You get a phone call at midnight on a Wednesday. It’s your best friend. She’s sobbing. Her boyfriend of a year has ended their relationship because it just wasn’t working for him anymore. She also suspects that there may be somebody else. Maybe that whore at his office who was all over him at the Christmas party who he totally told her was a fugly mess on the car ride home. If you’re not a sociopath, your first response (especially if this news comes as a shock to you) is to try and fix it.
Maybe you’ll say that he might change his mind once he realizes what a huge mistake he’s made. Perhaps you’ll remind her of the time you guys were hanging out at their apartment and you spilled wine on the couch cushion and when you flipped it in an attempt to hide the stain, you discovered what could only be a skid mark on the other side. Like, the dude got a skid mark on her couch, why would she even care if a guy too lazy to wipe his ass OR put pants on to watch TV (a decision every adult needs to make) doesn’t want to be with her anymore. Joke’s on him.
But the truth is that it really doesn’t matter what you say. I am struggling to think of anything more painful than the demise of a romantic relationship you thought was great. The death of a loved one comes to mind, but a break up can feel just as bad. It’s not as if you didn’t know that eventually, everyone you love will pass away. But the notion of true love is something that many of us believe will survive long past the period of time that your soul is living in this temporary body. I mean, isn’t that why everyone lost their shit after the first ten minutes of Up?
Your friend is going to need at least a few weeks to cry like crazy. She may not make it through a trip to the grocery store without melting down because she saw his favorite brand of jam. Music and movies and books feel like they were made to torture you. Listening to This American Life goes from being her weekly must-listen to a regular reminder that humankind is delicate and vulnerable and generally kind of heartbreaking.
After awhile of that, she’ll start going out. Maybe she’ll drag her feet at first but eventually she’ll be back to the fun, flirty, smart girl she was before this guy went all Miley and rode a wrecking ball naked through her entire existence.
Then she’ll have that Angela Chase in My So-Called Life moment where she’ll bound out of bed one day and realize that she’s over Jordan Catalano. For the first time since the day her heart was smashed into a million pieces, she’s human again. Stella’s gotten her groove back or whatever.
That is, until she sees him again. She will see him again because that’s the way the universe works. Maybe a memory will creep in when she passes “their bench” in the park and next thing you know, she’s stumbling across her ex-love and some random eating gelato while making lame first date conversation.
She won’t be back to square one by any means. Maybe she’ll be a little sad but it’s more likely she’ll be straight-up pissed. Like, “go to his house and Vivica A. Fox his Prius” pissed. She’ll wonder if he blew it with the drunk Christmas party chick already. She’ll wonder if they were never seeing each other at all. She’ll scan through their list of mutual friends and think of which one of them may have set him up with Gelato Girl.
She’ll have too many drinks and start bitching about Gelato Girl to you, telling you how plain her sweater was and how tired he looked. She’ll say that his hairline has somehow started to rapidly recede and that his new glasses frames make him look like a total homo. She’ll get ugly, she’ll get childishly mean, she’ll say things you didn’t even know she was capable of saying.
And these are just the things you know about. There’s all sorts of things that she will do in private that she wouldn’t dare repeat to any other human being, even you, her best friend. The social media stalking will get darker and deeper than you could even imagine. She’ll find Gelato Girl’s Facebook page and look at her “Favorite Music” then YouTube all of the band’s hits, wondering if maybe her ex and this Gelato Cunt have been listening to this stuff together. Making out to it, holding hands as it blasts from the stereo on their day trip to Malibu.
Then she’ll remember that he was always more of a B-Sides guy and before you know it, she owns this band’s entire discography and sing the lyrics to their songs as if they were never unfamiliar. She’ll have taken their love on as her own. She’ll be the silent third party in their relationship. The ghost in their bed that they’ll never know was there.
The secret to getting over a break up that nobody else will tell you is that you’ll never really get over it. Your friend can move on, she can find a new love that makes her happier than her old love ever could, but that kind of pain never fully disappears. It’s like a C-section scar. She can come to terms with it, accept it as a part of her body, even be grateful for what it brought into her life. She’ll forget it’s there, but once in awhile she’ll catch a glimpse of it in the mirror and wonder how he and Gelato Girl and the baby they had out of wedlock are doing. She’ll wonder if he has a scar just like she does and she’ll probably never, ever know.
Unless she gets a drunk text from him six years later saying he’s sorry for how he treated her and he wants her to know he lied about doing cocaine that New Year’s Eve and that’s something he’s never forgiven himself for. It’s not a permanent fix, but it’s a pretty good Band-Aid.