I kept mock-screaming, "God I hate this night," my voice trilling upwards in emphasis as the sentence progressed. I did my best to imitate Faye Dunaway's imitation of Joan Crawford, eagerly waiting for the Best Actress Oscar to be announced as she sat at home, the reporters circling and smoking outside. I wanted that mix of eager anticipation and wreckless damnation: I want this to be over, please don't leave me.
I was packing boxes with clothes, packing boxes with knives, packing boxes with knick-knacks. I was trying to punch up the sentimentality that goes hand-in-hand with moving, with flitering through the necessary and the unmovable. I was trying to stop myself from reading every little scrap of paper the ex-boyfriend had left behind. I was trying to stop myself from feeling that the city was leaving me, instead of the other way around.
When I turned in the apartment's keys, one of the property managers asked me if "my partner" would be moving with me. When I closed out my bank account, one of the tellers asked if Brandon would enjoy New York more than Pittsburgh. On the first occasion, I told the truth. On the second, I just answered affirmatively: the shortest path through the devastation felt right.
Looking at the empty apartment, with its white walls and clean carpets, I felt how much I'd failed to live up to its optimism. This was the place where we would be happy. This is where I'd live with a man, where we'd cook and stay in bed on Sundays, read out loud to each other, watch movies curled up on the sofa, our bodies entwined.
A different movie happened, still not a tragedy. The rooms were not to blame. The lighting was neither too harsh or too soft. A bulb burned out in the living room, a fixture in the bedroom became loose. The blinds broke once. Everything was fixable. Except I didn't have the tools or the willpower to call out for it to be fixed.
When he left, I thought, "This is the way out." That thought burned in me for a second before I extinguished it. There I was, in the jeans I wore on our first date, the ones ripped at the knee and showing too much thigh. There I was, kissing him for the last time, knowing it was the last time, closing my eyes, lidding everything I thought with my lips. I closed the door shut after waving to him from the patio.
For months afterward, when the neighbor's white sedan pulled up, I thought he'd come home. Unexpected, unannounced. I can't describe the little deaths of sudden joy.
The last time I closed the door, I closed the door. I drove up the hill. I drove north. I thought of a new man. I thought of the book of poems I'm reading that ends, "I thought my life was over/ Then I moved to Cambridge."
I thought of telling you everything, and then I thought better. I only want you to know I was not consumed by my failures. Joan Crawford won Best Actress that year for Mildred Pierce. It ruined Faye Dunaway's career.