You know, a couple weeks ago, I hurt the back of my hand. My raw skin hurt and it scabbed over and I watched it heal. It went from red and wet with blood, to dry and brown, shrivelling and pulling at my skin to stitch it together again. And I waited weeks. I was careful not to touch it while it healed, careful not to pick at it or agitate it, and after a couple weeks it’s healed. There’s fresh pink skin, and a scar I’m not sure will fade. But that’s something I can look at and know has healed. But the mark will always be there.
No one else can see it, but it’s the same thing with my heart. But unlike any physical injury, no one could see it. I could only feel it. When you left, I felt like someone ripped a huge hole in my chest. That first night I lay in bed, and felt like my head was floating in honey. Think of those jars full of liquid and whole brains in the creepy scientist laboratories. That’s how it felt. I couldn’t access anything inside that jar. Just the bittersweet taste in my mouth, and salty tears that just kept flowing and flowing from my eyes. And it felt like I would never stop feeling like this. Everything moved slowly, suspended in syrup and it was so so hard to breathe. Lying in bed didn’t help. Lying on the couch didn’t help. Pacing the house didn’t help. Every fibre of my being was just stuck on you, crying for you to come back to me. And that was the moment I realized I had lost myself in you.
The next day didn’t feel better. I woke up in bed, with your picture above my head, floating on a curtain of happy memories and your smiling face watching over me. I couldn’t take it down.
Everything felt too normal. The sunlight through the bathroom window felt like any other day, the sound of the water running, and the soft creaking of the floorboards beneath my feet. My body went through the motions, and before I knew it I was on the bus. How did I get here? I wondered to myself, staring at the scenery passing by. The bus called stop after stop, and I realized I would have to get off. When I got to school, my legs felt like jelly. I checked my phone 3 times. You hadn’t said anything. Maybe I was hoping you would take everything back, but I knew deep in the stirring pit of my stomach you wouldn’t.
My prof asked me if I was okay, because clearly I didn’t look like I was. I didn’t look at myself in the mirror that day, but I hardly needed to look to know how I must’ve presented. My eyes were red, all the light had drained out with the tears. I felt like a shell of the person I used to be. And I wondered how I allowed you to take that from me. I told her I wasn’t and sat quietly in my seat. I pretended I was normal for about an hour. Like nothing was wrong and I was the same old happy girl. And maybe it was because I wanted to be her again. But it just felt so wrong. At the end of class I walked out the door and straight past my next class.
One of my friends asked me if I was okay, and for once in my life, I couldn’t pretend like it was. The hole in my chest felt like it was bleeding, and everything was blurry and fuzzy and a big awful nightmare. I found her in a practise room and just started to cry. I was tired of crying, but there wasn’t anything else I could do. I just cried and cried and cried and asked her why you left me. But she couldn’t give me any answers, and neither could I.
“Why did you come to school today?” My friend asked me.
“I don’t know,” I said softly, nursing a crumpled up tissue in my hands. I just wanted to feel normal, but I couldn’t be normal anymore. You had become my normal, and suddenly you were gone. I wondered, were you crying like I was?
The rest of the day was a blur and I went straight home to be alone. But I didn’t want to be alone. All I wanted was to talk to you, because you always knew how to sew the holes that ripped my heart apart. But without you, it just kept bleeding and bleeding until I thought I would die. And I knew I was overreacting. And I knew I was being dramatic. But I just couldn’t make it stop. You were poison that was burning me from the inside out and all I could do was wait for it to pass.
The funny thing about a broken heart is there’s no antidote but time, but time has a way of moving in slow ticks of the clock when I need it the most.
The next day was better. It still hurt, but it was better. I got out of bed and my chest ached a little bit less. The metaphorical scab on my heart had begun to form.
Days turned to weeks.
Some days I thought I was fine.
Then I took your photo down off the wall and cried. My friend ripped it in half and threw your face away, giving me my half back and telling me I could be that happy again without you. But your smile haunted me from the kitchen garbage can.
I packed all of your things in an old chicken korma box. Your sweaters, your gifts, your memories, your love. All shoved in the back of my roommate’s closet, lest I take them out and cry on the floor with them.
Some days I’d wake up and feel good. I’d leap out of bed, brush my teeth, and smile at myself in the mirror. There you are, I would think to myself, this is what it’s like to be happy again. I’d sit at the kitchen table, nursing a bowl of chocolate cheerios and watching the sun filter through the thin white curtains. Today’s gonna be a good day, I would tell myself. And I’d put on my shoes, trying not to think about how you convinced me that I should buy them because I deserved them, and walk out the door. The screen door would always close with a thwack, and it kickstarted me into a new day. Day number _____, without you. I’d smile at the construction worker paving the road and raking leaves.
“Good morning!” He’d smile at me.
“Good morning!” I would chirp back happily. And I’d walk up the slanting incline to the bus stop, breathing deeply with my lungs bursting with early morning air. And I’d stand at the bus stop. And I’d think, this is good. I am good.
But then something would remind me of you.
Someone would be wearing your favourite pair of shoes. Someone would have the same backpack as you. And I’d remember memories that made it feel like someone was poking at my heart with a pin, and boy was my heart a fragile balloon.
I could remember chatting with my mom, and smiling until my cheeks were aching as we walked around the outlet mall looking for the shoes I knew you wanted so much. I remember sitting on the hotel balcony in Florida, curling my toes and looking at the palm trees while you told me about your day over the phone. I could remember seeing your face on my laptop screen as you smiled and told me about your day at the mall and all the cool things you bought. I could remember walking down Main Street, carrying a big bag of clothes I was donating to Salvation Army, and how we sat in the park and just talked about what the future must be like.
All of these things would hit me like a tsunami wave. All the good “I’m fine” moments were just the receding of the sea before the storm.
And when I got like that, you were the only one I wanted. I’d remember that day I just started to cry and it felt like I’d forgotten to breathe. You pulled me into your arms and just said, “Shhhh, I’m here.” And I wished you were here. Because I was crying alone, and it felt like no one would understand except you, and I wondered when I let myself get so lost that I had no one to go to except you.
But slowly I started to find myself again. And I found the people that understand. I just never let them in so they could.
I remember one day I woke up and decided I couldn’t handle the day. My roommates left for school, and I just lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. It was one of those sad days that was just an empty day. No crying, no laughing, nothing. Just silence and the starch white ceiling glossed in the honey golden lamp light.
It was 4pm and I was still there, when my phone lit up and it was one of my friends asking how I was doing. And I wasn’t doing well, I said. And 2 hours later he showed up at my door, which I answered in my wrinkled pajamas and messy bed hair, with a small container of Manchu Wok and said, “Your sister said you would like this.”
That gave me the strength to smile. And to brush my teeth. And wash my hair. And that was when I really started to think, you know, I could do this. I had friends that could help me do it. I didn’t need you anymore.
From that moment I started to try and move forward. Maybe before it felt like I was just trying to survive. But now, I was trying to rediscover who I was and what I stood for. It felt so exciting and liberating, despite being one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
You know what?
Slowly but surely I am surviving without you. Even when it felt like I would never be able to. And not only that, but I’m flourishing. I have people I love so dearly, my family, my friends, and me. I’ve learned what it means to love myself for who I am, not for who loves me. I’ve found what I care about most in life and what I am most passionate about. I’ve overcome my jealousy of others, and found opportunities so that I could be proud of me. You know, I wonder if I would have learned those things if you hadn’t left me. Maybe I would have, maybe I wouldn’t have.
What I do know is that I don’t hate you. I don’t hate you, and I don’t love you anymore. Not the way that I did. Sometimes your face comes into my mind. The light that I saw in your eyes, and the way your lips pulled back when you smiled. But I remember that we’re both in such different places in life now, and that I can stand on my own with the life I was given, even if you’re not in it. We’re both different than who we were just 4 months ago. And I wish you all the best in life. And I hope one day we can be friends again.
Maybe I’m not ready for that yet. Maybe you aren’t either. But what I do know is that I’m going to be okay. So to you, whom I loved, good bye.