My sister was paying for lunch at her prestigious law firm cafeteria, when I broke the exciting news to her that I was moving in with my boyfriend.
Instead of “Congrats” or “Wow – that’s a big step,” she said, “You know if you break up, you can’t stay with me. You know that right?”
My sister had her hands full with a new baby boy and a husband in a crowded apartment near K-town. But secretly, maybe she didn’t think it would work out.
I was possibly too dependent on Lance*. I had just moved to the city and was still struggling with rent at my apartment at the time. I was interning and waitressing.
Lance lavished me with fancy dinners and offered me cheap rent to move in with him. I liked him and thought it was a way to save money and spend time more time with him.
After three-and-a-half years, my soon to be ex-boyfriend, Lance, told me, "I know your sister said you can't stay with her."
It was a year that nothing was going right. I let go from a job that wasn’t the right fit, which was a blessing and a curse because I had no idea what I wanted to do.
So that summer, I mostly spent time in bars with foreigners getting drunk and watching the World Cup. I didn’t even like soccer, but it was an excuse to get out of the house.
I didn’t know it right away, but Lance and I were slipping apart as a couple.
Lance would pester me about job-hunting and getting serious about finding something. Instead of taking his advice, I bought the Jet Blue “All You Can Fly” pass to San Francisco, Long Beach, Houston and Austin to see family and friends in September. It was to recharge and figure out my life direction. I knew after traveling I wanted to stay in New York, but I still didn’t know my career path.
Lance had his shit together. He billed a hundred percent at his PR company and impressed his boss and colleagues. I often complained to him I wasn’t getting ahead, but he would remind me that he was eight years older and had struggled to get to where he is now.
From the beginning, I always had less money than Lance. He always had a stable job, while I struggled. We were at different points in our lives. I had only worked at literary agencies as an assistant and didn’t aspire to become an agent. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.
I returned from my cross-country vacation to our small 300-square foot studio apartment in Greenwich Village with high ceilings and brass plumbing.
Although Lance was on the lease, it was my home too. I knew all the doormen and neighbors and slept comfortably next to Lance every night. I could barely do a cartwheel and half in the place, but somehow we made it work with a combination of my grandmother’s painting and my international magnets on the refrigerator to his Thomas Pynchon novels and his oversized foreign film poster I never remembered the name of.
We loved watching trashy movies together at home over a glass of wine and cooking new recipes together. We had built a tiny life together.
But after I returned, I noticed weird things about Lance. He would stay out later than usual with his friend Mark. When I would innocently ask him who texted him, he would say nobody. I was jealous and suspicious of his actions. Was there someone else or was he getting bored of me?
The breaking point was when I realized Lance and I hadn’t had sex in three months. I confronted him when I got home one night.
It just got awkward. We were best friends on paper but the sex was terrible. Like putting bottle caps on Cokes all day at a factory. A job neither of us enjoyed any more.
We tried to have sex one last time, but it wasn't even worth it. He was attractive, but I would tighten up when we would have sex. It would hurt. He was too big and foreplay was laughable. I suggested using lube, but Lance was a clean freak and hated spilling lube on the sheets. He moved paper towels next to the bed to clean up, which didn’t add to the sexiness.
We finalized our break-up in the typical talking-hugging-crying manner because our sex life sucked, he thought I was aimless and was a money drain on his life and we didn’t see a future together any more.
I tried desperately to move out by early November, but could only find a disgusting place near Gates off the JMZ with the subway train literally outside the window. Lance gave me an extra month to move out.
Although we were broken up, he still truly cared about me.
Every day when he was at work, I would slowly get rid of things from my storage unit. Old clothes and books I would never read. I would spend hours taking the subway to see apartments on Craigslist to Crown Heights, Morningside Heights (too expensive to be so far north), the West Village (a creepy old guy would live in the living room, while I could stay in the bedroom), and Williamsburg (where I eventually moved).
In the middle of all this, I tried to get full employment as a hostess at a nearby French restaurant, but quit after a few shifts after finding out they had changed the schedule around and weren't giving me enough hours to live off of. Lance got me drunk off of whisky and beer to cheer me up.
It was a weird time because I would hang out separately with my own friends bitching about my situation. But Lance was still my best friend. I would still buy groceries for us to cook. I would still go out with Lance and his friends occasionally.
His friend Mark joked, “I know this is a hard time, but I’m excited for you. It’s going to be fun.” He proceeded to divulge funny one-night stand stories that I would soon live up to.
We still watched the same TV shows like Top Chef and screamed at the chefs that we hated. Yet, when we walked down the street, I tried to hold his hand, but then tossed it aside when I realized we weren’t together.
We still slept in the same bed because his love seat was too short and uncomfortable. I would want to be spooned, but then turn away. Together but apart.
It was strange but exciting when I finally got my own apartment.
Lance was a neat freak who never let me leave a dirty dish in the sink. When I collected books from my job at a literary agency, he would complain incessantly until I put them in storage. He would threaten to grab all my clothes and things and shove them down the trash compactor when I had too much hidden in the closet. At least he always put the toilet seat down.
Lance helped me the first weekend of December to move into my place in South Williamsburg. I was going to live with two guys, both movers for art museums and galleries in the city.
My ever-helpful sister gave me a teapot and an air mattress to tide me over before I got my own bed. That first night I remember sleeping with three coats over me because my blanket wasn’t thick enough.
As I stared up at the dark ceiling alone for the first time, there was an emptiness in my stomach that I wouldn’t be able to find another guy, but I knew in my heart that I would move on eventually.
I had been reconnecting with old friends, who told me Lance was a jerk. All these weird habits I thought were endearing about him were actually annoying.
For example, Lance would always ruin the end of a TV show, movie or book without apologizing. And he would always brag about a better restaurant when you would be talking about a great Italian place you found in Soho. Everything was a competition to him. If I was still with him, I would never win.
I knew I had moved on when I started to sleep with my arms splayed out like a starfish and not reaching for Lance in the middle of the night. The next guy I’m with, I want him to share his life with me, instead of competing against me.
*Names have been changed.