What are you doing reading this post? It’s the last day left to read a book in 2013–get on it!
Don’t know what to read? How about In One Year and Out the Other, a collection of New Year’s-themed stories. Below is an excerpt from the wonderful Beth Kendrick’s short story in the anthology, called The Bad Breakup Regime. It will change your life. Or, at the very least, get you started on that resolution for 2014: Read More Books.
from The Bad Breakup Regime
I need pizza,” Bill gasped, cresting at the top of his hundredth sit-up. “Pizza and a whole case of Sam Adams.”
“You can’t have pizza.” I increased the pace of my treadmill, feigning horror at the mere suggestion of all those empty carbs and fat grams. Trying to banish the visions of Krispy Kremes dancing in my own head. “Pizza is not part of the new regime. Do you think they’re sitting around, moping and eating pizza all day?”
“Moping, no. Pizza, yes.” He gave up halfway through his hundred-and-first sit-up and collapsed back into the sweat soaked gym mat. “They’re probably scarfing down pepperoni with extra cheese right now. In bed.”
And I had nothing to say to that, because he was probably right. Together, Dan and Erika had become the embodiment of everything we couldn’t have, couldn’t do, couldn’t be.
Before the breakup, Bill and I had known each other in a vague, friend-of-a-friend sort of way due to all the double dates we’d shared when he was with Erika and I was with Dan: dinner at Carmine’s II, movies at the Westwood Mann, self-consciously ironic forays to the Hollywood Wax Museum.
But not until last New Year’s Eve, when Dan and Erika announced they were leaving us for each other, did we really bond.
In retrospect, the signs of impending relationship doom were all in place by Thanksgiving—Dan had started spending a lot of time “at work” and stopped wanting sex—but there are none so blind as starry-eyed girlfriends who will not see. I chalked it up to his stressful job and the chaos of the holidays. After all, he still called me “Sweetpea” and sometimes even brought me flowers for no reason. Guilt bouquets, I know now.
And Bill reported it was the same with Erika, except she used me as her alibi. She told him that she was hanging out with me on Friday and Saturday nights, that all her new lingerie and perfume had been purchased on our many nonexistent trips to the Beverly Center. He figured that girls’ night out was a harmless way for her to work off all that extra energy she suddenly seemed to have and shrugged off his doubts. After all, she still called him “Honeybear” and got her forehead Botoxed in what she passed off as an effort to look even sexier for him.
We were fools. Chumps. The last to know and all those old chestnuts.
But we were in love.
So when Erika turned away from Bill at the New Year’s Eve company party that she and I were required to attend every December and kissed Dan rather than her boyfriend . . . and Dan kissed her back with the intensity of Ralph Fiennes in The English Patient . . . and then they turned to us and explained that “they didn’t want to start a new year living a lie” . . . well, it came as quite a shock. I’m told drinks were thrown in faces, although I’ve blocked out the details.
Luckily, my department manager was already drunk, so I still have my job. And so does Erika. But we’ve done an admirable job of avoiding each other since then; the unspoken rule is that she stays on the eleventh through twentieth floors of our office building, floors two through ten are mine. The lobby and the cafeteria are neutral territory, but I never see her there. She has her father’s money and the love of my life—common decency dictates that she lunch at the bistro around the corner.
Erika had been my roommate at UCLA, where she slowly developed the habit of borrowing my stuff without asking. High heels, handbags, halter tops—we shared everything. I never really minded, as long as the items were returned in their original condition.
Well, this time I minded.
And Dan was not going to be returning, never mind in his original condition. “I know this hurts, but I think you always loved me more than I loved you. It’s not fair to either of us.” That’s what he said in the breakup e-mail—yes, e-mail—he sent me after he packed up all his worldly belongings in the middle of the night and relocated to Erika’s rent-controlled apartment in Santa Monica. Then he blocked my e-mail address on his account and my phone number on his caller ID so I couldn’t respond with an appropriately scathing diatribe. Or stalk him. Or beg him to reconsider. (Not, of course, that I ever tried to do any of those things. More than a few times per day.)
Dan moved on without a backward glance and in so doing, displaced Bill. Erika kicked him out and changed the locks even though both their names were on the lease, her main argument being: “My father owns this apartment complex.” Bill, still in the first flush of post-breakup self-righteous rage, countered with “Then tell Daddy to put you up in another luxury suite, Princess,” but that just got his clothes, baseball card collection, and golf clubs tossed out the window. His 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle was lost forever to the vagaries of rush-hour traffic on Ocean Avenue. It was hard to tell what he was most bitter about: losing Erika, losing Mickey, or losing rent control.
“Do you know what they’re asking for a frickin’ studio in Westwood these days?” he ranted when I ran into him two weeks later at my neighborhood Blockbuster.
I did know. Because now I had to pony up all the rent for the two-bedroom I used to share with Dan, who earned roughly double my salary.
So we opted for the obvious solution: moving him into my empty extra bedroom and transforming the apartment into a heartbreak recovery ward, complete with family-sized boxes of Kleenex and a strict all-sweatpants-all-the-time policy. We shook hands and rented Better Off Dead to seal the deal.
By Groundhog Day, Bill and I had resigned ourselves to spending all our free weekends together, hunkered down in the living room with the shades drawn and the TV on, wads of used tissues dotting the carpet. None of our other friends could stand to hear any more about the breakup, but we weren’t ready to let it go.
We tried to fill the holes in our hearts with pizza, pasta, and enough Girl Scout cookies to sustain an entire troop for a year. Blockbuster, a three-block walk from the apartment, was eventually deemed “too labor intensive.” Why leave the apartment when we could order DVDs online? Our tastes in movies, though eclectic, tended toward the time-consuming and dramatic. Epic films, documentaries, and acclaimed television series—the longer, the better. Perhaps, we reasoned, healing and health would sneak up on us while we zoned out in our pj’s. In that spirit we devoted February to viewing seasons 1–6 of Sex and the City, despite Bill’s weak protests that overexposure to cosmopolitans and cute shoes would render him effeminate.
“It’s official: I’m turning gay,” he said glumly as we watched Carrie fling a bag of French fries across Mr. Big’s kitchen. “I can feel it happening. I’m turning gay, and it doesn’t even matter because without Erika, I’ve lost my will to date.”
“You’re not gay.” I patted his shoulder and passed the Thin Mints. “You’re a metrosexual.”
“Whatever. After this, let’s watch Will & Grace and plan my coming-out party.”