It was summertime and Jonny chose the Manhattan-bound F train as the proper location to tell me that he “wasn’t feeling it anymore.” Our respective plus ones, whom we forced together to create a makeshift double date for a comedy show in Park Slope, sat across from us and politely pretended they found the opposite end of the train fascinating. To say I was thrown for a loop would be an understatement. Just the week before, we sat 25 floors above Madison Square Park, Jonny in his black Lululemon tee and me in my vintage Levi’s shorts, fingers interlaced as we made the mutual decision to give this a shot for real. The commitment floated sweetly in the air between us.
I begged him on the F train to tell me what I had done wrong. And then, in the cab to my StuyTown apartment. All Jonny did was shrug his shoulders and hum to a song playing on Z100. I spent the rest of the evening choking on Cheerios and Lactaid milk as my best friend wiped saltwater from my cheeks.
The first time I opened my laptop in front of Jonny, my background was a stock image of a grapefruit on the edge of an infinity pool. “You should come to my pool this summer,” he said. “I’ll get you as many grapefruits as you want and you can sit outside all afternoon.” I smiled uncomfortably at the way he dangled my very own ideal in front of me.
I didn’t love Jonny, but I thought I might be able to.
It’s hard not to take being dumped personally. After spending a significant amount of time getting to know someone — holding their hand discreetly in dark cabs, squeezing into frames of inebriated selfies, pillow talking about the horrors of being severely lactose intolerant — your multidimensional relationship is edited down to a simple list of pros and cons. Risk factors, potential growth, cost-benefit, overall net worth of you as a person. You as their person.
I guess my cons outweighed my pros. I just couldn’t figure out the math that got him there.
In the days following the breakup, I remained numb until the moment I crawled into bed, at which point my mind would race. I’d press repeat again and again on random cringe-worthy things he said. A particular one that comes to mind: “I think the pool at my family’s summer home is the largest one in the area.” When I’d catch myself going out of my way to pass 24th and Madison Avenue, I’d press play: “I think the pool at my family’s summer home is the largest one in the area,” and walk the other way.
I eventually reached out to, “clear the air”/“flesh things out”/“get closure”/“see how he was doing.” I forget which exact cliché I walked right into. On the afternoon we planned to meet, I crossed and uncrossed my legs, too nervous to look anywhere but at my Nikes as I waited in the courtyard of his apartment building.
“Whatsup?” Jonny asked. He was walking towards me but was still too far away to hear a response, so I said nothing. He reached the chair next to me and sat down. He had a mustard stain on his shirt and a pimple, shimmering with oil and just beginning to break the surface of skin above his upper lip.
I asked him point-blank what it was that broke the camel’s back. One day, it had struck me that all the sleepless nights and hopeless wondering didn’t have to be a dead end. Maybe, just maybe, all of it could be avoided by just asking him straight-out. Why?
He told me I was inconsistent. The word stung until I realized we were working with different definitions. He recalled specific occurrences where he felt like he was on an “emotional rollercoaster.” Like when I told him I wasn’t a smoker and then took a drag of a friend’s cigarette at a concert. When I broke up with him months before and then told him I wanted to try again. When I told him it was “that time of the month” but really only wanted to take things slower.
I smirked. Jonny’s forehead was greasy with sweat. “I feel like you’re always in the driver’s seat and I don’t like it,” he confessed. By revealing what was “wrong and un-date-able” about me, he revealed much more about his own character than mine. I laughed and reminded him that I didn’t even have a driver’s license. He looked at me, perplexed. A reaction I was used to as my sarcasm almost always breezed above his dark head of hair.
I’ll never not ask again.
Illustrations by Maria Jia Ling Pitt.