The Replacement

You tried to tiptoe around the subject for as long as you could, prolonging our small talk to an art that focused on the absolute minutiae of generalities. But after a few minutes, my desire to get straight to the point burst forth out of me. And before I even had the courage to ask, I heard her in the background, laughing in that little girl way that all vacuous and obsequious women do. Her tittering bolstered my strength to ask, “Have you been seeing anybody?”

Without hesitation, you admitted, “Yeah. She’s here now. We’re about to go to the museum together.”

I shuddered to think of the Podunk qualities of a Portland museum–regardless of whether the city was having a “renaissance” or not. And worse, I knew you were trying to mold her into the “intellectual” girl you wanted by taking her to such a place. You tried to mold me the same way. But I didn’t need to be. I had everything and gave everything you wanted. Ultimately, it was the safeness and comfortableness of me that bored you. My ability to bend and not break was my undoing. I should have broken, then maybe you would have had the empathy to stay.

Suddenly, I realize my reverie has lasted longer than is appropriate for an audible pause.

You inquire with, “You still there?”

I nod, then remember you can’t see me.

“Yes, I’m here.”

In my mind’s eye, I can visualize the beads of sweat forming around your temples as you grapple with what to say next, if you should apologize for moving on or not.

“I wasn’t sure if it was something you wanted to know. So I didn’t tell you.”

“I get it. How did you meet?”

He sputtered, “Well, it’s actually someone you know… someone you might have guessed I would–”

“Darien?” I conjectured, automatically surmising it was your Joey Potter-reminiscent best friend that you had decided to replace me with.

“No. It’s, um, Shawna.”

My heart briefly dropped into my stomach. Shawna was a wispy, all-American girl who had long been obsessed with your brother and then decided to fuck you a few years ago to get his attention. The fact that she would sink this low elicited a glint of anger that flashed across my eyes.

“Oh. Shawna,” I said, letting the explosion of emotion within me stay confined. Maybe, if I was lucky, it would give me a coronary. “How long has it been going on?” I queried with the clinical nonchalance of a doctor asking about a rash.

“Three months.”

I tremored. You had only cast me out five months ago, which meant all it took you was two to get over me. I questioned whether there was ever even a time when your feelings for me were real–or if it was all some contrivance on your part to appear normal, as though you were capable of genuine emotion for another human being that wasn’t yourself.

“Gillian, I don’t want to brush you off, but I really need to get going.”

I gulped, images of you pedantically explaining the backstory to some painting swirling in my head. “Right. Well, if you gotta go you gotta go.” I ran my hand through my hair before concluding, “Jordan, I don’t think we better talk anymore. It’s not helping… me. Maybe it’s helping to bolster your ego, I don’t know–”

“Come on Gillian, it’s not about that.”

“Then what is it about?”

You gave me silence as a response, propelling me to add, “Why are we still talking? It’s over.”

You proposed the cliche, “Lovers can be friends.”

“No, friends can be lovers.”

“You always have to make everything so complicated. Why can’t it be as simple as us talking every once in a while to catch up? Why do you have to place so much meaning and import on everything?”

“Do you think Shawna would feel all right about us just ‘catching up’ every once in a while?”

“She’s evolved enough.”

Evolved? You’ve got to be joking. I love how when men say a woman is evolved it just means she keeps her fucking mouth shut about what she’s really thinking.”

“You know what? I can’t do this with you. I have to go. Call me if you ever manage to get enough of a life to get over me.”

The ire and annoyance in your voice could be felt from my vantage point three thousand miles away. The line went silent, leaving me with my own deafening quiet. You had found someone else and quite literally the easiest person it was to come by. After all the excuses you had given for why you couldn’t be with anyone–you didn’t want to pay rent, you needed to focus on your ‘art,’ etc.–what it boiled down to was that you just didn’t want to be with me. And I would never really know why, if it was some moment, something I did to turn you away.

With my phone still in my hand, I ambled from the bedroom to the kitchen, where I proceeded to make a screwdriver, a drink that had been my emotional numbing agent since high school. I guzzled with ferocity as flashes of all your lies appeared before me: that I was the love of your life, that we would get married, that we would move to a foreign land together. And in one fell you swoop, you shattered your promises on a whim, simply because one day you felt like leaving me.

I looked down to find my glass was empty and I quickly refilled it, heavier on the vodka portion this time. How was I going to move on as effortlessly as you had? What measures could I take to be as immune to heartache and the incessant pain of memory? Sure, I could have sex with someone, but where was the connection in that? The only positive thing to come out of learning that you had found sanctuary in the arms of another was that I now knew for sure that devotion was a false concept, a meaningless word.

Though its definition once held weight in the centuries of our forebears, you have now confirmed its nullity to me. You taught me that everything is casual and there are no permanent allegiances to anyone. I finish drinking and put my glass in the sink. So you’ve found someone else. What can I do? A swift excision and supplanting of the significant other is merely a part of how we live now.

 

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