“This is the way the world ends/
This is the way the world ends/
not with a bang but with–”
We dance around loudly while playing Cards Against Humanity and drinking any sort of alcohol we could find – the college weekend tradition. We outgrew conversations on hopes and aspirations after freshman year; sophomore year grounded us in a sudden and unstable reality that we were entering adulthood in the craziest metropolitan area, New York City. Now, as juniors, we had a thirst for looking like adults, acting like children, playing games, and sipping mango Moscato. Three years in, and I finally acquired the sense of humor to win this game. But no card I held rang true for how I anticipated the world would end.
The only fill in the blank I saw was heartbreak. Heartbreak, the ending of a relationship in an outlet mall through the speakers of an iPhone, the depletion of love — any of these would have fit my bill. Pardon my dramatics, but at the time, I thought the worst thing was losing him. I had such trouble grappling with how interconnected we were from our photos on Instagram, to our Facebook profile pictures, to our running e-mail exchanges.
We existed in more than one dimension and therefore had to break up in more than one dimension.
I was in mourning, but he was alive and well with new facial hair hugging his baby face and a James Joyce tattoo that elevated him in a crowd of intellectuals. I ran into him turning corners and studying in lounges. Every night I crawled into bed knowing I would have nightmares of losing him or dreams of us getting back together, but I would wake up wondering where he had gone and what he was doing. My mind could not reconcile the person I loved and cherished with the black-painted nails guy I bumped into all too often. To me, the world would not end with a bang, but with a heart left behind and emptied of its contents.
We weren’t a heroic or inspirational pair, but we were happy and entangled in each other’s lives. We found overlap in our love of writing and reading, museums, untouched art, and Model Magic. It’s always the small things, I think.
One night he said, looking at me like I was the finest of all the buried treasure in the sea, “I dig you” and we took off, quitting the game students play of who cares less and who holds the romantic power more. Our time passed through state lines and time zones because long distance looked easy. Seemingly endless e-mails and Skype calls felt like the savvy relationship steps for studying away students. The romance was in the longing moments leading up to my visits to Paris and his visit to Berlin.
In between, we tried to grow in our classes and new homes. We didn’t let the`world end simply because we were together for three months and then away for four more. We stuck. I dig you.
Our exclusive game began the night he helped me put glow in the dark stars on my ceiling. Our texts were nonstop until he got the hint and came over to help me with my night sky. His height was useful, but so was the signal that he cared and that our newfound relationship was moving forward and upward. We were smitten. Our galaxy was filled with made up constellations.
At the start, we felt safest under our night sky and in the dark, hiding from one another. We were consumed with each other sitting on my typical college bed. We left our cell phones, textbooks, Facebook friends, and roommates behind. Doors closed and stars up, he would struggle with the desire to be a serious professional like his mathematics major prescribed or a sensitive artist like his creative writing minor suggested, and I would spin my wheels trying to figure out my focal point.
Being at the starting line of our relationship, we could not be more excited to spend time dreaming up our respective futures and adjusting to the awkwardness that was us. And when we had nothing left to say at the early hours of the morning we would look at our stars and know that we were the luckiest – to be young movers and shakers in love. I dig you.
We didn’t only have our own constellations; we had our own language. On the drive to the Biltmore Mansion, I found listening to him talk through all the ways in which his writing was going to leave an imprint to be a thrill. The sensitive artist would come over him, and he would gleam with joy as he talked about his many stories and characters. Every word and every sentence was a step towards articulating how he saw the world.
I had never seen someone love the art like he did, writing day in and day out and reading in between. He would go from explaining to grooving to pointing out all the churches along the highway. We were thriving and communicating with gusto. I still remember the dark orange-stripped shirt he wore as we drove and the songs I put on my latest mixed CD. We took pictures and recorded videos to send to all of our friends because if there wasn’t documentation, did it really happen? Are we really happy if the general public wasn’t envying us? I dig you.
One day we were tracing constellations, the next in Charlotte, North Carolina together and in the finale, we were in Paris. Our relationship unfolded smoothly, but unraveled quickly.
I woke up to bright flowers and a note on Valentine’s Day in Paris. We had reached a new level of comfort shacking up for a weekend. We were blissful in our romantic escape laughing and lounging on his warm lumpy old homestay bed with the creaky floors below us. As perfect as we seemed, I was so afraid of the end.
At any moment, I thought he would retreat into hiding in the darkness and leave me blinded by the light that was our brilliant relationship, but he held firm. We planned more trips for the spring, and we continued to push on, presuming love and technology would conquer all. What brought me to Paris was hope that we would live the cliché that absence makes the heart grow fonder and not disconnected and discontented. I loved his love no matter how far apart we were.
I loved the calm he brought to my overwhelming life. I was a storm, and he was a vacation. He was worth the trip. I dig you.
I knew the night before we broke up that I should change my phone background from the smiling photo of us at the Biltmore Mansion to a picture from a monastery in Ireland — one was stable and ancient and the other was not. Technology had defeated us, conquered us, and created many miscommunications as we used it more and more to fill ourselves up.
We tried to Skype and the conversation ended with his agonizing words, “if things don’t get better, we should break up.” Instantaneously, I knew I had loaded this gun and given it to him to pull the trigger with my inability to find e-mails and Skyping satisfying anymore. He ran out of steam. There was no refueling. Our language disappeared. We were not the exception to the rule that absence makes the heart grow fonder. We were a new rule: absence makes the heart grow disengaged, disenchanted, and disconnected. I dig you.
The relationships I shape today are based upon showing up and playing games to the best of my ability. We are all competitors – trying for the same jobs and lovers to lead excellent lives. College is filled with plenty of tricks, treats, games, and challenges from Cards Against Humanity to Truth or Dare to the mind games trapped in text messages and phone calls. The good stuff, the really sweet stuff is getting a letter in the mail instead of a brief e-mail. The bad stuff, the really nasty stuff is our strong placement of real relationships in iPhones. Unplugging was the best thing we ever did when we were together, and we did not do it nearly enough. Now, I can leave the devices behind and focus on the millions of things in front of me. I dig me.
When we were cutting it close to the end of the wire of our care for one another, I found love as a trying game of survival of the fittest.
We returned to the power play of who cared less and who held the romantic power more. It was anticipating the next move of him that kept my heart from wandering off with him. When a relationship dissolves and commitments are lost, the heart leads the way. The mind will follow. The heart and mind will endure. I dig me.
Smitten, to love, to disentanglement, to entering the game again, we learned. Love led me to knowledge and understanding. I found that a break up teaches me more about myself than most anything else. When the dynamic of my life changed, I thought I would feel as empty as a vessel in the desert, but instead it gave me room to plant new seeds of joy that allow my heart to beat on, taking with it the serenity it learned from him. I am grateful. I am strong. I am enough. Although I still look to the stars for wisdom, I look to myself to ease my worries and paste a smile on my face. I dig me.
It’s not the end of the world. He is not the end of my world. The world is not going to end. I am not going to end. I’ll take the world ending with a bang than with a busted heart. I dig me.
The world ends when we stop digging.