You cut it out with all the old sucias, even the Iranian girl you’d boned the entire time you were with the fiancée. Takes you a bit, but you finally break clear, and when you do you feel lighter. She’s a big girl with skin like you wouldn’t believe, and, best of all, she doesn’t privar at all; actually seems . You must have needed it bad, because once you get into the swing of it you start running four, five, six times a week. You run in the morning and you run late at night, when there’s no one on the paths next to the Charles. The running is going splendidly, and then six months in you feel a pain in your right foot. K.: you get numbers, though nothing you would take home to the fam. Her name is Noemi, Dominican from Baní, and you meet at Sofia’s in the last months before it closes. She’s a nurse, and when Elvis complains about his back she starts listing all the shit it might be. You used to run in the old days and you figure you need something to get you out of your head. pushes with his thumb, watches you writhe, and announces that you have plantar fasciitis.
One minute you have to stop yourself from jumping in the car and driving to see her and the next you’re calling a sucia and saying, You’re the one I always wanted. The ex, as you’re now calling her, always cooked: a turkey, a chicken, a pernil. That night, you drink yourself into a stupor, then spend two days recovering. It feels like you’re being slowly pincered apart, atom by atom. Elvis sits shivah with you in the apartment; he pats you on the shoulder, tells you to take it easy.
You keep writing letters to her, waiting for the day that you can hand them to her. Thanksgiving you end up having to spend alone in your apartment because you can’t face your mom and the idea of accepting other people’s charity makes you furious. During finals a depression rolls over you, so profound that you doubt there is a name for it.
And because love, real love, is not so easily shed.
Because you’ve gone through so much together—her father’s death, your tenure madness, her bar exam (passed on the third attempt).
You’re out all the time, but no one seems to be biting. One girl, when you tell her you’re Dominican, actually says, Hell no, and runs full tilt toward the door. One month, two months, three months, and then some hope. You get serious about classes and, for your health, you take up running.
You begin to wonder if there’s some secret mark on your forehead. He’s working for this ghetto-ass landlord and starts taking you with him on collection day. Deadbeats catch one peep of your dismal grill and cough up their debts on the spot. You start three novels: one about a pelotero, one about a narco, and one about a bachatero—all of them suck pipe.
She brings her own pillow, one of those expensive foam ones, and her own toothbrush, and she takes it all with her on Monday morning. You send her one exploratory text, but it’s never answered. You two are pushing his daughter’s stroller around the playground near Columbia Terrace.
And you thought this guy was a good idea for what reason? A little kissing, a little feeling up, but nothing beyond that. Within an hour, she has unfriended you on Facebook.
You cry every time you hear Monchy y Alexandra, her favorite. Your friends begin to worry about you, and they are not exactly worrying types. K., you tell them, but with each passing week the depression deepens. He was pinned under the burning wreckage for what felt like a week, so he knows a little about pain. You breathe non-stop, like a marathon runner, but it doesn’t help. But (a) you ain’t the killing-yourself type; (b) your boy Elvis is over all the time, stands by the window as if he knows what you’re thinking; and (c) you have this ridiculous hope that maybe one day she will forgive you. It’s like waking up from the worst fever of your life. ), but you can stand near windows without being overcome by strange urges, and that’s a start. You put away all the old pictures of her, say goodbye to her Wonder Woman features.
You start losing your temper with friends, with students, with colleagues. You stop hitting the gym or going out for drinks; you stop shaving or washing your clothes; in fact, you stop doing almost everything. Four years earlier, Elvis had a Humvee blow up on him on a highway outside Baghdad. You have dreams where she’s talking to you like in the old days—in that sweet Spanish of the Cibao, no sign of rage, of disappointment. You stop sleeping, and some nights when you’re drunk you have a wacky impulse to open the window of your fifth-floor apartment and leap down to the street. It really is a long stretch of shit, and then, finally, the madness begins to recede. Only one pair of your jeans fits, and none of your suits. A white grandma screams at you at a traffic light, and you close your eyes until she goes away.
You claim that you were sick, you claim that you were weak. You write her long sensitive letters, which she returns unopened.