It will all start sitting in a driveway in front of a friend’s house after a party. The most awful relationship-related conversations all seem to take place in a parked car, often under the rain, definitely at night. When you’re in a car, one all closed up and steaming on the inside of the windows and making you feel like a small, trapped animal, all you want to do is stand outside for a minute. The tightly-enclosed space has been filled with all of the words you were forced to say to each other — ones you had been holding in for a long time, ones you absolutely never imagined yourselves saying, ones you know you will regret even as they escape your lips. You can’t bear to be stewing in all of these words. They seep into your pores and make everything feel unbearably hot, incredibly tight.
You won’t realize it’s ending because, in all of the possible outcomes you’ve imagined in this scenario, the actual distinction of “over” being made was never an option. Things were going to get difficult, sure, but there was never going to be a “goodbye” that meant something. You can imagine yourself with all manner of injury — you can see yourself lain up in a hospital bed with every last inch of you covered in bandages — but you can’t picture yourself dead. It’s too scary, too final, too filled with the unknown and the uncomfortable. When they say that they’re done, and you know that they mean it, you are suddenly hovering over your own funeral and can’t bear to look in your coffin.
It’s selfish, but you wonder how you’re going to explain things. How are you going to backtrack through every wonderful thing you’ve said, every proclamation of long-term compatibility and plans for the future? It’s not enough to just be heartbroken; you have to have egg all over your face, too. What would all of this be without a little humiliation? You might even verbalize it — much to your immediate remorse — “But… how are we going to tell people? Everyone knows we’re together.” You realize that this isn’t a question they’ve been considering themselves. Things seem to be relatively clear from they’re point of view; it’s a clarity you envy deeply. It conjures up images of friends picking sides, of yours being as empty as the “away” team’s at a local basketball game.
You get out of the car and close the door. The night is at once much too cold and just cool enough. It wicks the sweat and tears off your face, it kisses you all over in all the places this person never will again.
Don’t look at a mirror now. Avoid them with the same fervor you hold for trying to run to your freshly-departed ex. The thing is, there are a million places you could be directing your anger and sadness — even places which are entirely positive — but you are unfailingly going to be sending it inward. You weren’t pretty enough, not smart enough, not doing enough of this or that. There is nothing about yourself you won’t find worthy of disdain, desperately in need of change. But you can’t change anything, at least not now, and it certainly wouldn’t be for the right reasons. It’s just a moment of unfiltered self-loathing that you’ll have to try your best to ignore.
Everyone will tell you that you’re going to forget about this, that one day it will seem like nothing, that it will be a blip on the horizon behind you. But the thing is, at least at the moment, you don’t want that to happen. Even if you are never to be together again, you can’t give up that beautiful hope, that memory of being with them, back when they loved you. All of the advice will mean nothing, all of the experiences of others — offered in kindness, in an attempt to empathize — will pale in comparison to yours. No one understands. How could they? You want to tell them that moving on (whatever that is supposed to mean in practice) is too far from your plane of reality now to even imagine.
But you can imagine something, and you must.
Imagine waking up every day, at a good time, even if you stay in your bed for a while. Get used to the sound of the birds, the feeling of light coming through the window, the quiet pleasures of a new day ahead of you. Imagine eating a good meal, even if mostly comprised of comfort food, and enjoying the feeling of a full stomach. Let things go slowly, and be enjoyed for exactly what they are, not what you want them to be. Dinner will not be for two, but it will be dinner. Imagine doing your work every day, putting your whole body into the smallest project the way you once did with your love. Channel all of that energy into even the tiniest victories, and allow yourself to revel in them. Imagine seeing every day in which you wake up, you eat, you escape your bed, you call a friend, to be a success. Know that it is one, and be proud of having done so much. Imagine being kind when you finally do look in the mirror, even if you are still covered in invisible wounds. Imagine breathing.
And then, no matter how much you want to give up entirely, do it.