The Art of Leaving.

First you get her to love you. Then you leave.

It’s best to start on a cloudy day. This way she associates falling in love with you with the mist that rolls in just before dawn, the lingering humidity signaling the end of summer and the start of something else.

Get real close to her and whisper in her ear. Invade her space. Let her feel threatened until she’s not. When you kiss her, make it gentle and then taste her teeth. Overpower her with softness and desire. When she buckles like a small animal learning to walk, be there to catch her. Tell her you’ll learn together.

Push your way into her life like a train with a blasting horn, like a pushy neighbor who demands sugar and time. Infiltrate the tiny cracks in her apartment like caulk. Be useful and attentive. Proceed with caution. For the one friend who expresses wariness, sew the seeds of doubt. Her friend must be jealous, you tell her, as anyone would be jealous of someone so beautiful and self-assured. Poison her with your distrust until suddenly she believes she’s outgrown that friend. Be her new friend.

Tell her you love her sooner than she wants. When she questions you, cry. Be vulnerable to a fault and strong in your convictions. Remind her that you aren’t like the others. If she can’t handle someone who feels as strongly as you do — if she’s scared — then maybe she isn’t ready for you. Don’t back down until she decides she’s ready for you. She’ll get there sooner than you think. Like all strong and sympathetic women, she loves rising to a challenge.

Cook her a turkey for Thanksgiving and meet her parents at Christmas. Spend New Year’s in a crowded party, surrounded by lights and champagne. Kiss her at midnight in such a way that she’ll forget anyone else is there. Even though she doesn’t care about Valentine’s Day, get her a card anyway. And flowers. And a massage.

With each passing day, remind her that she’s wonderful. Then, when she starts to accept this as her new normal, stop.

When she sends you a funny photo of her cat, don’t respond. When she asks you what time are you done with work, and don’t you like this new dress, and how about Thai tonight, have other plans.

One night after a bottle of wine or two, ask her why she never hangs out with what’s-her-name, the old friend she thought she outgrew. When she reminds you of the old jealousy with narrowed eyes, feign amnesia. Tell her you always liked that friend; you found her vibrant and sexy.

After a few weeks you’ll feel the tension lingering just below her skin. Notice how kinetic her panic is, like dry kindling just before it ignites. Decide on a nearby destination and have one really great weekend with her, covering her body in yours and breathing into her neck the promises of last Fall.

When you get back to her apartment Sunday night, fall asleep with your face pressed into the back of her neck. Clutch her close. Make her feel safe and wanted. When she leaves for work the next morning, ask her what she wants for dinner.

It’s best to leave when it’s warm out. This way she associates heartbreak with the sun at its highest point in the sky and strangers milling about happily in the park. Leave a note telling her you’re tired of her, or not in love anymore, or suddenly scared of commitment. Anything but the truth. Fill her vases with flowers and leave your still-packed bag lying open on her bed, reminding her of the trip you just came back from and the way your mouth curled around her fingers. When she calls you, be curt. End the conversation while she’s still in tears. Be cold and practical. When she calls you back, don’t answer. Turn off your phone and delete her messages.

Change your relationship status and post photos of yourself at a bar with your friends. Casually run into what’s-her-name.

Go on a trip for the month of August. Sleep around. Congratulate yourself on your ability to live your life. Imagine her heart wilting in her own vase, next to the too-long-dead flowers you left her. Get off on how powerful you’ve become.

When you return and see she’s starting to move on, send her a drunk text. Crack open the door with your name on it she’s trying so hard to close. Use a sledgehammer if you have to. Remind her she’ll never move on. When she asks why you’re doing this to her, tell her you don’t know. Tell her you don’t deserve her. Tell her you just don’t love yourself enough to accept the love of someone else. Tell her what she wants to hear. Anything but the truth.