If there was an Olympic medal for purging after a breakup, I would compete because I swiftly trash, burn, and donate ex mementos.
I’m not unsentimental, I just like to clear the air, clear the energy and create space for whomever or whatever is coming next. Maybe for the same reason you open windows after you’ve burned something on the stove.
Weirdly, however, I have missed one ex’s trimmings. Not him, mind you, but his accent, deck, and Caribbean family. Things I couldn’t have chucked anyway.
He was never ideal for me, this island man. Too clingy, jealous, extroverted, and he was shorter; something I am still not evolved enough to completely embrace. He gossiped and watched soaps, so was a little dramatic himself. He was good things too. Funny, thoughtful, gainfully employed at a job he loved, so we happily dated for almost a year.
Honorably, he also took care of his daughter and tried to take care of me too, even though I resisted sometimes like a lioness caught in a trap because my independent streak is that deep and ridiculous.
Not the great love of my life, but kind and decent.
The clinginess was the deal-breaker though. It seemed triggered by insecurity which was triggered by my compulsive cat-like disappearing acts. I swear I don’t do it on purpose, (although I don’t apologize either), but it’s natural for me to wander off alone to recharge my batteries. It was confusing to him as I am equally gregarious, yet can only play at that for about four hours before it wears me out. If this duality puzzles you, read the bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. She explains it way better than I ever could.
We had the same fight over and over. My need for space, his unwillingness to let me have it. He kept pushing against it like it wasn’t a solid core value and early I knew that it wasn’t enough to say I just wanted to hang out with myself, so I took to lying to him about play dates with girlfriends since that was more palatable to him.
Even when I’m happy with someone, I still crave time apart unless it stretches into forever, so, of course, it all came to a head when we took a long holiday vacation to his native Trinidad. He clung to me like a Siamese twin and accused me of flirting with his barely-legal cousin at a party when I’d only slipped out for air and quiet.
Like I am stupid enough to flirt in front of him.
We fought, broke up, and I flew home a day early.
When he called for his stuff, I pushed the already-packed duffel bag out onto my doorstep. I never left much at his place but asked for my lingerie and purple witch Halloween costume, and he lied about not being able to find them.
In the following month as I eulogized our relationship, I found myself laughing about how this was always going to be our ending unless one of us turned into a zombie. But when he apologized and wanted to reunite, part of me considered it.
I missed his deck. The massive oasis that dominated his backyard. I missed the grilling, sunbathing, reading, lounging, and the way he was so mellow and content there too—perhaps because he knew where I was.
I missed his accent. It was an animated, lyrical thing that I found both amusing and alluring. He could prattle on about the weather or work, and I was absurdly entranced by the musical notes in his voice. Is it bad to say that although I laughed and nodded comprehension, sometimes I couldn’t understand him because it was that thick with the meat of another land?
I missed his daughter. Then-six, she was all magic and mischief. Mine was college-bound, so it was a chance to wrap my love of skating, jewelry-making and storytelling around another little person without the drag of being a disciplinarian.
I missed his aunts and uncles who hosted us in Trinidad & Tobago and Grenada and told him to his face that they liked me better. Especially the one who had already been sending me care packages when she heard I loved Caribbean dishes. In the mornings, she took me to the market and later stuffed me with callaloo, curried goat, oxtail soup, and fresh fish. We bummed the beach by day and spent the evenings on the deck breathing in the lush forest as the sun set.
Of course, their rich, colorful accents charmed me as much as that endless turquoise sea, especially the ones who had spent most of their working lives abroad in the U.K. The one uncle carried a British accent over his island one and it pleasantly tricked my ears when he growled, “Bloody hell,” at other drivers on the road.
One aunt invited me to visit the home she still kept in England and I am ashamed of weighing that in my head longer than I should have before breaking up with her nephew. I miss her, but I don’t miss him.