The first time you broke my heart was three years ago. I summoned you to a Starbucks so we could talk, and we sat there until I could muster up the courage to tell you how I felt. I haven’t occupied that table since. Maybe now I can. A few days later, I dyed my long hair the lightest shade of brown it has been thus far. You said you didn’t like it. I told myself it didn’t matter what you thought, that I didn’t do it because of you anyway, that I was not some cliché. I knew I was lying, but I kept the brown in defiance.
Despite my wounded feelings, I put you on the highest of pedestals. I never saw you as perfect, but you were better than me, and that was enough. I thought it would be enough to delude myself into forever. Let’s face it – there is nothing spectacular about you. You are not exceptionally tall or handsome. You are certainly of above average intelligence, which always drew me in, but you are lazy and somewhat unambitious. When I told people about you, they wondered how and why I could feel so strongly. The answer was always simple: You are such a good person. Better than me. And that was enough.
This boy I thought I might have loved was kind and protective. He could read people, sense their discomfort, and adjust accordingly. He could always crack the right inside jokes without them sounding insensitive. He saved the good stories for precise moments. We often found ourselves starting these jokes and stories at the exact same time. We would feign annoyance that the other had no original material. I thought we had the makings of an old, boring couple; a steady romance through life’s vicissitudes. He thought we would be best bros for life.
It would be unfair to characterize the last three years as having been spent loving you or getting over you. Law school took away much of my time and capacity to feel how I did at that Starbucks. But the residual feelings lingered. You became the rock to my Sisyphus, and I thought I would spend eternity pushing my longing away, only to have it fall right back to where I am used to keeping it. That longing became a part of me. I could not understand how people could look at me and not see it etched across my face, burned on every inch of my skin.
What I didn’t realize was that my longing no longer had an object. It had a face and it had a name, but this person was no longer you. He talked like you, and laughed like you, and had the same insufferable sense of humor as you, but he is not the same. I could never pierce the façade. You had to shatter it for me.
I retaliated by cutting my hair the shortest it has been since the third grade. I chopped off as much of the brown as I could stand. Since I had no claim on you and no say in your choices, I reacted in the ways I have customarily attached to your being. That was not the way I expected my longing to subside. I’m not sure I ever expected it to subside at all. I thought you would always be a chip on my shoulder. I was prepared to live out my life wondering what would have happened if we had just gotten it together and gotten together. You were set to be my constant, nagging question. But now all you are is a proverbial dead star. Your light has stopped reaching my earth.
Getting over you was not the relief I expected it to be. It’s an experience characterized by many as a healing process. Instead, I feel robbed. Who am I without my desire? I don’t know how to conduct myself without being limited by your existence. I am alarmed when I retreat into myself and find no pining, no ache. What once was a yearning is now a phantom limb.
My short hair still has flecks of brown at the ends. My friends have been keen on pointing out this idiosyncrasy, as if to remind me that metaphors can only go so far. But someday, they will grow out, and I will cut those off, too. Maybe by then, I will be ready to dye it the shade of dark grey I think might suit a girl who no longer looks for love in a black hole.