City of Exes
Moving from Iowa to the big city seemed such a promising new beginning: bigger bars, better fashion, glamorous parties, and—most importantly—new boys
After a month of couch surfing with a 76-pound suitcase, I found an apartment in Ridgewood, Queens, that I could just barely afford, and settled in. One morning I went running and ended up at the Queens Blvd. Target. I strolled the aisles of cost-efficient towels in my neon Andrew Christian tank top and matching shorts. I hadn’t colored my hair since moving, my dark brown roots an inch thick. I picked up a container of toilet bowl cleaner with bleach (for my toilet, not my hair) and continued browsing.
I turned a corner and froze, looking at someone I never expected to run into: The Ex-Fiancé. It might seem crazy that I was going to be gay married at 21, but I loved the idea. Fall in love, get engaged, move to Minnesota and be a cute blonde housewife.
The Ex-Fiancé did not love the idea, and after two years of being together, three months before the wedding, he broke it off. He started dating another boy the next day. So it goes. In the time we were together, knowing that I wanted to move to New York, he applied to the NYU Silver School of Social Work, got in, and was coming despite the fact that we’d been broken up for almost a year.
He came equipped for battle with a decorative rod in hand, wearing his “I’m-a-New-Yorker-now” bowtie and skinny jeans. I was trapped in the curtain aisle: There was no escape. The Ex-Fiancé looked up, and there I was, wearing sweaty neon gym clothes with inch-long roots. Holding toilet bowl cleaner.
“Hey,” The Ex-Fiancé said to me, since he couldn’t turn around and run away.
“Well, God has a sick sense of humor, doesn’t he?” I quipped. He didn’t laugh. I wanted to drink the entire bottle of toilet bowl cleaner.
“How are you settling into the city?”
“Oh, you know. Living the dream. Cleaning my toilet.” Why couldn’t I have run into him after having my hair done, wearing my vintage Yves Saint Laurent blazer? Or at least something that wasn’t neon.
Matt Bomer? All of the Jonas Brothers? “No, not really. You?”
“Yeah, actually. We moved here together.”
“Of course you did.” I seemed incapable of not being a bitch, but it wasn’t my fault—I was caught off guard, like a cockroach after you turn the lights on. I wanted to run under a refrigerator, but electronics were on the other side of the store.
“Well,” he said after a moment of awkward silence, “I’ll see you around?”
God, I hope not. “Absolutely!”
He began studying a curtain as red as my face while I made my way for the exit. My heart raced, my stomach dropped and I had a strong feeling it would not be the last time I ran into him.
I left hastily without buying my toilet bowl cleaner, and began having my roots done every two weeks. So much for my new beginning.