It has been two weeks and I still feel completely devastated. I sit motionless for hours. I can’t eat. This wasn’t my intended diet plan, but I have lost ten pounds. And now I look at myself in the mirror and I am shocked that I hate the thinner me. I wish I could cry but I don’t have the energy for it. I haven’t told anyone about this. I go to work as usual. I sit behind my desk and pretend to be busy, but I don’t do much. My parents called and I ignored it. My mother will be so disappointed when she hears about this. She will even cry, I am sure of it. “Hold on to him.” She told me once. “He is a great catch.” She was so proud, and it made me feel like I’ve caught a big fish. Isn’t that what you do when you catch a big fish? Don’t you let it go?
I still follow him on Instagram, and he posted a stupid quote. “And suddenly you just know it’s time to start something new and trust the magic of beginnings.” Forty people loved it. Forty people are happy he threw me away like a piece of garbage for a new start. I hate all forty of them. I want them all become an end for someone else’s beginning. I want them all feel this hollow. I can’t even feel my organs anymore. I am praying for my appendix to burst so I can feel physical pain. A kind of pain that makes you wish you want to die until someone takes the infected organ out. I want that kind of pain; the intense, agonizing, unbearable but solvable kind of pain. I daydream about it and that’s the only time I feel happy. I need help.
My best friend has called several times, but I’ve ignored her too. I am sure she has seen the Instagram post and has questions. She is getting married next month, which makes all of this so much more difficult. She is giving me her wedding binder because you never know. But now I know, and I have no need for the wedding binder. I know I should tell her. I have RSVPed for two and now I am only one and I can’t eat. She should cancel two meals. Weddings are expensive. I need to find a way to stay home. Maybe I’ll go to the hospital waiting room and try to catch the flu. That sounds like a reasonable plan. I need help.
I get out of bed. It is 3 PM on Sunday and I’ve skipped breakfast and lunch. I decide to put on a clean t-shirt and brush my hair. I should be proud of myself for these small steps toward recovery, but I feel the opposite. Some mad creature inside of me is yelling that this is a strike and I’ve crossed the picket line. “Go back to bed, you nasty scab.” She is relentless. She talks to me constantly. She reminds me that I am a failure and I will never be loved because I simply don’t deserve it. I want to shut her up, but she says she is just being honest. That’s what he said when he broke my heart to million little pieces. He is an honest man doing the right thing. He wants to be the hero even now and it makes me furious. Because at some point, honest or not, I want him to pay for this. I want his magical beginning to turn into a rocky middle and reach a painful end. I am just being honest. God, I need help.
I drive sixty miles to go to a bookstore in a different town where no one knows me. I drag my feet through the self-help section and pick a stack of books. Getting past your breakup. How to let go. How to survive the loss of love. How to heal a broken heart in thirty day... I find a chair in a corner and I sit down. I open the first page of the first book and read the first line and I stop. The voice in my head is back and she tells me this is all useless and I believe her. I feel a tear forming in my eye and I let it fall. More tears fall and I start to cry. I am not aware if anyone is watching me and I don’t care. I have driven sixty miles to find a place to heal and a comfortable chair in a corner of a bookstore with a stack of self-help books I am not planning to read, is doing the trick.
I cry until I fall asleep. When I wake up, I am not alone. A man is sitting in a chair across from me, typing on his laptop and eating. I should get up and leave but I can’t. For the first time, I feel at peace and the voice in my head is quiet. I feel hungry and I don’t realize that I am staring at his food. He senses my gaze and looks up. I look disheveled and my stack of books have fallen on the floor, visible to the world. I imagine him thinking I am a homeless woman with a broken heart. For a moment, I have a feeling that he is going to offer me his half-eaten cookie and I decide that if he does, I will take it. The sadness of my situation makes me laugh.
“Hi” He suddenly says. “Are you okay?”
What a simple question! I could elaborate but I decide on a simple answer. “No” I tell him and he nods his head.
“I’ve been there.” He looks at the books. “I’ve read a few of those.”
I want to say nothing. Let the conversation die and disappear as if it never existed. But then he takes another bite of his cookie and the hunger brings me back.
“Did it help?” I say, almost whispering.
“Somewhat. What helped was the desire to want to move forward… Not the books so much.” He goes back to typing.
“Are you writing a self-help book about it? I would love to read it.” I can’t believe I have the energy for humor
“I am writing a twenty-page essay for my economy class. Break-up was less painful.” He chuckles. He doesn’t mean it of course but joking about it takes away some of its hold on me.
He is focused on his work and I should let him be, but nothing is going as planned these days.
“We were together three years. I didn’t expect it.” I am calm and resigned, like he was when he broke the news to me. “One night after dinner, he sat next to me on the couch and said he wants to talk to me. I thought we were going to discuss what movie to watch or where to go for a weekend getaway but then he starts telling me how wonderful I am and how unhappy he is. He sounded like a football coach talking about a hard loss after a well-played game. We were a great team but lost anyway.”
He looks up at me and I see some of the sadness I feel in his eyes. “I was married two years. I wasn’t shocked when it ended, but It didn’t make it any easier.” He closes his laptop and leans over a little. “If it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger, right?!”
“Is that true? I’ll become the Incredible Halk if I get over this.”
He laughs. “To be honest, it didn’t work for me.”
“Honesty again. I want to hear lies.” I regret sharing this thought. He looks confused. I have a feeling he is going to get up and leave. I have a talent for making men walk away. But then he reaches over and takes my hand.
“You will be fine. You’ll find your happiness. I promise you’ll feel butterflies in your stomach again. And one day you will realize that it has been days, weeks, months and years and you have not given a second thought to this man. You will even wish him luck and you mean it. You will be fine because you know how to love.” He smiles. “How is that for lies?”
I look down at his hand gently holding mine, like I am a lost fragile bird with a broken wing. It is a sweet gesture, and I realize that in that moment I don’t feel sadness. In that moment I feel hope.
He lets go of my hand and leans back. I pick up the books and stack them on the table. It is getting late and I have a long drive home. I feel hungry and I need to call my parents and my best friend and be done.
“Thank you” I tell him.
“You are welcome… I hope to see you again.”
I wonder if he says that to boost my self-confidence or he means it. Is he being honest or continuing with the lie? Either way, I am grateful.
I walk away but turn back and see him watching me. I feel a tiny butterfly in my stomach. It feels good to hope.