We sit awkwardly in a busy food court—possibly the worst place to break up. You start out calm, like you’ve rehearsed what you’re going to say beforehand. You spent some time with your therapist, perhaps, preparing yourself for the multiple scenarios that could play out.
The people at the table next to us pretend not to listen, ignoring the glassy look in my eyes as you confess to me that I mean absolutely nothing. A woman with red hair and bright red lipstick makes eye contact with me from across the space, as if to say, “You’re brave, girl. Don’t you cry.” The look in her eyes gives me strength. I swallow hard and my eyes cooperate. They get the message and they relax. I hope the woman with red hair is able to read the gratitude in my eyes. She, a stranger munching on a salad, is rooting for me.
You masticate a bite of your overpriced burger, and in between chews you begin to deliver your speech. Cool and collected and utilizing professional jargon, you treat me like an employee who you had to let go of. Your pale, blue eyes are stoic, completely unknown to me. They used to look at me with a glimmer of wonder and excitement. I don’t recognize you, and I feel my chest getting tight.
You finish your speech. You mention labels and expectations. You mention there being no demands and not being ready. That last thing triggers outrage in me, but I don’t react as I normally would. Instead, I remind you. I remind you of how you were ready to share the deepest, darkest, muddiest parts of your life with me. Like how you can’t get out of bed some days or how you’ve wondered what not living could be like. I remind you of the happy things you share with me, like photos of your kids and recipes for chicken stew. I remind you about how you were ready to make my body yours and how you took advantage of that opportunity faster than anyone I’d ever known.
You can’t even look at me. You, the accomplished man that you are, can’t look at me, the girl who is pretty much mediocre at everything. Suddenly your bigshot, nonchalant energy is reduced to a sack of long, uncomfortable silences and stutters. You begin to sink into your seat. You look pathetic to me, and I hurt for the both of us.
You think fast. You tell me something serious and long term could’ve been in the works, had you been ready. You assure me that I’m the one whom you share the most with, as if being first place in your harem of women should make me feel honored. You’re so cruel to say that. I can feel my heart cracking.
I’m not enough for you.
You claim it’s not as simple as it seems. You pretend that you do have feelings for me, but they’re outweighed by a fear of committing. We both know what it is. You’ve found someone who you have to work less for. A middle-aged woman who lives in a more convenient location. A woman who sells herself short and is okay with hanging out on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays because the rest of the time your responsibilities in life are too grand. She’s okay with taking the scraps of time that you have left. She doesn’t challenge you. She shows you how she feels immediately. You don’t have trouble reading her, because everything you say she finds funny. You like easy. You like simple. You like uncomplicated and bland. Everything that I am not.
We both get up and walk towards the exit. You leave your trash on the table. People stare at you in judgement. Heartbreaker and litterbug, all neatly wrapped in one. We part ways. I delete your number that same night. You will never hear from me again, but you’ll read this and you’ll feel naked. No one will know it’s about you, but the fact that you and I know it is will be enough. My words will swim around in your mind for weeks to come. When you can’t sleep, you’ll come back to read this and to dissect every word. For better or for worse, this sudden bit of immortality you’ve gained will make you think about me for a little, and I can’t lie, it gives me a little bit of satisfaction.
This is what happens when writers catch feelings and when simpletons who don’t deserve us can’t reciprocate. It’s a tragedy that we’re gifted with the power to immortalize those who least deserve it.