Dental Floss and Other Things I Don’t Understand.

I’m not a regular flosser, although I’ve always wanted to be. Flossing my teeth is something I do on special occasions, like last February when Claire and I flew to Bulgaria for a weekend. It felt appropriate to start (and stop) flossing in a new country. Sometimes I floss when I make the decision to turn over a new leaf and become something. I celebrate this new person I am about to become by taking care of her teeth.

It’s really important that you understand how little I actually flossed. You need to know that it was never something that appeared on a shopping list. “Can I get you something from outside?” he would ask and I might say  milk, coffee chicken for our cat, Daddy. And he would say “Write it down.” And sometimes I would, and sometimes he would forget anyway. What’s important is that in the almost two years that we shared shopping lists and brought things home, like toothpaste, soap and milk, not once did I ever ask for dental floss.

Two days before we broke up, we were lazying together at home when I got the urge to floss my teeth. I brought out the little plastic container into the living room, so I could be close to him.

“Shit,” I said, “I’m out of floss.” The little plastic container was empty and I threw it away without a second thought.

The next day, on what would be our last day together as a couple he came home from a supplies run and handed me a container of floss. My heart filled with love for him because he remembered something so forgettable. And then he left.

And I don’t understand. Two weeks before he left, while I was in Russia he sent me a message  from the same small village on the Black Sea where he would end our relationship. “I am at our restaurant in Kiloys and everything reminds me of you.” And I don’t understand.   Two days later while I was stuck in the immigration line at Ataturk airport I sent him a message- “I need coffee.” and he wrote back “I need you.” And I don’t understand.  When I finally made it back from the airport he couldn’t stop kissing me at the bus stop. It was like I had been away for months rather than two weeks. He was so happy, so relieved to have me in his arms again.  And I don’t understand.

When I offer up this evidence to him, he says he was faking it. And I don’t believe him. He says he was scared to acknowledge what he was feeling, that he wanted out, and I believe him a little.  

“I know you love me,” I cried a week ago, my finger poking him in his chest “I live here, in your heart, you know this. You love me.”

“Love is not enough, “ he said. And I don’t understand.

Things Get Shittier

I think we can all agree I’ve had a very shitty three weeks. Good god, has it been that long already? I guess the universe wanted to express the symbolic shittiness of my life with a stronger, more vivid representation, in case I or anyone else didn’t quite get how bad it all really is.

Two days ago I cried at the window of our apartment because a pigeon who had been sitting on the windowsill flew away at the sight of me. My mad, spiraling darkness scared it away. Later that afternoon, after a day that was almost entirely full of lows, I had a moment of relief over a glass of wine with my mom, in an outdoor cafe shaded by some sort of tree. I was two minutes into an actual conversation, where I said things that connected to other things and then listened to a reply and said thoughtful things back. Granted, the conversation was about an episode of the Bachelor from 2009, but it was so much better than the loop I have been on for three weeks. “How could he do this?” “Does he have any idea what he’s done?” “Why did he do this?” “Am I crazy?” and back again.

Suddenly, in the midst of my retelling of how Jason gave his final rose to Melissa but then couldn’t stop thinking about Molly, a pigeon the size of a duck unloaded what felt like a week’s worth of bowel movements onto me. I mean all of me. My hairline and forehead,  the tips of my hair that were swirled into a bun on my head (???), my sweater, the t-shirt under my sweater, the back of my neck, my hands, which I had been using a lot, as I do when I talk passionately about things, the crotch of my light grey jeans, and inside the handbag that was sitting on a chair next to me. Even my mom felt a drop hit her face across the table from me.  Laughter was the only possible response. “They say it’s good luck,” my mom told me. We always do that- try to dilute shitty things with the hope of a brighter outcome. It reminded me of what he said to me three weeks ago. “This is best for both of us, in two or three months you’ll see that.”  


I am in Amsterdam, with my mom who is the perfect companion for whatever fleshy bag of sadness is now Masha. She knows that parks are off-limits on our daily walks, that some streets are too scary and beautiful to walk down, that I can only eat one salad at that one cafe at 3 PM and that suggesting I take a shower will bring me to tears. She knows when it’s time to kick my cousin and my nephew out of the apartment because a thunderous wave of grief is about to crash. She knows that manicures and massages are impossible because I can not stand to be touched.  She has figured out that it’s better for me to fall asleep on the tiny couch, uncomfortable and in my clothes than in the bed, where I have nightmares all night long. She celebrates with me the one or two moments a day where I manage to enjoy something- that salad at that cafe, a breeze on my feet, a book. She reads to me until I fall asleep.

Two days ago she took me to the doctor when my ear and jaw started to hurt.  On the way there,  I started to cry when I saw  a stork perched on a boat, looking into the distance, his feathers ruffled by the wind. “He’s in pain too, he knows what this feels like,” I managed to get out through my sobs and then I tried to hug him. My mom lead me away, gently. Further along the canal she patiently waited while I tried to stroke a duck’s head because with him too I felt communion, but he just wanted food. She joined me in a big “fuck you” to a beaten up wooden boat named “Meant To Be.”

Once we arrived, the doctor delicately told me that there was no physical cause for the pain in my jaw. And he told me that I have beautiful, healthy tonsils. That brought me to tears too, that someone, an unbiased professional sees some part of me that is still beautiful and healthy. And I have never loved my mom or my tonsils more.

Things I’ve Learned

I have nothing to say, but I feel I must say something just to distract myself from this, even for a second. I have learned many things the last few days. Like that grief and denial come in waves. And one usually replaces the other. I’m in the grief wave right now. And that staring at a photograph of boats that has been hanging on your wall for months, can relieve grief for a whole five minutes. And that taking a nap is dangerous because for a few seconds after you wake up, you forget what happened to you. What is, unfortunately, still happening to you.

I also learned that my yoga instructor is a loving sadist. Because after receiving an email from me where I told her about my grief and my inability to eat, she worked me to the bone. And sang “My bonnie is over the ocean. My bonny is over the sea. My bonny is over the ocean, bring back my bonny to me. Bring back, bring back, bring back my bonny to me.” Four times. Everyone else in class laughed, because they thought she was nuts. I cried because it was meant for me. But I held my stupid Warriors so hard I am still hurting two days later. I guess that was the point. To show me that I can grieve and do the things at the same time. If only learning it once was enough.

I learned that you can not eat and still have things to throw up. And that saying “You are safe” over and over again to yourself can help you breathe. And that breathing is important if you have decided to live. If.  I learned to take more time making decisions to make sure to pick the one that will feel less terrible than the others. I learned that you can love someone more than anything and fear them more than anything at the same time.

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