As With Water


My lover and his lover broke up.

All of us, we used to live in the same city. A tiny town called Bowling Green sometimes not found on maps. Then, they moved to Colorado. I stayed behind, in Ohio.

We had vowed to stay a family. The distance is nothing, we’d said.

One summer morning, I watched them drive away, in his tiny black Honda Fit. I remember waving, following the car on foot for a number of meters, just like they do in the movies. I remember the corniness and the inescapability of that moment. Then, I remember my legs, as they became pure black granite, pulling myself back, back upstairs to that second-floor apartment. That had been ours and was now just mine. By simple blind, animal memory, I made my way without seeing to the bed, flopped onto it, and pulled the blankets up around my neck even though it was quite hot that day. I remember wanting to die. Wanting this joke, this misery of a life to end.

Somehow, I fell asleep. I dreamt about two anvils. They fell from the sky, right onto my head. I woke up flinching. Later that day I phoned them, wondering what state they might be in, hoping to hear just a flicker of voice, just to say I love you. No answer. I tried phoning a few hours later; no answer again. Before bed, no answer. All night and until I heard from them a few days later, I lied to myself in pep-talks: They are starting their new life together—how wonderful! They are so good for each other. I am happy for them. It’s okay we are no longer married.

Almost a year later, as long spring nights herald the first blushes of summer, I speak with my lover, with the man who used to be my husband, on the phone. He says: “We are breaking up.” I balk at the phrase. By now, my conditioning from the polyamory community has been ingrained. I remind him gently: “But, don’t you mean ‘transition’? You and she are transitioning to friends, right?” His reply comes without hesitation, and with a groan. “No. I wish I could call it that, Anya, but it’s really not a transition. It’s a fucking break-up. I’m so angry.”

All of this, this story, does not correspond to the happy story we would love to tell instead. The story that I, as a writer and member of the poly community, want to tell. This is, instead, a sad story. A dark one. One of endings and apparent doom. Indeed, this not shaping up to be the respectful, patient, loving narrative of two people transitioning their romance into something else. No, this is a plain old normal “break-up.” This is, indeed, a breaking of hearts. A splitting apart. A pain; a wound.

My lover and I, the man who used to be my husband, we finish our phone conversation. A few days pass. On the morning of the release of Opening Love, I wake not with excitement, but with visions of my shorn family. I am still in bed; I don’t want to rise. So, I drift. I see my lover, the man who used to be my husband, and the woman who—to me—will always feel like family. They are holding hands. Smiling. Radiant. Slowly, the scene begins to soften, melt, and their human bodies begin to lose form: arms and legs melt into glistening water. I watch this water. It collects where their feet used to be, into a small pool, atop a parking lot of asphalt the color of deepest night. I continue to watch. I watch the water, the patch of organic, beautiful blue somehow suddenly lending the human-made asphalt a sense of raw dignity. The asphalt: it’s almost beautiful now.

I look closer, but not with my eyes. I can feel, somewhere, in the pool—a pool that did not exist before the lovers became it—that their individual personalities are no longer. Now, they are the unnameable. They are merged and completely mingled. All one thing now. (Back in the physical world, I’m still in bed. I’m content to just be there, to let the vision unfold, content to stay still and to let the morning spend itself if it wants to. I’m choiceless. I lay.)

The hot summer sun now. It’s come. The pool begins to shrink. Slowly at first, but then faster and faster until there is not even a single drop left. There is only the place where the pool was, and there is the knowledge that the droplets, the water that made up the lovers, are now somewhere—perhaps in the clouds…or, maybe, in the humid air. Everywhere.


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