Epilogue: I’m Not in Love

I'm keeping the dress.

You know that I fart when I eat carbs; I get explosive, gut-wrenching diarrhea when I hot pot; and I get orthostatic hypotension from gummy bears. You knew this, and you accepted it because I can’t stop eating carbs, hot pot, or gummy bears — a life without any of those things doesn’t seem to be worth living at all. I’ve been watching Game of Thrones, but I wasn’t really watching Game of Thrones like you and I watched Game of Thrones — curled up with a bong and a bag of Black Forest gummy bears with our pants down on the red Chesterfield couch. I guess I’m supposed to accept this.

Everyone around me says they’re happier single and I should be, too. They’re all liars.

Anyone who’s ever said it to me has promptly contradicted him- or herself and revealed in confidence and sadness that being single is the worst thing you can ever be in life. You could be an axe murderer, a police officer, or a Republican, but if you had a significant other you’d still be in a much better place than anyone who is single. Look at Drake! The boy has everything, but apparently he can’t have love even after 72,000,000 breakups and a No. 1 song.

Score one for the axe murderer.

As men, we’re projecting. We’re supposed to want to get it in; we’re supposed to be conquerors; we’re supposed to stand alone gettin’ dome from a thick chick in sandals listenin’ to gangsta music. I was also supposed to be a lawyer with a Taiwanese-Chinese wife, kids, violin, piano, and a house by now … I was supposed to marry you. In your place, I have the bong, the gummy bears, and Game of Thrones, but in actuality I have nothing at all.

She left December 2014.

All of Me” was the first song I heard her sing.

You took the part
That once was my heart
So why not take all of
me

These days I hear the voice of Apollonia Vitelli-Corleone when I’m in bed trying to keep track of my life. “Mooonday, Tuuuesday, Thurrrsday, Weeednesday, Friiidaaay, Sooonday, Saaaturday,” she says as my days start melding together out of order in some giant cosmic mess. I have no poles; I have no anchor. I don’t know why I’m living life as one long, meaningless pickup game. I want to be in the playoffs; I want to play for something.

“If you love her so much, why don’t you get her back?” people ask.

“I did … and then I didn’t,” I responded.

“So try again.”

“It’ll never work.”

The sad theme to my life is that love and relationships are mutually exclusive. Just because I love someone doesn’t mean I should be in a relationship with that person. My mother has been pushing me to be someone else since the early ’80s, so I want someone to love me for who I am. In business, I channel my father’s voice; but in some ironic demonic way, I’ve become my mother in the relationships that really matter to me.

If someone tells me what they want to do, who they want to be, and where they want to go, I hold them to it, I push them to it, and I won’t let go until they’re there. I live to see dreams realized. People come into this world connected, but one day walk out alone. I’m obsessed with making sure the people I love are ready at any moment to leave the rest of us. I put those I love above myself … like a mother. But no one wants another mom, especially not a mom with a skin fade and a dick in Gucci overalls. That’s just weird.

Love is easy; relationships are hard.

She couldn’t help herself. She couldn’t take affirmative steps toward the things she wanted to do in life. By her own account, she was “paralyzed.” I didn’t understand until it was too late. I just kept pushing her toward her goals and eventually pushed her away. On her way out, she took all of me.

She only left one thing. She. Left. A. Dress. Not a dress I bought, not a dress a friend gave, but a dress she made by hand. Three months after she left, she asked for it back. I’m sure that’s when she knew she was never coming back. Eighteen months later, the dress hangs by my door with her Scranton address written on a mailer below, ready to go. I’m not ready to give it back.

Fuck her.

She knew who I was. She knew I was a mom. She knew I liked to fix things, and she knew I wasn’t going to change. The entire time I thought I was wrong, but how can I be wrong if I’ve always been the same?

I don’t blame Dion Waiters for chucking from the volleyball line and screaming “And 1!,” because that’s who he is, and sometimes he’s right. I don’t blame Drake for rising up out of the studio looking like a Persian Daddy and sounding like a Jamaican because he’s always been a corny culture vulture, and we shouldn’t be surprised. I don’t blame my mother for trying. You can’t blame mothers for doing their jobs, you can’t blame people for being themselves, but you should blame yourself for ever thinking it could be different.

Hi, it’s me again. I promise I’m not angry.

There are things you wish you didn’t love in life because of what they do to you. But if you really love these things you’ll take them as-is. A cheeseburger comes with lettuce, tomato, and onions. If you want ketchup or mayonnaise or relish, add it yourself. It’s not the cheeseburger’s job to know the condiments you fancy. You ordered a cheeseburger, not Susan Miller on a sesame-seed bun.

We should have known from the beginning it was going to end like this. We didn’t care because we figured one of us would stop. One of us was supposed to love the other enough to change so that one of us could stay the same, and in the end the only thing I can say for certain is that we’re both fucking assholes.

Every relationship takes a piece of you. If you must take something from me, take the lettuce, maybe even the tomato, but don’t, for everything the universe stands for, take my onions or this dress you made because they belong to me. You took everything when you left, and I’ll let it all go if I can keep my onions and this dress by the door. It’s all I have left of you.

One day I’ll meet the One who wants the plain old Peter Luger’s lunchtime cheeseburger that I am, and I’m really going to need my onions for that, but even then I won’t give this ugly fucking dress back because it. Belongs. To. Me.

I started dating immediately after she left. I was mad. Any time someone asked, “Do you still love her?” I said “no.” I actually believed it too. Inevitably, I’d hang with my best friends, Elena, Rafael, and Steve; break down; and then declare that I was going to drive to Scranton and get her back. They’d cheer me on and (well, Elena knew better) wish me luck, but every time I told her I was coming she said, “Don’t,” and she should get a medal for it.

In October I joined Raya.

I pressed play, and the sounds of 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love spewed out of my phone, synced to the dissolving revolving images of an emotional brunette: game recognize game.

I keep your picture, upon the wall
It hides a nasty stain that’s lying
there
So don’t you ask me to give it back

I’m not in love either, I thought. Swipe right.

I’m back for the last time.

I heard a lot of good songs on Raya; I met a nice person. But it wasn’t until recently that I could admit, yes, I was in love; I am in love; and I’ll always be in love with you. I accept that it happened, I accept that it’s still happening, and I accept … No.

I’m done lying to myself and you and everyone around me.

You don’t belong to me, nor does this dress … You left it. You happened to me, and nothing will change that. I don’t need this dress to prove that it happened.

I’ve been hanging on to this dress because I lost a part of myself, and I wanted something back. I wanted myself. I wanted you. I wanted this dress, but I lost. I lost. But if I had to lose, I’m glad I lost to you.

Because I love you … and it’s over. I’m going to stop pushing, stop fighting, sit down in this moment, and accept it.

It’s going to take a while before I can say it out loud, but it sounds nice enough when the Chantels sing it.

Congratulations
No, I’m not
mad
Congratulations
You’re the best (girl) I
had
Congratulations
Sure we can be
friends
But as I said before, let the best (girl) win

I’ve loved you for the last time, and I’m ready to love again.



Eddie Huang’s new memoir, Double Cup Love: On the Trail of Food, Family, and Broken Hearts in China, for which this essay serves as a postscript, is available for preorder.

Epilogue: I’m Not in Love