“You will lose loved ones because of me,” Jesus promised. I knew what that phrase meant but I didn’t understand it until last night. While we still love them we will lose them.
Last night, less than 2 months before what would’ve been our 8 year anniversary, Joel and I broke up. Neither of us wanted it, but we both knew it had to happen. The short story is that I’m “religious” and want kids, and those are big things, and he doesn’t want either…Even though our relationship has been in a steady fade since 2016, even though I’ve thought of and feared 1,483 scenarios this might have played out…how it actually happened would have never been one of them.
The day was perfect. We spent the afternoon riding dirt bikes and shooting guns—typical things you can do in the country. That evening we took Kasey for her usual walk around the track by my house. With nothing else planned for the evening, we split up and I took nap while he went on to a friend’s house. I joined them around 9PM for the season premier of Game of Thrones. Afterwards we walked to our cars and suddenly we were done.
I say “suddenly” but actually the conversation took an hour and a half. But hours feel like seconds when you’re seeing someone for what you know will be the last time. It’s weird, mourning someone’s death while they’re alive and standing in front of you.
In case you’re impressed that we broke up in person, or you think I’m brave or strong please repaint the picture in your head.
I didn’t start the conversation, Joel had to. “You’ve been acting strange…”
I never said Goodbye, he did.
I couldn’t be the first to drive away, he had to.
“You’ve been acting strange,” he said.
“I can’t wait anymore,” I said.
And from there he got a little upset that I wasn’t being more patient after I hurt him so deeply. But his anger only lasted maybe a minute. For the rest of the conversation we shared how deeply we loved each other and were truly sorry we couldn’t be what the other needed.
I spent the first half staring at the asphalt or the stars or the orange sheen on my car from the lone streetlight. But then something inside urged me to sear his features into my memory. From then on I held a steady gaze whenever he looked away.
I memorized the soft sweep in his dark brown hair. The curve of his reddened eyes. The shape of his slumped shoulders—I used to rub his left shoulder because those muscles were always so tight it caused immense pain. It was nice for both of us. He got a massage and I got a lovely human-stressball. No matter how hard I clung to his shirt in our final hug, time wouldn’t wait either. There was nothing more we could say or do.
I will never forget the red glow of his taillights as he drove away.
Normally my drive home takes maybe 20 minutes. (Yes I speed.) But last night I went 45 MPH max. About halfway I pulled over, jumped out of the car and kneeled by my taillight. I cried out to God, begging for a miracle and for mercy. Under the silent sky I knew he was listening and watching and hurting with me. Like an iceberg breaking and crashing in the water, I surrendered my heart to God.
Thankfully the road is straight and there was almost no traffic so I made it home without really being able to see…
Sleep evaded me. I spent most of the night clutching my heart like that one scene from The Notebook as a sharp pain that—had my left arm been numb—I would have called a heart attack.
Yet the morning was worse than the night.
I didn’t want to start the day because it was Day 1 of a future without someone I’d known intimately for almost 8 years. Staring at the ceiling as it turned from blue to light yellow in the sunrise, my alarm went off. On a normal day I’d wrench my eyes open, hit snooze 5 times and then jump out of bed to get ready in a whirlwind. Not today.
As soon as the first chords of my alarm chimed—Let You Down by NF—I swiped it off. I didn’t need to hear that song right now.
I got dressed uninspired. Blue jeans and a blue sweater that just barely meets the business casual dress code. Actually, I’m pretty sure my boss is merciful with my wardrobes and lets “slightly nicer casual” pass. (A gesture I do not take for granted.) I added a tight undershirt so hopefully it would work like a thunder-jacket for dogs and trick me into thinking something was holding me together.
But as I slid the belt through the loops on my pants I felt something in my pocket. As soon as my fingers brushed the squishy blobs I lost myself to wrenching sobs. In my fingers I clenched the ear plugs Joel had tried to use while we were shooting yesterday. He had handed them back to me, choosing to cover his ears with his hands instead of mess with the temperamental blobs.
I don’t know how long I cried over those silly things. Eventually I fed Kasey and did my best to keep the cat from stealing her food. I should have eaten too, but nothing sounded good. Which is a big deal since food is usually my greatest inspiration to get out of the covers. That and Kasey’s urgent need to potty…
Skipping my breakfast, Kasey and I left early for our routine morning walk. It’s the same route we always take, the same one we walked with Joel the day before. With sunglasses and a slouched beanie I hoped the cars that passed wouldn’t give a second glance to the girl with the golden retriever inching up the sidewalk, gaze fixed on the clouds. Halfway around the track a bright orange triangle of plastic on the ground forced me back to Earth. I knew those colors. It was part of the bag of Reese’s Dipped Pretzels Joel shared with me yesterday. It must have fallen out by accident.
I picked it up with blurry vision. Despite Colorado’s nearly omnipresent wind this piece refused to blow away. It waited to be found by someone to whom it would mean something. Thanks a lot, Reese’s! Not even sunglasses could hide the streams of tears that crossed my cheeks yet again. I couldn’t bring myself to throw the useless piece of litter away. It’s still in my pocket, added to the growing collection of mementos.
How pathetic am I?
As of this writing I’ve cried so much that speckles of salt formed on my eyelashes. Every now and then a piece slips into my eyes. The sting draws new tears which, once the started, reminds me to cry for the other reason.
I lost the person I wanted to marry since I was 24.
I admit that as our relationship faded a seedling of feelings for someone else had sprouted. But last night came in like a tsunami and wiped away everything.
I’m inside a void of unknown. Day 1 of a future I never imagined. I’ve lost my will to care about most things. Fully aware of the beauty of the mountains around me, a sight which usually lifts me up, now has no effect at all. I don’t care about the natural beauty and wonder of this world. I don’t care about food. Or school. Or putting on makeup and a smile.
I’m not okay.
Call it divine intervention or call it circumstance. But yesterday I drove for an hour and a half to attend a church out in the country, the church from my childhood. There I made a discovery that I didn’t know I’d need. In the bathroom stall (of all places) I was greeted with this poster:
I took a picture because I thought it was neat, I didn’t know later that night it would become my mantra to keep breathing.
I think…I think I’ll get better. But it will take longer than anyone can know. Until then, I’ll be walking around as a bleeding heart in blue jeans with stuffed pockets.
Written April 15.