Breakups like These

During emotional trauma like heartbreak, the lacuna between the head and the heart becomes an infinite pit.

Like nails on a chalkboard, my words were abrasive. I quivered. “I don’t think we should do this anymore,” I said. We had reached our expiration date organically, and it was a depressing ordeal for both parties. Sitting in the living room of my apartment, I examined his facial features closely. He looked tired. We both did. Our one-and-a-half year relationship materialized our personalities into versions of ourselves we were not proud of. By the end, we brought out the worst in each other. He paced around my living room and presented emotional bargaining chips in order to get me to stay. “We can try again. I care about you so much.”

Promises never feel real until they’re gracing our every pore. Where did things go wrong? Why didn’t I tell him sooner?  A replay of my mental trajectory, from the first time we met to the moment he let himself out, led to a long road of wallowing and regret. My mind zoomed in and out. It was hell.

Remorse felt like stepping onto bubble gum on a hot summer’s day and convincing myself never to make the mistake again. But the thing is, every step taken is unprecedented. We never really look at where we are going. We never know what will happen until it’s right in front of us.

The breakup was nimble, stitching itself gracefully into every aspect of my wellbeing. Along with inconsistencies of mood, it disrupted my spatial awareness and appetite, left me lightheaded and exhausted.

In moments of idleness, I found myself feeling stark naked, unable to fight my own menial battles. Cooking helped. I utilized my kitchen, baking large batches of fudge brownies and chocolate chip cookies instead of going out for drinks with friends. I measured, scraped, mixed, and stirred to feel human. I toted large and small paperbacks to keep my mind busy, but was unable to focus. Once the timer went off, I resisted the urge to consume the batches and wrapped the extras for my neighbors. They knew I was sad but refrained from cross-examining. Growing older means getting better at stowing your emotions in a safe chamber, away from the public eye. Often, it means swallowing that lump in your throat whole and telling your family and friends that everything is okay when it’s not. Some things can’t be helped; it’s no one’s fault.

I opted for solitary austerity in order to heal and to find a version of myself comfortable enough in which to revel. For a while, I ran along the beach twice a day, at sunrise and sunset. I felt savage envy for couples walking hand-in-hand, their sun-kissed flesh and smiles making them appear effervescent and beautiful. Happy couples radiate perfection. The culmination of negative feelings left me feeling doomed.

“I measured, scraped, mixed, and stirred to feel human.”

I packed a comically-large brown leather backpack with belVita blueberry biscuits, fruit snacks, dark chocolate bars, cotton t-shirts and drove myself from Providence, Rhode Island to Portland, Maine. In the midst of an expected snowstorm, I called my friend Kayla to ask if it was okay to let me stay over for a few nights.

“Can’t wait to see you!”

“We’re having BLT sandwiches for dinner tonight. Do you eat meat? Is that okay?” Kayla said.

“To be honest, I’ve never had one before, but I’m up for it.”

I was up for any surprises. On the road, in the three-hour drive, I found space to ruminate my disposition, free from paralysis of guilt and of place. Road trips are palate cleansers. I had time to think. Passing through liminal state lines released therapeutic splendor, equivalent to a piping hot mug of chamomile tea with honey. For the first time, I tasted solace.

Mia Nguyen (@artfeedsmia) is a writer living in Rhode Island. She enjoys eating pancakes without maple syrup.