Thomm Quackenbush, author

New Romantic: Monday | 2011 | New Romantic: Wednesday

05.09.11 1:17 p.m.

...And I'm sorry to whichever man
Should meet my sorry state
Watch my steady, lonesome gait
And be aware
I will never love a man
'cause love and pain go hand in hand and I can't do it again...  

-Laura Marling, New Romantic

 


New Romantic: Tuesday

The next day, on my lunch break, I am feeling lonely and tense, having still not heard from Melanie. I had canceled work initially, because I could not sleep the night prior. I wanted contact with her to alleviate my fear. When I woke around nine, there was a full day job available and I decided that working would be more productive than stewing.

I cannot manage to eat, have barely been eating anyway though the hunger gnaws at me and when I do the flavor is all wrong, so I text her a heart while on my lunch break, finally, thinking this was the most neutral action.

She calls me back and, as I wander this empty and dark classroom, she tells me she cannot do this anymore. She is done with our relationship. She admits to having been with [Miss X] since getting back to campus Sunday, but specifies they have not yet had sex. That, if she did not have [Miss X], she would have broken in these last few days. She tells me I did nothing wrong, that I have been perfect, that she wants me to be successful and have a beautiful and happy life. I ache because this life has been cobbled together with her.

"You are the woman I love," I tell her. "But you are also the person taking her away for a stupid reason and I hate you a little."

Tears crowding her voice, she says, "You aren't making this any easier!"

And, for the first time, I don't have to make this easier for her. I have spent so long catering to her, soothing her, helping her and she is leaving me for it. This setting is all wrong for this conversation and I have a class coming in ten minutes.

"Can't we get together to discuss this?" I ask, because I can't believe this will end over the phone on my lunch break.

"No. When I am with you, everything is fine and I can't do it."

I ask if I can call her later.

"...I don't know. Weren't you going to cut me out of your life if I left you? You should think really hard before calling me. Write me a letter. I promise I'll read it."

"All I do is think hard."

It wasn't supposed to end this way, because it wasn't supposed to end. I know everyone says things like that, but we genuinely were one of those couples who made people believe that some people are just supposed to be together. The only impediment we ever faced was that she was younger than I am and I always saw it as surmountable. I was patient, I was understanding, and we loved one another so much that it constituted a whole new emotion, in her words. But it is over. All of our comfort, all of our affection and sweetness is gone forever. All of the disgustingly cute things we did, gone. For nothing. For vapidity and shallowness in trade for love and depth.

I resent that, after having held and supported her for three and a half years, after having given her confidence, I can now not attend her graduation. I resent that, in leaving me, she reenacted every painful thing Emily did, from prolonging the breakup while I tried my hardest to love her to divulging truths when it was far too late to do anything about them to having a fallback waiting for her to return from dumping me so she didn't have to process. I could almost respect what she is going through if she had not instantly jump to [Miss X]. If she left me to deal with her issues alone, but she didn't. And she has comfort while I am alone.

I've been saying for far too long that I know she loves me as best she can. I've been making excuses for how she made me feel as she slogged through this pain. She has been cruel, again and again, casually because she doesn't seem to know what she is saying.

Before my next class, I text "I have been dumped" to some people who I want to know this, so I can stop hiding what I am going through. So I can finally force myself to be accountable. Then, I delete my phone's inbox in preparation for the responses, over eighty loving texts from Melanie vanishing with a click.

The replies come as the children enter. I surreptitiously check my phone as I instruct the students to classwork. I am almost flattered that my family assumes my publisher has dropped me or school district has fired me rather than that Melanie has left me. My mother texts me to remember the folly of my cousin, who was dumped shortly after it came out that he had been cheating on this long term girlfriend and who ended up being forced to resign from a teaching position because he stopped teaching in the aftermath. I assure her this will not be a problem.

"Mr. Q, why you keep walkin' around?" a student asks.

Because I think I will drown if I lose my momentum, I think but do not say. For the next hour and a half, I never stop moving and look to the clock as the minutes take hours to the final bell.

I think I am dealing well until I touch my car. My psyche breaks and I dart inside my car as I begin to bawl uncontrollably.

I take calls from concerned parties, but I don't recall what I say to whom. My dissociation is constant and I talk in circles, a verbal equivalent of my classroom pacing.

Emily says that she thinks I love Melanie more than I ever loved her and I concede this is true with apologies. "No need," Emily says, "she was the first person you really gave yourself to and that's going to make this a lot harder."

When I get home, remove my titanium band, the ring I flash to dissuade interested parties and to demonstrate my commitment to Melanie, replacing it with the silver claddaugh I bought after my last breakup, turned to the "single" position. I remove Melanie's origami from my walls and take her icons from my personal altar. I change my status on Facebook to single, assuring the person who likes this and the one who tells me to own my singledom that there is nothing good about this. Then I post a plea that I should not be alone tonight, which a therapist friend privately asks me to clarify is not an ode to suicide. I tell someone else that I almost wish I were stupid enough to believe in suicide, that there was an easier option than slogging through this agony.

I tell Melissa of the breakup and she is so shocked and saddened that I start consoling her. "You have to fight for her!" she shouts. "Don't give up on her. Don't let her make the same mistake I did."

"Melissa, all I've done is fight for her. I don't know what else I can do now."

"You have to get her back," she insists. She later calls Melanie to say these things, but Melanie - though accepting any yelling - is otherwise unmoved.

Lauren asks me what I want right now and I respond, "To cry into the lap of a beautiful stranger." I am disgusted now that I will one day kiss someone who is not Melanie. Though I was an ungodly flirt in my relationship with Emily, I was always good with Melanie. I gave completely of myself. In the entirety of our relationship, I had two crushes: a quickly squashed one on Jess shortly after meeting her that had nothing to do with either woman (abandonment issues) and one on a woman from OkCupid, who I unbeknowst to her declined to engage beyond talk of pies because I saw her as a needless temptation.

Talking with someone - my mother? Emily? Melissa? - I go on OkCupid and change my Melanie saturated profile, then look at my Matches. I don't want to date, as my new profile attests, but I want to know that worthy women still exist.

They don't, really, and the ignored temptation deleted her profile at some point.

I speak to Jinx, who tells me Melanie burst into her room and confesses to having left me as though admitting to a fatal illness. Half an hour later, composed, she happily introduced [Miss X] to Jinx.

"So, Melanie and [Miss X] are in her room together now?" I ask.

"Yes..." Jinx says tentatively, but I have no drive to call Melanie. No good would come of that. Jinx seems baffled by Melanie's behavior, but is intent to maintain a neutral position between us, something I promised to foster before Melanie left.

My mother calls and asks if I would like to come over for dinner. I can't explain why, I had been cogent to this point, but I can respond only with anguished whale song.

I send Melanie this email:

This is a matter of pragmatic things. I donít know that I will write you an emotional letter.

  • I changed my NetFlix account password. Iím sorry, but I needed to.
  • You should change anything that uses the password I know. I donít think I will abuse this knowledge, but I may feel differently at 1am.
  • I have tried to unfollow you wherever I can. It is nothing against you, you know how I feel about you despite this, I am just trying to minimize the pain since I currently cannot speak without crying.
  • You can read Danse Macabre, but I donít think I can stand you tearing it apart.
  • I donít think you will wish to read my site for a while. I have no intentions of being cruel, but you have hurt me deeply and I need to process.

As I am unfollowing her LiveJournal, I see this:

There are no words for how sorry I am about everything.

I know that one day, things will be better, but this isn't about "one day." This is about now. This is about a future that we both wanted but that couldn't happen because I'm not ready for it. This is about three years. This is about breaking a dozen promises to myself and to you. This is about stabbing my best friend in the back, and myself in the gut.

I don't think I really deserve forgiveness. So I won't ask for it. But know that it is the most difficult thing I have ever done, and the most harrowing decision. Possibly the most difficult and harrowing that I will ever do. It's strange that it should be so difficult to do something so hideous. People talk like being cruel is easy.

"Lord preserve us," said the atheist.

I love you.

Melanie

She later replies to my letter with:

That's fair. I hope you won't send the things under the bed [sex related stuff] in a box to my parents' house though.

I will change my passwords. But I don't see how you would abuse those types of knowledge anyway...

I won't tear apart Danse Macabre. Anyway, I doubt it would require tearing-apart.

Likewise about the crying.

Likewise.

Melanie

A friend from high school, Chris, offers to come over after seeing my plea and I take him up on this. After a few moments of silence, I decide to try to go to my parents until Chris calls.

There, I wander around my parents' house, cluing one concerned friend after another what had occurred, though the dissociation is no better. I tell someone - Suzie, I think - that I spent so much of this relationship buying into Melanie's snottiness and subtle insinuations that she was better than me, but that I had to be better than her if she could do this. Daniel, when I speak to him, sounds most distraught of all the people I tell.

I ask my younger brother Bryan to come out of his bedroom so that I can cry to someone, but really so I can distract myself through talking long enough to eat something. When I realize what I am doing, I lose my appetite. He says that I am the first person he has ever met who he feared would die of the clinical equivalent of a broken heart.

I return home before Chris gets there. He does not know what I need and offers card games. Instead, he sits across from me as I tell him my every thought. I am a terrible host despite my every attempt to give him one of the beverages I am gulping as though I have just returned from the desert. I throw out things with him there, Melanie's toothbrush that has lived in three of my apartments, some assorted papers, because I don't think I can be brave enough without supervision. At one point, Keilaina calls and I excuse myself to quickly explain the situation, because I want it all out of me. When I next look at my phone, forty-five minutes have passed. I say goodbye and am relieved Chris has not left when I return.

I recall something I told Lauren when she was dumped months ago, that somewhere in the world was some boy who had no idea how lucky he was that she would come to love him. I want to believe this now, I want to find the woman worthy of me, but I can have no idea where she is and when I will find her, only that I don't know her now, since she cannot be Melanie. The woman worthy of me could not do as Melanie has. I exalted in ignoring the possibly attractive women around me for three and a half years. It is not codependency, but an awareness of what I am made to do. Deciding I would give up on love because Melanie left would be like giving up on writing because a publisher rejected me (because, though they loved every sentence of my magnum opus, they have decided to move into erotic postcard fiction).

As long as someone is around, things seem manageable and I have a brave face. But they go home or they stop talking and I am left here alone and scared of sleep, scared I will dream of her. Scared that tomorrow comes no matter what I want.

I do not sleep until dawn, after having spoken to a man whose wife left him for similar reason as Melanie and who turned to the bottle to cope. "I've been barking up trees for seven months," he says, "and no cats have come down."

"I find cats pursue when you ignore them," I say, but am frightened by what has happened to him. I cannot turn bitter.

In my relationship with Melanie, I spent a lot of time on my own because she was busy. As the upwelling of support since Melanie demonstrates, I am surrounded by people who love me. I have a good life, though this is the first I have felt outside the direct presence of Melanie's love fortifying me. I am far different, far better than the man she pounced upon three and a half years ago, which is good given that he could not have survived the devastation of losing her. I wish I had in a letter detailing exactly what she felt and why she left me, so I would always remember. I know that breaking up with me in a letter would almost be worse than the phone call I got (though calling me at work when I still had periods to go was unnecessarily harsh).

I think about what everyone said to me today as I stare at the gradually lightening ceiling. How my older brother says she is pretty but I can do better, something a brother is required to say by fraternal law. How my mother says she was always going to leave this summer and never return. How Melissa says I should fight because she wishes Stevehen had fought harder for her when she left him. How she was young, self-interested, selfish, a fool for ever letting me go, unappreciative, inclined toward compartmentalizing her life and treating me like a dirty little secret from the beginning to the end, how I can and will do better, how I am going to be broken for a long time, how I should jump on the first woman I find to dull the pain, how she was the One, how she will call begging for me back in three weeks, how we made cynics believe that there could be people who were meant to be together, how she was too willing to give into her cynicism, how she was never good enough for me, how she would have been good enough if she were a few years older, how Melanie's mother and her friends kept trying to fix her up with eligible young bachelors because she did not make her devotion plain, how she always had escape routes planned, how there was nothing I could do, how I was stupid for hanging on, how someone out there will be so lucky to meet me from any number of people who melted together in the dawn light, including Melanie.

Soon in Xenology: Recovery

last watched: Sherlock Holmes
reading: Tao of Pooh
listening: Laura Marling

New Romantic: Monday | 2011 | New Romantic: Wednesday

Thomm Quackenbush is an author and teacher in the Hudson Valley. Double Dragon publishes four novels in his Night's Dream series (We Shadows, Danse Macabre, and Artificial Gods, and Flies to Wanton Boys). He has sold jewelry in Victorian England, confused children as a mad scientist, filed away more books than anyone has ever read, and tried to inspire the learning disabled and gifted. He is capable of crossing one eye, raising one eyebrow, and once accidentally groped a ghost. When not writing, he can be found biking, hiking the Adirondacks, grazing on snacks at art openings, and keeping a straight face when listening to people tell him they are in touch with 164 species of interstellar beings. He likes when you comment.



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Works by Thomm Quackenbush

The Night's Dream Series

We Shadows by Thomm Quackenbush

Danse Macabre by Thomm Quackenbush

Artificial Gods by Thomm Quackenbush