24 hours after my boyfriend of seven years moved out, I sold the desk that had been in our bedroom through five leases.
I spent 30 minutes crafting the ad on Craigslist: “One Break-Up Desk For Sale (Please Save Me!)” It was something to do and, frankly, a two-person desk staring at me was the opposite of what I needed.
The young married couple who came to buy it looked so sad as I helped them down the stairs, with my swollen eyes and frizzy hair.
“Your post made us laugh,” the wife said.
“I hope he isn’t upset you’re selling it,” the husband grumbled.
I nodded and thanked them, handing them an empty desk, full of history, in exchange for $60. It wasn't the $75 I had asked for, but close enough.
We had plans to teach in Korea, to go to every NHL arena, to adopt an English Bulldog. Then one sunny, September day two weeks ago, he ended it.
To me, it felt like a fast break up, a shocking jolt to my system. But for him it was slow; so slow, I never even noticed the cracks, until I put all the pieces together afterwards. There had been no major signs -- no cheating, no screaming -- just a conversation, followed by a packing of boxes. Seven years dissolved in a matter of hours. An understanding that we loved (love?) each other, but we were unhappy.
I thought we could fix it. He didn’t.
I thought the day he moved out would be the worst. I lay in my roommate's bed, unable to sleep, eat, or even cry. Just staring at the hot air balloon painting on her wall, wishing it could fly me away. Telling myself if I could just get through the night, nothing would ever feel so bad again.
I was wrong. Each person I’ve told has made it harder, more real: the Craigslist couple who came for the desk; the mailman, who delivered a package in his name and insisted that he needed to sign for it; my neighbors, when they asked how our vacation was a month ago; my best high school friend, who lives in Paris and has known us since the beginning.
“True love is dead,” she said through tears, and I felt the truth in that statement.
My mother doesn’t understand wallowing. When I told her, it was like she knew it was coming. She’s always ready for what’s next and always has a list of “next steps.” She’s the person I call when I need a push to leave my apartment, not when I need to cry about my feelings.
“Ash, you are strong.” “Ash, you are resilient. You get things done.” “Ash, get on J-date and have a new boyfriend by next Thursday.”
I considered her advice and got as far as the J-Date homepage before a wave of nausea hit and I had to exit out.
My dad is who I call for comfort. He knows what I need to hear, and what I don’t want to, but should. "Everyone has a break-up story; this one will be yours."
I let my parents break it to the rest of my family. He knows all of them. And I know all of his. He came on family vacations, tagged along to reunions, has known my little brother since pre-K, and took my other brother to get his driver's license.
His sister lived with us for a summer. Will I ever see them again? Should I send a letter thanking them for everything they have done and seen and been to me? Do I return the jacket his mother got me as an early birthday present? The answer to that is “no,” because I like the jacket a lot.
Friends are harder. After seven years, most of my friends have only known me as part of a unit; as “Ashley and...” Do I call them? Text? Wait for them to notice? Many -- maybe most-- of my friends aren’t mine, but ours. Will they even choose me to be friends with me, or will they pick him?
I won’t force them to make a choice, I can’t, but it will be strange. Facebook pictures of him at parties I wasn’t invited too. Stories that only he will know. Even now, two weeks in, I am startled by the things I have done without him.
Dancing to “Jessie’s Girl” at a bar in Manhattan, going to law school beer tasting with my roommate, meeting new friends, who don’t him, or us, or the story of what has happened.
I want to call and tell him these things. I want him to know how I am. But I don’t and instead write articles for online magazines I know he won’t read.
My room feels new now. New sheets, new comforter, and, without the desk taking up all that space, a new orientation for my bed. I light candles, I read books, I wake up early and drink coffee before work. It feels like a new life.
And I am trying to embrace that. On the day he moved out, My roommate placed Post-Its all around my room with words to help me remember, that despite all this I am lucky, and I am loved.
We’re taking space now. Agreeing not to talk for a bit, but for how long, I have no idea. The last email he sent me ended, “I promise there’s love. How could there not be?”
And he’s right, but I know know that love can’t solve everything. I want to look back at this pivotal point in my life and be proud. There have been tears, and there will be more, but I want to know that I handled this with as much grace as I could; I want to respect the past seven years of my life.
When I was 17, he was my hometown. And sometimes you are made for bigger and better things than where you came from.