the formers

art by Nancy Ekholm Burkert

Every relationship that I’ve had has left some sort of mark in me. For my own purposes, I imagine little human-shaped parts of my heart that my Formers forever inhabit.

I can’t explain what compelled me to do so, but I started reading through old e-mails that I’ve exchanged with boyfriends past. What’s that, you ask? Why do I keep things like that? The answer is simple: I’m sentimental.

(I’m also too lazy to go through and delete everything on rampage like a hormonal school girl.)

I call them Formers because to brand them “exes” seems too banal. As if “X-ing” them off a list is all it takes to move on. Relationships may be fleeting, but memories are not such ephemeral things.

For example, I remember little things about my Formers. Idiosyncrasies that are unique to that individual. I remember how one used to pretend that he could blow at stoplights to change the light from red to green. Another used to drag his feet when he walked.  I once dated a guy who was diabetic, and he used to tell me I was bad for his health because I was so sweet. Every once in a while, a synapse will fire while I’m doing something mundane, like opening a box of cereal. I’ll recall a Former’s favorite brand of cereal or a time that I had breakfast with them. These memories always make me smile.

My favorite part of a relationship is the beginning. You can’t stop talking to each other, absorbing each other, thinking about each other. Every minute you have together is a gift from the divine. Each ambrosial kiss sends you floating in mid-air and every word exchanged is a star from which you hopelessly hang. Inevitably, beginnings end, and these sensations evaporate into a gaseous form of memory to be sensed again only when the emotional temperature is right.

Trust me — I’m fully aware of my tendency to live in the past sometimes. There’s no pragmatism in reminiscing. Then again, there’s no harm in it either, as long as you’ve got your feet rooted in the very real present.

I bear no shame in remembering, smiling, and even aching for these otherwise impermanent moments. Only when we genuinely miss something do we truly grasp how beautiful it was to have had it in the first place.

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