I'm back, you say to your boys.
Elvis laughs. It's almost like you never left.
You're good for like a week. Then your moods become erratic. 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. You start losing your temper with friends, with students, with colleagues. You cry every time you hear Monchy and Alexandra, her favorite.
Boston, where you never wanted to live, where you feel you've been exiled to, becomes a serious problem. You have trouble adjusting to it fulltime; to its trains that stop running at midnight, to the glumness of its inhabitants, to its startling lack of Sichuan food. Almost on cue a lot of racist shit starts happening. Maybe it was always there, maybe you've become more sensitive after all your time in NYC. White people pull up at traffic lights and scream at you with a hideous rage, like you nearly ran over their mothers. It's fucking scary. Before you can figure out what the fuck is going on they flip you the bird and peel out. It happens again and again. Security follows you in stores and every time you step on Harvard property you're asked for ID. Three times, drunk whitedudes try to pick fights with you in different parts of the city.
You take it all very personally. I hope someone drops a fucking bomb on this city, you rant. This is why no people of color want to live here. Why all my black and Latino students leave as soon as they can.
Elvis says nothing. He was born and raised in Jamaica Plain, knows that trying to defend Boston from uncool is like blocking a bullet with a slice of bread. Are you OK? he asks finally.
I'm dandy, you say. Mejor que nunca.
Except you're not. You've lost all the mutual friends you had in NYC (they went to her), your mother won't speak to you after what happened (she liked the fiancée better than she liked you), and you're feeling terribly guilty and terribly alone. You keep writing letters to her, waiting for the day that you can hand them to her. You also keep fucking everything that moves. Thanksgiving you end up having to spend in your apartment because you can't face your mom and the idea of other people's charity makes you furious. The ex, as you're now calling her, always cooked: a turkey, a chicken, a pernil. Set aside all the wings for you. That night you drink yourself into a stupor, spend two days recovering.
You figure that's as bad as it gets. You figure wrong. During finals a depression rolls over you, so profound you doubt there is a name for it. It feels like you're being slowly pincered apart, atom by atom.
You stop hitting the gym or going out for drinks; you stop shaving or washing your clothes; in fact, you stop doing almost everything. Your friends begin to worry about you, and they are not exactly the worrying types. I'm OK, you tell them, but with each passing week the depression darkens. You try to describe it. Like someone flew a plane into your soul. Like someone flew two planes into your soul. Elvis sits shivah with you in the apartment; he pats you on the shoulder, tells you to take it easy. Four years earlier Elvis had a Humvee blow up on him on a highway outside of Baghdad. The burning wreckage pinned him for what felt like a week, so he knows a little about pain. His back and buttocks and right arm so scarred up that even you, Mr. Hard Nose, can't look at them. Breathe, he tells you. You breathe nonstop, like a marathon runner, but it doesn't help. Your little letters become more and more pathetic. Please, you write. Please come back. 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. And then you wake up.
You stop sleeping, and some night when you're drunk and alone you have a wacky impulse to open the window of your fifth-floor apartment and leap down to the street. If it wasn't for a couple of things you probably would have done it, too. But (a) you ain't the killingyourself type; (b) your boy Elvis keeps a strong eye on you - he's 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.
From This is How You Lose Her © September 2012 by Junot Diaz, published by Riverhead Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
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