Since my breakup, I have been going to the gym every day. I added an extra day to my workout week and made my routine more intense. If I stop for a moment, this obsessive lifting seems childish and potentially dangerous, but nothing beats the endorphin kick from working up a sweat.
I tell myself that if I don’t look good, I won’t catch the eyes of strangers, strangers who might be debating whether or not they want to walk through the crowd and talk to me.
I still remember what he said. There was a small crowd of people around me. They all wanted to talk to me because I was president of the LGBT student club. The meeting was over, and people were coming up to me to ask questions and chat. He was behind them, waiting until they were finished. When he got to me, I said hello, and he asked if there were any Cokes in the refrigerator.
Honestly, I didn’t understand the question. I didn’t know we had a refrigerator. Then I remembered there was a kitchenette near the entrance. After three years of leading this meeting, I had never looked in the kitchen.
“I don’t know. You can look.”
He nodded and left.
I would love that man someday. A year later, I would buy a ring from Amazon and plan my proposal, which never happened. I’m writing this post in Florida. My family is on vacation. I keep wandering away to walk on the beach alone. Teenagers and straight couples walk past me and I wonder if they can see I’m crying. I must look ridiculous.
He would never do something as dramatic as this. Walking on the beach and crying is like a movie, a sad montage of a broken heart. The music swells, then the next scene is the resolution. The two people meet in a cafe, or outside in the rain, and realize they love each other, and one of them asks if they can have a second chance. They kiss. The movie ends.
The way Jose views the world is so different than how I do. I see portents and problems in everything. He simply sees the world just as it is, and it gives him joy. I wish I could be more like that. I would listen to him talk about TV shows or people he thought were interesting. They were not complex problems to be tackled or injustices to be righted. They were simply stories and people, things worth loving, things worth being excited about.
There are dozens of articles online about how to handle a breakup. Many of them list what to do or what not to do with cute illustrations. These always seem so reductive because I do not believe such a personal thing can be reduced to a list of dos and don’ts. The only way I heal is to write about things — how they happened, how I got through them, and what I hope to learn from them.
I recently read a book, Gratitude by Oliver Sacks, which was published posthumously. Gratitude is composed of four essays that Sacks wrote during the final few years of his life. The fourth and final essay, “Sabbath,” was written two weeks before the author’s death.
It was a death he saw coming and, as a medical writer, one he faced with the tools he knew — writing, essaying, and the ability to look at his own life as if under a microscope. He studied the parts of it and learned how to craft his last days into something important and beautiful — a final send-off from a man who was skilled with words and respected the power of stories. As an 81-year-old who would not live to see 82, Sacks writes: “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.”
That’s what I want. I want that intercourse with the world. I want to love and be loved. And that is what I’m thinking about on these long walks down the beach. I can’t say how much longer I’ll be depressed like this, but I’m grateful that my relationship with Jose happened. I am blessed to say that he was in my life, blessed to have ever called him my boyfriend, and I want to be thankful for that. I didn’t see that relationship coming, and I know I probably won’t see the next one coming. Miracles like that — meeting people unexpectedly who change your life — happen every day.
That’s why I’m hitting the gym so hard. It’s sad and ridiculous, but this is where I am. I am seeking love, or at least validation, and hoping it’s enough. I want someone else to notice me from across the room.