Forget what you knew of the old body, the one fattened by complacency and ruined by bad-faith promises. Forget about weekends moored in another state; just across a river, to be sure, but a place to which you said you’d never return, not after the last one who promised you even more than this one. But false hopes and empty declarations can make a woman (or man) attempt to reinvent the wheel. Call it temporary insanity, call it believing when all the signs pointed in the other direction (and friends warned you, not once yet repeatedly, as though they could see the slow disintegration before you felt it).
Forget feeling as though there are only first or second chances at love, The One, whatever name we want to put on it; it might have ended a disaster but at least you learned you’re not done (not yet, anyhow).
Forget about how the sex started out so good and ended with you feeling suffocated under the weight of a 200-pound man. Forget about getting lost in the redwoods forest and thinking you might have to hole up for days in a hollowed-out tree but that it would be okay, because you were together. Forget it ever existed, except it taught you that you can do better; file it away in a mental folder called “mistakes” and burn the books he gave you.
Forget that he lulled you into going back, only to break your heart all over again; except it was never healed from the first time (not even close), so this second time has been relatively easy to walk away from, head held high, silently mouthing your mantra—I am a badass—as you walk miles up and down the length of Manhattan; you have nowhere to be but up ahead, just beyond the bend, all the time in the world to walk there with no one around to criticize.
Forget you knew it was over long before he said so; forget you didn’t have the courage to be the first one to admit you wanted what you had in the beginning—something lost along the way and it doesn’t matter who was more to blame. Forget you still believe he was more at fault, because at least you didn’t lie—to anyone other than yourself, of course.
Forget about that first meeting in the Village; replace it with another first meeting, and another. Forget about the bad sex and give yourself all the orgasms you’ve faked since autumn; forget about pleasing him and start satisfying yourself. Forget about first kisses and first real dates and first promises; there are more to come from better men, better lovers, better people. And if not better, then perhaps more sincere, which equals better, on this count.
Forget all the things you hated about being with him; remember all the things you love about yourself that he tried to quash or change until you weren’t “you” anymore. Forget all the things you gave up to be with him; take them back—I am a badass—and hold them precious, as these are things that will not be given away again.
Forget that he never said you were beautiful until you’d complimented him first. Forget that he liked your intelligence once, then made a game of telling you how stupid you were (not always verbally but always nonetheless) when you disagreed with him.
Forget that you stayed even after he was mean and cruel.
Forget that he might read this and disagree; forget that he hates being accused of acting in bad faith. As Anne Lamott would say (paraphrasing): if he didn’t want you to write these things he should have behaved better.
Remember, too, that you are beautiful and strong and smart and morally ambitious. Remember he won’t ever find someone like you again; this isn’t gloating but a near fact. Remember that there are more first dates with first kisses and they are not something to fear but to delight in.
Remember that your city is a big one, and he doesn’t even live in it. It is yours, it has been since the moment you first flew into LaGuardia and all the times you cried in airport bathrooms because you had to go home to a place whose embrace you no longer felt. Remember the time you left this city knowing that the next time you’d be back, it would be because you lived here. Remember the improbability of being here four years—I am a badass—and all the things you’ve done to make that happen. Remember that you are as scrappy as you are smart.
Remember that he never really understood you.
Remember all of this as you take the A train and get off at W. 4th St. and meet someone for coffee for the first time (in the same spot, more than two years ago, where you’d met the first time, except he was dating someone else then). Remember this when you sit with him in the chill of the evening, having walked to Washington Square Park, and he asks if can kiss you, and you say yes, because if someone remembers you after more than two years (“You made an impression,” he says) then a kiss is the least of their just desserts.
Remember, finally, that you are a badass—even if the kiss is all there is, even if the promised texts and next dates don’t come. Remember that you know how to be alone, and that doing so is the first step to deciding how and when to give up that prized solitude. Don’t forget the last time, but do remember this feeling: you got out, you deserve better, and you won’t let that happen again. Because these days you walk with your head held high, wings outstretched, no longer made small by another person’s narcissism. Remember that these are the things a badass does: you, yes, you, will go ahead and do them. Because that’s just who you are. Of that, there has never been any doubt, only forgetfulness.