The Shirt Incident

Valentine's Day weekend I walked into the kind of "Same time, same place, never in a million years" coincidence that I couldn't even begin to write about. I know, I know, it's all probability but things have felt a little topsy-turvy and foreboding since. I have the same job, the same apartment but its the minor changes and new projects -- my evenings are now for business calls to Mohali and Dallas and Pilates or barre classes. My muscles are either hurting, or growing, or reminding me of their new presence. I started eating hard boiled eggs. I still pull my hairbrush past the short ends of my hair, forgetting that it's now just past my chin. I fidget in the steam room. I cancel plans constantly because I'm always short on funds, it cripples my ego in a way I'm not accustomed. 

For this reason, my brain is constantly grasping for the familiar. 

Monday night I rode the 1 train home and for the first time I tried to remember Bo's smell and I couldn't. I began to cry. My breath became short, I knew I was panicking. I'd left my sunglasses at home, which I normally wear on the train if I'm crying. I'd have to calm myself down so no one would notice.

"I know what I'll do," I said to myself. "I'll get his blue shirt out of the closet and I'll smell it." He'd left a blue checked button down in New York, along with a Chinese tea set, a backpack, a variety of scarves, paperback books, a few items of memorabilia from a German Papal event, a deep fat fryer, a pasta machine, a broken espresso machine, a dozen or so unused gift cards, rice wine, Japanese miso, an undated human skull and a repurposed plastic juice bottle filled with ink pens and mechanical pencils. When I got home I pulled his shirt from the back of my closet, and ran my nose around the collar, but his smell was gone. My safety net failed.

Before the break up, I told Bo that my biggest worry about being long distance was that I was afraid of not knowing him as well as I did when he was in New York. Despite now being broken up, I spend a lot of time trying not to forget Bo. I know what happens in time: the details fall from your brain. The important things, like the sound of his laugh, become fuzzier and fuzzier. Now facets of my own life are different, frighteningly different, it seems to only make it harder all around. 

I put Bo's shirt back. I wondered if I should cut the nonsense and mail it to him. 

"When do I get to make progress?" I asked myself. "When do I get to 'feel better?'"

I still cry when I have to tell my co-workers. The word "Tinder" makes me recoil. I still find excuses to message him any silly thing that connects to any shred of something he would like: articles about Italy, video's of otter babies, "so-and-so says hi" sort of things. This doesn't include all the times I wrote to him and deleted the message, only to sulk at my weakness. Everyone asks me how I've been doing, and I tell them "Okay," but there's a blue shirt in my closet, and it says, "not true."