartment to get a cab to the nearest cheap hotel, I had forgotten what breaking up feels like. Obviously, or I couldn’t have done it in the first place. Ending a relationship is a lot like moving: no one who remembers their last time would willingly subject themselves to it again. (Also, point of information, there is a solid month of both breaking up and moving which nothing is actually worth.)

The day after the breakup itself was even worse, which is also how it always is, and which I’d also conveniently forgotten. I lay dumbstruck on Jourdan’s bed, and was just beginning to wonder if I’d actually survive, when a song I hadn’t heard before came up on shuffle into my headphones.

Leonard Cohen — Undertow

I skipped back to it. And skipped back. And then I looked up the setting on my iPod I’d never used: one-song repeat, so that it would just keep playing over and over and over until I told the damn thing to shut off, which I didn’t for two days, because it was all I wanted to listen to. I laid there next to a mountain of pillows and Kleenex and thought “okay. It’s going to be okay. You know how to do this.”

I first met you during a typically spacey/humiliating moment. I’d mixed up my schedule and was an hour late to my first day of Computer Science I. I’d opened the door in horror to see a professor mid-lecture, thirty other beady eyes staring back up at me. There were no free desks. I was ready to stand in the corner like the dunce I was, but the professor told me to find you in your office.

You were tall, your hair was long, you wore glasses. In my memory that day you had a sneaky grin on, which you continue to wear in nearly every memory I have of you. Sparkly-eyed, devious about something, big-smiled. You sailed confidently into that crowded classroom and the sea of students parted, chairs squeaking; you disappeared into a back storage room and returned to me, holding a desk over your head, grinning. “Here you go,” you announced, setting it down at my feet.

I would have a crush on you starting then. I told all of my friends and they told you, as was fashionable at the time.

They said you said, “Adrianne looks good in that yellow t-shirt.”

So I wore it as often as possible when filling out my time-sheets in your office. Boss.

Important Memory #2: We are dancing in Skiff’s lecture room to A Tribe Called Quest, you are holding a drink above your head and singing along, a projector beams magenta and gold light against the wall. You aren’t wearing a shirt under your lab coat, I find this amazing.

Later you would take me outside under the cherry blossom tree. “Isn’t it beautiful out tonight?” you asked, leaning.

In your office near the fridge, I turned to you abruptly. “Two things. One, I’ve had a crush on you for three years. Two, the thing is, I currently have a boyfriend.”

You were incredibly embarrassed. You shuffled outside without even grabbing the beers we’d come in for, paced in front of Stone Row with a cigarette. I watched you from a dark window inside.

Important Memory #3: Right, I broke up with that guy months later in Boston, cried for a while, etc. Then you visited for a weekend. No big deal, we thought we’d go roller skating. Is this even a date?

“That was just as nice as I thought it would be,” I said after our first kiss. We made out for the rest of the weekend on my borrowed futon. Sunday night I walked you sadly back to your car for your drive back to upstate New York. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see you again.

I still smile when I think about how you’d forgotten to turn your headlights off, that whole time. You turned to me. “I guess . . . I’m staying another night?”

Your mother, opening her arms to me in your family’s dirt driveway. “She’s so talllll!”

The way we slept, the way we woke up, tangled in knots with each other’s limbs.

A disgusting slimy eggpouch thing found in a pond, rural Connecticut. I sat on the dock, legs dangling in the water, while you and your high school friends flung this thing at each other, grossing everyone out. He inched in front of me, and you paused with it held over your head, and then lowered your arm. “Oh,” one of your friends said, “of course, he would never throw it near Adrianne.”

Every wedding we went to, holding your hand. Once, on the placecards, you wrote “loves” under your name, placed it aside mine.

A late night drive through upstate New York, you think I am sleeping. You play every version of “Hallelujah”, and then repeat them all, occasionally singing along. I am safe and warm, curled up in your passenger seat, stars overhead, dark blur of pine trees at our sides.

We decided to move in together late at night, to avoid the Boston September 1st rush. It was around 3 when we finished, arms shaking with exhaustion. I went into the bedroom to put on the sheets, and when I came out, you’d arranged a living room for us, turned on a lamp, thrown a red silk blanket over the couch. “I thought you might want it to feel like home,” you said.

Anxious, I would call you. Always.

The other night, after over a year of emails, anguished conversations, potential reconciliation, talks on the phone, therapists, I suggested to Jurvis that we officially close the door on trying things again. He asked that we not speak for a while. We assured each other we’d eventually be friends.

I trudged into my bedroom, put on headphones, and gave that beautiful song one more listen.

I set out one night / when the tide was low. / There were signs in the sky, / but I did not know.

And then, without even intending the symbolism, I let shuffle move on to the next song.

And my heart the shape of a begging bowl.

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