It Ended With A Phone Call


Excerpt from Relationshipped by Lauren Ellman

I was home alone, the entire day free of any sort of responsibility. No class. No work. No worries. I woke up and took Knox for a walk. I was puppy-sitting him for a friend while she was at class. I walked him up and down the back lot of my college apartment complex. The weather was perfect. As I walked the dirt path, the air was electric. The bushes were buzzing from the breeze rustling through their leaves. The trees were noisy with little families of chatty birds and skittish squirrels.

Knox pulled at my arm, rushing me. But I felt so still. I could hear every bird chirp and every squirrel claw at the bark. Surrendering to the moment, I tilted my head back, closed my eyes and let the sun warm my face. I saw orange and felt a warm wind cradle my shoulders. Knox kept yanking at his leash as he tried hurrying forward, not knowing where he was going or what was in front of him. And I remember thinking, I want to be more like Knox. I want to be so eager and fearless that I rush forward, tugging at the leash that is the present and race into the future with a vigor and force. And then I stopped, realizing I was idolizing and admiring a dog and quickly laughed myself back into the moment.

I went back upstairs to my apartment, unhooked Knox from his leash and followed him into my bedroom. I had left my phone upstairs that whole time. I had a missed call, from [my boyfriend] Andrew. He rarely called. I immediately felt the rush of excitement as I tapped his name to call him back. I was eager to tell him all about my morning. About walking Knox and the weather and the birds. Tell him how happy and peaceful I felt. He probably wouldn’t care all that much, but for some reason that never stopped me. He had become distant, but I still shared all my thoughts with him. Maybe because somewhere deep inside I hoped that eventually he’d start caring again, like he had at the beginning. But alas, our boat had developed its very own slow leak.

He answered. His tone was flat. Was he happy, upset, annoyed? I couldn’t get a read on him. Three years of dating and I just couldn’t get a read on him.

The conversation is kind of a blur. I remember bits and pieces. “You know how I’ve been feeling kind of down lately?” “I can’t figure out what I want to do with my life and you already know exactly what you want to do.” “I need to be on my own.” “Without.” “You.”

I felt my heart just dry up. I felt like my blood stopped pumping. And I was soaking wet. I just remember being soaking wet. I broke out in a cold sweat, instantly. It was as if every pore all over my skin opened up and just started crying. And my eyes did the same. My entire body was crying. Sobbing. Heaving. Trying to make sense of what was happening. It was all so unexpected. Like someone just walked up to me, smiled and swung a gigantic slab of wood at my face. It stung.

I remember telling him I was sorry. I remember denying him at first. Justifying why we should remain together. Desperately piecing together rationalizations of how we can make it work, clinging to the fantasy. I told him I didn’t want to stop talking to him. That I couldn’t because I loved him so much. I couldn’t imagine my life without him. My brain couldn’t process it. I was so drained, like someone had sucked my soul out of my belly button with a vacuum cleaner. I was just shriveled up on the bed, wet with grief, my mouth somehow making words that landed into the receiver and onto his ears. I remember saying goodbye. He said, “This isn’t goodbye. We’re still going to talk. You can always talk to me.”

And I know what I said. I know I told him that I wasn’t going to be able to do that. I wouldn’t be able to talk to him because it would hurt too much. Leaving the wound open would hurt too much and deny the healing process. I knew that and I’m glad I was able to say that to him and explain myself. Because as soon as that phone call ended, we ended. It was over. I shut and locked the door to the six years before. The six years of meeting him, getting to know him, falling in love with him, hating him, wanting him, loving him, desperately loving him, falling deeper and deeper in love with him until I was completely consumed. It swallowed me whole. I didn’t know anything but loving him. I would’ve done anything for him, anything he asked. And with a phone call, he became my past.

Click here to check out Lauren’s new book, Relationshipped!