I was always the kind of girl who thought she was immune to rebounds. I would listen as my friends freaked out after discovering that the person they were dating was indeed, in fact, a rebound, with a sense of smug superiority.
That will never happen to me. I’m too self-aware. I’ve done too much therapy. I’ve done the work! I would sing-song to myself, swigging my pretentious glass of red wine around, my nose stuck up so high it kissed the ceiling while my friends sipped their beers (gag!) and whined.
(For the record, there is nothing chic about ordering red wine at a dive bar. In fact, dive bar wine will leave to the most un-chic hangover you’ll ever experience. I’m talking throwing up dark red bile un-chic. Teeth stained burgundy for a week un-chic. Face so puffy you could move it around like pizza dough un-chic).
And then, It Happened To Me — old school XOJane.com confessional style.
I had just broken up with my girlfriend Max, and was riding that strange post-breakup seesaw where you teeter between feeling like “YAY, I’M FREE!” and “WAHHH I’M GOING TO DIE ALONE.” I always advise that you create as much art as possible when you’re in this stage of a breakup because your feelings are so wonderfully intense. You’re either the most, independent, autonomous, empowered bitch alive, or you’re the most vulnerable, dark, depressed, lonely bitch alive. It’s extreme, man. And we are are the most interesting versions of ourselves when we’re living in the extremes, don’t you think?
I was in the early stages of my internet-writing career, and I was banging out great essays every single day, high off of my intense breakup feelings. One night after work, I decided to hit up the local lesbian bar solo. I was feeling a little manic, a little too good, like I knew I was going to topple off Independence Mountain and land in the dismal hole of utter despair at any moment.
And what better way to tamper mania than with booze?
I was drinking a tequila soda (on an empty stomach, might I add) when a girl with buzzed hair caught my eye. My ex had a long, silky horse mane. I noticed the girl’s almond-shaped deep brown milk-chocolate eyes. My ex had wide, electric blue eyes. The girl’s mouth was fixated into a displeased smirk. My ex was always smiling desperately, like a puppy dog lapping up every last bit of attention bestowed upon her.
The girl possessed a “don’t talk to me” energy. My ex radiated a friendliness so palpable the most socially awkward person in the bar was compelled to talk to her. The two women couldn’t be more different. I took another sip of my tequila soda and savored the sexy burn as it slid down my throat and landed like a ball of fire into my stomach. Since I was in the overly-confident, independent-woman mood-swing, I decided to make the most of it before the pendulum swung in the other direction. I shot the girl a pair of sex eyes. She caught them in her hands; I could tell by the satisfaction tap-dancing across her face. Her smirk metamorphosed into a grin. I grinned back.
It felt so good to be back in the game again! I took out my phone and began to furiously text. I was pretending, obviously. I know how to work women with sultry-almond-shaped eyes and short hair. Throw them a bone and then ignore the shit out of them.
Like always, my push-pull trick worked like magic. She slithered over to me. “What are you doing here at 5:30 p.m. on a Monday?”
I kept my eyes fixated on the static screen of my phone. “I was bored.”
I felt her stare. It punctured my bare shoulder. “Yeah, well I just had a shitty day. I’ve been coming here a lot lately.”
I looked up at here. “You’re having a lot of shitty days?” I asked.
“Yes, a lot of shitty days.” Her milky brown eyes looked creamy.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Olivia.” I wanted to drink her eyes like a fabulous latte from one of those annoying Brooklyn coffee shops that serve you a $10 organic coffee in a mason jar or something equally stupid but also amazingly tasty.
The next thing I know Oliva is telling me that she’s recently divorced from her impossibly WASPy wife, but the wife still lives with her and they sleep in the same bed. She’s telling me that she’s been crashing on her best friend’s couch most nights because she can’t stand her WASPy wife in the slightest. She’s telling me that she utterly detests her job and is about to quit but isn’t sure what she’s going to do next. She’s telling me that she doesn’t listen to Lana Del Rey because it’s “sad girl” music.
I tell her that I’m a “sad girl” who listens to sad girl music, and I have lost complete respect for her because of her aloofness toward the artistic goddess that is Lana Del Rey. (Not because she still lives with her ex, because of Lana.) She finds this funny and orders us a round of shots. The next thing I know, we are making out. Salaciously! Her giant lips are devouring my entire face, and her tiny hands are devouring my entire body, and I am completely unaware that there is an audience of elderly dykes gawking at us.
“Want to come home with me?”
“No,” I answer breathlessly.
“Why not?” she asks, staring longingly into my eyes like she loves me or something.
“Because I think I like you,” I say, surprising myself. Do I mean it?
“I think I like you too.” She grabs my phone off the table and punches her number into my phone. She waits outside with me for my Uber. I can’t tell if I’m vibrating because it’s cold outside or because of Olivia. The car pulls up. We make out like we’re long lost lovers, torn apart by war and reunited by chance on the streets of New York.
We make out like we have been in love for fifteen years and might never see one another again because the other is being deported or sent to prison or banished by the village. We make out like we’re at the f*cking altar.
“How was your night?” the Uber driver asks me. He has a dream-catcher hanging from his mirror and his car smells like nag-champa incense, so he must be gay-friendly.
“It was, um, amazing. I met this girl. I feel, like, sort of crazy. Like I have never had chemistry like that in my life.” Do I mean it? Why are words simply falling out of my mouth?
“Are you sure? All that lust can be confusing,” the Uber driver says, his voice wise and even like Deepak Chopra.
“I am sure,” I say. I definitely mean it. I think.
By the drive home I had convinced myself that I might have just actually experienced love at first sight. I never believed in love at first sight. My mother had always told me that love at first sight, was bullshit. “You have to know someone to love someone, otherwise it’s a rebound,” she would lecture. What the hell did she know? Rebound. Yeah right. My entire body felt like it had pins and needles. Not just my body. My heart.
That night I collapsed into bed and wrapped myself tightly in my comforter. I breathed in. Was that Olivia I was smelling on my skin? I sent her a text. “Let’s go on a date.” I typed. It’s very out of character for me to ever make the first move on anyone, as I’m both stubborn and shy, but screw it. I had a sinking suspicion that this girl could be the one. She texted me back right away.
“Tomorrow. Let’s go for a walk in Prospect Park.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m vehemently against trudging into rural Brooklyn for a date, let alone a park date. I like cocktails. I like appetizers. I like crushed velvet chairs and flickering candles and expensive checks.
But for whatever reason, I didn’t care. Maybe this is what I need. Someone to show me the beauty of the great outdoors in the great city of New York. I threw on a pair of black overalls and a crop-top and embarked upon a 55-minute train ride to Prospect Park.
So glad I found love so quickly and didn’t fall into the rebound trap!
Within minutes, we’re making out in the grass. My skin is screaming, for it’s being gnawed at by a slew of mosquitos, but I, as they say in yoga, choose to “lean into the discomfort” even though deep down I am starved for clean sheets and a fluffy bed.
For the next two weeks, we make out in parks. Every single day after work she asks me to meet her in some park. We make out in the corporate battleground of businessmen stomping their way through Bryant Park screaming at their assistants on their phones. We make out next to teenagers high on drugs in Union Square. We make out to the sounds of a lively drum circle in Washington Square Park. We make out on a picnic blanket next to toned new mother’s pushing around strollers in Central Park.
We make out on the basketball courts in a barren McCarenn Park at midnight.
We both want to have sex. We text about how badly we want to have sex. We text about how crazy we are about each other. We send each other songs. We send each other nudes. We send each other love notes.
She never invites me over.
Until she does.
I arrive at Olivia’s apartment at 9 p.m. I am nervous. I am always nervous to have sex with someone I actually have feelings for, and my feelings for Oliva are explosive.
I buzz up to her apartment on the 12th floor in Park Slope. I am dressed up in fishnets and lipstick and drenched in Le Labo and black eyeliner. She answers the door. She’s wearing jeans. Light jeans. I take a deep breath and ignore my shallow aversion to her light jeans.
“Thank god my ex is gone tonight,” Olivia says. I suddenly remember her ex still lives with her. They sleep in the same bed.
Her apartment is really clean and there is no art on the walls. I scan the room for an ounce of character. There is none. She leads me to the black leather couch. She pushes me onto the couch and we start kissing. She takes off my shirt and suddenly my back is itching, irritated, allergic! It feels like it’s being rubbed RAW against the leather sofa. I stop her.
“What’s wrong?” She asks.
“I think I’m allergic to your couch!” I scream.
And that’s when time slows down. Suddenly I look at her and she looks like someone I’ve never seen before in my entire life. A total stranger. She looks nothing like she did during all those passionate park make outs. She doesn’t look bad. She looks unfamiliar. My eyes zero in on the blank walls.
“Do you like art?” I ask her.
“Not really,” she says. “I like things clean.”
And that’s when it hit me, like a giant, massive, unexpected fist to the face on a peaceful walk home. This is a rebound, baby. My feelings for her evaporate at once. I am horrified. Freaked out. How have I convinced myself I was in love with this person who doesn’t care for art? How have I never noticed the light goddamn jeans before? Or the soullessness in her eyes? How have I ignored the fact that she still lives with her girlfriend? And doesn’t like Lana Del Rey? How have I got caught up in the spider-spun rebound web?
At that moment I suddenly feel very humbled. Any smugness I have ever felt about anything — even outside of rebounding — melts away. Underneath it all, we are all the same. No amount of therapy in the world can shield a girl from being smacked in the face with a rebound, I realize. I realize, right there, my naked back pulsating from it’s allergic reaction to the poor cow-slain leather of Olivia’s couch, exactly why we rebound.
We rebound because, after a breakup, we’ve been cracked open. We’re this open wound that anything can get inside and infect. Even the wrong person. Especially the wrong person. We’re so desperate to alleviate the pain in the gaping wound of our last broken relationship that we project the most beautiful feeling — the feeling of love — on to a total stranger. The stranger anesthetizes the pain for a while. But anesthesia eventually wears off. And then the sting of the truth sets in. Holy shit, I made this all up in my head. This was a fantasy. This wasn’t real.
And once we realize this whole rebound thing was one giant illusion, only then, can we deal with the real pain of our actual breakup.