It hits me at 6:32, two minutes after I wake up. For two whole minutes it was like it hadn’t happened. I cry until 9, muffling my sounds with a pillow and wondering if my roommate can hear, yet feeling some comfort that I’m not completely alone. I scroll through the photos on my phone from the last 9 months. I’m thankful (for the first time) that I’ve lost so many phones and my gallery doesn’t go back 3 years. So much happiness is in these photos and yet I see the sadness in the most recent ones; the heavy, anxious, nauseating sadness that comes from getting back together and realizing it still isn’t working.
I snap up, strip my bed and say to myself: ‘You aren’t getting back in bed today.’ (But I do, that afternoon, without sheets.) I catch a glimpse of mascara on my pillowcase from earlier that week when I cried while rehearsing our break up — I knew it was coming and I was preparing for battle. I whispered in the dark for hours, going through all the things you might say, though I didn’t expect your ultimate line. I hadn’t rehearsed for ‘I’m not in love with you.’
I throw the pillowcase down and make my way to my car outside so that I can call you in privacy. You pick up and my questions spill out: ‘Do you mean it?’ ‘Is this forever?’ ‘When did you stop loving me?’ I reach a low point: ‘Do you believe people can fall in and out of love?’ I mumble about a Gwyneth Paltrow interview where she said she has fallen in and out of love throughout her marriage. ‘I think it was Vogue. Or Vanity Fair.’ You’re pained at my desperation: ‘Ellen, stop. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life with you. I am moving on. I will move on and find someone else. You will also move on and find someone else.’ Someone else. You don’t want me. You want someone else. I hang up and fling the door open, gasping for air. I call my Mom, she picks up and I cry as she sits there patiently, listening and knowing.
Days later, I unpack the bags you gave me the night we broke up. One bag with clothes. One bag with my toothbrush, books and an eyeliner you had tried to sharpen for me with a knife because I had forgotten my sharpener. I pause. Why would you have tried so hard to sharpen it if you didn’t love me? I throw it away and start to hang the clothes in my closet. I linger on the pink dress because it still smells like you. I wore that dress to the ballet that we giggled through just last month. I bought that dress because you told me I never wore pink. I hated wearing pink. For a split second, I see all of that for what it is. I feel angry at you for wanting me to wear it and I feel angry at myself for wearing it. I realize then that at some point, the dress will smell like my closet again, and I will no longer think about you or the ballet when I smell it. I put it away in the furthest corner, knowing that it will be out of rotation; it will take some time for you to seep out and for me to come back in.