“They broke up.”
I wish I could say that it was those three words that changed everything. If your friend had told me this a week ago, my heart would have done back flips and forward flips, practically bursting through the wall of my chest like a sledgehammer through drywall, shattering my bones into a million little fragments. But when those words came out of his mouth, I felt nothing. One would think that this was progress; a sign that my heart was progressively healing and my happiness was no longer contingent on whether or not you loved me. Unfortunately for me, this was not the case.
I think that I felt nothing that day because I was simply in shock. Although I had known that it was only a matter of time before he came back into my life and theoretically was “ready” to handle it, nothing can really prepare you for that kind of situation. You can sit there and watch movies in your head – words coming out of his mouth that you have ached to hear for the longest time, stringing them together into perfectly articulated sentences like pearls on a necklace, until all of them, together, completed this beautiful piece of jewelry that you just wanted to wear all the time, feeling extraordinary and proud. You can even visualize what you would say in response and, depending on the amount of alcohol you had consumed that night and what song was playing on your iPod, you would either eloquently tell him to go fuck himself or you would tell him about how every day that passed since you last spoke was lifeless and dismal and you were subconsciously going through the motions until he made that grand entrance back into your life. It was always one or the other, never somewhere in between those two extremes. Lately, I had been imagining the prior scenario every time and felt proud, as if I had been meticulously studying and practicing an art, and finally had something to show for it. However, I realize now that if I had truly been making progress, I would be out sleeping with a guy who thought I walked on water instead of staying home, drinking a bottle of wine every night while lying in bed, and thinking about the one who got away.
We talked that night. It was only for a brief few minutes and other than you telling me about your breakup (I pretended that I had no clue), we didn’t talk about anything substantial. I didn’t hang on every word and I most certainly didn’t melt when you laughed at something I said (one of my life goals used to be making you laugh every minute of every day). When we hung up, I didn’t feel that pang of emptiness I usually felt every time you’d say goodbye and I didn’t look at my phone, ready to call you back just to bask in the delicate sound of your voice and the whimsical way in which you express your thoughts. I put my shoes on, grabbed my keys, and left any residual thoughts of you behind the door of my bedroom.
I can’t pinpoint the moment when my feelings decided to reappear and slap me hard in the face. All I know is that once it happened, there was no hope for me. You might as well have signed the death certificate for my good judgment and wrote “fell completely and inexplicably in love” as the cause of death. The thing about letting someone who you once loved (and reluctantly still do) come back into your life, is that one of two things could happen. You could realize that it will never be the same. You two are so jaded and exhausted and all that’s left is the skeleton of a beautiful thing. You decide that it is best to leave it where it should be: in the past. Or, you could realize that it will never be the same. But, you neither acknowledge it, nor do you care, and you are willing to put all your efforts into rebuilding it into something even better, the same way one might try to rebuild their home after a life-changing and massively destructive hurricane. You have all these broken pieces in one giant, heaping pile and although it may be immensely overwhelming, you can’t wait to methodically put the pieces back together. You can’t wait to spend the time making sure that all of the parts go back in the exact place that they once were. You can’t wait to complete each room, one by one, spending the time to not only complete the basic frames, but to do the sweeping and the scrubbing, cleaning the floors and the walls until they look shiny and new once again. You can’t wait to make sure that the foundation is stronger than before, so that the house will be able to weather even the strongest of storms and to provide you with a safe haven while you are waiting for the storm to pass.
I can see the pieces lying in different piles, scattered. I walk over to the first pile, full of inside jokes and memories of the nights we spent laughing until it hurt. I glance at another pile, which contains the hurtful things that we said to one another and the despair that my heart felt in your absence once you finally left. The next pile is overflowing with the treasured words that would flow from your mouth into the early hours of morning, making my heart smile. I bend over to pick one of them up.
“Why am I so attached to you?”
I remember the night you said that to me – who I was with, what I was wearing, how it made me feel. All of these piles remind me of the house that we used to be. I haven’t forgotten one single piece; they are all here. Is this all it takes to rebuild? What other parts do I need to make this stronger, more reliable? If I just rebuild from this point, won’t it still be destroyed once the storm comes through again? Logically, it would be a waste of time to build this house from the ground up again for just a few moments, days, weeks, of happiness and safety. Am I just wasting my time?
Am I still going to rebuild?
Yes, I am.