Breadcrumb #138


We are not in love.

    We are standing, two feet apart, and I keep saying the same thing over and over.

    I am in love with you.

    She keeps shaking her head, her hot pink hair swaying with each turn. No, you aren't, she is whispering. We are both crying and neither of us love the other and I wonder what exactly it is that we are mourning. 

    We have been in fake love for 2 years. Our fake love was at least not real hatred. Our fake love was comfortable. Our fake love was more than I expected from a relationship.

    We are standing in the hall of our apartment building. Her torn backpack is on her shoulders, her  black hoodie is hanging out from the unzipped opening. She has not zipped it, she never zips it, and this bothers me again as we stand here, and I deeply wish to fix it, but I wonder Who am I to fix someone I am not in love with?

    I don't say this. Instead, I say Maybe we can fix this and she is shaking her head again. 
I imagine the two of us together. I imagine us kissing, laughing, holding hands. We have said I love you one thousand times and not meant it once. We have picked furniture and watched one another sit on it like props. We have existed in one another's space and imagined what love might feel like.

    This is not what I expected, I say.

    She looks down at the ground. She has a gold nose piercing in the shape of a ribbon and she is wearing too much eyeliner. Her nails are expertly painted silver, but her jeans are ragged and ripped. I suddenly remember that when she is happy, she has a sleepy half-smile. I remember liking this about her when I first met her. I had witnessed that smile and I immediately imagined what it would be like to wake up beside her, to see that smile against the blue of my pillowcase. I imagined us listening to Sufjan Stevens and smoking weed. This was how I had fallen in love with her, this fake memory I had constructed.

I suddenly remember that when she is happy, she has a sleepy half-smile. I remember liking this about her when I first met her. I had witnessed that smile and I immediately imagined what it would be like to wake up beside her, to see that smile against the blue of my pillowcase.

    I later realized she loathed Sufjan Stevens and got paranoid when she smoked weed. She didn't like drugs. I did not fall in love with this version of her. I didn't fall out of love with my fantasy, either, and perhaps this was what went wrong. Perhaps my heart was already taken when I met her by somebody she never was.

    In the apartment hallway, people are passing, neighbors we never spoke to. I clear my throat.

    I want to love you, I say to her. I really do.

    She exhales loudly, runs a hand over her forehead. Her hair sticks up and I remember placing it back when we were first dating, before she told me that she hated when I did that. She looks at me, but it is hard to take her seriously with her hair propped up from her head.

    The problem is you want everything, she says. And none of it works.

  I am unsure what she means by this. Before I can ask, she says she has to go and walks past me, her shoulder brushing against mine. I stare after her and watch her steal the life I had created, the life we were meant to live. I watch her steal our cute date at Ikea, our MDMA roll at Electric Zoo festival. I watch her steal our Pitbull mix, our shared closet. I watch her rob me of the girl I had fallen in love with and never had.

    We are not in love. 

• • •


Breadcrumb #106


It’s Comic Con for Christ’s sake! I should be ecstatic. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time. That’s what I keep telling myself as I walk up 5th Avenue in San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter among the crowd of colorfully costumed geeks. The last panel just finished, so everyone’s hitting the bars and restaurants for a fun-filled night. Each place I pass is packed with superheroes, aliens, and other iconic characters, many I recognize, others I don’t. This would be the perfect environment for Han Solo, who I’m dressed as in his iconic black vest, white shirt, and navy pants. But despite the fact that Solo means “alone” in Spanish, he never rolls by himself. That’s why Iris was going to be Princess Leia. I bet she returned her costume by now.

     She could have at least waited to break up after Comic Con! She knew how badly I wanted this. Well, fuck it! I’m determined to have a good time without her, damn it. Now where am I going to eat? A Darth Vader standing outside an Irish pub salutes me with his lightsaber as I pass by. I stop and nod. This place looks like a typical bar, with walls lined with TVs showing the Padres game and dim lights.

     The hostess grabs a menu before I even decide whether I want to eat here. “Bar or table?”

     I take a look inside. Scores of folks sit at the bar shouting above the obnoxious music and drinking beer from pitchers fit for giants. The tables are a bit quieter.

     “Table, please.”

     She sits me at a booth near the back next to the restrooms and leaves me my menu. The moment I sit down, I immediately feel out of place. Looking around makes me acutely aware of how empty I feel inside. How alone I am. Groups of superheroes and villains laugh and talk about the day. In my head, I see them all turning around and laughing at me. All alone at a comic-book convention? Pathetic.

Looking around makes me acutely aware of how empty I feel inside. How alone I am.

     So I dash out before my waiter comes. On my way up the street, a group dressed as Star Wars characters asks to take a picture with me. I’m especially impressed by the spot-on Boba Fett costume. Standing by their Princess Leia and smiling, I let a depressing thought creep in: This could have been Iris next to me. The camera flashes. Hopes of possibly joining the group immediately crumble when Luke Skywalker quickly thanks me, and they head off together.

     I decide to take a high stool outside a Mexican restaurant one block down to look at all the nice costumes. But as I sit there, drinking some mixed drink, I realize I’m the spectacle, not them. What a loser. That’s probably why Iris broke up with me. In fact, I’m sure of it. She didn’t give much of an explanation before she packed her bags, leaving me to reach my own conclusion.

     But I didn’t come here to ruminate on all that! To help get my mind off the breakup, I pull out a few of the limited-edition comics I just bought. Careful not to spill my drink on them, I read each one with glee. This is why I came here: to be soaked in nerd culture. This is my world, and I should be loving every second of it. The waiter comes, and I order fish tacos and another mixed drink that sounds good. The warmth from the alcohol relaxes me. I continue ordering drinks as I read through the comics. When people stop to take a photo of me, I give Han’s signature sheepish grin, which I’ve been practicing for weeks. I’m in heaven.

     Once I flip through the last comic, I slip it back into its sleeve and pay the bill. When I stand, it dawns on me just how much I drank. Thankfully, my hotel is just a few blocks down, so, as if in character, I wobble my way back to my room. Sinking into the king-size bed, I begin to drown in the sorrow I’ve been ignoring. It was there all along, pooled beneath the vodka and cilantro. I am not OK. But today, I’m a little less not OK than yesterday. Right now, that’s all I can ask for.

• • •

Breadcrumb #65


When Andrew broke up with his girlfriend, she pulled her knees to her chin and let out a deep, animalistic moan, a noise more genuine than anything he had heard in their three years of regular and then semiregular intercourse. There was potential humor in this, Andrew thought, and he might have made a joke about it had there not been such an indistinguishable line between the drool and the tears coming out of his ex's face and had they been situated somewhere less confined and lower to the ground, rather than a 60-person airplane that was charging like a bull across the Rocky Mountains.

     "How long have you felt this way?" she demanded in between raspy gulps of air.

     Andrew shook his head. He could not give her the answer she wanted. He could not provide an exact length of time, although he could give her a vivid description of how sour her breath was in the morning, or the alarmingly high pitch of her cackle when in the company of strangers, or her consistent misuse of the word "literally."

     "I don't know. I'm sorry," he said finally. He handed her his cocktail napkin and, upon catching the eye of the stewardess, gestured to the pile of soggy napkins overflowing onto both trays. The stewardess understood immediately and came over to replace the soggy napkins with fresh ones, displaying a smile that was so appropriately empathetic it made Andrew uncomfortable.

     "This isn't happening. I don't believe it. I thought you loved me." She said “love” like it was a kitten she was dangling a knife over. They were both very sunburnt: her more on her upper arms and chest, him on the backs of his legs and face.

     “I did love you. I still do.” He meant it too, because love was a tricky concept, something that usually sounds much more promising than it really was. If Andrew’s ex meant the inevitable affection that builds from waking up to the same person’s face for hundreds of consecutive mornings, from having passionate conversations with that person’s mother about the price of bagels, and from memorizing every groove and contour and sprouting pubic hair of that person’s vagina, then of course Andrew loved her. However, if she was referring to willpower, the want to move forward hand in hand into the daunting universe, a universe where other vaginas with different patterns of folds and flaps floated nearby freely yet unattainably, then Andrew did not love her.

He meant it too, because love was a tricky concept, something that usually sounds much more promising than it really was.

     “It’s someone else isn’t it? That new office assistant. You’ve told me like 10 times about how you guys have the same taste in movies.”

     “There isn’t anyone else.” This was true, although Andrew had been secretly and truly thrilled about his identical movie taste with the new office assistant, that and her nose freckles and unruly dark brown hair. At office karaoke nights, they often sang Fleetwood Mac duets, and Andrew felt that sometimes they were singing beyond their respective roles.

     “So then what? What is it?”

     They were on their way back from a week of camping in Grand Teton National Park, a collaborative gift from his ex’s group of friends for her 26th birthday. When his ex had begged them to let her bring Andrew, they had rolled their eyes collectively and said fine, under the condition that he didn’t act weird and that they brought their boyfriends too. Andrew did act weird, at least according to Briana and Chelsea’s standards, and after six cans of chipotle chilli and an unsettling, irritating rash on his inner thigh, he had made his decision.

     “I don’t know what it is. I wish I did. I’m so sorry.”

     “Trust me, Andrew, no one is sorrier than me.” As she moaned and blew her nose into an already damp napkin, Andrew silently agreed.

     The plane descended gracefully and when it hit the runway, everyone applauded with the exception of two passengers. Andrew carried both duffel bags, as if that could make it better, and on the way out, the same stewardess said “have a pleasant stay in New York” in such a way that made his stomach turn.

     Andrew took the subway home from JFK airport, closing his eyes as families, breakdancers, and homeless people alike loudly cursed the presence of his large purple duffel bag. His ex had insisted and then begged for them to share a cab — they lived only eight blocks apart — but by then his mind had shut down completely and he didn’t want her, or the cab driver, to see that. He had opened the cab door for her, lifted her bag into the space beside her, and placed 20 dollars into her reluctant palm. The disappointment in the driver’s eyes shone like street lamps.

• • •