At the Finish
by JESSICA FURSETH
The text he sent me, telling me he misses me and wants to be my friend. I respond I would like that too, but I don’t know how. We sigh, as far as that’s possible to do over text, and then do nothing.
That I’m old now, meaning I know you don’t get to be friends, not right away like this. The god of break-ups owns this time, and the deity will make you sit in the waiting room flicking through the thoughts in your head, working through every little tedious thread in the tangle.
That I know why we broke up but I don’t think he does because he keeps asking me: “Did you leave because I’m so broke right now? Did you end it because I take drugs sometimes? Was it because of that guy you met, the one you keep meeting up with?” I feel the anger swell in my chest when he asks this, because it’s none of these things and yet all of these things, and so much more. But most of all it’s how he doesn’t hear me when I try and tell him. I spent the best part of a season trying to salvage things, trying to explain what the problem was, desperately sifting through all the words in my arsenal to find the ones that would show him how I felt. More than anything I wanted him to understand.
The moment when it started breaking. Of course I didn’t understand at the time but with hindsight I can see it: a freezing day with grey fog hanging low over the city, on a bus because the train wasn’t running. He told me something about what he believed in and how he wanted to live, some dream about communal living and sharing resources and a commitment to social activism. All things I can understand and even admire, but the opposite of everything I wanted for myself, as a fickle introvert with a bad case of wanderlust. And felt an ache swell in my chest, realising in a flash that I’d put my eggs in his basket without understanding who he really was, and how could I have let that happen? I got off the bus and went home alone, deflated. We recovered, but I slowly started to retrieve my eggs, one by one, keeping them safe in my own house again because I didn’t trust him with them anymore.
Some Humpty-Dumpty metaphor.
That time he broke it off via text message while we were trying to work it out, sending me a missive while I was standing in a train station buying wine for a weekend away. I couldn’t even engage with what he was saying, blinded by the indignity of being dumped by text: “I am ending this because you no longer put our relationship first.” Or something like that; I’m not sure what it said exactly because I deleted it, too surreal a message to exist in the world.
What I remember is that I laughed, then shook, and then I raged at the absurdity, the humiliation of being dumped in the manner of my mobile operator informing me I’ve exceeded my monthly data allowance. When I got back there was a wall of ice between us, which melted as he came knocking on my door late at night. We spent three days in bed, in a time capsule, but it didn’t last.
The fact that I felt relief when it finally ended. Too many repetitions of the same arguments. I’d stare at him in disbelief, across the pub table or across the stream of text messages, wondering how it was possible to have been with someone for so long and have it end in such confusion. How black and white it felt, everything he said. How he refused to allow for the fact that things could change. How I was probably equally frustrating to talk to for him but I can’t see it, because when you are breaking up, you no longer are who you are.
That I’m realising you never quite finish with someone you used to love, not really. My ex and I still possess pieces of each other, even as he lives on the other side of the city where he calls another woman girlfriend and I have someone else who answers to boyfriend. See it didn’t take long; I told you the breakdown was a relief.
The worst thing about this is realising how wrong I was about him. How it took me so long to get to really know him, blind to reality at an age when I really should know better. How it makes me look at my new boyfriend with a twinge of skepticism, wondering what’s lurking under the surface, as I’ve always thought myself to be a good judge of character but maybe not. I don’t often wish things were different, but I’d give a lot not to feel this way as my new boyfriend deserves better.
That I regret nothing about my ex. Not getting into it in the first place, nor any of the things that caused it to end because when it was good, it was fantastic. And when it started to break down, it felt natural. I can never admit this to him though, because it’s cruel. But I know what it feels like to be so broken up about a relationship that you can hardly breathe, and this isn’t it. All I know is that I toss my phone across the table in frustration at yet another text message where he completely misses the point. But even as I do, I know it was all worth it.
Photographs by the author.