I’m driving home from work, but the road and traffic have fallen away. My ears are ringing. I’m confused and have around me a sense of unreality. Moments ago I broke his heart, the man I was going to marry.
He told me he’d get his life together–go to school, find a job–and yet here he is: “hanging out” with his parents, throwing away what could’ve been the rest of our lives.
“I love you, but,” I say and feel his heart brace for impact, “But I can’t do this anymore.”
Before me flash five years at his side, and in them, my happiest moments. I see us at the zoo, where we’d make up things animals would say about people if they could talk, about how they’d laugh at how silly we are for watching them shit. I see us at outdoor concerts with wayfarers on and beers in our hands. And I see him doing some annoyingly cute, computer-nerdy thing.
Now I’m in my car, hot all over, adrenaline-drunk and unsure. And I’m scared. I’m really fucking scared. Now I have no one. I have no friends in Minneapolis. I’m going to be alone forever.
Six Months Pass.
Six months after our breakup and I’m sitting in a hundred-degree bus in the middle of August after a day at the zoo, air musk-soaked with the sweat of a dozen coworkers. I’m sitting beside my manager.
Six months after our breakup and I have friends. I’m able to sleep alone. I’m not depressed. I’m on my own, and I’m well. I didn’t need him then, and I sure as hell don’t need him now.
But his shadow remains, poking my mind every time I get him off of it, filling me whenever I smell his cologne, hear our music, talk to our friends. And my manager, the ever insightful, sees my suffering.
My manager knows. In her I confide maybe too much, but she’s non-judgmental, or good at hiding it if she is. She’ll share advice when I need it, and I need some today.
“Look, Jaclyn,” she says, “You have to ask yourself something: Do you want a man who will support you financially, or one who will support you emotionally?”
I look past her, through a dirty bus window and at the zoo. What? A man who will… What?
My vision blurs. There’s ringing in my ears. Oh my God. What am I doing?
So plainly hidden that it went unnoticed, her question is salvation from denial. Here I’ve sat in judgment of the love of my life, throwing around heart-crushing tantrums when things weren’t going my way. I’ve been harsh, stubborn, inflexible. And he’s the child?
Our breakup was partially the result of my imposing upon him “adulthood” as I knew it, of my ultimatum-laced Better-for-Us expectations. The future I wanted for us, no doubt well-intentioned, was MY future. Not ours.
What kind of man do I want, she asks? I want a man who will… I want the man who will make me happy.
I want him. My him. Not the him who belongs to my fantasies. Not the him who sits around with a broken heart. I want him, the man I love–and no more than who he is.
He is, after all, my kind of silly; my Sunday-morning-hangover partner-in-crime; my blanket-hogging, movie-watching, concert-going, love-making kind of guy.
As for adulthood? Fuck it. We define our own. I love him, and after a summer in doubt, I know this is, and will remain, true, suit-and-tie or not.
So it is on this bus I realize that we’ll be together again, and it is here at the zoo, as our bus pulls away, that I imagine inside live animals talking shit about silly people doing silly things.
Jaclyn lives in Minneapolis with her boyfriend, Brian. They haven’t been back to the zoo… yet.
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