Before And After
I hold a wedding invitation card in my hands. A man I know is about to get married. Fancy that!
Just a month ago, I held a steak down with a fork, cut out a chunk of it and placed it on my tongue. I moved it between my teeth, soaked it in saliva, bit into it, turned it around, and using my teeth, crushed it over and over, to a pulp. I swallowed, cleared my throat, and readied myself to do to him what I’d done to the piece of meat.
I kept my eyes on the glass of water that stood untouched on the table. With great convincing, I told him that it wasn’t him. That it was me. I should have told him the truth: that it was, in fact, you.
I should have. But then what? Would that have helped any or us? No. I needed to end this as decently as possible. At the perfect time; dinner time. End of day. When the only other activity left to do was go to bed. Or take a shower, brush teeth, then go to bed. When it was almost impossible to ruin his day any further – this is hoping he’d already had an irreparably shitty day that a breakup would pale in comparison. Fat chance, but still.
In the morning he had the whole day ahead of him. During the day, well he still had a good part of the day ahead of him. Dinner time was perfect. This is when he could pick himself up from the table, carry his broken heart with him to go and lie awake in bed and think things through; what he could possibly have done differently, whether he was a terrible lay, who it was that I had met, how long ago I had met him, how broad his shoulders were, whether he was more loaded, if I had already slept with him, how long I had been sleeping with him, if the sex was better. He would drift off to sleep while clutching onto these fears. He would wake up in the morning feeling better. Still shitty maybe, but better. Hopefully. He would force himself to appreciate this life, both the before and after; we fall in love, we fall out of love. He would carry himself out of bed, stitch up his poor broken heart and get ready to face the day. Maybe even find a rebound chick to mess around with later. A win for him, and a win – plus a pat on the back – for me.
A clean, nice, undramatic breakup is what I aspired for, where his heart would split into two perfect curves, blood would flow in a neat line down to the floor where it’d form a perfect circle. Nobody would cry or blame the other for whatever sins they imagined the other had committed.
I got that and more. And because of that, I acquired a raging volcano-threatening-to-explode feeling in the pit of my stomach as soon as I finished the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech. There was tightness in my chest that shifted focus to every breath I drew and every beat of my heart. The stinging sensation in my eyes, the burning lump in my throat – they were all there.
He did not make a fuss. He did not get mad, break glass, yell, whine or curse me out. Our just-before and immediately-after breakup frames remained similar, and pitifully intact, save for a brief pause from him where he held his knife mid steak-slicing to give me a cursory glance – possibly to confirm that my lips were moving and the words were exiting my mouth – before proceeding to dig his fork into the meat. He placed a piece that was dripping with sizzling oils and aroma-filled seasoning on his tongue. He chewed slowly, his lower jaw making abrupt, aggressive movements up, sideways and down. He crushed the meat between his teeth, never, for a minute, pausing to say a word. I wanted a neat breakup, but not this neat really.
I had taken back words of love that I spewed a year ago. This pathetic immediately-after breakup frame was cold – filled with stoicism, measly eye contact and way too few words – words that were all mine. Here I was unloving him. With that would come uncoupling, un-cohabiting and unsexing, and there he sat not saying a word. Not pining for the love, the coupling, the cohabiting nor the sex.
Our dinner table stood unshaken and just like his chewing, uninterrupted. My glass water sat pretty on the table, un-rippled. The cutlery pretended not to see me drive a hole into his heart with the steak knife I held in my hands. The entire household remained deaf to his screaming. The chairs, and all furniture, ignored the frozen pair of feet that rested underneath the table. The floor did not let out a whimper as it soaked blood flowing from his gaping heart wound.
The glasses should have shattered at least. The water should have spilled to drench the carefully laid out table. The table should have tipped over to spill the food on the floor and crush it as it fell on its belly, and it wouldn’t have mattered because he would have lost his appetite. He was supposed to lose his appetite. Where were the chaos?
I moved my food around the plate, wondering whether to stay or leave. To finish eating or toss the plate to the floor. To get up and pace the room or sit still. After what seemed like endless chewing and swallowing, endless sipping of water and swallowing, endless silence… he got up and left the room. I packed my things and left.
I should have told him it was you. That you did not have broad shoulders. That you did not have a flat chest either. Maybe then, I’d have got a punch on the wall from him at least.
I walked straight from his arms to yours. You were undressing me even before my clothes had surrendered the waft of his cologne. You were kissing me before the taste of his kiss had left my lips. Touching me before the imprints of his hands had left my skin. I deserve it then. I deserve to be holding this card inviting me to his wedding barely a month after our breakup.
All I wanted was for him to break a few glasses. He went ahead and got married instead.