When your ex will no longer speak to you, write things like: For you, lost lover I’ll write fiction. I’ll steal the objects from your room and the words from my coworkers’ mouths. Then try to find a way to tell him how you feel, even though you know he won’t ever read it, because he doesn’t like reading and even if he did, he doesn’t read you anymore.
Put him in your stories. Or if not him, his things. Steal the antique bedside table you two carried from his father’s house four months after his father died. Describe the table in all its intricate extinct wooden glory, black pine or Mexican mahogany or whatever it was. (You were never much good at history’s facts, only its broad stroked movements.) For dialogue, steal as promised the words you hear all day, especially during the moments when you can’t remember what exactly the two of you used to say to each other in the world you spun up like cotton candy, that insular practice of couples.
The daily words include: “slow cooker,” “weaksauce,” and “curling iron scabs.” Use these nouns and adjectives to try to explain how you felt in the months between when he called and when he stopped calling.
You always thought you were the one he was leaning on, but then he disappeared and you were left crooked.
Borrow syntax too, and write characters who say things like, "Dude you killed it. You fucking murdered it," and other sentences of casual violence that are supposed to be congratulatory, like the honking of car horns on game nights when we win, or the jets that fly too close overhead and scare children once a year, in celebration of you’re not sure what.
Try to explain “feelings,” even just the existence of them, with found words. Do this especially on days when it seems like someone sucked all the beauty out with a straw while you were sleeping. You know this isn’t objectively true, or forever true, but sometimes you have a toddler’s understanding of time. Or younger—no object permanency at all. But look, sometimes you’re right and the things promised to continue existing do not. So what is object permanency then?
On days when everyone you know walks around smiling and saying “I’m good, how are you?” pretending nothing has ever been lost, and the noises of just the normal city are too goddamn loud on your skin, try to find another way towards the life of emotions. If you can’t say precisely that you want to drive 2000 miles east to slap his cotton-covered, bony chest with your bare palms, then write down the voices of men who tell each other, “No. You're fucking money, dude. Money.”
Examine trees. Trees know how to grow towards the sun.
Invent a girl narrator if writing men is too much this month. Make her eat bags upon bags of the corn chips you used to eat together on weekends, when there wasn’t enough food in the house and you were too wasted on each other to go to the grocery store. You can’t be naked in the grocery store. You can’t have easy orgasms in the grocery store. It’s too bright, and too cold.
When words aren’t working, draw pictures. Landscapes. Cover them with glue and then sprinkle over them the leftover dark green glitter you bought for your Halloween costume, two months before you sent that final text message into the void that said: what the fuck David. (The “w” was lower case, a dead giveaway you’d been editing your message.) Roll the drying glue between your fingers into boogers of dried adhesive.
You won’t show anyone your “arts and crafts project,” as your sister calls it, or godforbid send it to him, that would be batshit crazy, so instead, tell your roommate that night about the glitter, and the way it spilled all over the floor of your room. Tell her in the pastel yellow kitchen, pastello you two called it, while you break off pieces of a dark chocolate bar from Trader Joe’s.
Your roommate shakes her head; she’s already brushed her teeth. She wears a long braid over her right shoulder in a way that exclaims: the person who loves me answers my calls. She has a voice made for radio; she never suffers a vocal fry. She’ll say, “Shit girl. That’s never coming out of the carpet.”
About the Author: Janet Frishberg lives in a light blue room in San Francisco, where she's currently working on her first book, a memoir. Most recently, she published this piece, which a lot of people read and shared. You can read more of her writing here.
Story Song: How Did I Get Here? by Odesza
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone