I have an ex-girlfriend who I dated for over 5 years. She got pregnant and things ended and now she’s getting married to someone else.
That’s the abridged version.
There should be music playing in the background, something to indicate to me how I really feel about it all, but the truth is I’m just totally fucking confused.
There are easy answers. It hurts because I’m single right now and she is getting married so obviously I’m going to feel the sting and pain of my isolation more; cling to things, wish, hope they were a different way… blah, blah, blah, blah.
Believe me, I’ve psychoanalyzed myself to death on this point and I just can’t come up with the right reason. I can’t figure out why the closer her early June wedding date gets the sadder I become. The thing is looming at this point.
I spent a few years after our relationship ended putting things in their proper place, boxing up and storing memories and keepsakes and shushing them away into my mental attic. They’ve stayed up there, packed away with the other emotional baggage, to be brought down and showed to people (girlfriends?) at the proper time; once they’ve gotten to know me well enough to contextualize and not jump to some conclusion.
Lately it feels like the boxes exploded and have littered shit all over my house. (In this analogy metaphor I think my “house” would actually be my “body” but even I am having a hard time keeping up at this junction.)
The point is she’s getting married and while I thought I had dealt with every emotion there was ever remained regarding this girl, apparently I was wrong because I just keep thinking about her stupid wedding and how stupidly sad I feel about it. And I can’t figure out why, exactly.
This, in short, is precisely why I need a soundtrack. Imagine how much simpler it would be if Ani DiFranco was singing "Hour Follows Hour" as I walked the city with my hands in my pockets thinking about her wedding. I don’t do this all the time, think about her wedding that is, but when it comes up it sits like a ton of bricks, and for no goddamned good reason that I can find. Fuck.
But imagine "Hour After Hour" playing during those moments. Or even as I type this.
What if the camera pulled in on the Brooklyn Promenade on a chilly day and you saw just one lone figure walking and you knew the back-story and everything that happened and came before and as the focus comes clear and the frame gets smaller the image before you is me. I’m walking and my hands are in my pockets and I have this forlorn (there has to be a better word than “forlorn” here, but we’re moving on) look on my face and then you catch Ani’s song in the background. And she sings:
"We make our own gravity to give weight to things / Then things fall and they break and gravity sings / We can only hold so much is what I figure / Try and keep our eye on the big picture / Picture keeps getting bigger / And too much is how I love you / But too well is how I know you / And I've got nothing to prove this time / Just something to show you / I guess I just wanted you to see / That it was all worth it to me."
I think we could come to a couple of conclusions about that scene, and the musical subtext gives it to you, or at least hints at a general direction. "Hour Follows Hour" is a backward looking song, a song that tries to put something in its proper place after having been stretched along the emotional spectrum amoebic and unwieldy. In fact, it’s the song I listened to for an entire year after we decided not to have the child and then broke up. Without the song, I’m just some sad fucker walking on wooden planks. But all of a sudden with it we have a Rosetta Stone into the scene. You might think I was a guy struggling to contextualize what it all meant, knowing that it was important and wanting to have a say about it, to acknowledge that, although it is over and done with, it was important and there’s something important to that importance.
But what if "Warning Sign" by Coldplay was in the background? Chris Martins falsetto pitch crooning:
"Come on in / I've got to tell you what a state I'm in / I've got to tell you in my loudest tones / That I started looking for a warning sign / When the truth is / I miss you / Yeah the truth is / That I miss you so."
Now that is a completely different reality. The song takes things from a backward glance and casts them forward; telling the listener that what’s happening is immediate, real, and for the moment. I place the moment on a kinetic point, hovering and shaking, needing action. It makes you think "Mrs. Robinson" might be the next song to be heard as I drive a rag top through various sceneries racing to break up the wedding and say all the things that are stewing in my head.
Layers and layers. What if the song playing over that Promenade and isolated walk was "Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)" by Arcade Fire? The camera pans in and you hear:
"You change all the lead / Sleeping in my head to gold / As the day grows dim / I hear you sing a golden hymn / The song I've been trying to say / Purify the colors, purify my mind / Purify the colors, purify my mind / And spread the ashes of the colors / Over this heart of mine!"
And you’d have no idea what to think because all he presents is a series of mythic ideas, but it’s a really great song so who cares what it’s about.
(Look, if you’re confused right now, there is a huge back-story to all of this and you can either go buy the current issue of Maisy on newsstands or go back or read some old posts, or you can sit there and be confused, but I can’t help if you you’re going to do nothing about it.)
All of this is just a ridiculous exercise, but if I had a soundtrack that followed me around it would at least tell me why I feel this way.
But I think I know anyway.
You share things with another person; it's time and dedication multiplied by whatever else you struggled or made it through—choosing not to have a child, her helping me through Jennifer leaving, me helping her through cancer. You build currency and end up with an emotional savings account that you can’t access anymore once it’s over. The code is defunct and you forgot what bank you did business at in the first place, but it’s all still there. All the time, all the things, all the stuff, just everything. And it’s worth something, it has inherent value, because you don’t go through those things with someone and not have them be terribly significant. Not in your teen years, and probably not ever in life.
But I cannot call her and tell her I love her, because I don’t love her, not in that way, not as I used to; I love the effect she had on me, the profound imprint of all the things we were to each other at some time long ago. I can’t tell her I love her because "I love you" never means less than is, except when it does, and sometimes it just needs to. I don’t mean it. Not like that. Not like I did.
I used to say it to her all the time, and because I used to act on that promise, those words are contextualized to a certain time and place in regards to her and us. Like a ripple or phantom effect across the years, the lines get twisted and tangled and for a second when you think the words you suddenly think you might. It's a fools promise, but the phantom limb itches and you scratch it out of sheer habit. But you don’t "love" that person anymore.
Vindication, or rather valedation, is an aweful thing, wanting to know somehow that things won’t be shadowed over by the marriage, that she’ll carry those events into her life with her husband, that they are as much a part of her and who she is as they are of you and who you are. Relevance I guess you could call it.
It’s like a giant ellipses, only the "..." is not a way of saying you want someone back. The "..." is all the things you can't put into words because they make no sense. The "..." is no matter what happens in my life she will always have had a profound effect. Past tense into present. Blended and permenant in the best of ways. The "..." is just a connection you feel for each other because of everything you went through. A permenant ellipses. Good or bad. Or good and bad.
All I’m really trying to say is that the closer her wedding gets the harder I take it, the sadder I get. And I can't really understand why I'm this sad. But I am.
I don't think that's wrong or strange. And maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be, I just never thought I’d be the guy in the movie whose ex called to tell him she was getting married. I never thought I’d have any reaction at all outside of "congratulations."
In early June she will have finished her preparations, her fittings, her fights with her mother. In early June she will don a white dress and maybe a veil—although I doubt it. I never saw her as a veil kind of girl.
She will walk down the isle and tell her husband-to-be that she willingly and lovingly she joins her life to his, a step each probably took long before that moment.
That will probably be a difficult day for me for all the strange reasons I can’t quite make a grasp at. But at least I know a few things: I think the world of her and am so happy that she found someone she wants to marry. I think she deserves this happiness and many more. I think she will always have a tiny part of my heart, and I of hers. It will hurt for a bit. And not forever.
It’s supposed to be this way. Imagine Chris Martin singing right now, Coldplay's brilliant "The Scientist." It's an adquate ending, a good place to jump off:
"Nobody said it was easy / Oh it's such a shame for us to part / Nobody said it was easy / No one ever said it would be so hard."