don’t ask

Chatted with a friend who knows about the breakup and he was asking me how I was doing and intimating that he’d been in touch with my ex. When I asked how she was doing he told me she was fine and after I nodded and sipped my beer for a long time I asked him if she was seeing anybody.

A few weeks ago at work I told one of my colleagues a story I’d found on reddit, something about a stalker, and she shook her head at the end of it and said, “I wish I didn’t know that story,” which made me think about things that I’ve learned that I ended up wishing I hadn’t.

And I don’t think it’s ever really happened.

There’ve been times after terrorist attacks, calamities of one sort or another, where I’ll read these exhaustively detailed accounts of exactly what happened and then sometimes, against my better judgment, I’ll look up photos of the scene. And when, on occasion, there’s something really graphic — dead bodies and twisted metal, etc — it’ll freak me out and sober me up for a few hours, fuck with my sleep. It sucks to have those images in my head but it does feel almost…morally responsible to seek them out? I know that sounds obnoxious. But it’s this ugly and upsetting habit of mine that I’ve chosen to ennoble, for some reason.

I tend to do this with my bad habits.

Wanting to know if my ex has moved on doesn’t quite fit that model of, like, difficult truths that have moral heft. It’s masochistic, voyeuristic, angsty; kinda pathetic to even ask. She’s going to move on. So am I. The show doesn’t stop here. Why does it matter if she moved on yesterday or tomorrow or next week or now?

In high school and the first couple years of college I was interested in heavy questions about good and evil and god and the meaning of life and things like that. Had lotsa fun, aimless, pretentious conversations in different dorms late at night around them

Then, slowly, the questions became exhausting. I was starting to look toward my future, I was thinking about jobs, noticing atrocities in the news. Started talking about politics and class and race. My friends were getting engaged to each other, earning degrees, moving around the world for work and school and love and fun.

I was starting to see how differently the people around me were choosing to live their lives. It felt like almost a full-time intellectual exercise just to register the enormity and diversity of the things around me, the events, let alone keep track of the trillion different particulars about who moved where, and why.

Finally, by senior year, if somebody came up with a question about the cosmos, or something super abstract or ethereal, I started steering the conversation back down to Earth cuz of all the scary, beautiful, riveting shit I was just beginning to learn about. Stuff in my tangible and immediate reality.

There’s more stuff going on around us at any given second than we could ever get around to discussing in a lifetime, was the way I started thinking. Why focus on things that have no consequence?

Stuff my ex is up to is her business, and as far-removed from my daily life as are those dorm-room philosophizing questions about God and “where does the universe end?” and “is money bad?”

And how do I cement that in my head? Same way I moved on from concerning myself with similarly flighty stuff in college: start focusing on the world around me, the lives. Pay close attention to things. Become indiscriminately voracious in my consumption of content: watch lotsa strange movies and listen to new music each day and read a stranger’s soul-baring blog post and then, super important, reflect. Consider what you’ve seen and learned.

R. has a right to consume the world around her in her own way, privately and voraciously. I need to do the same.

My friend slumps in his seat as though exhausted that I’d even ask him. His eyelids get heavy in a foreboding way. His voice drops. “For your own good,” he days, “don’t even start with those questions. Look ahead, dude.” He does some kinda sympathetic karate chop gesture. “Forward.”

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