I saw the little pine tree sitting on the window sill. It had lost all of its needles. It wasn’t going to make it.
“The tree’s dying?” I asked.
“I guess so, sweetie,” my girlfriend said.
“Well, I guess I just forgot to water it for a while.”
“Oh,” I said, not able to hide my disappointment.
“Rob,” she said, “it’s not a metaphor for our relationship.” I still looked at the tree, frowning. No. Pouting. I was pouting. “You’re going to write a blog post about this, aren’t you?”
So, here’s the thing, I think my girlfriend is going to break up with me. Not anytime soon and not for any reason in particular but just perpetually. I guess the memories of years of bad dating experiences don’t go quietly. A break up or a slow fade can come at any time. She gets a little quiet and I start worrying. Is she feeling down or is she sick of me?
She’ll not text me back for an hour and I’ll think, “Okay! I get it. I get it loud and clear! Christ, this is how it starts, isn’t it? This is brick one in the house of ghosting! She’ll maybe text me back tomorrow, start spacing out the correspondence. Then she’ll forget to return a phone call or two or say she’s really busy at work but she’ll talk to me tomorrow and then she won’t talk to me tomorrow. And then I’ll wake up one day and say, hey, I haven’t talked to me girlfriend in a week and…”
Hey, phone died. Coming over. See you soon!
Oh. Okay. Cool. Everything’s okay, I guess. For now.
Her family had a summer home in Maine. That’s where we got the trees. Off to the side of the house, among the pine trees, there were baby pine trees. We both thought it would be cool to dig one up and take it back with us to New York and grow them for a while in our apartments. We had them in plastic cups for the nine hour drive. We went to a plant store and bought some soil and a pot. They started growing. It was cool.
But then she forgot to water her tree for a while and it died.
I thought maybe I can prune it! I’ll cut off some branches and then new branches will grow in place! That’s a thing, right?
Apparently it’s not.
I’m not so oblivious as to what this scenario is exactly like. You know it. Don’t lie. I’m Kate Hudson in How To Lose a Guy In 10 Days where she says to Matthew McConaughey, “Our love fern… you let it die!”
Another thing you need to know about my girlfriend and me is that we’re fucking adorable. We hold hands. We have multiple nicknames for each other. We have matching pajama bottoms.
Yeah, asshole, matching pajama bottoms. Look, pajama bottoms are crucial to a couple during winter for Netflix watching and general lounging. One day we happened to be out shopping and saw some red and black flannel pajama bottoms. They looked pretty standard. We both needed a new pair, so, boom! Matching pajama bottoms.
Fucking adorable. Save your jealousy. It’s beneath you.
But recently she came over to my place after shopping. She went to change into something more comfortable and came out wearing new pajama bottoms. They were light blue and gray.
“Are those new?”
“So, you don’t want to wear our pajama bottoms?”
Yes, I hear myself.
This past Valentine’s Day she went to London for a business trip. I got over it but I was petulant for a few days. I actually don’t put much stock in Valentine’s Day but to my fragile mind, I thought it was a clear signal. “That’s it! De-valuing Valentine’s Day! Classic! Message received, lady. Loud and clear! Let the ghosting commence!”
It was really cold that weekend that she left. She called me when she got to her hotel in London.
“How is it there?” she asked. “Still cold?”
“Yeah, it’s brutal.”
“I saw in the news that it was the coldest Valentine’s Day on record.”
“Oh, was it now? The coldest Valentine’s Day…”
“Rob, it’s not a metaphor for our relationship.”
The thing was, she was getting to go to London. It was going to be fun for her. Why make her either miss or feel guilty for taking a trip? I could live without one Valentine’s Day dinner. We actually went out the night before she left and had a pre-Valentine’s Day. We had gone the past two years to the same Italian restaurant in our neighborhood but for this Valentine’s Day we broke the tradition and got ramen because, well, ramen is awesome. Traditions are great but they should’t be some rabbit’s foot that I keep to ward off a heartbreak that might never come.
Incidentally, I recently forgot to water my tree for a week or so too. It’s still got its needles but it’s not looking so good. Man, those little things are fickle. It’s not a metaphor for our relationship. I need to lighten up.