Dear Katherine,(I can’t remember when I switched to calling you that. Does anyone anymore?)
A few weeks ago I was looking back through my Twitter timeline. It wasn’t particularly interesting reading for the first 44 tweets. I wasn’t surprised. I don’t really use Twitter, and I don’t remember what compelled me to embark on this particular retrospective in the first place. But after the 44th post, the tenor of the tweets shifted. The voice changed. The content changed. And every tweet came with a Tumblr link. I had forgotten that we lashed our blog to my Twitter. But there it was. Scrolling backward in time, from April 9, 2011, through Oct. 24, 2010, a mostly unbroken stream of tweets documenting our long-distance relationship’s fall, its rise and all of its bends along the way, in 140-character previews of the blog we wrote together.
You can’t click the links anymore, since distanceheartfonder.tumblr.com no longer exists. The URLs just sit there in black. So the only thing that remains of the blog are the 120 characters in each tweet that contain the first few words of each post. These previews trail off with poignant ellipses, their content locked tantalizingly out of reach. You can’t read the text you sent me when you were still doped with Novocain (still makes me laugh), the music post you put up after I finally listened to J. Cole like you told me to (still bump it) or the essays we wrote about Skype or saying goodbye. I don’t remember what they said, and I’m surprised by how much that bothers me. It just doesn’t seem right that our relationship, as emotional, formative and important as it was, has been reduced to these hauntingly nostalgic fragments of text. But I suppose we hadn’t planned on them just being the leftovers of a collapsed relationship. Then again, we hadn’t planned on a lot of things.
We planned on keeping alive a high school flame stoked by a New Year’s of infomercials, a birthday limo ride to Boston, a summer at Tony’s Pizza. In fact, we planned on fanning it hotter, somehow, over the Amtrak rails connecting Trenton with Washington, D.C. (Remember how we thought D.C. was 900 miles from Princeton, and had it on the banner of our blog for a few weeks until my OA leader pointed out that was wrong?) We planned Skype calls. We planned breaks: During Fall Break we watched “Babies,” during Intercession we tromped through a snowy Verne in flip-flops to check out some random documentary. We even planned some of our activities: Thanks, Model Congress, for giving me a free trip to see you that fall.
And we planned our blog. It would give us something to work on together. It would give us a quasi-public space to vent, to express ourselves and to gain strength and support from a fragmentary LDR community that seemed incredibly relieved to have people expressing, discussing and living their problems online. I was always, and still remain, stunned by the response we got from that blog. People still mention it to me sometimes. Every so often, I wonder how those other LDR couples are doing. Are they still together? How did they find a way to make it work?
Because in the end, we couldn’t. Or perhaps more fairly, I couldn’t. I’m still not quite sure when we turned the corner. It wasn’t a particular moment. It probably would have been easier if it had been, because then at least we could have dealt with something concrete, something tangible. We could have said, “Look, you did this, you have become this new person. And I can’t date someone that does that, or is that.” But instead we got caught up in the messy, heart-wrenching process that happens when two people that form a “we” split apart into separate “I’s.”
I wanted to be more engaged in Princeton. To go on Breakout trips over my breaks. To go out to the Street and not feel bad for wanting to dance with other people because you weren’t there. To not have to choose between a looming pile of HUM readings, an economics problem set and a Writing Sem paper or a visit from you. To feel like all of me was invested here, now, and not halfway down the eastern seaboard. I wanted local emotional support. I wanted to experience the holistic personal overhaul college induces. And I just couldn’t do it. Keeping up a relationship from that far away was harder than I thought it was going to be, and I wasn’t strong enough for it.
The months we spent shouting, crying, drunk calling and doing it all again are a bit of a blur at this point. So are the months after we broke up, the times we couldn’t be near each other without hooking up and lapsing back into our simmering fight (though you always hated when I called it a fight). I remember them, of course. But the memories don’t upset me like they used to. To be honest, just like the Twitter posts, they tend to make me smile, but its the kind of smile that feels like you’re standing at the top of a mountain when you make it, where the oxygen is a little thinner and you can’t quite get a handle on what you’re thinking.
But when I think about us now, which is less than it used to be, I usually don’t think about our old relationship. I’ll throw “Tha Carter II” into the CD player in Swarls, and seeing your handwriting in blue Sharpie on the disc makes me wonder what you’ve been listening to. I’ll call my brother and be pulled by an urge to find out whether or not you have a new boyfriend. Someone mentions Mock Trial, and I’ll wonder if you’re still winning awards for it.
Maybe one day I’ll just ask. Beyond a few lowercase words on the top of your protected Twitter page, I don’t really know how you are, or who you are. I think I’ve changed a great deal. I tend to be a lot calmer now, and I don’t get as upset anymore. I’ve found I can’t be totally engaged in Princeton, that I value having a life beyond its gates. I have different academic plans, different career goals and different ways of expressing myself (or not). Maybe sometime we’ll actually be able to catch up and really reconnect. But I’ll probably just see you at some high school reunion, or bump into you at the Picnic Basket down in Narragansett in 30 years when our lives have more clearly, and more permanently, diverged. Or maybe I’ll just point to the television and say, “We dated,” someday when you’ve finished changing the world. I try not to plan these things too much anymore.