Breakups are hard, but they’re even harder when they are happening IRL (I longed for the song of his aggressive snoring, I couldn’t go to Carmine’s anymore in Greenpoint for my favorite slice, and no brows were comparable until Queen Delevingne slapped every wall in Bushwick with her caterpillars) and on the Internet, especially if your ex is somewhat of a proficient, overeager Twitter whiz and semi-famous rapper. So a double distance is built—wide, with the Truth existing somewhere inside the dichotomy. I no longer would walk down Bedford Ave, wearing his worn Panda Bear tee, heading to Diner to eat meals we couldn’t afford written on paper we would stain with wine. He now only existed on the Internet. Most relationships exist to either last or teach us something on the road to finding something that does last, and the love story between Himanshu and I, which began with passionate e-mail exchanges, liquid heart love and whisperings about how our auras were destined, devolved into screaming matches and resentment and vitriol. But, what this relationship taught me was how to love myself. And because of that, I have not once regretted the beauty or the ugliness of our affair.
Himanshu, who many know as Heems, sent me a preemptive email before his solo album, Eat, Pray, Thug came out, giving me a heads up that I’d be mentioned like on his song “Home” featuring Dev Hynes that I almost hated to like (but it’s really good) and a less tasteful “Damn, Girl.” It was already done. Some of my friends already had his album before he released it, I was told last year while the album was being worked on by some collaborators that it was confessional, and that I likely would be the anonymous girl who would keep showing up. To people out there wondering: I am that anonymous girl. I probably was that subtweet as well. I didn’t think much of it until I saw reviews of his album from varying sites splatter my Facebook wall, or saw Himanshu on the cover of Village Voice which adorned every slushy sidewalk of the city, and filled my Instagram feed with his face in those infamous red boxes with cheeky captions like “found art.” Like all others who fall prey to emotional cutting, I decided to read his Twitter feed the other day-during the post-glow of his solo album release Eat, Pray, Thug. I have been working on the urge with my therapist, and it is becoming less and less. Not just with him, but with others. To block out what doesn’t make me feel better, or at least try (more realistically) to only allow a sliver in. In our relationship, I felt like he had two lives: public/private and then just public. Jokes shared between us would end up on the Internet, hence shared with 34K fans, ready for a RT, jonesing for a fave. So, while Tecates were being thrown back and breakfast tacos devoured in Austin, TX at SXSW where the airport smells like solace, I slipped, signed into Twitter, and peeked.
I have “followed” him off again, on again, off again; unfollowing him because it was too painful to watch him wasted at 5 am crying in 140 capital characters, witnessing a mental health breakdown, or worse, making me laugh. Or I’d be plagued with delusion, thinking I didn’t have a “right” to his innermost thoughts even though thousands of others did, and well, there were some things said about me I’d rather not read, or hear for that matter. On this particular day I saw a link to an interview with Peter Rosenberg on Hot 97. I remembered Peter well; he had that grave voice, that rap enthusiast NY hunger. I recognized his voice from the radio, how Hima would always talk about being on Hot 97 as the rap holy grail of making it, but then a few minutes into their interview with Himanshu “Heems” Suri (Heemy, I called him) he brought us hanging out at Santos Party House with DMX a handful of other rappers (Jim Jones, I want to say) and I wondered why I did this.
After all, I have come to a point where I’m no longer angry—anger wilted into apathy and then turned into a truce currently being tried. But, it hurt when Peter said “I remember your girlfriend” and Himanshu quickly corrected me to his “ex-girlfriend” and my mind journeyed to our card rides in his silver Jetta, over the Williamsburg Bridge at dusk bumping Hot 97 from Brooklyn out to Long Island and back. Through the Internet, my mind journeyed back to moments we shared in our own reality, his hands on the wheel, so he couldn’t tweet. It did hurt to feel talked about or referred to even if my name wasn’t, but, as an artist too, I understand how cathartic talking about personal issues are in art, and, well, his song featuring guitar work by Dev Hynes was hella good. And I thought of our journey and how like someone dies and their Facebook remains, our relationship died, yet I still had a right to his diary. We broke up over two years ago, right after a tour where I was his DJ (if you can call pressing a space bar that). Some of it was fun. Hell, the light in Bristol, the snowy walks to stare in large windows fashioned with tiny shrimp in Finland, and buying bootleg film called Kojak in Bucharest, where we were led around by a gregarious, chain-smoking and toothless choreographer who took us on driving tour pointing out the Palace of the Parliament, and housing where all the “gypsies” live. There were fights. Many of them. Over his tour schedule, over his lack of communication, over my inability to grow up, and eventually over his heavy drug use which he, like most addicts, hid from me and me, like most people involved with addicts, I was in denial about. We lived together, we attend his sister’s bridal shower together where I met over hundreds of his closest friends and family, and eventually his Punjabi-Hindi family accepted me, a white woman, as their own beta. I was even his niece, Zoe’s, auntie.
We fell in love over words so it makes sense that we found parallelism, falling out of love in fighting e-mail matches while he was touring Australia, or on the road in America and just happened to “forget his phone” (retrospective code for a “bender”) and we’d be out of touch for weeks on end. The tears. I still have hundreds of our correspondences and modern love letters saved and relegated to a folder, hidden, although sometimes I still press All Mail. Before his album came out Hima sent me a note saying that I was going to be mentioned and while one song, “Damn, Girl,” left a very poor taste in my mouth, I handled it differently. I didn’t engage. I told him that one song was in poor taste, but that I would support him, that I was proud of him and how he is at least admitting to his addiction even if he is still battling it, and how I, who errs on the side of confessional poetry, understood using material, although painful, to build strong art. And that is all true. He will always be a beautiful narcissist, he will always refer to himself in third person, and, hey, that no longer bothers me. So when I showed up to the Aicon Gallery two weeks ago to celebrate the closing of an exhibit he curated, he handed me drum sticks and said I could play them (the band had ended) and encouraged me to stick around, to talk, to eat pizza, to share a Marlboro 27 like we used to. And what matters more is that the toxicity is gone.
Maybe it is the stages of breaking up, of grief, but over the last couple of years, working hard with therapists and life coaches, I analyzed why I stayed in a relationship that which once was so passionate devolved into dysfunction, and my role in it all. How I was at a point of disliking myself so much that I didn’t mind him swinging into my room fucked up at 6 am, or wandering into my roommate’s bed and not mine, or waiting for him to show, but he would show at his dealers instead. Or him looking in my eyes and lying to me. Effortlessly, and often. And that it was I came to realize, that loving myself doesn’t mean harboring anger, it means letting it all go, sending out a congratulatory tweet, and even picking up the Village Voice with the cover of him on it in a bedazzled suit, large eyes lined with kohl, sitting in its red box home or scattered on the street, covered with wheels or slush. It’s time to move on. And we both are doing that. I can say, that this love story taught me to love myself, which means the unfollow on Instagram or the temporary blocking of a number, until I no longer am bloated with rage, but compassion, because I stayed when I should have left and we tried and that word accountability means something to me so even though I wince at calling my ex-love “Heems” I can say this: @himanshu, everything is all right, kid. Godspeed.