Alone (an excerpt from a hypertext work in progress; more work at www.apc.net/adrienne)
by Adrienne Eisen
Alone. I know you're thinking: Finally. I know because my grandma called my new number to say, "I hope you're not too upset. I've been wanting this for a long time. "She breathed out of her inhaler and added, "He was never going to marry you." "Thanks, Gram." That's what I said.
My mom asked if I got any furniture.
I told her I got everything. "That was part of the problem," I told her. "He had nothing but his genius for video art."
"Good." That's what my mom said.
The only person who was surprised was my therapist who was our therapist because when Tano went for one couples session with me he was so unable to express himself that he started seeing her by himself.
I am thinking, Finally, too.
He waited two years to tell me he loved me and three years to tell me that he was job hunting in Boston and could we have a long-distance relationship. He waited four years to tell me the best part of our relationship was sex and the worst part is that I kept bugging him to get married.
It worries me that I wanted to marry him. It worries me that three days ago I was lying in our bed crying on his chest begging him to marry me. It worries me because today, when he came to my new apartment to pick up boxes so he could move, he knocked some magazines to the floor and didn't pick them up. If I did that in his apartment he'd be upset. He takes advantage of me. It's not just the sex and the extra rent I paid because he's too cheap. It's the magazines. And I realized as he left with the boxes, that if he asked me to marry him I'd say no. It's the three days that saved me. What if I got married in those three days and never experienced the feeling of my magazines crashing to the floor? Or what if they crashed every day for the rest of my life?
Alone. No more infantile refrigerator magnets that slip to the floor when the freezer door opens. But the thing is that I don't have my own refrigerator magnets, so I tape up pictures of Adam and Daniel and Marc and Beth and me smiling with everyone so I don't feel alone when I'm alone. I also subscribe to the Sunday New York Times which I'm convinced is an institution because alone people feel the most alone when they wake up Sunday morning. When I write the check I hope for a series for scintillating features in the magazine because the magazine is the only part of the New York Times I can curl up with on the sofa and not get covered with ink.
I go to bed early to make sure that I'm not too sleepy to create an intricate story for masturbation. To think of the fantasy with two women and one man and the man wants the three of us women to go down on each other in each possible combination and then he fucks me and everyone is happy. It's such a nicer fantasy when I'm not in a relationship – like now there's more of a possibility it will really happen. Or, maybe it's nicer because sometimes in the fantasy Tano used to come in at the last minute and do the fucking and the women left because they didn't like him because he's the brooding, tortured-artist type – which is okay, but if there's one thing that ruins an orgasm it's me paying too much attention to my characters and not enough attention to technique.
I wake up thinking about Tano with Marc and Francine – like when you lose a finger and you have that phantom finger syndrome when you still think you can move it but its not there.
At therapy I am excited and proud. Even though it's very after the fact: I cancelled therapy last Sunday. I said, "I broke up with Tano yesterday and I'm moving out tomorrow, so let's just cancel therapy this week because if I stop and think, I might not do it." I knew I had to do it quickly because unless I actually got a new apartment no one would believe we were really breaking up – not even me and Tano, maybe, because we never really broke up all the other times. I needed to move out quickly so someone would believe me enough to let me cry on their shoulder.
But this is what happened: I didn't cry. I thought I would cry because all the times I broke up with Tano before and then unbroke up, I cried. I cried so hard I decided how could I want to break up really if it makes me this sad? I didn't cry when I packed. I didn't cry when the stunning, Israeli movers dropped off the last box in my new apartment. I didn't cry when Tano left me a neat pile of stuff I forgot. And the time before Tano – when Andy dumped me—I cried for three months. Literally, because luckily I was in the graduate-writing program that demanded from its students only one thing: anguish. The guy who dumped me before Andy was Richard, and to cope with that, I packed up my studio apartment in Chicago and moved to LA where I know no one. The guy before Richard was Avi, and I can't remember if I went to the mental institution because I had been with him or because I had been without him, but it was definitely in the months after he dumped me.
Actually, I cried. A few times:
Time #1 At work. I couldn't get Lotus Notes to work on the Macintoshes and I brought down the network accidentally and had to make it look like it wasn't an accident, and when I was calling the network team to a meeting I started crying, so I had to say, "I'm not crying about Lotus Notes. I'm crying because I broke up with Tano." It was a good move for the Brand of Me because I looked sensitive and vulnerable which I don't think they think I am but is a good human thing to be if you can still command authority. And also, I got to cry over bringing down the network without looking incompetent and desperate.
Time #2 Tano picked up disks since I got the hard drive and we hugged and I rubbed my cheek against his and he said, "Friends don't rub cheeks." I cried.
So finally, when I went to my first session after my first week of aloness, my therapist wanted to talk about why I stayed for so long without someone who wasn't fulfilling my needs.
I said, "So what? I left."
She asked again, in another way.
I said, "I didn't want to have a nervous breakdown from aloneness and lose my job."
She asked again.
And then I sad, "Ok. I can see now that I'm not crying. That I'm not really nervous-breakdown material anymore."
And then she said, "I wouldn't have put up with that for a week." She crossed her arms over her big, round breasts and I saw they were the only part of her not getting old. They were perky for 43. I have watched her eyes get wrinkles. And her mouth.
I am becoming her even though her job is to help me become me. This is another example: I don't want to be a person who stays with a person like Tano.