Lately life doesn't feel like a circle so much as it feels like some straight race that I keep fouling up, the moderator interrupting to tell me I got the start time wrong or missed a section.
"You'll have to go back to the beginning," he says, waving his hands like two checkered flags.
Back at the beginning now and there is always this — the purple bins I've been piling my life into for eight years, my mother's rooster salt and pepper shakers, my bare mattress, my dog. That and the television that we reward ourselves with whenever we accomplish something.
We packed up all the books! Time for Real Housewives. We hauled the bags of clothes to the Good Will! Time for Real Housewives.
I should stop saying we. Really it's just me. The dog doesn't count. He is unresponsive to my love. He only gets excited when I say the word "treat" or when he sees a rabbit race across the back yard. He sleeps while I pack, and I wonder if he knows what is happening here.
Although how could he, really, when I don't entirely know either. To him it's all pavement. There is no beginning. There is no end. There's just the endless movement between his soft beds. I watch him a lot lately because, honestly, there is nothing else to do. Yesterday I came out in the living room to find him lying in a strip of light pushing its way in through the closed blinds. It came in on the sides where no one would have expected and stretched across the center of his black body. When I called his name, he didn't respond.
He will be fine, I thought. The sun is the same no matter where you stand.
It's easier these days to count the things that I am gaining. Maybe because these things are more concrete — an earlier bedtime, more broccoli in my recipes — but it could also be because the list of things I am gaining is shorter than the list of things I am losing.
In general, I like to start with the easy thing first, check off "check email" from the to-do list before I even start the day. So I start with the list of things I am getting out of this deal: first kisses, sex with strangers, the anticipation during every night out that these hours could take me anywhere, more closet space, a cleaner bathtub, only my own dishes to put in the dishwasher, more bed space, my dog curled around my feet while I sleep. Sleeping with the TV on. Masturbating whenever I want. Never opening the freezer to find the ice cube trays empty.
I can only go so long though before the other list starts forming.
It's a binary system, this act of list making. One list wouldn't be what it was without the other.
A cat is a cat because it is not a dog.
What is a dog then?
Not a cat.
What are all of the things I am getting out of this breakup?
The opposite of all the things I am losing.
This is as far as the other list gets: a person who comes to all of my readings, a person who has loved me no matter what weight I am, a person who was always able, after a little time, to come back and identify what he was feeling, to say how he was wrong.
This is where I stop the other list from making itself in my head.
I stand up. I pack another box. I text my best friend when I think of something else: "I can reupholster my grandmother's chairs!" I write, because the cat who has been slowly tearing them to shred is his now.
What is the opposite of his now? Not mine.
Actually, that's one thing I don't entirely mind losing.