The day you left my favorites should have been a milestone. Should have marked the end of the period of my mourning you. But it did not. Rather, it emphasized how much time had passed without any sign of my healing. And though you were now merely categorized in the “More Friends” section, I still saw you as a favorite of my life. Bumped or not from the classification, it didn’t stop Facebook from almost daily dredging up “memories” from two years ago–memories of trips we’d taken, of an era when you still thought of me as someone worth thinking about.
The advice in the relationship world that exists in the post-social media epoch is to delete or block the person you once called your great love. Juliet never had to deal with this shit. Nor Elizabeth Taylor, for that matter–queen bee of messy and uncomfortable breakups. But I guess she had enough to tackle after briefly ruining Debbie Reynolds’ life and being the center of every tabloid frenzy. I could not take the common advice, however, a sick part of me wanting to hold on. Wanting to see those rare online presences you made to know if there was any trace, any indication that you might be suffering as I do. Or worse, thriving. That would really appeal to my masochistic sensibilities.
I don’t know how Facebook gauges favorites, what combination or permutation it wields to decide who goes to the top of your list. Is it how often you tag each other? Message each other? Post on each other’s walls? Who can really say except Mark Zuckerberg? What I could say was that my existence was more about living in a matrix than in real life, which is, for the most part why it pained me so much to see you drop out of it both tangibly and on the internet.
My body’s out here. Outside of the computer. But my mind is in it. And this allows my obsession to feed on the visual elucidation of the past. My past. The collective past was better. It meant you actually had to seek out photos of your ex by dipping into a box or a closet. There was more of a conscious effort to it. Facebook makes it rote. I can get off the internet at any time, I tell myself. Then again, why would I want to not torture myself that way? Wallow in the womb-like coziness of the times ere my mind was capable of contemplating something other than this loss. This failure. This gross indication of me doing something wrong or not being enough.
The thing is, even without Facebook, I still had my “pieces of you” to confront at unexpected moments. I could open a book and come across an inscription, a heartfelt, “Je t’aime mon amour for always and ever, I hope this book symbolizes our love.” Granted the book was Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls, and you had never read it–nor did you classify David Sedaris’ work as anything other than low-brow–perhaps not realizing that a collection of essays themed around Sedaris’ usual misadventures throughout Paris and New York might not exactly symbolize anyone’s love except his and Hugh’s (his longtime “partner”–that sham of a word).
Or I could come across handmade cards, created mostly at our peak relationship point. “Throw them out, you goddamn psycho,” Dr. Redondo, my shrink would say. She was a Medicaid therapist, if that gives you an idea of the laxity with which she expressed herself about my life choices. Or lack thereof. She insisted, “You’re deliberately digging your heels in the sand to not move forward.”
“How can you say that? It’s not as though I try to seek out memories of him–they just fucking barrage me at every corner. I don’t have to try. We were together a long time.”
“Now you’re not. And a long time is ten, twenty years. I was with my ex-husband for fourteen years before he decided to tell me about the other family he had behind my back. I don’t feel sympathetic to your ‘sob’ story.”
“Then how do you do it? Are you still friends on social media?” I asked with a hopeful tone.
“I don’t fucking know. I’m not the type of loser to use social media regularly enough to pay attention.” She took a puff from her e-cig and exhaled. “I got a fucking life for fuck’s sake. Maybe you ought to get one too.”
Her counsel was not proving helpful, as this suggestion was what prompted me to volunteer at an animal shelter near my apartment called Sugar Mutts. I lost a dog. Like literally watched it die the way I watched our relationship do the same as it ran across the street to escape from my clutches. Just. Like. You. I didn’t tell the shelter what happened, and simply didn’t go back. I also stopped going to Dr. Redondo. She was a bitch. Tough love approaches only ever made me recoil. I needed to find someone a bit more pandering. Like the pigeon near the park bench I often sat on in Maria Hernandez.
The strange thing was, the day you slipped out of my favorites was nothing special or noteworthy–it wasn’t a demarcation of anything that pertained to us or our benchmarks. We had stopped talking months ago. Around the time you half-heartedly and one-wordedly wished me a happy birthday. And each day after that message was sent, I watched you creep slowly out of my favorites. Until, finally, at the end of the year, you were gone. And I had to scroll down to find you, to see some algorithmic form of you. Even the algorithm was a wraith now. And over enough passage of time, maybe even the presence of “the singularity” wouldn’t be smart enough to infer that we had ever known one another. No contact, no record.
It matters to Facebook that you’ve exited my favorites. Still, it hasn’t seemed to change anything for me.