In many ways, that relationship was another chapter in the unfolding story of my relationship with Dave, part of its epilogue. When the lawyer and I broke up, it felt less like a fresh sadness and more like a return to the sadness that was already there, missing the one I’d been missing all along. A few months later, I met the man I would marry.
Before I left for Croatia, I thought of bringing the bottle of Crystal Pepsi the lawyer had given me, to donate to the museum as a memento of my last breakup before marriage. But I never put it in my luggage. Why did I want to keep it at home, on my bookshelf? It had something to do with wanting to acknowledge the man who’d given it to me, because I hadn’t given him enough credit while we were together. Keeping his last gift was a way of granting him credit in the aftermath.
If I’m honest with myself, keeping that bottle of Crystal Pepsi isn’t just about honoring the man who gave it to me, or what we shared. It also has to do with enjoying that glimpse of sadness and dissolution, with holding on to some reminder of the pure, riveting feeling of being broken. These days my life is less about the sublime state of solitary sadness or fractured heartbreak and more about waking up each day and making sure I show up to my commitments. My days in Zagreb were about Skyping with my husband and emailing a good-morning video to my stepdaughter. They were about feeding the fetus inside me: Istrian fuzi with truffles, noodles in thick cream; sea bream with artichokes; something called a domestic pie; something called a vitamins salad.
Life now is less about the electricity of thresholds and more about continuance, coming back and muddling through; less about the grand drama of ending and more about the daily work of salvage and sustenance. I keep the Crystal Pepsi because it’s a souvenir from the fifteen years between my first breakup and my last that I spent in a cycle of beginnings and endings, each one an opportunity for self-discovery and reinvention and transformative emotion; a way to feel infinite in the variety of possible selves that could come into being. I keep the Crystal Pepsi because I want some reminder of a self that felt volcanic and volatile — bursting into bliss, or into tears — and because I want to keep some proof of all the unlived lives, the ones that could have been.
Jamison will be appearing in conversation with James Wood, critic and professor of the practice of literary criticism, Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Fong Auditorium at the Mahindra Humanities Center. Excerpt from “Make it Scream, Make it Burn” by Leslie Jamison. Copyright © 2019 by Leslie Jamison. Available from Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.
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