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  • A few days after Thanksgiving, the temperature rose into the 60's. In New England, that seemed both like a divine reprieve, and something vaguely ominous. But maybe the foreboding was just my own, driven not so much by the unseasonable warmth than by the fact that I’d just—knowingly—set myself up for social awkwardness.

    A week or so earlier, I’d broken up with a man with the mutual understanding that we wanted different things. Still, so soon after, he occupied more of my thoughts than I would have liked. Choosing something deliberately doesn’t mean you don’t entertain nostalgia for the other choice, the one you didn’t choose.

    And then a friend we had in common invited me out to the ocean for a few days. I thought he might be there. I went anyway.

    The first morning we all made our way down to the water. Inspired to abandon by the weirdness of the weather, several of us stripped down to our underwear and took turns jumping in. It was an affirmation of our own fierceness, that we would welcome the shock and burn of a frigid ocean. It made us giddy, almost high.

    He did come that weekend, and both of us largely pretended that we’d never known anything of each other, beyond a polite friendship. It felt like another show of strength, one that also carried some of the ridiculousness of jumping into the November sea. You can look so confident. You can achieve a kind of buzz from the adrenaline of the act. And then, afterwards, you feel very, very cold.
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