“It was mutual,” I tell my mom as I lie face first in my shag rug inhaling the Sun Chips I dropped the night before.
“There will be other guys, honey.”
“Oh, for sure,” I affirm as I curl up, tucking my chin in between my knees like a snail. “We only went out like eight times, so it’s whatever. He sucks. I mean, we’re still going to be casual, you know, because we’re friends, and deep down he’s a good guy.” Pushing the phone with my nose, I crawl into my bedroom and pull my comforter down from my bed. It lands on top of me and the hardwood floor.
“Wait. Does he suck, or is he a good guy?”
“Both. I mean, neither.” I muffle through the mountain of sheets.
“I’m sorry. Your dad is honking. We’re running late for the rotary luncheon. I’ll call you tonight. Love you. Take care of yourself.”
“Peace.” I hang up the phone and twist my body inside my comforter. I have seen two pretty criers in my life. One is Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30. The other is Stephanie Shandy from my high school. When we performed Les Misérables our senior year, Stephanie cried the most subtle, beautiful tears as Éponine. Whereas, I played Fantine, and she open-mouth cried.
I feel the familiar convulsion start from my gut, creeping into my throat. My eyes water, and, forgetting to avert my gaze from my floor-length mirror, I see my jaw unlock like a python.
“We were both just like, ‘I love you, but as a friend,’” I say as I dig my elevator key card out of my work bag.
“Yeah, that makes total sense,” Becca says as she and I walk into the elevator and press the button for the 25th floor. “You are 1000 times better than him anyway.”
“Thanks, girl!” I say as I wave goodbye to Becca and walk to my desk. I feel the immediate desire to find his Instagram and do some digging. It’s mostly generic pictures of his fish tank and CTA stops. One comment from his last picture was from a girl.
Ugh Chicago always looks so cold!
Chicago does not always look so cold. Where do people get off?
That night we go out for drinks with Amy, Becca, and Nicole for Amy’s birthday.
“Cheers to me being single!” I say when the server brings our beers. The girls pick up their drinks and raise them to mine. Nicole looks at Becca.
“And cheers to Amy, the birthday girl!”
We clink our glasses.
Back at my apartment, I put on my robe and try to distract myself by drinking Sauvignon Blanc and watching Netflix. Every option seems worse than the one before. I could watch something familiar, like Parks and Rec, but I’ve outgrown it. On the other hand, watching something new could feel like starting a new relationship. Could I trust it to bring all those feelings of comfort that Parks and Rec provided? I don’t trust TV shows anymore. I opt for staring at the rotating screen savers provided by Google drones.
“It’s not his fault. I prefer being an independent woman, and I’m proud of that,” I say to my cat as he crosses in front of the TV.
I rummage through my dresser, looking for the charcoal face mask my aunt got me three Christmases ago. I put the mask on and feel compelled to top the night off with a soothing bath. To prepare, I clean the bathroom, open another bottle of wine and start an Enya album from 1995. Digging through my cabinet, I realize I ran out of bubble bath, or, maybe, I have never owned bubble bath.
I walked down the block to CVS, still wearing my robe and mask.
Ugh Chicago always looks so cold. It doesn’t even feel that cold out, but I’m also on my fourth or seventh glass of wine, reminding me of that Halloween I got frostbite on my elbows.
“Poor girl” I hear someone say.
I turn around.
I see an older couple pausing in front of a restaurant door, looking at me with puppy eyes.
“It was mutual, ok?” My robe starts to come undone and I can feel the cold on my kneecaps, but I embrace it. “We broke up at the same time. We were like, ‘One, two, three, let’s break up.’ So, you two continue with your 50th-anniversary dinner, or whatever, and I’m going to go get my bubbles. Does that work for you?”
“Sweetie, we weren’t talking about you.”
“Oh,” I close my robe. “Okay. Good!” I turn to leave, but the older lady steps toward me.
“Hun, whatever happened might feel like the end of the world now, but eventually it will feel very small.”
The pit in my stomach that I have known for two days slightly unleashes its grip. I turn to face the lady. Getting a closer look, I realize how kind her face is. Mine is covered in a hardened face mask that I should have taken off over an hour ago. As I’m assessing my physical state, I become aware that my robe has fallen off the right half of my body, and it is in fact very cold in Chicago.
“I think I need to go home,” I say as I turn back in the direction of my apartment.
“Take care, hun!” She calls after me. “I might be reaching here, but it’s not shameful to be broken up with.”
“It was nice to meet you!” I say from across the street, smiling the biggest smile my oxidized mask will allow while flipping her two birds.