When I was little, I sucked my thumb. Ok, not my thumb. My finger. I sucked the index finger of my right hand. In retrospect, this seems perhaps an odd choice given the anatomically superior positioning of the thumb in terms of sucking comfort and placement of the residual digits. But perhaps it just goes to show that even our first naive attachments are not based on reason and logic, but rather on what feels right at the time. My finger sucking quickly went from being cute to being a problem, in the eyes of my parents, anyway, and so after enduring repeated nagging and several rounds of bandaged fingertips (gag), by the age of five or so I was pretty much cured. I don't suck my finger anymore, but I do have another vice which serves much the same purpose, and it is this: I read. Specifically, I read things that I have written, old blog entries and the like. I read my own words. I did this long before I had a blog, holing up with stacks of old journals from throughout the years, spending hours re-reading every page, re-living each memory. Now that I have a blog it becomes even easier; my own self-contained, self-referential universe, and all I have to do is open my laptop. And so I read, delving into memories that I will not allow myself to forget, rolling the words around in my mouth, and gleaning what comfort I can from them. The association may not seem immediately obvious, but for me it was a natural substitute. I turn to my words, because like my finger, they are there, they are familiar, and they are a part of me. It may not be the healthiest or most productive of activities, but then again I never claimed to be a paragon of mental health and stability. I am a person who listens to sad music when I am sad. And when I am thinking about the past, I dive in, and I wallow in it. Lately I have been listening to a lot of sad music, and last night I curled up with my laptop and took a walk down bad memory lane, focusing mainly on the ex, with a helping of rejection and betrayal for good measure. There is no redemption to be had in this wallowing, don't be mistaken. There is no element of look how far I've come, there is no silver lining on this cloud. Because the truth is, I haven't progressed, and things haven't really changed. As I've said before, things aren't any better, they're just differently bad.
Please, don't be too alarmed. If I sound even more desperate than usual, it could just be that I always am at this time of year. And if on April 19 this year I was in Italy working and lacking internet access and free time for blogging, it doesn't mean that the day went unnoticed. And even with my sister visiting and a birthday dinner with roommates and the boyfriend notwithstanding, the fact that this was the first year my ex failed to send me a birthday e-mail didn't go unnoticed either. I remember one morning a few months back, my very first thought upon waking was that it would soon be two years that James and I have been apart. For no apparent reason, unprompted and unbidden this thought filtered through the haze of consciousness as soon as I cracked open my eyelids, and the idea of it seemed so hopeless that I had to fight back tears. Two years seemed such an utterly sad length of time, and the distance between us so vast and all-encompassing, and yet it still wasn't as long as we were together.
Lately I've been fantasizing about getting back together. I find myself listening to an episode of This American Life about a couple reuniting with more than a casual interest. An article about second chances in a women's magazine catches my eye. With my time in Paris coming to an end, and with no concrete plans for the future, I find myself alternately drawn to and repulsed by the idea of returning to Boston, the town with too many memories, and too few miles of buffer between me and the ex. And while it's impossible, for so many reasons impossible, I find myself imagining it all the same. And really, what was I thinking, anyway? The straw that broke the camel's back that he didn't want to get married? I don't even know if I want to get married anymore. Maybe I will someday, I can't be sure, but at the moment it's certainly not high on my list of priorities, in any case. And yet, deep down I know that the problem was not that he didn't love me enough to get married, but that he didn't love me enough. Period.
"Why do you always fall for unattainable guys?" my sister said to me once recently, talking about my ex. "You always fall for unattainable guys."
"I do not," I protested. "He was not unattainable. I had him. I had him for three years." She just looked at me.
For three years, I almost had him. I had all of him except for the parts he kept just out of reach, until finally, three years later I lost my grasp, and all of him- the parts I loved, the parts I didn't, and the parts I didn't know, all went slithering through my fingers. The thought of trying to get all that back akin to searching a beach for the exact grains that had made up a now wind-scattered handful of sand. Fruitless, impossible, hopeless, and yet nonetheless hoped for, all the same.