Amanda and I were officially not-a-couple
at this point, but it was hard to avoid each other - how do you divvy up the friends
in a breakup
? You can't. The town wasn't big enough for us to repair to our neutral corners.
Neither of us were handling it very well. I was self-destructing, doing ecstasy much more frequently than I ever imagined I would; she was drinking a lot - a surprise, since she rarely drank more than the occasional mixed drink or glass of wine when we dined out. Maybe a beer or two at parties, in the years before we turned insular and anti-social. While my self-destruction was a solitary thing (at the time, anyway; I would later expand my radius to damage others), hers - since she had by this point slept, in quick succession, with two of my closest friends, plus two musician acquaintances and one of her housemates - gave her the satisfaction, at least, of catching up to (and surpassing) me in the knife-twisting department. My only "satisfaction" from that was that none of them seemed to like her (and some now felt free to tell me so, since she was an ex), but if I took the time to try to explain to them that they just didn't understand her like I did, I would probably have ended up curled in the fetal position, weeping and whimpering her name.
We were still, amazingly, on speaking terms, whether the gathering was at my apartment, her house, or, in this case, at the urban commune of some mutual friends. We were on speaking terms, but the talk was rarely about us; small talk, usually, or something out of left field.
This time, it's some restaurant gossip, some tales from our respective recent road trips, and some stuff about cigarettes - something new that we had in common; we were pretty much chain smoking our way through the conversation, between sips and gulps of beer. Then she lets slip an unwanted reminder of the old days; she'd put on some weight, and was asking me that old question: "Do I look fat?"
She was never fat. Sure, she was no longer the skinny 10th grade girl of way back when, but she was still of average weight, and still
obsessed about weight on occasion. The extra pounds were probably only noticeable to me because, like some dying man, my life with her was passing before my eyes 24/7 in those days, and I could still read any minute change in her, whether a gesture, a facial expression, or five or ten pounds of body weight.
I wanted to say my old standby: acknowledgement of an extra pound or two, followed by "You wear it well" (a flat-out "No" would never have satisfied her; she would have, when we were together, accused me of lying). I really wanted to say "I still love you. You. You are not your weight. I love you", but that just seemed awkward. I kept silent, and she probably preferred that non-answer, after her
absent-minded goof of asking That Question again.
I desperately want to hold her again; she doesn't want to be held, for fear of liking it again. We are two people talking, but we always have a silent third between us - a
ten-foot pole, sharpened at one end, and, of course, that sharp end remains lodged in my heart. I wear it well.