“Well there’s your problem,” he said, seemingly out of nowhere.
He’s dumb, and even he could see it. Everyone could see it. Well, except for me.
That it’d been a year, and I was still trying to figure out the problem. That we were driving yet another backroad late at night (you know, Georgia things) having this same conversation. A different problem every time, but otherwise the same conversation.
Time moved in slow motion that year.
Happy people were lonely that year.
Planning your first breakup? Don’t pick that year.
Quite the opposite actually. I was planning big things, fancy futures. Planning how to buy a ring with two jobs that paid too little before they both furloughed me. Planning houses in places I didn’t want to live. Planning in general, when she was originally attracted to how spontaneous I was.
“Well there’s your problem. You can’t plan when you don’t have control. And in life, you ain’t never gonna have control.”
Because something deceptively profound, masked in Southern drawl and bad grammar, always sneaks out past the Copenhagen tobacco that he’s still quitting. And it’s always something I desperately need to hear.
He’s still mad at me for not letting him comment on the post with her new boyfriend.
Deep down so am I, not because I wanted any kind of revenge or satisfaction, but because I know whatever he said would’ve been hilarious, and I robbed the world of it.
I started a savings account and a workout routine. I got a barber and a credit card, as I figured both would help me look better in the eyes of a banker, in case I found a house she might like. I grew up more in those three months than all 23 years prior, all for the most childish idea I could have: getting her back.
“Well there’s your problem, you’re doing things that may be right, but for the wrong reasons. You can do whatever you want now, so do what makes you happy.”
There he goes again—all philosophical—before turning the music back up too loud, almost as if to hide from feeling emotions, or really anything.
I rack my brain trying to come up with what does make me happy. I draw a blank, which I know is the new biggest problem.
Pretty much everything came to a stop, as a matter of fact.
Partially because he was with my girl, who earlier that year was my future wife.
Partially because he looked so familiar that, at first glance, I thought it was me. His shirt, his baby face, his sorry excuse for facial hair. It all looked so familiar that I didn’t even notice his neck brace. Yep, the man had a broken neck, and I still did a double-take. I remember touching my collarbone to make sure there was no brace, knowing I’d never broken a bone in my life.
Partially because how the heck do you even start dating someone while they have a neck brace? How did a man with a neck brace have enough game to get a girl? And not just any girl. This was my girl.
“Well there’s your problem. Your neck doesn’t look like it belongs on a freaking giraffe,” he said with a laugh, showing me a picture once the guy’s brace was off. I laughed without looking. I couldn’t look.
It’s a long, hard road forgetting the person you couldn’t stop thinking about. I guess you never truly get there. Maybe I didn’t want to. But the other guy? The only reason I would have recognized him before was in relation to her. Proximity to her. Because he was with her. Now? He could have my face, my body, my neck, and he’d still be invisible.
Now we drive again, same backroads, same late hours. Only this time, we’ve got new problems.
My to-do list, his job, our anxieties, the state of the nation, the Atlanta Braves bullpen, our seemingly unreachable dreams that are just too good to let go of.
Our problems are many, which I guess is fine.
Until we get back to my car.