For the previous entries in Will Henderson’s Humpty Dumpty series, click here.
I ask someone in the human resources departmentwhere I work to help you. I don’t want you to work with me, but I think they may be able to offer you pointers on finding a different human resources job.
You are pleased with, maybe even excited by, my idea. You ask me to set up the appointment for a Thursday if possible. I ask you if doing all of this for you is OK. You say you appreciate it and that you don’t know what you’d do if I wasn’t in your life.
It is your day off. On other Thursdays, I would come to you at lunch and we would make love. I miss Thursdays.
Have a healthy and productive day.
You send me a picture of some tools. I recognize nothing in the picture. You tell me that the Allen wrenches are not there. You send a second picture of new coffee mugs.
Did the clover mug make it home safely?
We reiterate our plan to continue stealing them.
After yoga on Wednesdays.
You text a picture of a bag of coffee.
Do you remember where or when I may have bought Yukon Blend?
I think at the Starbucks at Cambridgeside a few weeks ago when you bought a lot of mugs and I bought the computer mouse.
We stop talking for a while. I want to ask you to go see a movie. I want to ask you to do something normal and fun and date-like, but I don’t want you to think I want a date. I don’t want to push you faster than you’re willing to go. Still, I decide to ask.
You probably have plans, but do you want to see a movie tomorrow night? No biggie if you can’t, but I feel like seeing a movie.
Friday I have a birthday event to go to, otherwise I would.
Sorry rabbit. You were about one hour late as I just got the Facebook invite.
It’s OK. I didn’t want you to think it was a date so I wasn’t going to ask, but then thought the worst thing you would say is no.
You reply with a smile. I get the confirmation about Thursday and the times and I tell you.
I meet with my realtor. She takes me to two apartments; one is perfect. The apartment is the first floor of a house. The landlord and his family live upstairs. I fall in love with the apartment before I even see inside. I like the idea of living in a house. I like the idea of living in a house with a huge backyard for Avery. The landlord has two children, both older than Avery, which means any noise Avery makes will be understood.
I give my realtor a check for the deposit. I haven’t rented a home on my own in 11 years.
I just rented an apartment. Or mostly. They need to approve me but that shouldn’t be a problem. I’m a little sad. I may have cried driving back to work.
Are you OK?
I will be. Thanks for asking. I’ll have a library and the kids will have a big yard and there’s tons of storage. The shower is small so I’ll have to be careful who I invite into it. And it’s cute and has character so it won’t take much to make it home.
I send you the photos of the apartment I took.
You send me a picture you took on Newbury Street of an Eiffel Tower that stands in front of a store.
I’ve seen that.
I figured you had. Just sharing. By the way, the last video I sent you was not a fuck you video. I had no idea about anything at that point. It was just a random D video.
I didn’t take it as a fuck-you video until afterward.
Well, it wasn’t meant like that at any point. I was just showering, so it occurred to me that I meant to tell you that all along.
I deleted it. I don’t have any of it anymore. But thank you for telling me. It’s OK. You had a list of how you could be mean and hateful and it was like you ticked them all off. I know it came from hurt and betrayal. It’s not who you are.
Nothing I did ever was with the intent to hurt you. It was to protect myself.
You still are. Protecting yourself. You should. I want to protect you too.
I operate as logically as I can. It’s my nature. Love doesn’t understand logic. They are not friends. I am still protecting myself. You promised to protect me and you unintentionally hurt me. I am doing the best I can to accommodate both logic and love.
I know. I would be OK if we were just friends. Or acquaintances. Random texts. Just knowing you’re OK is enough. I know you love me. You’re doing fine. We just have shorthand, and it’s easy, and I don’t have anything to compare it to.
Right now, I have friendship to offer you. I know that we have the essence of us still, and that may never go away, even as friends.
I know we can succeed at a friendship. I don’t want to lose you.
There’s a chance this is it. There’s a chance we can be more again. There will be work, and who can say.
You and I are both making a lot of changes right now. Our friendship and support for each other is the part of our relationship that we need now. We don’t need fights or anything else right now; this is logical.
I know. I’m not sure I have fight in me. Not anymore.
You’re not losing me and I’m not losing you. We win.
We’re losing us for now and we in a union were pretty great. I guess I’m afraid if we make such great friends you’ll see no reason to take that step forward again.
We’re still us, Will. No words or titles or Facebook status changes that. Proof: Stand next to me and see how you feel. There’s no loss of connection there. But, that doesn’t mean that rushing back in is the right thing. If we can be friends and eventually best friends, then I think that’s where the payoff is. It will be a slow process. But when we get there, it will be seamless just as it has always been.
I know. Does it make sense to say I’ve felt halved since – there’s this myth that once we were all two souls connected and a god got angry and ripped everyone apart and we’ve spent eternity looking for our soul twin. I didn’t know how to handle everything I felt.
It doesn’t. I’ve felt the same way. My immediate instinct is to be with you again. But, past actions are indicators of future behavior. I need to look at the past and see a positive future. A solid friendship with you over time is the answer to that.
I do not tell you that I don’t believe in small breaks. A break is a break; small ones widen over time. So I agree with you, even though I know what was broken will not be fixed by time or friendship. Two halves do not make a whole when it comes to a healthy relationship; it takes two wholes. The ground beneath us is gone. We are falling. I know we are falling. I don’t want to know we are falling. I want to land. You were my home once, I think. You were wonderland.
I know. Was it this way when your other relationships ended? I think they were always just done, right? Your feelings ebbed and you moved on. And I’m not sure your logic in past indicating future holds. I think the reasons for my past actions don’t exist anymore. Like you said, the future that past was leading to is gone.
I just try not to repeat things that don’t work expecting a different result: Insanity.
That’s like saying you’re on your way to crystal again because you upped your drug intake that one time.
Well, Will, anything is possible. That was a risk I took.
The guy you dated with the other life is gone. He fell apart. There is no other life anymore. There is no self-hate. I don’t know how to explain it without seeming like I’m begging, which is not what I’m doing. You’re worth my patience, D. You always have been.
And you’re a new Will. Hello. Would you like to be friends? I think I’d like to get to know you.
Yes. Friend it out.
But don’t be surprised if one day we’re in matching suits and you have the W ring and I have whatever ring the key melts down to and I tell you I told you so.
I love to be proved wrong.
You don’t, but that’s OK. I will still try.
I am going to the RMV to get a license. I’ll talk to you later.
Go with the wind, Icarus. I love you and believe in you.
I love you, too. Or just love. Love.
I know. Love. I hear you sometimes just sleep and cuddle with friends. I’m going to hold you to it.
You send back a smile. Who knew that I would be able to use the fact that you and your best friend slept together as friends in my favor. Too bad you’re not ready for Avery. We’re going to the Charles River and maybe we’ll steal a Starbucks mug after. You told me you couldn’t handle a Will speech because I could sell you a boat. Well, I’ll be your boat. I’ll wear your boat. In my head, wearing a boat on a chain around my neck makes perfect sense. I will tell you I am your boat and that I will not sink again.
I call Holly. I ask her to bring me clothes so I can walk at the Charles. Holly brings me shorts and sneakers when she brings me Avery and the stroller. She says she needs the night out with her friends. I do not tell her that you and I have talked all day and that it feels normal and right. I do not tell her that I never thought you and I would spend all day talking again, and now that we have, I can’t imagine my life without talking to you all day. I tell her I will be home later.
I go to a mall to find a boat charm. Avery is talking in the backseat. I take some video of Avery talking, and I send the video to you.
I miss him.
Yeah, he’s missable. You were his stepparent. That wasn’t a lie.
I know that. I don’t feel any differently. I will treat him the same way.
Maybe, but you need to negotiate with his father first.
Maybe. But I don’t think there’s a better way to treat him than how I do. I’m open to suggestions.
You do just fine. You just can’t disappear from his life again. You broke up with him too.
I won’t just disappear without provocation.
I need to buy the boat charm today because the next time I see you, I want to have a boat on a chain around my neck. I want to be your boat that you can’t help but buy. I know you want to date it out again. And I want that, too. I do not listen when the voices in my head tell me I’m heading into uncharted territory. I do not listen when the voices in my head tell me I’m starting to go to bed later and wake up earlier. I do not listen when the voices in my head tell me I need to tell Holly. Instead, I am convincing myself to buy a boat that I obviously don’t know how to sail.
I do not find a boat charm, but I find tank tops. You say you have several you could give me. You say you have a pile of clothes in your closet that would fit me now, and that I am welcome to go through the pile and pick out what I like. I take pictures of Avery and send them to you. I’m delaying going home because I want you to ask me to do something. I see a Handy Manny toy. I take a picture and send it to you. Maybe I should get this for you and your best friend, I write. What I’m saying is I understand why you watched the cartoon when you were high, and I understand that I overreacted, and I hope you forgive me.
Can I interest you in ice cream? I don’t have any; just seeing if you would be interested.
Where? I am in the Common now.
I’d meet you there. Can you entertain yourself for a bit?
I get to the Common and find parking within a half hour. I put Avery in his stroller. We’re going to see D, baby, I say. D, D, D, Avery says. He has missed you too.
Sunbathers are on blankets. A group of men kick a soccer ball back and forth. There are no nets. They have figured out their own goal boundaries. I see two men sitting on a bench. They are clearly together. I take a picture of them. I am far enough away and behind them. They do not see me take the picture. I send you the picture.
I want this please.
Where are you?
I know where you are without even having to ask. Near Park Street Station. I see you there, and you’re sitting and drinking an iced coffee. There are a flock of birds nearby, walking and searching for crumbs. You see me and Avery and you stand up. You smile. I push Avery toward you and he is excited and you are excited, and I want to hug you and wrap my hands around the back of your neck and kiss you. Kissing strangers has gotten easier since Holly and I decided to separate; kissing someone I love should be simple, but it’s even more complicated.
You say hi and Avery says hi and I say hi and Avery wants out of his stroller and you know without my having to tell you that taking Avery out is a mistake. You tell Avery that you’ll take him out later. Avery pouts. You say, Buddy, I missed you, and you give him a hug. Avery holds onto you a little longer than necessary. You look at me over the top of his head and your eyes are wet and your eyes are smiling at me and I think that you would accept a kiss.
So ice cream, you ask, and I say yes, ice cream. And you ask if I had a place in mind, and I say no, and you say what about J.P. Licks, and I say that’s fine, and we walk. You look up and the sun is beautiful and you take a picture of it and I take a picture of you taking a picture of it and in the photo your back is to me and I can see Avery. I don’t know that this picture will be the last picture I take of you.
We walk. We walk across the Common and down Newbury Street. I think that this is the same way I walked when I bought the Amanda Palmer magazine on the night before your birthday. I feel that walking again on this street with you is somehow appropriate.
You say to Avery that he needs to tell his mother that the yellow stroller he is in sucks. And I say that the yellow stroller is small enough that I can carry it on my own, as opposed to the stroller I used when you and I walked together. I do not say, but I am saying all the same, that without your help, I have been reduced to a stroller one person can handle.
We walk and we talk about the car you want to buy. I suggest you get a used car, since it will be cheaper. You say you will think about it, but your mind is pretty set on a new car. I don’t say that I think you want a new car because your best friend has a new car. I don’t say it because I don’t want to cause a fight.
We walk and we talk about what went wrong and what happened and we talk about what we did in the time since we last saw each other and I point out different storefronts I had photographed on the night before your birthday, including a jewelry store that has as its window display a mock-up of the Mad Hatter’s tea party. There is Alice. There are the cups and saucers. A world of wonder awaits you upstairs; the headline above the picture. If I had only known the world of wonder that awaited me upstairs on the night I met you.
You tell me how one of the keys on the chain around your neck is a broken key. It is missing the part that fits inside a lock. You say you found it on this street, but couldn’t find the other half. You say that that was very much how you felt at that time. I tell you that I felt that way, too, then, and still feel that way. You point out the intersection where you found the broken key, and we look for the other half. I ask the universe to put the other half in view. I think we need to find the other half if we are going to get back together. Finding the other half will be a sign. I want to find the other half and give it to you. I think if I find the other half and give it to you, you will kiss me and everything will be OK.
We don’t find the other half of the key, but you say not finding the other half is OK. You hadn’t really expected to find it since so much time has passed.
We keep walking. Avery only wants you to push. You say nothing changes.
At times, everything changes, but we can take comfort in the parts that don’t change.
You say nothing.
Ahead, in front of a store, a Union Jack flag hangs. You stop and look at it. You ask me if we should take it.
I think you’re serious, and I say I think we should take it and leave.
Get the car and come back; you’ll grab the flag and jump in.
I say forget ice cream. Let’s do it.
You say rabbit, you would, wouldn’t you?
And I say yes, and that Avery would be our co-pilot, and you touch Avery’s head and he grabs your hand and pulls your fingers into his mouth. And I think that this right now, right here, in the middle of Newbury Street walking to get ice cream, is the way our life should be. This, right now, right here, is how our life should have been all along. But I don’t say that. I get the feeling that you’re not yet convinced. I feel like this, right now, right here, is an audition. I feel like you want to hire me for the part of your next boyfriend, but you’re still auditioning other guys. Maybe this is my callback. I should have rehearsed a song and dance number.
We get to the ice cream shop. You pay. We take turns feeding Avery and eating what we ordered. No Doubt is playing on the radio. You ask me if I like them. I say I do. You say you like some of their songs. You tell me about an MGMT show you went to with your best friend. You tell me that you bought tickets to see Ani DiFranco for you, your best friend, and another friend from work. Ani is playing Boston two nights before the Pittsfield show I bought us tickets for months ago. I think, really? You bought tickets for you, your best friend, and someone else, and you never bought tickets for us to see a concert? And I ask you if you would be OK if I bought my own ticket. I say I won’t stand with you and your friends. I say you won’t even know I’m there. You say that that would be fine. You can’t promise that I’ll be welcome to stand with you and your friends, but I should buy a ticket if I want to go. You go to the bathroom and I watch you walk away. I wipe Avery’s face with a napkin. You come out and we pack up our leftover ice cream.
We stop by a record store, and while you’re looking for a specific record, I find something you weren’t even looking for but that I know you want. You do. You buy it. We walk back in the direction of the Common. Avery is thirsty. He asks for juice. I give him his cup, but he doesn’t want it from me. He wants it from you.
Avery wants you to push him. He asks for you. You’re holding the Newbury Comics bag with the record in it. We don’t look at each other. I reach for the bag with one hand while still pushing with the other. You hand me the bag and simultaneously take control of the stroller. We don’t have to stop. We walk side by side. We may have gone into our relationship wanting to learn each other’s language, but we soon no longer needed each other’s language. Lovers develop a diction all their own.
You say you will help me move into my apartment. You offer your help without my having to ask. You say that if you help me, even if we end up hating each other eventually, when you move, I will have to agree to help you. I say I will do that. I say that if at that time you still don’t trust me in your home, then I will understand.
I’m not sure I don’t trust me in your home, you say, but my roommate has forbidden you from coming back into the apartment.
I don’t say that the apartment is yours and he’s just a subletter; that if we’re together, shouldn’t you get to decide whom you let into your apartment? I say instead that I will not want to go into your apartment. I say I’m not interested in seeing what your room looks like without pieces of me in it. I don’t say that I will never bring my son or daughter into your apartment again. I don’t say that I should never have brought Avery into a home where there are drugs and drug paraphernalia and men getting high. I don’t ask how many times you think Avery was there while your roommates were getting stoned. I don’t ask you if you even thought about that or cared.
I say that you’ll be welcome in my apartment. I say that I’ve spent six months in your home, and that it will be time for us to spend an equal amount of time in my home. You say you don’t believe that I don’t want to be in your home. I say it’s true. You say you’ll see.
You ask about the audio from the night before your party. I say I could send it to you. I say I haven’t listened to any more of it. You say again that you’d like to hear it, if only to hear things you’re not ready to admit about yourself.
We pass some of the more expensive apartments on Newbury Street, several of which have fire escapes, and you say that if you found out you had only one month to live, you would use every credit card you have and rent a flat for one month. Just to see what living like that feels like, you say.
You won’t do that at all, I say. You’d travel around the world. There are places you want to see before you die.
I know there are. And you laugh and you say that I know you too well, and of course you’d want to see the world.
I say that I would go with you and show you what I could, and learn with you the parts I didn’t know.
I’ll hold you to it, rabbit, you say.
You ask about Holly and how she’s holding up, and I tell you that she’s holding up better than I am. I tell you that she is the strongest woman I know. You say you’re looking forward to getting to know her.
I tell you I will walk with you to the train you will take to get home. We get near the train and we stop at a corner. There is a police officer at that corner. You bend at the waist to hug Avery, then you look at me. You reach for me, and I reach for you, and we hug a few seconds longer than friends hug and I inhale and you still don’t smell like you. And I let you go and you let me go and you smile at me and you say thank you and I say you’re welcome and you turn to walk away and I watch for a few seconds before I turn Avery’s stroller around and return the way we just came to walk toward my car.
I look into the storage area under Avery’s stroller, and I see what I think is your ice cream. I call you. I think I can catch you before you get on the train. You answer. I say I have your ice cream. You say you have your ice cream. I look in the bag and realize I am looking at my ice cream. I say you’re right and I hang up.
You call back. I wasn’t done, you say. I say sorry. You say thank you for coming out and for bringing Avery. You say you had missed him. I say he had missed you. You say I love you, Will. I say I love you, too, D. And we say nothing else, and I am wrapped in our story, and I think you are wrapped in our story, and I think we are each waiting for the other to say something else, but there is silence and we are each on our phones paused in our separate journeys home and I say I will talk to you tomorrow and you say you will talk to me tomorrow and we hang up.
What I should have said is come back. Don’t get on the train. I’m turning around.
And you would have, because you would have wanted to, and we would have met back where we parted and I would have put the brake on Avery’s stroller and I would have stepped into you and you would have hugged me and I would have wrapped my hands around the back of your neck and we would have kissed for the first time in more than three weeks and the police officer who had been standing on the corner where we went our separate ways would have looked away, because that’s what people do when they see two people so madly in love.
I walk with Avery through the Common toward my car. I look at the night sky. There are the stars, the same stars I thought you would imagine me living on if I had succeeded in killing myself. I turn in a circle and spread my arms wide. Avery laughs. I take a picture of a carousel. The photo doesn’t turn out well, but it is proof that I am here and you and I had been there together moments earlier. I get to the car and I strap Avery in and I get in and I say, we had a good night with D, right, and Avery laughs and says, yes. And I say I love you, baby, and he says I love you too, daddy. And he adds, I love D, and I say I love D, too.
I think this is the first time he has said I love D. He says it unprompted. There are few lies with children. They say what they mean. They have no filter. When he says I love D, he means he loves D.
We get home and Holly asks if we had fun. Holly hugs Avery. Did you have fun, baby, she asks. D, he says, D, D, D. Holly looks at me. Did you see him?, she asks me.
No, I say. I would tell you if we saw him.
I am lying, even though I have no reason to lie. She won’t approve, I think. She will say that you broke me and she put me together again and we were separating and I am moving out next week and it isn’t fair that I get you in the end. She would say that it’s not that she wants me to be alone and unhappy, but that she thinks I can do better than a drug addict.
Some nights, however shapeless, are meant to be seen. This night, tonight, you and I were meant to see what we have left. If there is anything left. I want there to be. I want you to think there is.
* * * * *
William Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative non-fiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association, and the New England Press Association. Currently, he is a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He can be reached at email@example.com and through his blog, Henderson House of Cards.
His other Snake-Oil contributions are here.