When I first began performing on stage, I discovered that my written poetry felt too verbose for performance. So instead, I began telling my truth. Then, one of the most recently poignant events in my life was my breakup. I channeled my journal entries from that time into this piece. After a performance, I’ve had people (usually women & other minorities) come up to speak to me. But in the many times I’ve performed this piece since then, it’s always men who tell me, “You really understand how a guy feels.” I wish that felt true. I still feel wrecked by the custody battle I have lived through for a decade.
She looks around the room, and mentally divides everything in half.
His eyes are colour coding what is definitely his and what has to be hers.
They’ve both been used to tallying up for a long time now,
Coached by well-meaning friends, self-help quizzes, therapy accounts on Instagram.
How many times did you argue in a single week?
How many fights did you win? How many compromises did you make?
How many forbidden words got said? Was there violence?
Does smashing a coffee mug count? How about trust and promises and loyalty?
But no, no tears, she tells herself.
There are still heartaches to be borne
and she cannot afford to go into the future bleary-eyed.
He watches her take back her breaths and thinks,
How easily she reorganizes her emotions
As if they were nothing more than his game DVDs
That she never really liked anyway.
Assassin’s Creed and Grand Theft Auto V were his friends from a time before her
There they are now, stacked in two towers
Standing at unease to her rigid house rules
He reaches for the comfort they offer.
She watches him topple over the stack
That she has individually dusted & restacked every single day
She watches him grab the scattered DVDs
And throw them into his gym bag
Then they move on to the other items on the list.
The bedroom is a house of horrors
How do you divide up a double bed set?
I’ll take the pillows, you take the sheets?
The washing machine stands silent witness to all that has been
The whispered conversations over spin cycle
All kinds of stains washing away
They decide to split it down financially, factoring in EMIs, depreciation
Division of labour, down to the last decimal point
They are talking numbers because these are easier to divide by two than memories
Now all that remains is the hard-to-qualify list
The holocausts that will be
The books that she bought him
The jewellery that his family paid for
The gifts for-no-reason-but-I-love-you
She hands all these over to him.
“But no one else…” he starts
Then his shoulders droop
(A shrug, she thinks)
and he drops them into his gym bag.
Eventually, it’s all done
They pick up their bags,
walk across the room, their last walk together
Shut the door, turn the lock
Hand over the keys
“It’s done,” he says
See, they are forgetting that
Life resists systematic inventorying
Partition angst has plagued three countries for the length of a human lifetime
This is just one relationship
There will be a hundred others to be fought over
Friendships will become strategic alliances. Facebook will be a minefield.
Every like an accusation, every comment a bullet.
Birthdays will need to be forgotten to avoid the other.
His best friend, her smoking buddy.
They will have to make decisions like what’s more important?
A comforting habit or a comforting shoulder to cry on?
Human relationships, they’ve both said,
are not mass-produced factory goods.
And yet, they will find themselves counting, accounting, snatching and sniping
And these same friends will nudge them towards convenient peace flags
Efficient ways to distract from a break-up
When a holiday rolls around,
contact lists will need to be edited
Beloved playlists will get reorganized
Favorite songs will be removed. Muted. Deleted. Blocked.
Netflix choices to be left unwatched. Watch histories frantically erased.
Geography will need to be redrawn
Because who’s going to tell Google Maps that the best route
is not through a minefield of nostalgia?
And when you are in a bad place up here,
no Uber will come to pick you up.
But everything she reads and hears will tell her to
Travel, see the world, you’re an independent woman
She will look down at the suitcase that they bought on their first trip together – Goa.
And then she’ll look up at an airport signboard that says,
“Kindly do not leave your baggage behind.”
And she will learn, what it is to laugh in pain.
Eventually other people will want them to
close out the accounting books of their relationship
It’s over, let her go, they’ll say
Come March, time to move on.
His friends will make him drink more, party harder
Get onto Tinder and swipe, swipe, swipe right, someone will match
He will retreat to button-mashing his Xbox in the late hours of the night
Playing games that he doesn’t even really like that much
Because his favorite ones are lying in a shoulder bag he can’t bear to look at anymore.
It hasn’t sunk in yet
There will never be an easy answer to “Are you over that relationship yet?”
They will learn that life lessons are compensation for failing to be an adult.
They’re trying to draw lines of control over a river, a volcano, a forest, a forest fire
When all that they can do is burn and be burnt
Because nobody, nobody wins a custody battle.
This is one of my favorite videos of the piece.