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It is the night before Thanksgiving and Avi is asleep beside me. I've got my laptop on the bed and am emailing Scott. "Write me something romantic," I type. It is a desperate plea, actually. I want to be convinced that I should love him. I'm not sure how a desperate plea should look, typed into email format, so I leave it at that.
He writes me a love poem. It is truly terrible. He says something about how my legs are so smooth they shine. I know this isn't true about my legs. No matter what, they're always a little stubbly. I hate his love poem. I write back in poem form, to show him that I'm better than him, strangely ill with disappointment. I am lying in bed with another guy, writing my boyfriend an angry love poem.
He doesn't respond. He is probably confused and a little hurt. Or he just thinks that I am being inappropriately emotional, possibly because I am about to get my period. Tomorrow, when we are on the train to my parents' house, he will try, sympathetically, to open up a discussion.
I finally fall asleep. In the morning, I make out with Avi for a while and then tell him to leave.
Thanksgiving goes wonderfully. My parents think Scott is incredibly smart and polite. For a while, everything is great. And then, in a few weeks, I send Avi a text. I am angry at my boyfriend. He acts like his research is more important than me too often. He has to spend yet another day in the library. I still don't like having sex with him very much. I've been trying to like it. But I find myself looking around; reading book titles off the spines on his shelf. The posters on his wall are uncreative and they bore me.
Avi comes over.
A month later, I wake up in bed with my boyfriend, and decide I need to break up with him. "Good morning," he says. He looks closer. "Is everything okay?"
"No," I say slowly. "I can't be with you anymore."
He has no idea what's going on. He hasn't even sat up in bed yet, and I have broken up with him. He's barely even awake.
I'm sorrier than I've ever been. He's such a smart guy. He knows everything about Lacan. I feel like I'm trying to protect him, though I know it doesn't look like that exactly.
A week later, I text Avi. "I don't have a boyfriend anymore," I say. "We can do whatever we want." He sounds excited at the prospect.
The thing is, we've already been doing whatever we want. When he comes over, it isn't the same. And when he falls asleep after, he looks like a child. I suddenly feel like I am doing something horrifying. I remove his arm from my chest and set it down. All of a sudden, his face makes me feel nauseous. What was I thinking?
He'd planned to stay for a week, but I kick him out the next morning.
And then, for the first time since I was twelve, I am really single. It is terrifying. Frantically, on my second night of singleness, I sign up for a dating site. A forty-year-old guy writes to me and asks me if I like bike rides. I cancel the account.
I start to cry a lot. I sit in Riverside Park and let the rain fall on me, like in a movie, except I get cold too quickly. I go back inside.
My friends say, "Yeah, that sucks, but being single isn't so bad." I don't blame everyone for thinking that I kind of deserve this. There's a part of me that thinks I should want to repent, but I've never been religious enough, and I don't even know what repentance is. Hair shirts? A soup kitchen? Never having sex again? I don't feel like a sinner, I just feel lonely. I feel sorry for myself.
When we met, Scott looked at me over his glasses in the ballroom of a conference center. We were all elbows and knees — dancing to corny music from our professors' younger years. His eyes were so dark brown you could've called them black. He was smiling, a nerdy and seductive smile that said, "I think you might be mine." He was wrong, but something loosened and then tightened inside me in quick succession. I felt like I might slip.
I liked the way Scott's glasses looked on my nightstand. One day, before Thanksgiving, I realized I might miss them if they were never there again. Then I imagined what Scott would look like if he found out about Avi. It was the first time I had ever been able to picture it. I winced.
Avi fell apart one day, in my bed. He was always acting a little crazy. This time he said, "I thought you'd fall in love with me." And then, for an entire minute, he said nothing but my name. A minute is a really long time. I begged him to stop.
"You need to stop, now," my mom says, when I finally tell her about my cheating habit, over the phone. I'd forgotten that it was the sort of thing you're not supposed to tell your mom, but she doesn't seem shocked.
"I'm a cheater," I say in an appropriately miserable tone.
"You're not a cheater," she snaps. There's a lot of evidence to the contrary.
"A cheater is someone who will always cheat," she says. "A cheater is someone who has a problem. You're just young. You don't know what you want yet."
"It keeps happening."
"So stop. Enough. Stop being lazy. You're not a pawn. Don't pretend you can't control yourself."
As we speak, I pace back on forth on the Target rug I've had since college and somehow have never thrown away. Lazy is the right word. Scott had the boyfriend stuff and Avi had the sex stuff and I had let them be separate, instead of waiting for someone who was good at both. I'd been assembling mismatching pieces, and accidentally built a bomb.
After the breakup, it takes about two weeks for things to start getting better. I thought it would take a lot longer. Time passes and I stop feeling scared. I go to work. I see my friends. We talk about being single, we laugh, and then we talk about other things.
A cute guy asks me out and I say no. I don't even have to think about it. I'm not ready. I feel a little heroic.