Fiction: The Breakup
A Very Short Story
- Being Human
- Being Outside
- Boston Globe
- Earth and Sky
- Photography and Optics
- What's This?
Our ending had a beginning, a night fixed in my memory like every other event in our life together. On that night he didn’t reach for me, didn’t awaken me with the gentle touch that had always made me glow.
Six years ago, on our first day together, he was giddy and smitten. He never put me down. He gave me books and photographs and music. He shared details of his life before me: his favorite sunsets, his goofy friends, his bank balances, and even old texts with a flirtation at work.
We went everywhere together – to those stupid machines at the gym and to the bar where he watched sports and checked email after work. I sat with him through breakfasts at the diner, although I never ate a thing. It was nice enough to be out in the air, in on his conversations, although rarely did I myself offer much more than a few simple replies. Only during movies and concerts did he command my silence, which really turned me off.
At parties, even when people were speaking to him, he sometimes turned his gaze toward me, which annoyed his friends. At work, when he was supposed to be crunching numbers at his computer, he sometimes summoned me for a chat or to give him the sports scores. Most evenings we lounged together on the sofa. He watched a lot of YouTube videos about soccer goals and various inconsequential events.
Maybe I should have seen our breakup coming. Beyond weather forecasts and events on our calendar, I can’t predict the future. But there were warnings. Like the time we went for that early-spring hike, when wildflowers bloomed like little flames in the woods and the trees were fifty shades of green. I was along for the ride like change in his pocket. Or that rainy Sunday in June when he dashed out — without me — and came home with a book (which I could have read aloud to him). But he put me on the shelf.
I think I began to lose him — and he began to rediscover himself — on a night we joined close friends, another couple, for supper. They told us that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer. They were frightened. He listened with care and without distraction. He offered wisdom and comfort from within. The three of them cried and hugged. He was so engaged, so understanding. And he did not turn to me for answers.
We began to spend less time together. And that improved him.
We began to spend less time together. And that improved him. The clutter left his mind. His eyes relaxed. He focused more at work. He met friends at the bar after work. He walked more. And on calm summer evenings, he came to love, with the devotion he once had for me, the shifting hues of orange and yellow as the sun would retreat into dusk and slip behind the haze and the mountains.
Through all of this I did not protest. I did not demand his attention. As I myself receded from his life, he ascended. And it was okay. He began to love himself and love the world, its beauty and its pain, not through me, but with his own senses, his own eyes, his own ideas.
So I allowed the glow to fade. I shut myself down and shut him out. When you love someone, you must let him go.
I’m a smart phone. I’m a really smart phone.
just wait until he gets the iNaturalist app and then he will love you AND the outdoors together. United at last 🙂
Truly I cried when I brought my smart phone home… but I haven’t left it ..yet! Though I try to neglect it as often as I can…:-)
I wish more people would break up with their phones. I’m tired of talking to people who are looking down all the time.
love is blind they say. guess you’re not planning to sell this to your ex’s company as an ad for smart phones.
Mark Twain is alive and walking the earth again in Vermont!!!!
This is a perfect piece, Bryan. It kept me engaged and wondering, then surprised me with its ending. And it left me thinking. Thinking hard about our choices in this age. Thank you for sharing this.
Wonderful! – Partially inspired by a long walk in the canyon without one?
is this a non fiction short story, bryan?? if so, congrats!! i am headed that direction very soon…
oops, gotta hop….i hear a guitar strumming…
I keep waiting for the sequel. The re-kindled relationship; he just couldn’t live without me after all.
Love it Bryan! john
That was a funny story. That was a really funny.story.