It’s weird. Breaking up after building three years of a life together. A beautiful break up. Goodbyes traded at the Oakland airport, through tears, arms wrapped around each other, already missing who we were together before choking out, I’m going to miss you. The weirdest part about breaking up is that our things, our limbs, our many different parts also had to break up with their counterparts. Like our online accounts and synced devices learning to be just one again, instead of half a whole. Or our television shows and playlists turning half-blind, half-deaf, unable to see and hear the world in full. To be truly and inseparably separated.
Which is to say that I think my toothbrush misses yours, the way they sway in, shyly facing each other, standing in a shallow pond of endings and beginnings—sweet saliva droplets, collecting at the bottom. The way they kiss after we went to sleep for the night, wet bristles and all. Or to say that I miss your mouth.
Or that my phone misses yours, their secret digital tangles when we powered down in each other’s presence, forgetting about the rest of the world for a while. The other’s existence, the only thing that mattered as everything else fell away. That we existed together in those very same, precise moments. Which is to say that I miss your voice.
Or that my dirty laundry misses yours, immensely in the perfect fitting together, of being discarded, waiting in a darkness that seemed infinite, only to be cleaned again. Over and over no matter how dirty, how stained, how foul. Like being forgiven, or baptized to begin brand new again. How exponentially better to start each journey together, every single time. To be worn down, cleaned, and folded gently into the arms of two people living a life and love together. To say, I miss folding into you.
Or that my left ear misses your right collarbone, eavesdropping on the faint thump thump thump of your fast-beating heart that doctors diagnose as high blood pressure, but I dream, a subtle side-effect of being intoxicated by our proximity to each other. Nestling into the night till we switch sides, the tender ache from spooning our hidden crevices into being known, unwilling to let distance in. Sleeping through the pain to stack into each other like soft sighs, legs and all. I miss your beat.
Or that my voice misses your name, or nicknames. I could never pronounce your actual name. And my name misses your voice. The calling for each other, for reasons of no understanding, just cause.
But what I really mean to say is that I miss being with him.
When people learn of our break up, the first thing they say is why, their large eyes filled with utter disbelief because to them and the rest of the world, we were perfect together. The why, never a question but a statement of rejection. I know it comes from a place of care and concern, but every time that awkward-lettered-question crawls out of their mouths, I can’t help but feel like throwing the interrogation back at them—why are you asking me why? It’s rude. The why is private and intimate and painful and beautiful and sad and always tapping at the back of my heart, reminding me that it hangs there between me and the rest of the world. And it’s ours. Mine. That why is mine and it’s all I have to make sense of this feeling, like why my body keeps turning towards a phantom limb, the shadow of an absence from someone who use to fit the real and loved whole. Because it’s sad, this missing, and it’s moving on, and I’m not sure how to keep it from moving on. Not me or him from moving on, but it. The indescribable and complex it we shared in our three years of a life together.
It’s weird. To quantify that we were together for three years. Saying that we were together feels small, like the relationship we built won’t matter in the long spin of the universe. What’s three years compared to fifty years, to light-years? I’m not quite ready for the past us to feel that insignificant. It’s weird, and what I mean to say is that those three years feel like the closest thing to a lifetime I can look back on. We weren’t together for three years. We shared one life together across three years. We inhabited a life through each other, reconfigured ourselves to the glows and gaps of the other person—to live inside your laughter, to curl around your uncertainties, to find and see you when you are not you and when you are the most, impossibly, you.
At almost three weeks after we broke up, he finally changed his profile picture and cover photo on Facebook, both of which were close to perfect photographed moments of us. I have been waiting for this day since before we said goodbye. I wondered how I would react or what I would feel. And when it happened today, I was mostly surprised. Surprised that it happened today, that it took this long, that it happened too soon, that he picked those two photos to replace us. They are beautiful replacements. Still, I am surprised. That this is real, and that once replacements happen on Facebook, it is official. There is no going back from it moving on. I am surprised that I feel okay, like how I keep telling my friends that I am surprised by how not devastated I am without him because I thought I would be, and that I really, for the most part, do not feel devastated as the days move past me. Just that my things, my limbs, my many parts miss him.
It’s weird. How crying sneaks up on me hours later, and sits with me as if holding my hands, letting me know that sad moments like these will move through me in every reminder of the life I lived with him, a phantom love that tingles into shape from time to time.
But what I really mean to say is that I’m not exactly sure how I am doing, if I’m taking the break up well or if I’m a half-weird-half-untethered limb moving through the motions until something stupid and irrelevant, like unsticking fresh-baked peanut butter cookies off the foil in an empty kitchen, triggers a crying that trembles, and trembles. And all I can do in these moments is to just continue unsticking those stupid cookies, and wonder if his taste misses mine.
About the Author:
Connie Ni Chiu currently lives in Los Angeles, having just uprooted her life in New York City, where she worked at the intersection of education and juvenile justice. Through words, poetics, and conversations, she continues seeking out spaces to engage social justice and structural inequity. Her hobbies include second-hand bookstores, public transportation, and (dis)entangled intersections.