The Thing About Not Being Heartbroken

By Chloe Caldwell
Chloe Caldwell is the author of the novella Women.

The thing about not being heartbroken is, you look out the window less. You don’t notice little details. You don’t invest as much in the color of the sky through the skylight, the song in the grocery store. You know nothing has special metaphorical symbolism. The leaves on the tree changing from green to orange to brown, falling and dying, the unrequited love song playing in Shop Rite. You know these are meaningless coincidences.

It’s in San Francisco when I begin to confuse real life with Instagram.

Have we met? I asked girls who get their book signed. They raise their eyebrows and look confused.

I follow you on Instagram? They respond as a question.

No, that’s not it, I say. But maybe it is.

I’m high on edibles the entire time I’m on the west coast. When I get back east, I say, dreamily to my friends, they have it so easy out there.

I eat a honey stick with CBD in it before a reading. I’ve never done this before, a reading stoned. I have zero anxiety. I drop $50 in the bookstore on tote-bags and Anaïs Nin. Everyone tells me how Women changed their lives. The women are mostly white, 27 and under. Afterwards the woman I did the reading with explains the crowd to her husband.

She explains to her husband that my following comprises a lot of septum rings.

The next day I go to Kabuki and soak and sauna all day. I’m vaguely depressed. That night is my final reading at the SF Public Library. My train stops for 30 minutes, so I am late. I show up and sit alone. Overtime, watching each woman walk to the podium, more serious than the last, with actual trauma they’ve experienced, doing power points presentation.

I am the token white sexually confused bi girl. Or the straight girl with bisexual tendencies. It does not feel good. I haven’t even planned what I’m going to read. I realize the essay I’ve been reading through tour will cut it. I have to push.

I feel like a joke. After the reading during the panel, no one asks me anything. At the library we are allowed to sell our own books, so the ten books I’ve carried around in my luggage for a month are on the table. I sell one. I donate two to the library, then put 2 more into the Little Free Library I spot on my walk to the train. To lighten the load. The worst part is, in my Airbnb someone has left a bottle of DOVE dry shampoo. It’s the kind you spray in your hair, filled with cancerous chemicals, the kind I never purchase—I mostly use baby powder if I need dry shampoo. So I use this dry shampoo for days, bring it back across the country with me. It isn’t until I’m back home a week that I notice it is not dry shampoo. It is deodorant. So my hair looked greasy as fuck.

On a podcast Michelle Tea explains how she keeps writing about drunk Michelle, the same years, same relationship, over and over. Sometimes you look back, and remember that the relationship was only three months but you got three books out of it, she says.

This morning I woke in a bed that feels like a white cloud. I am at a residency in the sticks. How odd that my job today, was to get up and work on a book about you. How odd that I’ve made you my job. That I’m getting paid to remember you.

My writing has made me a redundant human being.

—Eileen Myles, The Art of Poetry

I have you to thank for my love of films now. There is nothing as calming for me as being in the back of a movie theater alone, the lights dimming, a movie starting. It is the only way to lose myself completely, to cry at the smallest things, just to get some emotion out.

Sort of like how in China, they force people to attend sad movies, because otherwise Asian people won’t cry. I heard they show films about cats with breast cancer, to promote crying.

Most people in the theater are there with a partner of the opposite sex. Sometimes a group of friends. But I can always find another solitary woman and be in solidarity with her. When the film ends, she and I up and leave, independently. We don’t have to wait for someone else to put their coat on, we don’t have to hear their opinions, we only have our own.

You used to think it was weird when people said hot cocoa.

It’s HOT CHOCOLATE! We’d both laugh, finally something we could agree on.


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