This past summer, I had the thought of buying tickets for “Zarkana” by Cirque du Soleil in New York City for my boyfriend and me. Okay. So maybe I didn’t just have the thought. Maybe I kind of had already bought the tickets. But that’s beside the point.
“Had” is the key word there. I thought it would be a nice surprise for our six-month anniversary; perhaps even a great one—we joked about running away and joining the circus on our first date. I’ve never seen Cirque du Soleil and mon Dieu, I wish that “had” had turned into an “I had seen”! (Oh; perhaps “had” is the wrong word to emphasize.)
The tickets were for Saturday night, a couple of days before our actual anniversary. I was trés excited.
But then, somewhere on the Upper West, I got a popup on Gchat.
Going out of town next weekend.
If I didn’t suffer from self-diagnosed Aspergers or social anxiety—if I didn’t have a black soul, or if I wasn’t dead inside; if I wasn’t a right-winger or emotionally stunted (or, or, or)—I might have reacted like a proper human being. Surely normal people don’t keep everything inside, stuffing their emotions down their throats, zipping up their lips, screaming into their pillows? They certainly don’t let themselves fester in silence, make passive-aggressive comments, blame the moon, or even replay the way they felt over and over again until neither Ben nor Jerry could help.
(Maybe what I should be emphasizing is all this horrible use of tenses.)
That was six months together.
Fast forward to eight months.
My last weekend in New York consisted of tears, sushi, and thesis work. I needed to escape—New York City or the catacombs of my mind, I cannot be sure—so I was going to jump on a plane for a quick vacation on the other side of the pond.
I was flying out on a Tuesday so I had the thought of spending our last Saturday together. I’m not sure whether that’s being possessive or simply selfish—maybe it’s my love of free markets that doesn’t allow me to accept any interference. In any case, I thought we could get bagels for breakfast, then walk across the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan. I even thought of having a picnic in Central Park or Riverside Park before heading out for dinner.
Okay. So maybe all these thoughts were a reality and by that Wednesday, I had made dinner reservations at Nobu. Yes, Nobu, for two, 9 pm. I am European after all. (Well, Mediterranean. Greek. Greek-Cypriot. Middle Eastern? No, identity crisis, now is not the time—but God damn it I’m a nationalist.)
I got the text on Thursday, in the middle of copyediting an article about masturbation in Brooklyn.
My friend is in town this weekend, I’ll just have dinner with them on Saturday.
Well, that was unexpected. (Really, though? Was it really?) Cue self-loathing, self-deprecating jokes, more “no, no, of course,” less “what about me?” Now wasn’t the time to be self-absorbed, no doubt. I just replied with a smiley. Or a long essay on the importance of monopoly in an economy, either/or.
(And now I think I get it. It isn’t about grammar at all; it’s about the past.)
The only thing I can remember is waking up at 6:04 am on the Saturday to erase CANCEL NOBU DINNER from the small whiteboard on the fridge before he woke up.
Okay. Fast forward once more. Speed through time. No more past. Focus on the present. The present that consists of all our little pasts.
Today. 2013. Fifteen months.
The plan to move to New York after graduation and surprising him. Aye. I know. I’ll be twenty-five in July so of course—of course—I’ve been daydreaming about another parfait summer together when I should have been writing. I dreamt of a bubble where all of my pasts became presents became little futures.
Then I got a text.
I’m away in July.
Neni Demetriou is a Greek-Cypriot fiction writer who fell in love with New York City after living in Los Angeles for two years. She is currently an associate editor for Black Clock, and an editorial intern for Slice Magazine.