The other night, while waiting for the B train to whoosh me off to Manhattan, I saw two human beings decide to end their relationship. Well, that’s not necessarily true. I saw at least one human being decide to end his or her relationship with his or her partner. And then I saw the relationship end.
Here is what it looked like:
Man and Woman wait for the train toward the end of the platform. They aren’t speaking. The distinct feeling is that they had been speaking, but now the speaking is over because they have said everything and there are no words left. Man has dark hair and holds his phone in his right hand. He doesn’t use it. He’s just holding it. Woman is blonde. She is leaning against a column. Her back is to me. It isn’t until we get on the train that I see that she has been crying. Her mascara has run down her cheeks and dried in the way that happens in movies when the Lead Actress has been crying.
The sit next to each other, but stare straight ahead. They are directly across from me. After a moment, new tears start falling down Woman’s face and I’m moved by the fact that she lets them fall without embarrassment or shame. It’s clear that Man wants to comfort her, but all he does is sort of slide closer to her so that their legs are touching. He does not put his arm around her. He does not look at her.
Before the train gets to its first stop, she turns her face 3/4ths toward his and mumbles something. There is a pause before he reaches into his bag and hands her a set of house keys. Two minutes later, the train stops, the doors open, and Woman exits. I watch Man watch Woman glide up the stairs from the platform and disappear. Then I watch Man take out his phone and start playing Angry Birds. He catches my eye, and I look at my shoes.
I’ve been thinking a lot this summer about Timing. And Missed Opportunities. And Life Passing Me By.
I saw a “theatrical music concert” last night where, at one point, we were instructed to close our eyes and picture a room filled with everyone we’ve ever loved. And I did. And it was nice to see some of those people again, and with some of them I felt sad and embarrassed about the last time we spoke and how I was maybe a jerk or at the very least immature, and for the most part I felt regret.
Regret means, “If I had the choice to do this thing again, I would make different choices because the choices I made originally were bad choices that make me feel awful now, in the present.” Regret means you learned. Regret means you have become more mature.
In Miranda July’s new movie, The Future, an old man is so in love with his wife of sixty years that he writes fifteen unique limericks on every major holiday. But he says the hardest part of the relationship is the beginning. He says that maybe one person will do something terrible and it will seem like you could never forgive them and that’s the hardest part. When Jason says that he and his girlfriend of four years have never had those problems, the man responds, “Well, the thing is, you’re just in the middle of the beginning right now.”
I sometimes think of people as vines on the side of a house. And how we’re always growing, all of us, at the same time. And sometimes two people will grow together and become intertwined and how nice it is when that happens. And then sometimes, they’ll grow apart. And that’s often a bummer.
It’s hard to remember that even after the end of a relationship, that other person is still growing and changing. And sometimes I wonder if it’s fair that, when relationships end, we blame a person who no longer exists. Sometimes I wonder if it’s fair that I blame a 15-year old version of a 24-year old girl for breaking my 15-year old’s heart back in high school.
A lot of things can happen when the terms are Forever. And in a hundred years, most of the people who are alive right now won’t be alive, and so maybe I should forgive that 15-year old girl who broke my 15-year old heart.
And who knows. Maybe that Man and Woman from the subway will figure it out. Because if anything was clear, they’re only in the middle of the beginning. Anything can happen.