My father emailed me earlier today. He always forwards us (his children) emails from what I imagine to be his really old, really white, really conservative friends. Given their content, those descriptions are entirely accurate.
The message simply read: “There was a time before today.” I scrolled down, expecting to see some old pictures. I simply saw their descriptions, and small boxes where the images must have been. I laughed. And then I thought about those words.
There was a time before today.
He was simply forwarding an email–not even a particularly funny one (the “new element discovered!” subject line followed by a caricature of Nancy Pelosi, and a detailed definition of “Pelosium” may take the cake)– but my father’s words struck a chord.
There was a time before today. There was last weekend, when my boyfriend visited. Stewart’s flight was delayed and delayed and then he lost his seat altogether. He finally arrived in Charleston at 8:30 PM on Saturday night. He left at 6:30 AM on Monday morning. We spent approximately one day celebrating our fourth Valentine’s weekend together. And then we broke up.
There was a time before today. There were lots of times, and I remember them all. I don’t know if Stewart liked my memory, or if he just found it really annoying. I could correct him, the next day, after any drunken fight (that I usually started): “No, no, this is what happened. I remember.” I would remind him of his doctor’s appointments. Call to wake him up for his early class. Recount “our stories” for strangers, because if any existed, they lived forever in my mind.
I could wax poetic about our three years together. They were fucking great, if you really wanted to add and subtract and figure out the math of love and life. As far as boyfriends go, Stewart was wonderful. And for the most part, we were wonderful to each other. I could get too jealous and he could forget too many things. But we loved each other. We were friends. We were, as time went on, each other’s saviors.
There was a time before today. In college, our want for each other turned into a need. And why not? College, for all y’all pretending it’s the fuckin tits, can be really hard. Sitting here now, in what I consider to be relative poverty (no, seriously, what am I eating for dinner?), college seems great. But I know that I hurt then, just as I hurt now. You don’t stop being a human just because you go to more theme parties than the average person. Stewart and I created something that worked for us. We spent most of our college years in each other’s arms. We still had fun–up until our final fourth year nights we took turns comforting our extremely drunk partner–we just had most of it with each other.
So, yeah, I’m sitting here, hungry, and lonely. I know that the loneliness isn’t new. It’s kinda part of my personality, part of my tendency towards solitude, and my eventual, unanswered cry for companionship. There’s no “why” to explain our breakup. It was organic, and about as mutual and kind and gentle as any end could be. So gentle that we refuse to call it an “end,” leaving the door open for our future selves.
There was a time before today. And it was a good time. But it wasn’t the only time. There’s tomorrow. And the next day. And yes, sad and lonely Connelly, the day after that. It’s funny how, after bitching about life in general, a real hurt can stop you in your tracks. Scare the shit out of you. Make you crawl into your bed, pull the covers over your head, and pretend you can stay like that forever. And then your dog nudges you. Your sister strokes your hair, coaxes you out. You have to go to work. You have to keep moving.
My father and his words. I got a letter from him yesterday. I’d written him first, thanking him for paying off a large chunk of my student loans. He wrote back, in the terrible, beautiful handwriting that matches my own. The letter was to me and my sister, but on the back he wrote a note just for me. He understood the depth of a three year long relationship. He always loved Stewart. And he wrote to me: “Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.”
He knows that there was a time before today, and he trusts that I’ll make it through tomorrow. So far, he’s never been wrong.