My Year of Living Posthumously

Looking back at what I now know to be the heinous deflowering of my complacency, I have to admit that things could have been worse. My boyfriend of five years managed to skulk around the house until March before running off with the woman he’d been cheating on me with. That left me with only a few weeks of winter alone in the Vermont home we’d bought together. There was plenty of wood left to burn, and the roof was holding up in all but the most laughable spots. I was going to be ok!

And in truth, those first weeks drifted by in a not unpleasant pharmaceutical stupor. In brief intervals between sleep, I went about the necessary business of throwing his clothes out the window, shredding his mail, and deleting him from family photos. Before long, my revenge fantasies took on a predictable cast, and he showed no sign of acknowledging the pit of despair his world had become without me. It was time to move on.

With spring came new life blossoming from the six inches of water in my basement. By now I had discovered the solitary pleasures of box wine, and the hours of mopping went by like so much Sisyphean busy work. Why, this was just like napping! Of course, what goes up must come down, and what comes down is probably going to just lie there at the bottom of the stairs, moaning. Eventually, through the clarity of alcoholism, I came face to face with the fact that I was a middle-aged woman on a Saturday night with diminishing savings, a half-assed career, and no romantic prospects. And hardly any wine left.

Never one to say “it can’t be done” while drunk, I dug the peanut butter out from under my nails and pedaled my bike into town. The stars were out! The wind rushed across my face! This was what pretending to be alive was all about!

This leaving-the-house business reminded me that in my former life as someone who did not weep while grocery shopping, I made conversation with other humans. Given that several of them were lurking on the sidewalks avoiding eye contact, this seemed a fine opportunity to practice my atrophied social skills. As bad luck would have it, one was a man who had once claimed to have read Anna Karenina in its entirety, a feat that clearly made him my only plausible mate. Life seemed awash with gravy indeed as he strolled into the bad-bar-band bar and I inched toward him. We exchanged labored smiles. He offered me a drink. The deal seemed sealed.

But after nodding in my direction for twenty minutes or so, he zipped up his not-just-another-sissy-copyeditor motorcycle jacket and made for the door. Like an abandoned puppy, I trailed him, at which point he turned to me with a look equal parts exasperation and terror. “It seems that you may have certain feelings toward me,” he said. Hmm, feelings is a mighty big word, Mr. Whatever Your Name Is. “And I must tell you, they can’t be reciprocated.” What? Why? No penis? “Listen, why don’t we go to my house and talk?” Ooh, yes! I want to hear more about my inadequacy! More and more! Continue reading

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