In an era of isolation, personal time is somehow still a luxury. We spend our days — now months — sequestered in tiny spaces, many of us with little company but the stray neighbor or mail carrier. But despite all this aloneness, carving out time for creation, mindfulness, meditation, or prayer is surprisingly difficult. Therefore, we hope you’ve had an aptly personal month.
This is the last newsletter with our very popular theme of can I ask you a personal question? This week, we gravitated toward the unusual format of Proma Khosla’s On the Subject of Meeting My Ex-Something. The way the speaker implicates the reader is reminiscent of our slightly uncomfortable theme; we felt put on the spot. We also loved this comic from Catherine Heller that explores an intimate moment between waking and sleeping. The cold hues and stark text channel a feeling that is eerily familiar.
Although we’re no longer asking for your personal questions and answers, please submit to our new theme: injections. You have the whole month of August to think about this idea that seems more concrete than it actually is. We’re looking forward to unpacking stories of health, pleasure, cooking, beauty and other motifs of forcing something below the surface.
On the Subject of Meeting My Ex-Something
By Proma Khosla
Welcome. If you’re reading this, then you’re a friend or acquaintance of mine who has had the fortune/misfortune (ideally interpretation will spring toward the former by the time we’re done here) of meeting the man who is my sort-of-ex and former love.
It is my hope that the information contained in this packet will help you adequately cope with his sudden and possibly sustained presence in your life and that you will not fall prey to the many months of emotional toil with which I was plagued all those years ago.
Let us begin.
First and foremost, you will notice on the exterior that he is exceedingly, conspicuously handsome. Perhaps not as would be a movie star or model or some similar otherworldly specimen of good looks, but in the way that, while wandering among the hoi-polloi, he is wont to turn heads, to draw attention, to elicit double takes and fervent blinking as if windshield-wiping our retinas will somehow make the sight of him more digestible.
I am familiar with this phenomenon. If you knew me when I first met him, you may recall my distress at the introduction of so fetching a human in my presence, and you may have asked to see a photo on social media, with which I would have obliged but which can’t quite do him justice. I imagine you said something like “yeah, he’s cute,” but did not quite comprehend the reality of my circumstances and proceeded to go about your day while I quietly spiraled into madness. It is therefore perfectly explicable that you should be here, now, visibly blushing at the sight of his jawline, live in 3-D.
Your eyes and any other physical and physiological responses to his visage will in time adjust, at which point you will have the metaphysical distance to understand that while he is very attractive, this is largely due to juxtaposition with less aesthetically-pleasing peers and his adherence to societal conventions of male beauty. He also smells clean.
Moving on: From speaking to or spending time with him you will begin to realize that he is further along the recognized path to success and stability than most others of his station, ourselves included. That is to say, he really has his shit together. You will find him almost suspiciously hygienic, organized, and competent.
This is perhaps less remarkable as we enter our late-20s, but I can confirm that he has been this way for almost a decade, that he owned a vacuum at age 20 and was even at that time known to start cleaning an apartment well before its inebriated inhabitants had so much as begun to wobble out the door for a night of debauchery.
Additionally, you will find him to be ideal in social situations, where he is charming, polite, and considerate. He has no doubt by now bought you drinks in a round, asked about your life with genuine interest, offered to help you with an errand or perhaps to be your tour guide when you visit his city of residence.
In the case of inclement weather, be prepared for him to offer his arm to you while navigating treacherous terrain, but be further prepared for the sudden intake of breath you will experience when your hand makes direct contact with his forearm muscle. Yes, I am aware that he is toned. He has only become more so with time.
You can of course communicate your pleasant surprise at his company with me any time, though do excuse me if I respond with “I know” or “Yeah, he is,” but the fact of the matter is that I do know and yeah, he is. To repeatedly register visible shock at his capability and charisma is to somewhat indirectly (but not indirectly enough) doubt my past self’s taste in prospective suitors. I believe, at the time, that some of you used the term “asshole” or “fuckboy” or dismissed his many merits once you knew he didn’t want to date me. I appreciate your loyalty, but now you see what I was dealing with.
He will undoubtedly befriend you on all manner of social media after this preliminary meeting, which will make you feel special and prompt an infinitesimal spike in your heartbeat every time you see his photo thumb on the ‘gram, or what have you. You will wonder, when he likes everything you post, if he is perhaps “into you,” or if he’s the type of person who blindly double taps at the entire web. He’s not. He just genuinely supports you and wants you to be happy.
As a final point, though I hope we have no reason to broach this subject, no, it is not weird that he’s in a relationship. He has been in several since the time when I had feelings for him, and I respond as I would to any close friend finding love (again, and again). I think she’s lovely, and it was a delight to meet her. Yes we did seem to be getting along obviously we have some baseline similarities such as attraction to the same person and no I don’t mean romantically I just mean emotionally, intellectually, does it not track logically that you would get along with the significant other of a close friend given that you both care a lot (in DIFFERENT WAYS) about the same person? I mean, really!
I also do not think that his girlfriend and I look alike so there will be no need to bring that up, not least because it’s inappropriate. Are we the same height and build? Well, yes. Do we share a similarly unique hue of eye color? I suppose so, but you’re reaching now. Does she dress better and with more apparent ease as I struggle, painstakingly to achieve some sartorial respectability and with holes in all my tights? What a stupid question with absolutely no point, control yourself!!
In any case, I hope this packet was informative and comforting, and that it has helped you overcome the initial maelstrom that is meeting him. As you know, he has been my dear friend for years, a constant in my adult life, and someone whom I expect to be a continued and beloved presence forever. We remain consistently in touch and make a point to see each other regularly, ideally never more than a few months apart or we will just miss each other too much. I’m glad you could finally meet him. It means a lot to me.
By Catherine Heller
About the Artists
Proma Khosla (she/her) is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared in Mashable, Vanity Fair, Decider, Teen Vogue, and more. She writes and produces short films with Lion Party Films and has an essay in The Women of Amy Sherman Palladino (Fayetteville Mafia Press, 2019). She is also a dancer, comedian, and tired. Follow her on social media @promawhatup.
Catherine Heller (she/her) is an artist from Brooklyn, NY. She works as a graphic designer and freelance artist, primarily concentrating in drawing & illustration. You can find her on Instagram @catherine.heller.art.
Pour one out but also in for Sandra Lee.