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On Dating : Old Letters and New Ones - kale & cigarettes
On Dating : Old Letters and New Ones

On Dating : Old Letters and New Ones

Early 2020. Couch, San Diego

I like chaos. It’s interesting. And not without purpose. When everything is happening all at once there is always the emergence of a feeling. A sense that one component is more true than the other. Since I am dynamic, since my feelings change all the time, I spend a good deal of my life putting different ingredients together and seeing what comes out in the end.

I woke up with a text from Maddy. It was snowing in NYC and she sent a video. There was a loud truck blowing through the frame but it didn’t matter because she sent me something. 

I opened Instagram and saw that Erica was back from Paris. I messaged her, “Welcome back.”

Erica and I FaceTimed three times for ten minutes each between all of my meetings in the morning. It was a bit of a joke by the end. She said it was good for us to take short breaks from our work to talk to each other and it didn’t matter that we didn’t really have enough time to talk about anything.

I texted a bit with Maddy. I let her in on some of my day and how I was partnering with this commercial real estate dude for a project. She asked if I was excited and I said I was a little but that I don’t get outwardly excited about much. And that I am usually spending the beginning of a day thinking about crawling under the covers and not responding to the anything because it feels like too much and it doesn’t feel like new year, new me but instead it feels more like 2019-2 and I’m tired. 

“For whatever it’s worth, I admire your tenacity and I’m sure you’ll be able to retire soon,” she texted. 

She admires your tenacity, I thought to myself.

Maybe because I’ve only shown her what I want her to see. 

In the morning, Erica and I talked about little things. She gave me a tour of her nice apartment in Brooklyn with the brick and the staircase and even put on a jacket to take me to the roof deck. That’s always a selling point for New York people even though they probably use it four times in the course of a lease. 

I messaged Audrey back and told her she was funny and had me laughing. I elaborated on her message about whether or not bathroom graffiti artists carry markers around with the intention of tagging something or if they spontaneously realize they have a marker when they’re on the toilet and feel struck by an inspiring idea that needs to be shared. 

She is a nurse and she looks like Kate Beckinsale with the same smirk. 

My meetings came and went. FaceTiming with Erica came and went. Texting with Maddy came and went. She is my favorite still. I sent her a photo of my Birks and socks.

“Oh my god that just reminded me that I had a sex dream with you in it last night,” she responded.

“Was I wearing the Birks?”

“No, but that would’ve been an incredible psychic moment for you. All I remember is that we were in your bed and, needless to say, there was a lot of passion.” 

“I love a sex dream. Can you feel it in your body right now?”

“Oh I feel it. And since it’s like we basically already did it I think I’m pretty much on board.” 

“I want to be in that bed with you right now.”

Erica and I only talk about superficial things. We make jokes about being rich and having a beach house. She likes my dimples and says my eyes are really blue. I ask her if she’s only into the idea of me and if she feels like she really knows who I am. And yet, we’re smiling the whole time. She is very easy and sweet and has the dark hair and olive skin I am accustomed to in nearly all of my relationships. We look the part. We act the part.


It is evening in Ashley’s apartment now. She and Michaela are drinking wine by the gallon and I am on my phone managing communications like an employee of a call center. I share things of significance and then internalize other messages with the grin of a teenaged boy.

Ashley is talking about LA Guy. Michaela is intrigued. He is very attractive and has interesting hobbies. I think he sounds cool, like someone I could relate to a lot. But I don’t think he is good for what Ashley is looking for.

Her phone rings.

She seizes.

It’s him. FaceTime, no less.

“You guys, what do I do?!?!?”

Michaela said to answer it and I shouted so loud no one else could be listened to while swatting my hand towards her phone to knock it down.

“Put the damn phone down and just wait it out.”

After some intense internal dialogue, she put the phone down.

“I fucking knew it. Michaela, didn’t I call it. He was going to call. I’m psychic. I was just off by a few hours,” she said excitedly. 


The next day.

Maddy’s package was arriving today. I checked the 35 fucking digit tracking number and saw that it was delivered at 11:58AM. She was going to get it when she got home. When was she going to be home? 

The text came in after 6PM my time.

“YOU GAVE ME HEADPHONES.”

“AND AN AMAZING NOTE.”

“THANK YOU SO MUCH.” 

All caps. The millennial love call. She was touched. And she said as much. 

She felt the swirl. She felt the punch of love that can only be given by the person you like when they think about you and do something nice and you think you’re no longer alone. 

I walked with Ashley later after FaceTiming Erica who was in her bath towel and showing a glistening collarbone.

We talked only of Maddy.

“It’s fine if she has that feeling of love for me tonight. It’s good. We all need that. It’s only an issue if the rest of our lives feel negative and we are the only positive thing for each other. That’s the danger zone. But I feel good. Like I’m on the right track. I don’t know where she’s at. I haven’t picked up a clingy vibe yet,” I tell her. 

I talk like I’m someone who knows something. Like it’s only on her for feeling that way. Like I didn’t send her that letter and those headphones so she would cling to me for a moment. So I could have her for myself. And feel more full. I want those feelings too. But I want them to be temporary. Or, at least not all the time. Just when I want them. And then to be able to go away when I don’t. Because the idea of being attuned to someone all the time is overwhelming.

Of course her heart will swell. And I need to embrace that. Or stop doing things to cause it in the first place. So here I am breathing into a sense of closeness with a new person I care about and trying to meet her where she is, in the place that I created.

The evening.

I am going through old drawers. It is evening. My living room is lit only by lamps. Music is playing through my 70s wooden floor speakers. It is, as you say, a vibe in here. And I just found three letters from Alexis. After digging through a pile of photos from our travels. Our life.

The letters said I gave her hope and inspiration. She thanked me for working so hard to provide for her and Woody. And that my effort to be a better person was the most beautiful thing she’d ever been a part of.

I put the letter down. Lifted my head up. Closed my eyes to stop the swell. There was a point when all of that was true. I was that person in the beginning. And then he died.

I texted her.

“You used to think I was so great. And then I became much less great. And I’m so sorry for that.” 

“It’s okay. I played a part in that less great stuff too.”

“I can’t emphasize this enough – you were an amazing partner and I was lucky to be with you.”

“Thank you for saying that. I hope you’re not beating yourself up today.”

I am the only person I know who would think it’s fine to have three different girls in my orbit and text my ex-wife and have her tell me not to beat myself up because I felt regret and all of it be real and all of it be true. 

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