scrapes and bruises

by Sandra

I’ve been online dating since October; dipping my toe into the pool, so to speak. Since then, I’ve gone on more dates with more men than all my previous dates combined. That’s not a brag, it’s just fact—the pool is deep and the pool is wide. Some dates have been good. Some … less than good. But most of them played out in a series of awkward, stuttering starts and stops. Not one transitioned into anything remotely approaching comfortable exclusivity, until one did.

Or almost did.

Until it didn’t. Until it stopped. Suddenly; without warning.

I felt like Wile E Coyote in an old Warner Bros. cartoon, running so assuredly that I’d failed to notice I’d run off a cliff and was now simply treading air.

In the time we’d dated, I’d become quite accident prone. I stumbled twice hiking; took a rather Buster Keaton-esque tumble, rear-end first, into the bathtub; tripped over the corner of a box of bottled water at 7-11, and just last week fell while out for a walk in the neighborhood. That last one hurt, a lot, my knee opened up and bleeding after its run-in with the concrete, my jogging pants looking like I’d stolen them from the middle of a crime scene. It had been so out of character for me, so abnormal; I hardly ever fall down. I’d begun to wonder if it was some kind of sign, a thought I shoved to the back of my mind, until my phone rang.

And then there was one last inevitable fall.

How do you so quickly go from the top of someone’s A-list to the bottom of their D-list? Romantic relationships are the only ones on Earth that function this way and it’s jarring. One day someone’s a normal presence in your life and the next, your cell phone sits silent on the nightstand, refusing to buzz.

To say I feel heartbroken is not quite right. After all, we were only involved for six weeks, and that, in the grand scheme of things, is not so long. Even so, the hurt is palpable, the loss real. Heart-bruised sounds a bit better; maybe heart-scraped. It was a fall, but not from a height that shatters.

In an attempt to, I don’t know, feel better? Distract myself? I thought I’d take my dating experience thus far and turn it into some kind of art project. Those seem to be de rigueur amongst a certain set of artistic types; a way to differentiate my pain from the ordinary pain of everyone else. They also seem to be the jumping off point for blogs and book deals and appearances on The Today Show, so I thought, “here’s my chance.”

dates

My plan was to harness the power of Google Maps and literally pinpoint the location(s) of every date I’d gone on since October—my dating life, visualized. I spent a fevered afternoon at a nearby coffee shop, color coating each set of points to correspond to each man; eleven different shades in total, meticulously plotting out a first kiss here and a final goodbye there. Later, at home, I started to fill in the details of each point—number of drinks consumed,  conversation topics, fashion choices—but then something happened.

Or more accurately, nothing happened. I didn’t feel good, I definitely did not feel empowered. It wasn’t catharsis through art. There was no taking of the brokenness and using the pieces to make a beautiful mosaic. Instead, I felt worse; I felt pathetic; my only realization being that I have an apparent affinity for making out in the back seats of cars.

So I stopped and put it away. Maybe later, maybe one day, when all of this is not so fresh …

It’s been a week since that phone call, and while I’ve pretty much stopped crying and the tightness in gone—the squeezing in the center of my chest cavity that feels like something between suffocating and vomiting, I still feel sad. And I’m not sure over what, exactly. Lamenting the loss of relationship, yes, but it’s more than that. I can’t adequately point to my sorrow and say, “this is why I’m sad,” not like pulling up my pant leg and giving you the origin story of this peeling scab or that yellowing bruise. Somehow this pain defies definition or easy categorization, and that’s where I have to stop right now. Yes, I could try and extrapolate meaning and significance from what I’m feeling, but it’s not time yet.

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