After a break-up, every next move is a betrayal. Why’d he change his profile picture? Does it represent a new phase in his life? When did he get tickets to that concert? Since when does he take so many pictures? Every move comes with a little prick, because the decision was made without you, because you used to know everything before it happened and now you’re one of the last to know. It makes you feel hollow, like a part of you was ripped away and you have to learn to heal and function without it. The world seems bleaker because you have to face it alone, with no late-night phone call to look forward to, nobody assuring you that you’re beautiful every morning.
And you might reach out to him, try to assure that some of what you had is still there, or can be rekindled, if even for a moment. And sometimes, he’ll reach back, relieved that you made the first move. He misses the phone calls too, and you’ll agree to talk more often, if even as friends. Everything feels better for a moment. But soon, or eventually, you’ll stop reaching, or he will, and the sense of hollowness will return. The metro ride to work feels debilitating again, and the rain is the worst thing in the world. But this time, you’re used to the feeling, and you can swallow it sometimes, and things feel a little better.
And one day, you’ll look around and realize you’ve swallowed the hollow for a whole week, two weeks, a month, and become re-absorbed in your life. You’ve re-arranged the goals that fell by the wayside when you were too loved to be ambitious. You’re going to the gym, and cooking dinner, and reading and writing because it feels good to take care of yourself, and it feels like you’re filling the hole with something good, something permanent. You’re sending your writing places because hey, maybe it could get published, and you have the time to work on something like that now. You’ll spend an hour cooking a beautiful breakfast for yourself, because it makes the morning happier, and makes you feel more in control of the day.
After some more time – you’re not counting the days anymore – an article you wrote will get published for the first time, or you’ll cook dinner for a big group and everyone won’t believe that it’s not store-bought, and you can feel the progress you’ve made. Your stomach doesn’t drop anymore the second you’re alone, because your mind falls to everything you’ve done, for yourself, on your own. The hollow is filling with substance that you created, and it starts to give you a confidence you never had before – an assuredness that you can catch yourself the next time you fall, instead of tumbling to the bottom.
And finally, when you’re at the grocery store one day perusing the cereal aisle, not looking for anyone or anything besides something to make for breakfast the next morning, you’ll meet the next person. He’ll hand you the Rice Krispies you dropped and you’ll linger a little longer, talking about nothing, and you’ll smile, because you’ll know you can make a better dinner than you ever could before.