It’s been four weeks since you’ve been dumped, and you’ve managed to hold on to your pride and not call him. And then, on a sunny day so innocent it might have been invented by Anne of Green Gables, he calls you. Out of the blue, after senior yearbooks have been passed out, inside of which is a photo of you looking slim, fine and glossy in your graduation dress. You are proud of that picture. You will continue to be proud of it 21 years later.
So you chat on the phone and you are exactly as you planned to be: casual, light-hearted, a cool girl, no biggie. You are funny and punny. He seems happy to chat for an hour. You get off the phone and in the quiet of your room, pump your fist in silent, ecstatic victory.
At this point, things can go in two opposing directions.
If you’re smart, you can interpret this conversation as closure. Things didn’t work out, you understand that’s the case, but at least they have ended on a good note. You have not damaged your reputation by being clingy or predictable. You have been understanding and cool. You know now how strong you are and that you are capable of moving on. When people talk about “fish” and “sea” now, you can shrug your shoulders. Your hook is sharp, and what’s more? It can catch anything it wants.
But, if you’ve read way too many Harlequin romance novels, you can go all in, pushing every single last chip into the pot, and make a Last Ditch Effort to win him back. This, we all know, is a fool’s errand.
Of course, I made the second of the two choices. And 21 years later, that decision still makes me wince. I became everything I had intended not to become. Predictable. Clingy. I talked to his friend and disclosed way too many details about our time in the back of my Dodge Colt. When I ran into him at a bar, I asked him to slow dance, and he looked like he wanted to vomit on his shoes, if only so it would give him a better excuse to say no.
It was right at that moment, after I exited the bar, sat in my car with my hands on the steering wheel, and listened to my friends tell me, “It wasn’t that bad,” that I realized all hope was gone. The last piece of air was out of the balloon. Insert squeaky, horn-like sound effect here.
To some degree, we’ve all been there.
So what do you do? I mean, hell, what can you do? I know now the only option is to wait it out until you feel better. And what a long, arduous wait. Accepting that it’s over doesn’t mean that you’re happy about it.
I remember my mom felt so sorry for me in my weepy, defeated state that she went to a patchouli-scented boutique and bought me a crystal pendant that was supposed to promote healing. This from a woman who didn’t believe in buying Clearasil because it was “a bunch of garbage” and said all my beauty regime really needed was a bar of soap and a pot of Vaseline.
I wore that pendant for six months. It was light pink and shaped like a pyramid, and I didn’t take it off for anything. Whenever I was upset, I would rub it as obsessively as a gambler with a rabbit’s foot. By the time I was done with it, that pyramid had been whittled into a mound.
But when I took it off, I was ready.
In the meantime, I had watched the movies Reality Bites and Singles 60 times. I’d realized, maybe for the first time, what great friends I had, ones who never, ever told me they were sick of hearing about my breakup, although they surely had to be. And I’d learned that the beat does go on.
And that’s the thing with breakups. As much as it feels like you will never, ever recover, somehow you do. You never forget that terrible feeling, to be sure, but you do get to a point where someone comes by and seems interesting. They have a kind face. And a deep voice. Nice hands. They make you laugh so hard you want to stand beside them just to see what they’ll say next.
And that’s the last thing I’ll say about breakups. In the end, as hard as they are, they happen for a reason, and if you’re lucky, they happen fast so you don’t waste too much time. Because when you find the right person, the one who would never break your heart because your heart is practically his heart, you want to spend as much time with him as you possibly can.