Wednesday, February 10, 2010

NUMBERLESS HITCH LIST ITEM: Emotional Detox, or, Semi-Illegally Squatting in an Ex's Apartment (with a non-stalker purpose)

I'm squatting in an ex-lover's apartment.

Okay, well, not entirely. According to the unquestionably reliable pillar of knowledge that is Wikipedia, "squatting" is classically defined as "occupying an abandoned or unoccupied space or building, usually residential, that the squatter does not own, rent or otherwise have permission to use."

The whatever-he-was knows I have his keys, because he gave them to me. And, before our tenuous pseudo-romance pseudo-ended with all the flaccid fanfare of a cigarette sizzling out in a rain storm, he asked me if I'd mind picking up his mail while he was away on a trip I was not invited along on. (An exclusion that led to the conversation which finally revealed, to me at least, the Munchian portrait of how much he was "just not that into me." Hence the weird psuedo-ending.) So he knows I'm around his unoccupied residential space that I do not own, rent, but otherwise have semi-permission to use. 

What he does not know, entirely, is that I brought a suitcase, three different pairs of black suede boots of varying styles and heel size, a blow-dryer, a flat-iron and my laptop, and have set up for an all out affection-detox scheduled to last from this very moment until the day before he returns, whereupon I will slink back to Brooklyn with, ideally, some sort of immunity to him--a resistance to the pieces of him that have, somehow, taken root in the usually un-farmable topsoil that is my emotional commitment to anyone. I figure that if I cannot exorcise the demon of feelings after several days of living among the items of a life he has, almost expertly, built to exclude anyone like me, then the matter is out of my hands and I can go cry to old Joy Division albums without shame. 

I'm fully aware that this sounds insane.

Walk with me a moment, will you?

First, lets make this clear: this is not an obsessive camp-out. He is a good man, a post-Alex rebound I knew better than to catch feelings for. I was a rebound he had no intention of ever feeling anything for. And so I am not wandering his halls swathed in a burka constructed from used bed sheets while tearily keening to Vic Chesnutt records. I have no delusions that he will suddenly burst through the door, drop his suitcase on to the floor with a careless clatter and scoop my pixyish form into his arms, pressing my tiny head to his chest while confessing the time apart has made him realize all we could be. His journal, left in plain sight, remains and WILL remain untouched. I've even started to return things he's given me over the length of our purgatorial courtship--the skully I borrowed during an icy, mid-December meet-up; the vintage men's nightshirt he gave me because it made me feel like I was on Mad Men; the palm-sized copy of a book of microfiction passed along with a "you have to read this"--to their original homes. In his actual home. 

The thing is, when it comes to the end of affairs, I have chosen the "Out of Sight, Out of Mind" method of healing hurt (with a little sprinting from my emotions tossed in for good measure) for about...oh, 26 years. OSOM is easy, familiar, methodic: box up all photos, ticket stubs, items left behind, gifts given, etc., and discard or hide them. Pull all bands/songs shared as a pair from the iTunes playlist. Carefully remove "we, he, us" and their formal name from the daily vocabulary. And then, as stoically as possible, move forward (punctuating the journey with occasional emotional meltdowns, complete with  Nancy Kerrigan-style wails of "WHYYY," that are usually triggered by the door closing on a now tomb-like bedroom). 

But this tactic obviously doesn't work for me. Seven years after the first major split of my life, I still can't listen past the first chord of Des'Ree's "Kissing You" without exploding into snot and tears like a cheap tissue. I obsess. I dissect. I blame myself for everything while running as far in the opposite direction of my own bloodstains as possible. And, once the over-analysis and self-flagellating passes, I find myself thinking about the death-blow and executioner constantly, like some ghost haunting her own tomb, seeing only the specter of the fantasy "us" and not the reality of the situation. Burying my head in the sand burns the imprint of loss inside my skull. 

So, a new tactic; an experiment of emotional kinetics. Staying still, rather than running. And attempting those fledging steps of detachment while surrounding myself with things I've become attached to.   

Toilet paper. Shampoo. His coffee. That couch. I'm injecting these little pieces of infection into my body purposely, until my emotional defenses are armed effectively enough to exorcise them. Call it practical applications of vaccination theology.

I cannot run from feelings anymore. So I'm just going to sit here with them until they run from him...until the fever breaks and I go numb.

Also, his place is 3 subway stops from my office, one block from Whole Foods, has heat and there's a motherfucking blizzard outside. If faced with the same option, I hope he'd make the same decision.

I am a mad, mad, mad, mad scientist. With keys. 


Hannah Miet said...

You're brave and weird and genius all at once for conducting such an experiment.

Also, my hero. That too.

I think I'm tired of running from emotions, even when I flee from affairs. I can't say I've had the opportunity to squat in the midst of emotional stigma, but maybe there is some metaphoric translation I can put into use...

I don't know. Whenever you pop up in my Google Reader my heart goes all aflutter as if you just flew in my window to bake me cookies or sent me a bottle of whiskey via (an absurdly strong) carrier pigeon. I always enjoy your insight into things...especially yourself. You seem to have an almost objective perspective on your emotions, without being detached from them.

I know you will keep writing, so I won't say "keep writing." I will just say, I hope you become as insanely successful as you deserve to be.


Apryl said...

I do the same as you. With various "Ex boyfriend boxes" littering my closets and bins in my basement. I diesct and repress and become callous and cynical and blah blah.

I think what you are doing sounds wonderfully cathartic.

Polly Syllabick said...

Miet: such a comment from you, whose writing makes me clench my fists in frustration at my own lack of fearless wordplay and candor before it inevitably dissolves into the symptoms of an immense talent crush, is like winning a Goddamned Pulitzer.

Of course, I hope we both eventually win the Pulitzer. And drink a lot of brown liquor to celebrate.

At some point, we'll have to stop being pussies and posting masturbatory blog fan comments and get smashed together. But that's a comment for another time.

In the meantime, just: thank you.

Polly Syllabick said...

Also, for the TWO of you out there who don't know Hannah's writing, get on it. She's on my blog roll, and here if you're REALLY lazy:

Ariel.... Like the Mermaid said...

Really well done. So much so, that I may actually follow through quite soon on my promise to forever change "kissing you" in your mind by doing my impression of Des Ree singing it after many G&T's at a gay kareoke night.

I KNOW- buit it really was that fantastic a blog piece. And that's how I roll.

Abi Grace said...

It will be interesting to see how this works out.

My current relational detox method is give myself a week to mourn complete with long analytical discussions with my mother about my failings and usually a call to my favorite ex-boyfriend who confirms for me that the gentleman in question is obviously not right for me/a looser/a small child in an adults body, and then I throw a single party reminding myself of all the joy that comes from not having to deal with someone elses neurosis. Thus far it has cut mourning time down significantly.

However, there is atleast a small chance that I am completely heartless.

Ninja in a Mazda said...

While I can't say I am anywhere close to your journey (emotionally or geographically), I can say you take me there.

There are alot of blogs that talk about boyfriends and relationships and blah blah blah, but yours is one of the only ones that I read completely.

The raw emotion and looks inside combined with sharp description and commentary keeps a sincere tone without sounding whiny. Whiny is about as enjoyable to read as commercials for cheesy valentine's day gifts are to listen to. Gimme a break with the pajamagrams already, it is the worst gift ever.


Chef Green said...

This is fabulous! Only a brazen New York vixen would think of something like this. Squatting and emotional vaccination=very chic.

bradlanders said...

This is my favorite blog you've posted yet. Your wordplay makes me giddy candor---well, you know what your candor does to me ;). I think this kind of experiment should be documented on a larger scale, we need samples from the country and globe.

Hipstercrite said...

"And so I am not wandering his halls swathed in a burka constructed from used bed sheets while tearily keening to Vic Chesnutt records."

Yes you are. You so know you are!

I really think you should read the diary.
Do it!

Elle said...

Hmm, this is an interesting concept. It makes me think of vaccines. How do we protect ourselves from diseases? We inject our bodies with minute portions of that same disease and allow our immune systems to work it out. It's sort of...brilliant.

I guess two things would worry me, though. 1) Just as a vaccine helps protect and prevent diseases, it doesn't necessarily make us immune. 2) What if pseudo-ex lover comes home early and you're still there?

Keep us updated on what happens after these ten days! I'm dying to hear more! Oh, and you're a brilliant writer!

Magpie said...

You definitely are.

And I would definitely do the same!