I rented a place a couple of blocks away. Although it felt wasteful to rent after owning, I had become convinced that our split could be more humane, and our co-parenting lives more peaceful, if my ex stayed in the apartment.
About eight months after I moved out, Jeffrey followed me on Instagram.
“Oh, hello!” I said out loud, and then proceeded to scroll through his entire feed, which revealed a person with about 80 different talents: He was a painter, a chef, an illustrator, a tennis player, a woodcarver, a photographer and really into his two cats.
Elizabeth and I happened to have a plan to meet for outdoor drinks in the neighborhood. At my suggestion, we ended up including Jeffrey. His presence made me nervous. I drank too much, and soon we were mock-arguing over pizza preferences. It was the most fun I’d had in a long time, but I wasn’t looking to get involved with anyone again, like, ever. Since the end of my marriage, I had become an expert at staying detached and numb. Sometimes I wondered if I had gone to permafrost.
Still, he and I kept texting each other, and eventually I invited him over for a socially distanced drink on my pandemic-friendly balcony, which didn’t end up being very socially distant. Kissing me, he said, “I’ve imagined this so many times.” A weird feeling happened in my chest. Maybe I was dying?
We spent the night together and the next one and the next one.
I’d had some emotionless flings — I was almost alarmingly good at them — but with Jeffrey it felt different. I started, despite myself, to thaw.
As we got to know each other, I learned that we had both been at our most miserable around the same time, stewing in separate sadness a few floors apart. He brought me tiny, perfect offerings: a trilobite here, a sourdough starter there. We had long conversations about life and love and philosophy that made me feel like a long-dormant part of my brain was getting jolted alive.