Fiction

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Nell Freudenberger

I can’t help feeling that other people had better reasons for their breakups than we did. (This is characteristic of me, Drew would say, the way I am always comparing. How can you be happy if you’re constantly measuring your life against the lives of others? And not even examining, he would say. Inventing ... fictionalizing! How can you know what anyone else’s life is like?) I think of Helene, a woman I used to teach with at the Y, who married a Czech architect she met on vacation in Prague. Life in the United States didn’t suit him and he moved back after eighteen months. Or Drew’s old friend Jim, whose wife left him for her high school boyfriend, with whom she reconnected through social media soon after the birth of their second child.

With Drew and me there was nothing so concrete to explain it: one night last spring we sat down in the living room after dinner, looked at each other, and knew.

“When was the last time you were happy?” he asked me.

I was indignant. “Just this afternoon,” I told him. “Jack asked if I wanted him to zip or button my jacket for me.”

He shook his head. “Not with Jack,” he said, and it was one of those moments in an argument when you know it’s very important to respond quickly, but you don’t respond, and the length of the pause makes the question irrelevant.

“Well, what about you,” I said, and he just shook his head. One of the things I’ve always liked about Drew is that he doesn’t have any trouble crying, and his crying then made me want to take him in my arms and promise it would be fine. I did do that, with the predictable result that we had sex, and it was so clearly the last time, even while it was happening, that I cried, too.

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