It’s pitch dark again when I wake in the middle of the night. After a good day full of support and love from friends, I’m disappointed to find my thoughts racing and breathing shallow–again. But I’m not surprised. I place my hand over my heart and try to breathe more deeply, which takes a great deal of effort. My brain runs off a few times into all the things I want to say to Kevin*. I bring my attention back to myself. I am lying in a comfortable bed. My legs are tense. I go through the elaborate push-pull of trying to regulate my nervous system for some time. I am tired, but my anxiety is relentless. Finally I get up to pee. It’s 5:30 am. Goddammit. I am so tired. I lay back down and repeatedly start and stop half-conversations for another 30 minutes.
The alarm goes off. I lay there and listen to it, full of dread. It’s his birthday today. I don’t expect to hear from him and it feels clear he doesn’t want to hear from me, so I cry some more. There’s a shopping bag full of most of the ingredients to make his favorite cake at a friend’s house, along with unwrapped gifts for his birthday. They are deeply personal handmade gifts that took a month of planning with an artist friend. I was so excited to give them to him wrapped in this ultra-bourgy gold paper I figured would amuse the hell out of him. They can’t be returned. I’m sad that my gestures of love are sitting rejected, and I feel rejected too.
I’m exhausted from navigating grief and anxiety and abandonment. I wanted very much to wake my boyfriend with coffee and kisses on his birthday. I’d been delighted reading recipes, figuring out the best way to make that cake to surprise him tonight. I’m embarrassed, because I was so hopeful and sure and committed–and I thought he was too. I feel more fear and grief and anger over all of it with each day that passes without talking.
Negative sentiment override, I remind myself. Distance and isolation cascade. I’ve read the relationship psych theory that explains all this, but I can’t do anything with it if we aren’t talking. Much like with my hyper-vigilance, knowing I’m overreacting doesn’t quiet my overreacting.
I start my day feeling approximately the confidence and enthusiasm I imagine might accompany being charged with performing open heart surgery–except I’m the patient on the operating table. I lay out my yoga mat and prepare to fuck shit up. I mis-cue my morning class approximately 5 billion times, and mostly stay the hell away from them in case my cursed life is contagious. Nobody will hold it against me that I can’t tell my right from my left by the end of savasana, so I have that going for me.
After class I see how I’m still carrying around some of Kevin’s* things I said I’d take to the shelter. I guess this is the closest thing I can do to showing him love on his birthday. I drive over and circle the parking lot then park down the street and prepare to juggle some boxes. Two men approach me calling out “Need some help with that?” I start to tell them no thank you. Then I see their clothes and their manner and the trajectory of their gazes and know that they aren’t interested in me but in what I’m bringing. They might be staying in the shelter or outside it. They’re having a hard time, I can tell.
“Is that a coffee pot?” one of the men asks. I tell him apologetically that no, it’s just the coffee maker with no pot.
“Does that help you?” I ask.
He beams at me as though I am carrying the greatest gift he’s ever seen. It’s the expression I’d have liked to see on Kevin’s* face today but I’m grateful to bring happiness to this stranger. I hand over the box.
“I’m really glad it makes you happy.”
His friend asks if he can look through the box of clothes. “Yes,” I tell him, “but I’m sorry I don’t think they’re your size.” Kevin* is broad-shouldered, gorgeous and muscular, but this guy is towering and massive. I imagine my boyfriend’s shirts would be midriff-baring on him.
“It’s ok, I’ll take them so you don’t have to walk over. I don’t mind.”
We thank each other and I drive away. My heart hurts a little less.
*Not his real name.