i see reality: 12 stories that don't hold back

At a bookstore near you on 1/26/16

This anthology from FSG features twelve authors telling stories that keep it real. Mine, Three Imaginary Conversations With You, is about a girl who desperately wants to break up with her manipulative, emotionally abusive boyfriend, but just can't seem to. See below for an excerpt.

I’m breaking up with you today.

After two years, three months, six weeks, four days, and five hours of being Gavin Davis’ Girlfriend, I am breaking up with you.

You’ll never see it coming. Your little high school girlfriend who never says no to you, the one who blows off her friends for your college keggers, the one who just sits there when you tell her she’s a drag and that dating a girl in high school fucking sucks—that girl is Breaking Up With You.

I’m breaking up with you even though Christmas is next week and I already bought you a present it’s too late to return.

I’m breaking up with you even though the thought of breaking up with you hurts.

This is how it will go down:

First we’ll go to The Nutcracker because your mom bought us tickets as a Christmas present and I’ll decide it’d be shitty not to go because she’ll feel like I’m rejecting her and I only want to reject you. This will be a terrible decision, but I’ll make it anyway because when we end, your parents—who see me as a daughter who’s going to be in their family forever—will be collateral damage. I want them to hurt as little as possible. Obviously what I plan to do after the show is even more shitty, but at least your mom won’t feel like she wasted the money. I just know that if I don’t do this before Christmas, I never will. Because if I wait, you’ll get me a sweet gift like you did last year (who buys first editions of a girl’s favorite childhood book? You.)—and I won’t be able to go through with it.

I have to do this.

I’ve pictured it a thousand times, a thousand different ways. This is just one of them.

First: When you come to pick me up, I’ll wonder if I should wait just a few more days because of how your eyes light up when you see me in my dress. I’ll think about how in a few hours those eyes are going to be red-rimmed and pleading. (Note to self: wear something terrible). And, of course, you’ll be crazy hot, wearing a tie or something and the thought of you dressing up for another girl after we break up will make me insanely jealous, which is so stupid, but I won’t be able to help it. Then I’ll start psychoanalyzing what that means, like, if I feel jealous, then doesn’t that mean I want to stay together? Meanwhile, I’ll feel even more uncertain as I watch you play with my little brother, who you genuinely adore and constantly compare to the kid in Jerry Maguire. You’ll call him “little dude,” which he loves. I’ll see Sam kiss you on the cheek before we leave for the theatre and you’ll kiss him right back and it’ll be the sweetest goddamn thing I’ve ever seen. Fuck you for that.

On the way to the theatre, we’ll get into a little argument and I’ll feel vindicated. You’re upset that my parents want me home by eleven. You’ll sigh and shake your head, like you’re the most put-upon boyfriend in the universe. “You’re lucky I love you so much.” Compliment and criticism rolled into one, as usual. But the thing is: I’ll believe you. Because I know my parents are super strict and I’m a little bit of a prude. And because I still can’t shake the awe that when we were in high school together, you chose me over girls who were so much prettier, so much more. I don’t understand why you still choose me over college girls who are independent and flirty and fun. So, yeah, maybe I’m lucky. I’ll still want to break up, though.

In the theatre parking lot or going up the fancy staircase inside, I’ll think about that day at the park, when we were on the swings and you said, Jessa, you have no idea how hard it is to love you. But I can’t stop. I won’t stop. You expanded on this. You went on and on about hard I am to love with my negativity and my strict parents and my crazy ideas about chastity. You call me Eeyore, as in the depressive donkey from Winnie the Pooh, and not always affectionately. You say I’m a wet blanket and a tease and you don’t care how much I get punished when I come home after curfew. You don’t care what price I have to pay for us to be together. This is my ammunition and I have stored it carefully inside me: proof we are bad together.

After the show (you’ll be a perfect gentleman, buying me expensive snacks and kissing my neck), we’ll be sitting in your mom’s car outside McDonald’s, our typical late night snack place. You’ll have coffee, black. I’ll have the McFlurry I didn’t want, but you insisted I loved and needed to eat.

“Hey, I know it’s early, but…” You’ll reach into your pocket and I’ll shrink away (Crap! I thought I was doing this early enough!). You’ll hand me a long, thin velvet box. A jewelry box. I won’t want to know what’s inside, so I’ll decide not to open it. This time, I won’t let you trick me into staying together.

I’ll shake my head. You’ll think I’m being coy and you’ll smile your sweet, sexy smile—not the cruel one—and you’ll push it closer (pushing—you’re so good at that, aren’t you?). I’ll hug the door of the car, keep my hands behind me. Your smile will slide off your face and god, I won’t be able to do this. Because I’ll see your heart breaking, like you already know what’s going to happen.

“What’s up?” you’ll ask. Your voice shakes a little, but you’ll try to keep it casual.

For a minute, I won’t be able to answer because you are so familiar to me and I’ll start thinking (like I always do) about what it would be like not to have this: you, across from me, having our little traditions like coffee and McFlurries. I’ll start wondering if this is the last time I’ll ever sit in this car and my resolve will start to waver, just a little. I’ll watch you for a minute because even then, preparing to break up with you, I can’t stop looking. I can’t stop wanting you.

Your hair is blond and the fluorescent parking lot lights make it gleam. I used to call you Prince Charming, before, when you were the popular senior-captain of the water polo team-guitar playing god who noticed mousy little me and said I’m taking you out tonight. I’m only now realizing that wasn’t a question. Technically, you never asked me out. You didn’t give me the option of saying no.

At some point between leaving the theatre and arriving at McDonald’s you’ll have grown tired of the tie and dress shirt and changed into the shirt I bought you two years ago, right after we got together. Just a stupid Hollister shirt, but you love it and sometimes ask me to sleep in it so it’ll smell like me. It’s faded now and has a hole near the shoulder and isn’t that us, I’ll want to say right then, isn’t that us?

I’ll take a deep breath. “Wehavetobreakup.”

You’ll go still. Utterly, completely still.

You’ll swallow. Look at the little box in your hand. A truck full of guys will rev past us and I’ll jump. They’ll swing into the drive-thru lane and order half the menu while we sit there, staring at each other. You’ll set my Christmas present on the dashboard.

“I’ll kill myself if you break up with me.”

--From Three Imaginary Conversations With You

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