On the eve of the 4th of July, the temperature will reach 106 degrees Fahrenheit, shattering all previous heat records for that date, and your boyfriend, the one who drunkenly told you he wished to marry you a few weeks prior, will come over to your house and break up with you.
And you will, as they say, have seen this coming, though not from the foreshadowing of telltale sighs or direct expressions of discontent, but from merely inferring between the lines of the text message he will have sent you the night before reading: “Hey gurl, can we get together tomorrow?”
From his careless spelling of “girl,” you’ll know it’s all gone to shit.
Through the sweltering mid-morning, you’ll consider making breakfast but will be unable to muster the wrist-wringing energy to scramble eggs.
To nudge the clock forward, your phone silent and divulging no hints of his whereabouts, you will make yourself over, meticulously moisturizing your arms and legs with the lotion with the scent that that he used to say he missed when you’d been apart for only a couple of days, or even hours. Staring at your made-up face in the mirror, you will affix a brigade of bobby pins into the kind of carefully coiffured updo that he once told you he found the most fetching.
Once you are done up and styled in a sleeveless floral dress, your grandmother’s wedding bands dangling on a gold chain around your neck—a lucky charm that you know full well has never attracted any particular good fortune—you will drive to the bodega to pick up some beer in lieu of food, because the choking summer heat and that hangman’s knot in your gut could use a little lubrication. On the way you’ll turn up the music louder than usual to drown out that imaginary shrew on your shoulder cawing about how you’ve left behind a breadcrumb trail of insufficiencies and failures leading up to this inevitable implosion.
Back at home, you’ll arrange yourself outside on your terrace as though sitting in a storefront window with a High Life, a pack of Marlboro Lights, and the newest Vogue. You will distractedly skim a profile of Scarlett Johansen and marvel at how someone so dazzling could ever find herself so unlucky in love, and take bitter comfort in the proof positive that it can happen to anybody.You will wonder, briefly, why some celebrity interview offered you, in that moment, a preternatural solace of sorts, then flip the pages forward to the fall fashion preview. The swelter won’t bother you one bit. The sweat pooling behind your knees, between your breasts and around your thighs will be barely noticeable.
When he finally arrives you’ll see on his face, before he says a word, that your soured stomach was right, that your worst instincts about his whereabouts had been unfortunately sage. And when he hugs you in more of a goodbye than a greeting, clawing at your back as though trying to grasp a souvenir, you’ll understand that it’s for the last time. He’ll pull away before your lips can make contact on his neck or cheek. Your skin will have lost its electricity.
Then he’ll ask you how you are. You’ll lie and say you’re fine and he’ll respond that you two shouldn’t be together anymore but that this so-called “status change” alters none of his feelings for you. And as the wind exits your insides, all of those butterflies at last loosed into the atmosphere, you’ll notice that his eyes aren’t entirely focused, that his face is pale, his forehead visibly damp.
He will complain about the heat as you light a cigarette to help stop yourself from crying.
You will ask if there’s someone else, and he’ll tell you there isn’t and you’ll know this is a lie because his cheeks will instantly blanche, like the flicker of a worn-own light bulb. But you won’t press the matter.
When he starts reciting a bulleted list of your admirable qualities, you’ll stop him halfway through because it sounds too rehearsed and is only a reminder of how much thought he put into the script—the same sort of soliloquy you’ve drafted and executed yourself to others who sat there, just like you, staring back blindsided and trembling.
You will get him a beer and wonder why the fuck you’re getting him a beer. On your way out from the kitchen to the terrace, you’ll remember the John Updike tetrology he had loaned you and toss it with a stunning thud on the art deco table he once begged you to give him.
He will tell you that you don’t have to act so tough, that time will heal all wounds, that one fine day you will understand the important imprint of your relationship on both of your lives and see the forest for the trees. Yes, he will even use the “forest for the trees” metaphor at which point you will fantasize about breaking the beer bottle in your right hand over his sweat-drenched forehead.
You won’t put up a fight.
But you won’t ask him to go either, because you won’t be entirely sure that you’re ready for it all to be over.
After staring silently at you for a few minutes, he will wipe his sopping brow and get up to leave with these parting words: “Good-bye, darling. I’m going to go get very drunk now.”
And even though the temperature will have exceeded a scalding 106 degrees outside, effectively destroying, as mentioned at the top of this memo, all previous records for that date, you will have no inclination or impulse to escape that blistering heat because the heat will be the only thing left to cling onto and remind you that you are indeed still alive.
Cristen Conger is an Atlanta-based writer, a podcast co-host of Stuff Mom Never Told You, and the internet's unofficial Curator of Lady Knowledge. Her work specializes in all things women, gender, sex, and getting laughs. Not always in that order.