Mamihlapinatapei /mah-ME-hla-PEEN-ah-ta-PAY/ noun Yagan (indigenous lang. of Tierra del Fuego): The wordless, yet meaningful look shared by two people, both of whom desire to initiate something, but each reluctant to be the one who starts.
I am in Northern California, because a guy who tipped me a lot in a strip club has bought my ticket; then felt too guilty to meet me. I am here to console myself with Steve, who turns out to also have a girlfriend, but that’s OK because “you can sleep in my roommate’s bed, he’s on tour.”
The roommate comes home in the night. Who’s been sleeping in my bed, indeed. We whisper our confusion, we are both fire-eaters, we both love The Crow. In the night, he raises himself on his elbows over me and says, “You have the nicest eyebrows I’ve ever seen.”
Torschlusspanik /tor-SCHLOOS-PAN-eek/ noun German: The fear of diminishing opportunities as one ages; lit. ‘gate-closing panic.’
This is before Skype, before email, before texting, before unlimited minutes. We can move in together in Florida or we can break up. I am not ready. He is not ready. But we are not ready to lose each other. My lifetime of things and his two suitcases. I always take the bigger closet. We are the same size, I wear his clothes, sleep in his boxer briefs.
Wabisabi /wah-bee-sah-bee/ noun Japanese: The beauty of things impermanent, imperfect and incomplete.
We teach class together, we perform together. We own one car. We are not separated even overnight for two years. I still manage to cheat. With people he knows. There are bruises on my body not from his hand, a scar on my elbow that is.
Toska /TOH-skah/ noun Russian: A dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for.
I'm sorry I wrecked our truck
I'm sorry I owned all the credit cards
I'm sorry I corrected your directions while driving.
I’m sorry I made you feel small.
Jayus /JAY-us/ adj Bahasa Indonesian: A joke so poorly told and unfunny that it provokes laughter.
I come home from Prague ready to be a wife again, ready to be married. He has cheated with a girl who looks like Liv Tyler. I find her naked modeling photos while snooping in email. I can never watch Lord of the Rings again.
Saudade /sow-DAH-day/ noun Portugeuse: A feeling of longing for someone or something loved and lost.
I send him home from Montreal on Friday. On Monday, I drive from Montreal directly to my therapist’s office. I decide to leave him, then go home for a week, believing this decision will not be noticed. On Wednesday, I pack what I can in the middle of a fight and drive until I cross back into Canada, an international border, past the last city, too far gone to turn around. Long past midnight, I get a motel room with fluorescent lighting and grey industrial carpeting, which I deserve.
Mokita /MO-kih-tuh/ noun Kivila (indigenous lang. of Papua New Guinea): The truth everyone knows but nobody says. Equiv. ‘the elephant in the room.’
Divorce means failure. I don’t get divorced. For four more years we are ‘separated.’ Our things are still in the same house. I am rarely there. He experiences depression. He goes to grad school in Las Vegas. I have two more—three more—relationships, with Not Good Enough, If They’ll Cheat With You They’ll Cheat On You, and Bisexual Means Not Out To My Family So Just Do The Holidays OK?
Wintercearig /WIN-ter-cher-ry/ adj Old English: A feeling of sadness like the cold of winter; lit. ‘winter-care’ or ‘winter-sorrow.’
I miss the man I ruined.
Jung /yung/ noun Korean: A feeling stronger than love that can only be proved by having survived a huge argument with someone.
I want my ‘bisexual’ boyfriend to say he loves me, so I get divorced. I fly to Las Vegas and serve my husband with papers, then help him pack a moving truck to come home. We go to court, then out for Thai food. He tells me, “You paid the mortgage alone for four years, so when I can, I want to take my turn.” I tell him, “Change your OK Cupid picture, you’re way hotter than that.”
Wanktok /WAHN-tok/ pl. noun Tok Pisin (creole lang. of Papua New Guinea): People of a shared language and of your family, village or clan; lit. ‘one talk.’
On Facebook he posts a double selfie, his arms around his girlfriend, her arms around him. She has great eyebrows. When he calls in a panic, I tell him, “Your Valentine’s gifts are perfect.” I tell him “Yes, she loves you. That text means she loves you.”
My boyfriend is my height, I sleep in his shirt, borrow his sweater. My ex-husband tells me, “He’s a little insecure because he loves you. Just let it go, just tell him you love him.”
We are finally ready to be with each other.
We are finally ready to be with someone else.
Naz /Nazh/ noun Urdu: The pride or assurance that rises from knowing you are loved; from knowing that no matter what you do, you will always be loved.
The definition whipchick is saddest to leave out: Pilkunnussija (Finnish): a person who corrects trivial or meaningless things; literally, “comma-fucker.”