On the first day of singledom, have a series of phone dates with your dearest friends. Hold your phone so tight to your ear, the flap of cartilage turns hot pink. Offer sound bites like savory appetizers on toothpicks. Listen to your friends’ babies squeal in the background and how the crosswalks chirp as they walk. Marvel at their gasps. Feel each friend’s holy shit build in your cheeks. Say, I know.

Acknowledge that shame is better than fear of any man. At least you’re not fleeing his house after midnight, driving across town to your own bed. Your body somehow simultaneously alert and wearied, buzzing from the volume of his voice, its edge, but also heavy and calling out for sleep.

Listen to each friend use the word abusive. Two say tell-tale signs. None says love.

Snuggle your dogs and consider how uncomplicated their affection is.

Maybe try writing something. Make a wish at 11:11 and 1:11.

Wish for something that used to mean something to you. Though that may seem small—foolish even. You’re not even sure you believe it. Do it anyway.

It’s 102 degrees in May; peel off your bra by noon, having already sweated through it.

Smack the no-see-ums that move like pale freckles on your forearms. You can barely make out the smudges of their bodies.

Remember how disappointed you were in your mother’s abusive marriage, how you promised to never be weak. You were only sixteen, but you were brimming with answers.

Contemplate bangs. Then remember you live in Texas.

Listen to Cardi B while you teeter at the tub’s edge for a pedicure. Slough away as much skin as you can bear to lose.

When the phone rings, confirm your appointment for IUD insertion the following morning. Make an awkward mixed-metaphor joke about installing hardware under the hood with the stranger who calls. Don’t cancel. Even though sex seems an unlikely possibility in the immediate future, don’t cancel.

Watch that scary movie he’d never watch.

Drink his cider at the back of the fridge.

When the dog shits indoors, clean it and refrain from scolding. It was never the dog’s fault.

Remember that yesterday you were content to settle for mediocre sex, a mediocre partner, a man who was not only dull but cruel. You knew even when you didn’t want to.

Watch the movie, which is pretty terrible, having Americanized all the characters. This observation would annoy him. He’d say you politicize everything.

Remember how he held your hand to his heart at bedtime.

Remember how mesmerized he was by the backyard foxes.

Remember the heart-shaped balloon at the turn for his street, how you turned toward something you’d forgotten to want.

But also remember that when you interrupted him, he refused to talk for the rest of the night—even after you apologized. He sulked himself to sleep.

Consider how he said things like, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, which is another way of saying, what’s good for one person is good for another. In this case, what’s good for me is good for all. When you’d earnestly asked him how a fight could have been handled better—what you might have done differently—he said, “Just don’t make me mad.”

Don’t forget that you’ve been fucking a pro-lifer without even realizing it for all these weeks. Feel your stomach drop. He said, I don’t understand why abortion is a “women’s issue.” Relive it again and again in case you should ever forget.

Acknowledge how little you miss him. Say it aloud; sometimes it helps.

Call your old roommate who now lives one thousand miles away in Chicago. When he pulls a tarot card, he says, it’s time to go. He laments that he is a conversation starter, not a follower, so Twitter isn’t working out. But he has a new idea for a book. A book of penis readings, like palm readings, but for a penis—or maybe ejaculate? he muses. A coffee table book for the masturbator. He says, you really can divine anything.

Drink in the validation at leaving but chuck the cider. Pour them out one by one. Watch the fizzing amber swirl toward the drain.

Consider how when he said people are assholes, what he meant was that he was. What he did was warn you.

Remember, the only thing for free in Lubbock, Texas are the Craigslist cats and the mangy street dogs. Whatever you do, don’t put out a dish of milk or kibble or Cadbury crème eggs in case he should turn up and mistake it for an invitation. You will sweat him out like a summer fever, sick as ever.

Jennifer Popa earned her Ph.D. in English at Texas Tech University and her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She now works as an Assistant Professor and is revising a collection of short stories and puttering her way through a novel. Some of Jennifer’s most recent writing can be found in The Florida ReviewWest Branch, Ninth Letter, and Sundog Lit. She can be found at www.jenniferpopa.com.  


Photography by: Eric Mclean

How to Live Without a Mediocre Man in Lubbock, Texas (Or, A Day for Self-Flagellation and Solitude)

by Jennifer Popa

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