See You on Instagram
Prose by Derrick Gravener
Art by Chloe Price
Oct. 13, 2014 – North Vancouver, BC (Lynn Canyon)
It’s two days before I have a date with a new guy. A photo of you pops up on my Instagram; you’re sitting on the edge of the water staring into the distance. Your new boy is tagged, as well as two of your friends. It must have been the ‘Meet the Friends’ day. I pull up the new boy’s Instagram and see a photo of the two of you looking genuinely happy. I think about the few photos we have together. I was always scared to post them because if your parents found out about us I would never forgive myself. I’m scared that we were never that happy. I’m scared I’ll never be that happy with anyone. I show my mother the photo of you two.
“Look how ugly he is,” I say while laughing almost hysterically. “He really traded down.”
“I thought I raised you better than this.”
Feb. 15, 2014 – Portland, OR (Hotel Rose)
It’s cold enough that we hold hands for survival, and I’m not wearing a super heavy jacket. Holding hands in public always makes me anxious, but I remember feeling safe in that moment, on the way to get a box of Voodoo donuts, the most responsibility we ever managed together. You put the box on the bed and you take a photo that ends up on your Instagram, but you don’t tag me. We make out and watch that episode of House of Cards where Zoe calls her dad while Frank is eating her out. We have a conversation about what your parents think I am to you, and at some point I end up going down on you when I feel things get tense.
Oct. 15, 2014 – Vancouver, BC (The Diamond)
At this point I’ve had a bit of beer, and things are going well with the new guy. We moved from The Alibi to The Diamond for drinks, a place I knew you always wanted to go to, so I Instagram our drinks out of spite. There are a couple comments on the photo: “are you on a date or something?” from my friend, a sole exclamation mark from you, and it makes me feel somewhat validated that I’ve still managed to reach you. The new guy pays for everything, and we go for a long walk, and my life feels like a bad romcom for a moment, and I hear myself say the words “I think you should kiss me” when we walk on the dock in Coal Harbour, and he follows through with my suggestion because he must know the script.
“Were you on a date with that guy? He’s cute.” you say to me in a text much later that evening.
“Good for you”
April 8, 2014 – Vancouver, BC (Jericho Beach Park)
You push me up against a tree and kiss me hard, and you rub your leg against my groin until we hear a set of leaves crunch that is not the one below our feet. Before we leave you snap a photo of the trees and post it on Instagram. You give me a print of a Andy Warhol from MoMA and for a moment I forget you told me you cheated on me in New York as an April Fool’s joke just to see my reaction.
Dec. 28, 2013 – Vancouver, BC (BC Place)
You post a photo at Day Two of the Contact festival; there are red lights flashing everywhere. You tell me the best moments of your life have been with me. The next day you tell me you were high on molly for most of it.
Nov. 9, 2014 – Vancouver, BC (Totem Park)
I wake up to a knock at my door, and the guy from the dock (now boyfriend) is standing there with Starbucks and sunflowers. I remember when I told you that I didn’t like flowers and I never wanted them. I post a photo of me with the flowers, perhaps again out of spite, and you like it. I still don’t know if I like flowers or if I just never wanted them from you. I think about this while my new boyfriend goes down on me, and that makes me think about how you never went down on me. After twenty minutes, I tell new guy to come up for air.
June 18, 2014 – New York, NY (Times Square)
I snap a photo of Times Square while my sister and I are running to get back to her parking before it expires. She tells me a story about her ex-husband, and she talks about how she misses their dog. She tells me how heartbreak gets better after some time. I go back up to the guest room and tell you about my day because you said you wanted to stay friends after you broke-up with me, but you don’t reply. I stare at a screen for company. It’s been two days since you replied. I go on craigslist missed connections m4m in New York. Everyone is just as lonely and broken here, it seems, and I spend the rest of the night making a Plenty of Fish account.
Aug. 3, 2014 – Vancouver, BC (Bute & Davie St.)
While lying on the carpet of my friend’s unfurnished apartment, I turn 19. We are completely sober but there is a moment where I feel like we are about to kiss like drunk teenagers at a party, but she is seeing someone and I’m not as much of homewrecker as I pretend to be. She buys us a pint of Caramel Cone Haagen Daaz, and we eat it while fireworks from the festival go off behind the building we see off her balcony. I take a really grainy photo of the firework edges in the distance and Instagram it with a caption about putting myself back together. It’s about the flight attendant (not dock guy, this is before him) I’m allegedly dating. I was supposed to meet his dad that evening, but he stopped replying. You text me and apologize for how everything went down between us because you think the caption is only about you.
June 9, 2016 – Vancouver, BC (Liberty Bakery)
Your Instagram theme has completely changed, and you use hashtags like #minimalism #brightaesthetic and #bleachmyfilm (and #instagay even though I thought you were bi, but I guess one probably gets you more likes than the other). You take a photo of a plant on a table at the bakery, with bleached wood in the background, and I would say it looked great if I didn’t think you had become someone you once mocked. It’s dock guy’s birthday and like a good boyfriend I post a photo of him with the crepe cake that I made him. The next day it is exactly two years since we broke up, and you unfollow me on Instagram. I’d be lying if I said the date-factor didn’t feel intentional.
June 8, 2014 – Vancouver, BC (Orpheum Theatre)
For our seventh-month anniversary, you took me to a VSO performance at the Orpheum, and I snapped a photo of the sign after. I bought a linen shirt for the occasion and I spent twenty minutes trying to steam the wrinkles out of it, which inevitably lasted less than ten minutes. I grabbed your knee during the performance, wanting you to turn towards me and smile, but you didn’t even look at me.
Sept. 29, 2017 – Location Unknown
You post a picture of a knife you received as a housewarming gift. I unfollowed you shortly after you unfollowed me, but I still like to keep tabs on your life. I want to say it’s because I hope you’re doing well, but I usually don’t hope that. I want you to break up with your boyfriend, and I want you to feel the level of pain that you made me feel, while meanwhile I am happier, and my relationship with my boyfriend is more successful than your relationship with your boyfriend. But it looks like you just moved in together, and I’ve recently parted ways with dock guy because I was not ready to move in together. I think about something an Uber driver told me this summer:
You can’t enter a new relationship while you are still broken. You will just put your brokenness on the other person, and then the cycle continues.
Jan. 1, 2014 – Vancouver, BC (41st and Fraser area)
While you were downstairs at David’s I got so drunk that I left a voicemail for a guy who stood me up on a date before we were together. We took a lot of photos that night, and it looks like we had a lot of fun. We slept in the same bed and spooned while onlookers verbally expressed their distaste at two men sharing a bed. Sometime after that we snuck into the laundry room and you fucked me while my head slammed against the dryer. The next day I posted a photo of a polaroid from the evening after I popped some Advil. Various interactions of the following happen:
You looked like you were having so much fun on new years!
It was so great! How was your new years?
Sept. 23, 2017 – Vancouver, BC (Cacao 70 Dippery)
I post a photo of the ice cream I bought because it looked pretty. I am with dock guy and we are on a break, but in the half hour after the photo I decide that taking a break is not nearly enough after everything, and I end things indefinitely. I think about the time you posted a quote that said “without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos” on Instagram. Dock guy fights back tears on the Skytrain, and I edit the photo of the ice cream. It’s increasingly concerning how numb I’ve become to painful situations. While I wait for the bus home I think about all the ways you hurt me, and all the ways I hurt dock guy, and all the ways he hurt me, and my obsession with trying to have the perfect life and the perfect relationship. I post the photo. No one posts a photo the night they break up with their boyfriend, so no one will suspect anything. You should go like my photo. I spend the night lying awake and my Uber driver’s advice starts to haunt me as I scroll through torsos on Grindr, anyone to numb this feeling. Let the cycle of brokenness end with you. Being by yourself takes a strong person. Take the time to heal. I wake up in the morning and delete Grindr. I put a reminder in my phone to call my therapist when she’s back from vacation. I think about the time I saw you in Loafe last week and avoided you. I didn’t want you to ask me how I was doing, because the truth is I’m not okay, and I’m starting to get bad at hiding it when people ask.
Apr. 21, 2014 – Vancouver, BC (Ponderosa Commons)
You put your hand on me knee after we laugh at something I said. You look at me and say the three words I’m supposed to wait for. I look out of the window for the answer, under the table, back at you. Nothing comes. No words. Your words float out the window and we don’t talk about them, we don’t go for looking for them. I like to think that they’re still out there. I like to think they were never really for me. I like to think that after everything you put me through I could say them back to you years later. Sometimes I go back to that moment, crack your hollow words back over your head like an egg. You wince, but nothing comes out. Just as I’m about to put the shells down, two drops fall on you. Maybe we are both surprised and scared that your words can hold substance after all. This moment was supposed to be everything I ever wanted. But the words stare back at me like a warning.
I love you.