He’s Learning to Love

I emerge from the upstairs bedroom I once stayed in with you sobbing. I could little control what was coming over me, ill-prepared for what my mind (the interior) would do to my body (the exterior) upon returning to one of several scenes of the crime that was our relationship. You would say that only weak people can’t control their emotions, that you’d learned to master yours long ago, and that’s what made you superior to most. It’s the first time I’ve been back to that room since you came here to my parents’ house with me. Since I showed myself to be more than just a simulacrum of a person. Parading a relationship of any kind to my family was–is–simply not in my character. That I made an exception for you proved to be a grave error in judgment, concrete evidence that to trust another person with the metaphorical significance of your heart is like knowingly entering a Ponzi scheme.

And I entered it with such conviction, taking you at your word when you told me how much you loved me and that it would never waver. But it did, didn’t it? Somewhere along the line, something about me no longer held enough allure for you–as though all the qualities you once found endearing about me suddenly turned loathsome. And yet still, as much as I hate you for abandoning me, I would give anything for you to be in love with me the way you were in that era when we visited my parents.

Descending the stairs, I try to wipe my tears so my mother doesn’t see. I don’t think I’ve cried in front of her since Dawson’s Creek was on the WB. But she does see. Often, I don’t give her enough credit for her perceptiveness.

“Amelia, what’s wrong?”

I let the indecipherable sounds of sadness flow freely out of my mouth and she instantly intuits that you’re the reason why.

“Did the room trigger something?”

I nod, unable to form words, hating myself for being this perpetually affected by you. You, who I should expel from all of my thoughts in order to go on, to function in a way that isn’t just half-alive. I know that the more I cling to your memory–the memory of how it was between us at its pinnacle–the harder I make everything for myself. But everywhere I turn, there you are.

My mother, the psychoanalyst, moves my things to another room so I won’t be “triggered” again. She says it will be a better visit for me during the next three days that I’m here if I try to develop new associations with the house.

Later that day, because we are in suburbia and watching TV or going to a strip mall is the primary roster of activities available, I choose a movie on Netflix to wile the hours away with my mother. In it, one of the female characters calls a friend up on the phone to tell her that her boyfriend has dumped her in spite of their two-year engagement. She wails, “I thought I was done having to look.”

When my father comes home that night from his thankless job as an insurance agent, he rolls his eyes when my mother tells him why she’s transferred me to a different room. The eye roll stems in part from his inability to understand how someone could be so sensitive and in part from the contempt he has for you for making me feel this way. He knew you would abscond before anyone, I’m sure. It’s an innate gift a father has about his daughter’s boyfriend. Ex-boyfriend.

The dog my mother has had for the past five years is a cocker spaniel named Samuel. Samuel the spaniel. And correspondingly elegant. He trots into the kitchen to jump up toward the counter in the hope of getting a taste of whatever’s on it. As a result of my mother’s profession, Samuel has transmuted into an animal far more neurotic than any human being. For instance, he can’t “eliminate” without my mother standing at the door of our backyard and repeating the cue, “I’ll wait for you.” It’s sort of romantic.

He has also never been accustomed to anything other than a controlled amount of affection, and never is he permitted on any furniture–least of all the bed. But when you and I were here last fall, we would always invite him into our temporary den of slumber. Perched on the bed and wagging his tail, he would cautiously lick your face, and you would smile, mocking his skittishness by saying, “Aw, he’s learning to love.” Now if I only I could learn to do the same again.

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