Not a member? Sign up now
Jim and I lasted eight months, give or take, and then we had one of those breakups that seem too good to be true, and then was too good to be true. After a late-night call where Jim said "I love you," followed by "I hate you," followed by a sea of expletives that made my rant about Dean sound like orphan children caroling at a charity event, Jim and I realized we couldn't be friends.
A few weeks later I received an email from Jim. He told me that I should be receiving a package in the mail containing a book I lent him: Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man. (Note to self: addicts, serial killers, I'm seeing a trend here.) Later that afternoon, I discovered the small brown envelope. I don't know what I was expecting — a note, a body part — but I wasn't expecting, tucked into page sixty-two, the card I gave Jim for his thirty-second birthday. Ah, the last fuck you. (Why throw away a card when you can just mail it back, I guess?) Unlike your virginity, you can get a book back. But you might get some unwanted baggage along with it.
I met Aaron at a bat mitzvah; we were the only people over the age of fourteen who were willing to get down and do the Electric Slide. We had immediate chemistry, but then it came out that Aaron had a girlfriend.
Two months later, he didn't. We dated for four months, and it was fun until it wasn't. I wanted a serious relationship, and Aaron wanted me to be the world's longest rebound. What began as an exhausting amount of contact trickled down to hearing from him every two or three weeks. And then Aaron stopped calling.
Three years later, Aaron contacted me on a dating site. This was right after the whole thing with Dean, and I was seeking a distraction. Against the advice of my friends, I agreed to meet him for brunch. Chemistry was still there. Incessant texting began. The following week, we took a bike ride in NYC. The week after that, we took a bike ride in Brooklyn. And then — here is the kicker — he lent me a book. "One of my favorites," he said.
"He's a changed man," I told all my friends. "A book — especially a big book — clearly means he sees a future with me."
This is where I'm proved a fool. Aaron proudly attended a reading I hosted, where he met my friends and family. This + book lending = an appropriate time to buy an unlimited MetroCard for my unlimited trips to visit him in distant Red Hook, right? Aaron came home with me after the event, and then he stopped calling.
"History repeated itself," I told him in a message. "Don't contact me again." A week later, he called and left a message. I didn't call him back.
And the book? A World War Two narrative I had very little intention of reading in the first place? Well, first I asked my father if he wanted it. No, he said, but he did volunteer to break Aaron's knees. (I declined.) Then I remembered that the bookstore near my apartment bought used books. I traded it in for seventy-five cents and put the money towards an ice-cream cone. I figured I deserved it.
As for final lessons, Shot in the Heart and Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man, their pages worn and bent, sit on shelves across from my bed. I see them every night. They remind me of those men I lost or never had, but I don't regret that the books are still mine. I cared about them before I cared about the men I lent them to — and the books will stick around much longer.
Want to meet someone who'll treat your books with the respect they deserve? Meet them on Nerve.