She calls because she has your DVDs. Do you need the DVDs that badly? How much will it hurt to see her face? Which DVDs are they? She names them. They’re pretty good DVDs, DVDs your new girlfriend would like to watch, probably. She knows about your new girlfriend. In the email she specifically wrote “I don’t want to upset Elise but…” and then asked if you could hang out with her again, just one last time, before she moves to the northeast. She’s going to graduate school. She’s going on to better things. You respond to her in a text message that you can see her one last time but it should be in a “very open location.” Some examples of a very open location: a maintained field, a park in the daytime, a basketball court. After two more text messages she suggests the park by her house and you tell her you’ll be there in ten minutes.
You get there in sixteen minutes and she isn’t there. You remember how she was always late. You do not miss this about her. You compare this to your new girlfriend, who is never late to anything. She is so on time she’s usually early. You stand around, looking at the trees without really seeing them. You think of your new girlfriend, who is still at her job, not knowing you are looking at this tree, about to see your last girlfriend. You’ll either explain it to her or never say anything. When she asks where the DVDs came from tell her you found them, in this park, just lying there, on the ground–Amazing!
See the last girlfriend cross the street, grow larger in your vision as she nears you. She is wearing a tank top you think maybe she put on just for you. You can’t help but look at her body. You compare her body with your new girlfriend’s body. You decide the bodies are different but both good. A truck passes. She hands the bag of DVDs over to you. The DVDs are in a white Target bag. You remember going to Target with her once, getting into a fight in the towel aisle. She called you an asshole just as an employee came by and asked if they could help you. She looked at the employee and said, Are you single? The employee was male. He told her he was married and walked away.
You look in the bag, make sure they are all there. They are all there. Say Thank you, I appreciate this, but say it the way you would to a person bagging your groceries, or a person who has just given you directions to a dog park. Hold the bag at your side.
She looks at the ground, asks if you are happy. You say you are happy then realize you haven’t considered this question in a long, long time. She says good and that she’s happy too. You can hear in her voice, the tone, that she is not happy. She is scared to move away, to attend school in the northeast. You know her. You know when she is scared. Like how a dog knows when people are scared–you believe you smell this on her. She asks about your dog and you says she’s alive. She laughs. She says she’ll miss it here. She looks around as she says this, as if “here” were only this general area–the small park, the square patch of grass, this street.
Tell her you have to leave. Tell her you have something important to do. She looks at you. You can see the layer of water on her eyes, forcing itself into a tight tear, which pushes southwards toward her mouth.
“It’s OK,” you say. Tell her she’s going to be so happy. Include details from the school’s website (you went to the website the day she posted on her Facebook that she had been accepted). Talk about the old buildings, the value of earning a PhD, talk about cobblestones on the roads.
She looks at you, still crying. Start to cry. Try not to but realize that you cannot not cry. When she comes close to you hold her, press her toward you but not too hard. She grabs your back and presses hard with her hands. Tell her again how happy she will be.
Let go of her, but when she doesn’t let go of you place your hands on her back again. Move them a little, up and then down.
Wonder how your new girlfriend would feel if she drove up in her car and saw this action. Quickly think of something to say to make this seem normal to your new girlfriend.
When you move apart tell her goodbye but that it is not forever. You don’t know if this is forever but tell her it is not because she is crying, and when she cries you will say anything to get her to stop crying. You know this about yourself and it is something you should work on.
Wave one last time as you walk down the street. Do not turn around. You do turn around even though you told yourself you would not. See her standing there, in the tank top you decide she wore for you (you always liked that tank top) and “swallow” your crying.
Remember, as you walk away, how many times you walked on this exact street, during the time you were together. Be amazed/saddened by the (seeming) randomness of a life. Watch your feet walking you home.
In the apartment you share with your new girlfriend, make pasta and salad. Set the table. Light blue candles. Hold your breath.
That night, in bed, do not think of your last girlfriend after your new girlfriend falls asleep. Do not look at the ceiling and wonder why things didn’t work out with the last girlfriend. Be happy for the things you have now. Turn your head slightly to the right and look at your new girlfriend. Think: Here is an example of something I have now. Think of the DVDs. Be happy. Don’t not be happy.
Pete Zuppardo lives in Atlanta, Georgia.