An invitation to a friend's wedding came in the mail last week. It was a simple, whimsical card - a bird graphic in the corner, and spunky lettering spelling out the names of the bride and groom's six children (three apiece, from first marriages) that will be helping them celebrate their new beginning with each other at the end of June. Happy doesn't even begin to describe what I feel for them, and yet, I clutched the card ever more tightly as my breaths grew shallow around the rising lump in my throat and my eyes stung with unshed tears.
Today was supposed to be my wedding day.
Instead, I'm visiting my dear friend for this Memorial Day weekend, sleeping on a makeshift bed on the living room floor of her new Brooklyn apartment, helping with furniture shopping and the seemingly endless task of unpacking. Grateful not to be alone on this of all days, it is also almost unbearably surreal to be less than two miles away from Alix for the first time in months. Knowing, as I wish I didn't, that she is happily ensconced in a new relationship certainly doesn't help. For months now, I've waited for the other shoe to drop. For the grief to hit me like a wrecking ball and knock me down to the place where you start to realize, on a cellular level, that you are not loved by that person, and never will be again. Last week, it finally did. I can say with absolute honesty that I never believed Alix and I would get back together. But that doesn't mean that seeing a picture of her with her girlfriend didn't take my breath away so fast I didn't reflexively reach for my inhaler. Realizing (and trying desperately to stop the runaway train of these thoughts) that she holds someone else's hand now, she brushes some other girl's hair out of her eyes, that she and someone else walk Rupert together around the streets of New York - makes the fact of our demise real in a manner so visceral and alarming that I swear it could make me pass out. It's one thing to assume, abstractly, that she (and by extension, of course, that I, too) will find someone else. But it's also remarkably easy to hold that thought so far at bay that you start to convince yourself that you can happily live out the rest of your life alone. Because if you can do it, then so can she, and at least if we're not together, neither of us will be with anyone else. Right? Right. Until she is.
Realizing on an intellectual level that a relationship is over is one thing. It's what propels you to change your relationship status on Facebook, to take off your engagement ring, to change your speed dial settings, to take down pictures, and to pack up their things into neatly labeled shipping boxes. I did those things, as if in a daze, months ago. But absorbing into the cells and tissues of your very being the certainty that you will never be loved again by that person is infinitely harder and cannot be orchestrated, try as you might. No, it comes when it comes, and late last Saturday night, as my body simultaneously succumbed to a raging stomach virus, it came to me. For three days, while I vomited out every ounce of fluid in me and lay motionless in bed, the pounding in my ears rang loud and clear: She doesn't love you anymore. She loves someone else. She moved on. And so should you.
I know that this is the beginning of what comes next. Even as I was throwing up into a bucket last weekend while crying great, gasping sobs, I knew that it was the worst and most necessary kind of pain. But holy hell, driving past a church today and glimpsing the bride inside, helping J. arrange her new kitchen for the domestic bliss she and her husband enjoy, and watching two girls walk hand in hand home from a yoga class this morning, I taste the acrid tang of longing and jealousy in the back of my throat as I think, That should have been me. Maybe someday it will be. But today, on the day when it all should have began (or culminated, as the case may be) it did not. And that - if you'll excuse the expression - fucking sucks.
"Do you think I'll find someone else?" I asked J. this afternoon.
"Yes," she said. "I think it's practically impossible not to meet someone right for you. Besides, you wouldn't have wanted to be with Alix anyway."
A little nonplussed, I looked at her quizzically. "But...yes, I did. That's exactly what I wanted."
"I know, but she didn't respect that, and her incredible stinking loss of you is what she will live with forever, not you. You," she said forcefully, "are on your way. To something else. Something better. You're going to be okay."
Oh, how I hope she's right.