When Sufjan and I broke up a year ago we promised to not talk about it on the Internet.
"I know you blog about almost everything. Just promise me you’ll just stop writing about us and me," he said as he sat beside me on a bench at the High Line looking toward 10th instead of the Hudson. It happened to be a nice Sunday and I had packed popovers to snack on for lunch. I sat there with half a popover in my mouth, half-chewed. I should have brought the apricot jam I made, I remember thinking.
I nodded and when my mouth was almost empty I said, “OK.”
I didn’t look at him, but instead looked at the buildings across the street and imagined what was going on in different windows. Was anyone else being broken up with while eating popovers?
And then he said those cliched words, “It’s not you. This is really all about me.”
"I know." But did I? This kind of thing is never really all about the one person. The popovers smelled so good I had to close the basket I had them in. I wanted to eat more of them, but it just seemed wrong to continue eating, especially when he started crying. "So what now? We just re-did the music room." I didn’t really care about the music room, I just didn’t know what to say. I just wanted this all to be over. I wanted to be drinking mimosas and eating eggs benedict.
"You can stay in the apartment," he said, but I already knew I would move back home to Boston.
That was over a year ago.
This past weekend I was visiting a friend near our old place when Sufjan rode up to the corner on his bike. We both stopped and looked at each other. This was the first time we had seen each other in over a year.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey," I replied. It was as awkward as you can imagine. If only I was across the street and could have avoided this.
"How’s everything? You still taking photos?" He noticed my camera I still carry everywhere with me.
"Yeah. I mostly take pictures of food now. I started a new blog about my food with poetry. It’s pretty bad." He smiled. "Well," I started, gesturing to my friend. "We should get going. I have to catch the train back home."
He looked at my camera again.
"This will be the last one I take," I said.
just yesterday afternoon sufjan & i were talking about our last vacation.
"it’s been awhile, you know, with you on tour and everything," i said while reorganizing my picture folders on my laptop.
"yeah, but maybe once the weather gets nicer we can go somewhere."
"i know, but that’s the point. why do we have to wait for it to get nice here before we go anywhere?"
he nodded & then went back to playing his guitar while looking out the window. i sorted through a folder of vacation photos from last year.
"do you remember that pizza we had on the beach last year? the one with the bacon wrapped scallops on it?"
an audible groan came from sufjan. “that was the best pizza i ever had. it was from that food truck, right?”
"yeah," i said as i scanned the folder for a picture of the pizza.
he moved closer to me so he could see the pictures. “it was so nice out that day. not too hot, i think i was wearing jeans actually.”
i scanned through the folder & found a picture of him laying on a bench. i opened my email, typed his email address, clicked add attachment, & hit send.
he looked at me and asked, “how’d you know?”
i looked back at him.
"do you think it’s wrong?"
"giving my 19 year old cousin a bottle of captain morgan"
"oh, are we still talking about this?"
"i’m just having second thoughts about it now."
"it was two days ago though," sufjan said as he put the last animal mask on the wall.
we had finally started decorating the guest bedroom/office/music room and these mask were the first thing we decided together to hang on the wall. we bought them a few months ago, probably early fall, at a flea market while on a weekend trip to washington d.c. they had been sitting in a box on top of the piano gathering dust until now.
"yeah, you’re right. maybe i’m still just feeling guilty."
"well, there is nothing you can do about it now, right? i mean she has it and probably drank it all already."
"oh, god i hope not. that was a full bottle, like almost a jug."
"she was probably drinking it with coke or something. she’ll be fine. do these look even?"
"yeah, but i didn’t tell you i also gave her a bottle of southern comfort."
“it was half empty, though.”
sufjan put the last mask up and sat down on the piano bench, i adjusted the tripod, that i had been setting up.
“ready?” i said & the camera clicked.
i met sufjan for a late lunch the other day at one of our favorite out of the way diners. you know those places that have been around forever and the waitresses have been there just as long. we were seated in the front of the diner, almost on display, which makes sufjan a little anxious.
“no one is going to recognize you here & if they do they won’t bother you.” he looks around & notices the place is almost empty.
the waitress comes over to our table, “what are you having?” she gets right to the point.
“grilled cheese with bacon & french fries. can i also have a vanilla coke?” they have the best fountain sodas here still.
“and you, honey?” not looking at sufjan, just down at her pad.
“what do you recommend?” she looks up at him then back down at her pad. “i’ll have the turkey club & sparkling sangria, please.” she scratches his order on the pad, winks, and goes away.
i’m looking out the window at the beginning of what could be a big snow storm. i love these minutes just as the snow begins to stick on everything where you can still see all the colors of everything under the snow.
“did you buy milk?’ sufjan asks bringing me back.
“yes and eggs. i figured we could make a quiche or something for dinner tonight, i mean, if we are hungry after this. did you know camille grammer might leave the real housewives of beverly hills?”
“i heard. who’s going to fight with kyle or cock her head and bug her eyes out and accuse people of…” he was interrupted by the waitress bringing our drinks.
“food will be right out.” i smile at her and she leaves.
“making her the victim.” he finishes.
“i know, but she brings just that right amount of crazy & she says it’s all the editing that’s making her out to be like she is.”
“do you believe that?”
“no.” i look down at my phone checking a text message and then open the camera to take a picture of the table for my blog and then snap one of sufjan just as he starts in on taylor.
“oh, will you…”
i’m one step ahead. his phone vibrates on the table.
on the train home from work the other afternoon sufjan & i started talking about one of our favorite topics of conversation. ok, well, it’s really one of my favorite topics & he indulges me… like how indulge him when he goes on & on about the benefits of drinking olive oil before singing.
"do you think justin timberlake will win an oscar?" he asks.
"god, no. i haven’t seen the social network yet though, but my heart tells me no"
"but your body, your body’s telling you yes?"
"nice." i love when quotes r. kelly to me. there was one night he read his favorite trapped in the closet lyrics to me while i was cooking dinner. "what about colin firth? i really wanted him to win for a single man, but obvs jeff bridges had that on lock."
"we haven’t seen a king’s speech yet, but from what i hear he’s already clearing a space on his mantle for it."
we rode the next few stops in silence & i could hear the woman beside me listening to taylor swift on her ipod. i wanted to judge & point her out to sufjan, but sat back, closed my eyes, brushed my leg up against his & just listened. i listened to the train, i listened to people talking about the snow, i listened to his breath, & i listened to taylor swift sing about fairytales.
we got home shortly after & sufjan called me into the bedroom. he had recently put his bike at the head of the bed (slight bone of contention) and was sitting on the bed.
"could you…" he started.
"let me grab my camera."
sufjan & i spend weeks every year deciding what to do for our annual christmas card. at this point in our relationship, people are expecting a really elaborate card. i spent hours last year punching star shaped holes for him to then embroider around each star with shiny thread. i’m pretty sure i have carpel tunnel from that and expect to get cortizone shots to relieve the pressure from my hand for this year’s cards. so, yesterday we were out shopping for materials for our cards (i know we are so late this year! wait until you read our annual christmas letter i include in the card, you’ll see what happened!) at our local paper store.
"what do you think of these shiny gold brads?" sufjan said holding up a small package of 1000 little nightmares i knew i was going to have to sit and place on each card like a third world country factory worker.
"do you think we could do a stamp too? you could break out you’re embossing gun thing!" he knew just what to say.
it had been awhile since i used my embossing gun. maybe it was two years ago when we did an embossed stamp last. sufjan hand carved our stamp while he was in the recording studio. it was a really charming combination of our names in the shape of a christmas wreath.
"what do you think of silver cards?"
"like a silver & gold theme?"
"you don’t like it?"
"oh, no. i do, but i think my mother did silver & gold themed cards this year. she already sent them out & everything. didn’t you see it on the sideboard in the dining room?"
sufjan cocked his head, he always did this when he was thinking. “yeah. i forgot. well, let’s just get those red cards, these gold brads, & that deer stamp. we can write ‘deery christmas’ on the cards.”
"completely. let’s just get these done."
when we got home he put all the materials on the dining room table forming an assembly line of sorts.
i was sitting at the table when he came in wearing a santa hat. “will you do me a favor before we get started?”
i knew that meant he needed a new picture for his blog.
the other day when sufjan & i were antiquing we came across this box of old plates. he got really excited, in a way only he could, like how i get excited for award season or a new episode of bridalplasty. anyway, he was sifting through the box of plates when he found some plates with states on them.
"would it be too ironic if we hung these on our walls? i was reading about plate walls in real simple or was it on apartment therapy? either way would it be?"
"well, if we get this one of mary too, i think it will balance it out."
we gathered the plates up and brought them to the old man sitting at the front of the antique store. sufjan, of course, had to bargain with the man & not just pay the ticket price.
he leaned in and whispered to me, ” these could probably get us a lot on antique road show one day.”
"do you really want to be on pbs?" i asked him. "is this a goal of yours?"
he laughed and clapped indicating that it was in fact a goal. the man finished packing up our new plates and we paid & left. on our walk home i needed to pee, i totally shouldn’t have had that strawberry coolata when we went to dunkin donuts before shopping. we stopped at a gas station so i could go.
"i probably contracted an std in that bathroom."
"probably," he said, distracted. "ooh, i could have seen it on design sponge."
later that day, after all the plates were hanging on the wall, he asked if i could take a picture of him in front of our new plate wall for his blog.