This post is part of “Getting Over Maggie,” a series about a guy whose girlfriend has moved out. Brand new to the Maggie Chronicles? Start here.
The girl in the combat boots smiles at you and for the first time, you realize that there are other women in the world who are not Maggie.
Maybe it’s because she is a Maggie lookalike (same lips, same hair), but still, it feels like progress.
After that, it’s like a light bulb turns on in your brain, and you fall in love a little with every woman you see. The girl with purple hair who works at the record shop that you and Kevin stop at sometimes after you eat lunch at Jimmy John’s. The girl in the cupcake truck at the Food Truck Festival.
It is a fast succession of five-minute love interests, and surely they all have boyfriends. And even if they didn’t, you are quite certain that each one would quickly find some innovative way to drag your soul through the mud. So you say no more than five words to any of them (“One red velvet cupcake please,” or “Your hair is awesome,” mumbled over your shoulder as you follow Kevin out of the store).
You don’t really talk to them, but the truth is that you are happy to feel hope again, something positive and alive, anything other than dwelling on your life without Maggie: how you don’t know what the future looks like anymore, and how much that scares you. How everything has changed, even though you didn’t want it to. But for the first time since she left, you are seeing the possibilities.
You develop an interest in girls who have an alternative look. You start to see things like tattoo sleeves and facial piercings as an outward manifestation of heartbreak, a sign that the wearer has Been Through Something, and those are the people you begin to gravitate toward.
You realize, though, that your perception is a little screwy.
Maybe the girl with purple hair just thought that the underwater mermaid scene that takes up half her arm looked cool, but to you it says something.
You read into everything, projecting your hurt onto everyone else, but at least you feel alive again, going out into the world instead of sitting in your apartment and thinking of Maggie and how spectacular her life must be without you.
Eventually, you go on something like a date. It is with Hilary, Kevin’s cousin, who is visiting for the weekend. You’re not sure why Kevin set up this outing, but you suspect that he may have noticed your new penchant for tattooed women (the Outwardly Broken).
Hilary is in the roller derby in Chicago, and she says that she takes out her lip ring and eyebrow piercing at every match. “It’s the roller derby, so I signed up to get hurt,” she says. “I’d just prefer not to bleed.”
She has a louder laugh than anyone you’ve ever met, and for the evening, you allow yourself to be enchanted.
This isn’t a rebound, not anything full-throttle or lasting, but just for a moment, you will yourself to be in the present moment, enchanted by her company, instead of living in a world that no longer exists, casting spells and looking around for the ghost of Maggie. It feels good to stop living in the past.
Hilary suggests going to a movie, but you’re not sure that is a good idea. You worry that you will let your mind drift away, that you will spend the whole time thinking of Maggie.
That’s what happens at home, anyway. You watch a movie, but you end up thinking about how you are sitting on a beanbag chair instead of the comfy couch that you and Maggie picked out together, the one she sent some guys in a truck to pick up the week after she moved out.
Maggie said nothing about your bed, which you had also purchased together, and at first that made you happy, because you still had a place to sleep (even if it was hard to fall asleep without her). But later, when you really thought about it, you got worried. She was moving somewhere where she didn’t need a bed. (Unless she was going to buy a new one?)
Where was she going? Who was she staying with? She had not offered that information. You were comforted by the fact that she had taken the couch, and the kitchen table, which was nothing special, just something you’d gotten at a garage sale. And she probably wouldn’t have taken those if she were moving in with some dude. Right?
A movie may not be a good idea (too many thoughts), so instead you and Hilary walk around downtown. She walks quickly, much faster than Maggie ever did. You spent years regulating your steps, learning to walking more slowly so that Maggie could keep up with you. Maggie was slow by nature, graceful and leisurely, and she had a habit of wearing tall shoes that slowed her down even more. But Hilary is a speed demon in black flats.
From the way Hilary looks at you sometimes, tilting her head during a pause in the conversation as though she is assessing the situation, you suspect that Kevin has told her about you and Maggie. You wonder what he said, exactly. “Listen, my friend is kind of a pathetic soul right now. He just needs some company. Can you hang out with him for the night?”
You don’t know how she feels about you, if she genuinely likes you or if she is just being kind, doing a favor for Kevin and entertaining you for the evening. But you try to enjoy it anyway.
This thing with her? It’s not going to be anything. It’s unlikely that you will even follow each other on Twitter. But for a moment, things start to look up.
After your walk, you will probably get something to eat. Preferably at a place you have never been with Maggie. You can think of two or three of those within walking distance.
And after dinner, you will drop her off at Kevin’s house, where she will sleep on his couch, and you will go back to the bedroom you used to share with Maggie, and that will be enough.
It occurs to you that someday, you are going to have to get a new apartment.