Yesterday I went to Southern Maryland to pick grapes at my grandfather’s vineyard.
I know it’s not a normal grandfatherly hobby, growing grapes on a spare few acres of a friend’s tumbledown plantation, and I’m very grateful that I don’t have a normal grandfather. It means I get to spend at least one day a year experiencing the satisfying thwock of ripe bunches hitting the bottom of a basket and later the even more satisfying squish of ripe bunches being run through a press, destemmed, pressed again, and turned into gallons of juice that will sit in oak and metal casks until they become a completely decent species of wine. The vineyard at Cremona (that’s the name of the plantation) is one of my favorite places in the world. No part of it actually technically belongs to my family, but every inch of it is suffused with my family’s history, and with my own history. Here is the willow tree I climbed as a four year old, now split by a thunderstorm. Here are the overgrown formal gardens I ran through as a teenager, terrified because I thought I had a giant black and yellow spider climbing up my back (it was a butterfly). Here is the narrow spit of land that you can only get to via canoe where my terrible Kenyon boyfriend Nick and I passionately, stupidly fucked, grinding sand into our knees. Here is the fig tree whose branches concealed me and my high school boyfriend Chris as we made out in tender, sweet high school style.
I don’t even remember being there with William but we must have gone together several times. All my memories of being with him and doing things with him blur together; there are too many of them. Six years’ worth. I can’t think about William right now, which means that I really can’t think too hard about the last six years of my life.
He’s being kind of a dick, you know: emailing me passive-aggressively about how I’m better than my job, about how he hates reading about my dating online (so don’t read [website I work for], William!). “How did you think I would feel when I read that?” he asked, about a recent thing I wrote about the acceptability of going dutch on the first date. I didn’t think about how he would feel. The point of our breakup is that I don’t have to think about how my actions will make him feel anymore. I do care about him. It hurts me to know that he’s hurting. His voice on the phone can still move me to tears. I still love the sound of his voice. I still love him, I guess. It’s weird how long it’s taken me to realize it. Or maybe I’ve known, all this time, that all I’ve been doing with all these other boys is filling up that William-shaped hole in my life, nuzzling into their shoulders the way I always did with him, biting their earlobes the way he always loved to be bitten.
But: I don’t want to be with him. I’m happier without him. I’m happy alone. If he really loved me, he’d recognize this and he’d want me to be happy. I need to be alone and learn how to take care of myself. I can’t be with him in any way without giving up a part of myself. I can’t go back; I have to keep moving forward.
It has to be this way. I just hate that it has to be this way.