When this happens, you can be doing anything at all: waiting in line for a latte, jamming your feet into office-appropriate pumps, waking up still hazy-drunk next to your one night stand. Literally anything. You can be doing whatever normal, everyday thing you’re doing, and suddenly you realize, with an urgent nervousness, you haven’t thought about your ex in days. You’re shocked and surprised — how the hell? They used to be on repeat in your brain every day for the past five months. But now that you’ve realized you haven’t been thinking about them, you start to think about them.
And you wait for the familiar rush of nausea, but it doesn’t come. Pause and consider this. Why not? This is, after all, the person who put you in an emotional coma for what felt like forever, who is borderline responsible for the subtraction of thirty pounds and probably as many years off your life, judging by the endless cigarette cartons and liquor bottles that are still turning up around the apartment. How can you think about this person, this person you signed away your heart to and who once meant the world to you, and suddenly, inexplicably, feel nothing at all?
Somehow, you can. You consider them a little longer, trying to remember their face, the sound of their name in your voice. But it’s difficult to remember these details, they’re so far down the tunnel. Something changed. Something shifted. You briefly think about them kissing whoever took your place, bracing yourself for the instant tightening in your chest. And… nothing. You continue to find yourself completely and deliciously blank.
It’s exhilarating. You’re relieved. Finally. Finally you can stop half-assing your life, cautiously keeping your distance from certain people, places, objects and times of day for fear of another meltdown. You’re excited to finally be able to listen to that one song all the way through, the one you loved so much before you associated it with them and could no longer stomach. It’s yours again. You have it back. You can finally chill out and go on that nerve-free coffee date with the mutual friend you’ve been avoiding. You can eat grilled cheese totally objectively once again, indifferent to the fact that they liked it with a ridiculous amount of sriracha or the fact that you, in hopeful displays of affection, used to draw sriracha hearts on top of their grilled cheese sandwiches.
Then, out of nowhere, you’re consumed by a dim fear. It scares you that you don’t care anymore, that they could win a Pulitzer or get deported and it would all be completely the same. You’ve never been indifferent, and now you are — something inherently shifted that made you go from loving, craving this person so deeply, from being willing to forgive them anything just for one more moment in their arms, to feeling absolutely nothing at all. Their existence is no longer of any import. You wonder whether you had the wrong idea about yourself all along.
Maybe there was no “emotions off” switch that got flicked. Maybe it was a gradual erasure and your heart just now acknowledged what your head figured out long ago. Either way, your sensibility got altered somehow: you can now see clearly. They don’t love you, and that’s totally okay because you don’t love them either. You think back to the person you were three months ago, trembling and crying in an empty, unmade bed. You don’t recognize that person.
At first, it’s not enough to sever the connection with the person who broke your heart – for some strange, human reason, you want them to know how much damage they really did. You want your pain validated; want them to be moved by some overwhelming feeling (regret? despair?) and feel just as small and brittle as you do. And then you feel a surge of triumph when you finally let go, extract the toxin you’ve been pooling in your heart.
And it’s a sobering feeling, realizing they have probably felt this way — far-removed — for months. Realizing that what you went through, the phoenix-like rebirth of yourself from mascara-covered sadsack pasted to the bathroom floor to confident, capable human being who is able to get to work on time and smile at children, is not a shared experience. They’ve been okay for a long time; you’re just now catching up. Which is okay. You’re late for the party anyway, might as well take your time walking there.