what i saw of his lovelife from a distance

A close high school friend of mine with whom I’ve only had occasional contact these past few years has nonetheless been an object of intense focus on social media, where we trade the occasional joke, largely because he’s been making lotsa high-profile friends at a major Miami night club and posting photos from his dinners with Drake and DJ Khaled, popping bottles on yachts, traveling the world.

            It isn’t the life I would want for myself, but it’s certainly fun to look at, and I’ve enjoyed watching him live it.

            What I’ve most loved about his feed, though, is that he’s so passionately in love with, and so passionately loved in return by, his colleague/girlfriend (I think she was a bartender at said nightclub).

            Together over the past few yeas they’ve posted constant photos and videos of their giggling, frenetic, ceaselessly embracing vacations to Disney, Spain, Greece—the conventional gamut of romantic, photogenic destinations.

I haven’t met his girlfriend, but we started following each other on Instagram when they got serious.

            Suddenly you’ve gotta go to my friend’s feed to find pictures of his girlfriend, and her feed to find pictures of him. Not by design, but cuz one is always posting about the other.

It’s charming.

            Both of them were obsessively slim and muscular when they met, in adherence to the demands of a night club scene, but have since adopted some padding over these years of romantic bliss. They aren’t fat, they’re just no longer the caricatures of Miami beach bods.

            Then my friend breaks some news in a lengthy Instagram post:

            Through all these years of partying, of working at the club, of traveling and romping about with his girlfriend—he’s also been studying engineering. And now he’s an engineer.

            She in turn, I come to find, has been making big covert strides in her own schooling, and is now on the cusp of becoming a registered nurse.

            It’s been remarkable to watch them evolve from this bubbly, passionate, hard-partying romance into something more steady, more professional and secure, more tranquil.

            And when the other day she posted a photo of herself in gymwear, looking fit, I was amused to see that they’ve structured their lives to re-incorporate fitness.

Shortly after that, my friend posted pictures of himself in something like his old beach physique, prepping for a marathon.

Not long after that, I saw her post photos of herself at a club, in a tight V-cut dress with her breasts hoisted, cleavage spilling…

            My friend, meanwhile, was posting more and more photos of himself at clubs, popping bottles again, hanging out on boats…

            As his Instagram stories began to suggest a new immersion into the night life, I noticed that the trickle of her Instagram stories became more sexy, provocative, playful.

            When I went and finally looked at their profiles for the first time in a few months, I saw that all traces of one had been purged from the gallery of the other.

            I’ve never known them as a couple, but the breakup was nonetheless kinda devastating. I guess cuz I was holding their bond up in my mind’s eye as a sort of romantic ideal. I watched the tone of that romance evolve over the years in a way that seemed to mirror my own development; it seemed they were adapting, year by year, to depict the increasingly tranquil and steady sort of romance that I myself was looking for at a given moment.

            That it should now have ended feels like another blow to the already well-pummeled idea that a romance can endure (though, of course, some of them do).

            So it goes. Since I’m back on a troubled Updike kick, why not quote him, from the introduction of his Maple Stories:

“That a marriage ends is less than ideal; but all things end under heaven, and if temporality is held to be invalidating, then nothing real succeeds.”

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