This Is What I Do When You’re Gone


I don’t eat pizza anymore. I can’t. It’s like my stomach shrank three sizes. I sip water and sometimes coffee and sometimes tea. I take two bites at dinner and throw it away. It hurts when I swallow pieces of things; I can feel chicken and chili and salad and crackers slicing my esophagus on the way down. Then ripping through my heart. Then puncturing my lower intestines. I ended up with breakfast on my skirt the other day when I refused to stop chewing. It hurt.

I walk everywhere. I won’t take the subway. I don’t want to remember singing you the songs I’d make up, or you telling me jokes. “I swear, Lorne Michaels always rides the C train and steals all of our ideas,” you said once. I don’t care. He can have them. They aren’t our jokes anymore.

I don’t go to plays, or walk through Times Square. When I get work emails about any actor, film or stage, I hit delete, delete, delete. The little videos in the backs of yellow cabs about musicals and Broadway shows make me sick to my stomach, even with the volume off. Instead, I read.

I talk to men and girls at bars now. Bars I’ve never been to before. The men are so hopeful, like the first day of grade school. The girls all speak Russian and look like Ke$ha. They tell me stories about visiting Morocco. I drink for free. I eat for free sometimes, too, when I can. I talk to dogs on the street. I sing them new songs, songs you haven’t heard.

I listen to the Rolling Stones in my bedroom when I’m getting ready for work. If I wasn’t scared of needles, I’d get the lyrics to “Stealing My Heart” tattooed somewhere I could always see them. I thought you were dinner, but you were the shark. How did Mick Jagger know? I certainly didn’t.

I threw away all of our pictures. The ones where we were dressed up like Beetlejuice and making weird faces. The ones from the pier in Williamsburg. The ones from the Empire State Building. I threw away the program from your play that had your name next to her name. I Googled her. I guess she’s pretty. I can see why you liked her, all her sharp angles and edges. Her voice sounds like sparrows, and her hair is really long. I couldn’t give you what she gave you. I’m a funny girl, not a sexy girl, and she is. You should know. You told me so.

I washed all of your clothes. I folded them nicely and put them away. You probably don’t miss them. All of your stupid black socks and your superhero underwear. I hated that green crewneck, but I couldn’t throw it out.

I take showers at 2am now. I sit outside the bar below my apartment on the windowsill when I can’t sleep and talk to the bouncers. Lenny thinks I’ll be okay. Mark isn’t sure. He told me he fell in love with a girl named Lydia when he was in the 4th grade, and he’s been looking for her in every woman he’s met ever since.

I don’t wear pajamas to bed anymore. I fall asleep in whatever I’m wearing: a skirt and a button up, a bathrobe, some socks. Usually my underwear if it’s too hot to sleep. I don’t take my make up off. I don’t really put it on, either. I think I’m fine without it. When I fall asleep with red lipstick on, I wake up covered in the stuff. Sometimes I look like Angelina Jolie. Sometimes I look like the Joker. It varies.

I bought all new dresses. I got a tan, cut my hair, got a manicure. I don’t want you to know me if you see me on the street. Not that you would. I’ve found new places to go, new people to hang out with. You’d never, ever find me, even if you looked. Manhattan is small, but just big enough to hide in. I don’t want to see you either, walking down 8th Avenue holding her hand. It was bad enough that I had to pay twenty bucks for a second-row seat to watch you make out with her for two hours. I don’t know what I’d do if I saw you both in the wild. Maybe I’d throw my Ice Blended Mocha on her dress, or maybe I’d hide behind a telephone pole. I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

I go to restaurants alone. I sit on the steps at Grand Central and look up at the ceiling, the only place in New York where you can see stars. I read books in the backs of taxis. I listen to all the music you thought was stupid, and I watch movies you’ve never seen before. I get to work early instead of on time. I grab drinks with the girls. I collect numbers from the guys in my wallet. I carry my laundry basket up three flights of stairs without anyone’s help. I write when I can’t sleep. I get a washcloth for my eyes when I’m crying. I buy flowers and poetry books for myself. Sometimes, I buy myself jewelry.

I go out of town, sometimes for the whole weekend. I drive until I can’t see the city anymore. I buy plane tickets to warmer towns with nicer beaches. I travel places that need passports, places where people speak French and don’t ask for my ID at the bar. I lose myself on side streets and show up as late as I want. I work late. I sleep in. I make plans. I forget how to tiptoe. Where others step cautiously, I jump, I dance, I fall, I fall, I fall.

I don’t talk about you much. Unless I’ve had whiskey. Or unless someone’s asking.