“I’m not happy anymore,” they finally say. You knew, but needed to hear it anyway. It’s a test: go on. Do it. See if you can hurt me. They do and it stings. Still, you’re an independent woman- you’ve taken bigger knocks than this.
Except wow. It’s suddenly really hard to breathe.
Don’t try to reason with them- you’ve read enough online articles to know it’s their loss. Watch through the curtain of the window as they walk past the willow tree and out of your life. It will seem mature, sensible, grown up even, to offer a hug goodbye, and kind of them, generous, when they accept. Hold on too long, make them release first. Out of everything to be angry about choose that. The hug. They let you go too easy, too fast, too eager. Don’t they know you’re worth fighting for?
Struggle to stand. Kneel on the floor instead. It will feel safe to rest your forehead on the ground. Child’s pose. It’s not weak to need looking after, baby girl.
Rally the troops. Go out as you are, pick the corner booth, and have somebody else pick up the tab. You probably haven’t cried yet. You will. Tomorrow morning when you wake up alone, hungover and with nobody beside you, no morning text message to greet the day, and no plans for dinner because you always have plans for dinner together on a Friday. Now there is no together and the loneliness will hit you like a tsunami. You’ll cry then.
Tears, like sweat, are saltwater, and you need hard work to get to where you’re going. Eat the ice cream and the pizza, then threaten to throw it back up when the tears become sobs, become gulps for air, and love, and desperation. It will ache too hard to feel good for you. Grow. Grow in spite of the pain. It’s going to happen anyway.
Send the text message. Sit your phone on the edge of the sofa and stare at it until it doesn’t bleep. When you mom calls tell her everything because she’s the only one listening. Picking apart the experience means you make it last. Repeat ad infinitum- holding on so tight will exhaust you so much that letting go will be a welcomed relief.
Don’t shower. Cry less. Facebook stalk. Hit “like” to remind them you exist. Beat yourself up when the gesture isn’t reciprocated. Delete. Add. Delete.
Walk many, many places. Marvel. Treat yourself to new nail polish, new dresses, underwear nobody will see but that reminds you of your sex.
Text all of your single friends and have them take you out. Mix your drinks foolishly. Pick a victim and take them home. Lie awake all night as they snore beside you and swallow down the bile of your disappointment. Surely this isn’t it. It isn’t. Don’t worry.
Date disastrously. Be too broken to get past a first meet. Send verbose emails with too much detail about how you thought you were ready but aren’t- you just can’t do this right now.
Learn to understand this new version of yourself. Play with the films you see, in a part of town you don’t know. Embody Joan Holloway or Katherine Hepburn and wear something fabulous to a gallery and see the possibility in the everyday. Dine out alone- it’s character building. Order a vibrator online, watch a lot of porn, miss the weight of somebody on top of you.
Be terrified. Sign up for the class, talk to the barista, take the trip. For god’s sake take the trip. We have multiple selves- experiment with them all as the landscape changes. Allow yourself the privilege of change.
Discover what you didn’t know you’d lost. Cut your hair. Remember that you were once in love and be proud that it hurts a little less every time you forget to forget. Find the courage to thank them, in your mind, for forcing you to become better than you were.
Start to wonder what it might feel like to love somebody else- you know, in theory. Stop blaming yourself for your singledom. Act surprised when you’re asked out. Stand in stocking feet when you’re already ten minutes late, thinking of an excuse not to go, inventing reasons why it isn’t worth the heart gamble.
You can’t go. You like this one. You can’t do it all again- you promised yourself. You don’t need anybody else now.
Leave the house. Give into it. At least now you know you can do it solo, if you need to. You’ve survived.