Thursday, November 5, 2009

Survival Mode: Act III

I grab fistfuls of damp grass, mud crusts underneath my fingernails.

Not wanted. Discarded. Dead.

I want to scream, to sob, but I'm suffocating. I stand among the ancient headstones trying to figure out how to breathe.

"I just think we need to take a break." He disentangles his fingers from mine, my hands drop to my sides. Defeated.

"Why?" My voice shakes. His answer won't make a difference.

I stare at my feet. They don't move. I don't breathe.

"You know I love you, right?" His eyes search mine. His finger lifts my chin so that my eyes meet his, but I squeeze them shut. I can't look at him. I'm humiliated. Embarrassed. Lost.

"God. You are beautiful." I'm giddy. "Every time we go through a yellow light, I get to kiss you." I turn to look at him, at this boy who makes me burn with longing. So this is what it feels like? This is love? Lust? Whatever. He wants me. I search for a green light and lift my foot off the accelerator.

I finally inhale. I'm only eighteen. The lanky boy with the sand colored hair is my first boyfriend. I have no clue what I'm doing. How do you act when someone tells you they don't want you anymore? There are no instruction manuals on how to survive this.

"I'll call you later," he says. He heads for the door, leaving me on my bed, my chin resting on my knees. No words. No manual. Am I supposed to cry? Would that be better than dying?

Frantic thoughts course through me, pushing out logic, flirting with insanity . . . i love you so much. please don't leave me. you are the only one i'll ever love. why don't you want me anymore? didn't I do enough to make you happy? what is wrong with me? am I ugly? stupid? your mom loves me. i braided your sister's hair and went to your brother's wedding. what about this ring? i don't know what to do? please . . .

"If he truly loves you, he'll come back." They sit in circles offering up words meant to shake the sadness from my bones. But the hurt runs through the marrow, clinging stubbornly to my insides.

"I'm just not ready. Can we wait a little longer?" Although uncertain, my words fall like bricks. He leans back into his chair, defeated. His smile fades as he turns his attention from me to nothing. I wonder if he still thinks I'm pretty.

I'm desperate to purge. I cut up his picture. I burn the program from Otello, the Othello opera he took me too only months before. We had front row seats. I pledged my love to Shakespeare. Later that night, I pledged my love to him. I smell him. I taste him. I see him every time I close my eyes. I dare not dream. I can't breathe when I dream.

"One day I'm going to marry you." He slips the band on my finger. The tiny stone still manages to catch the light. My thoughts drown out the lectures of the day. I'm too busy scrawling my name with his in my notebook.

I call his phone. I hang up before he answers. I listen to his voice mail messages. Replay. "I love you. See you at lunch." Replay. "I love you. See you at lunch." Replay. I wonder where he is now that he isn't with me.

My middle parts turn soft. My pain feeds on food and rarely surrenders to sleep. I sit on my bed in three-day old t-shirt and shorts eating soup noodles, granola bars, and Tootsie Rolls I stole from my roommate's secret stash. A rule-follower to a fault, I chug a beer when I couldn't sleep. The next night, I chug another. My roommate finally thinks I'm cool.

"Tell me your dreams." No one has ever asked me that before. Our feet tangle in the cool of the grass. His fingers pluck at the strings of his guitar as he puts my dreams to music. An empty clearing in an old cemetery becomes our Eden. I stare at him and swear that I see everything.

"She's not even pretty," says my friend. She tries to distract me to no avail. I watch him take the girl's hand in his while they walk across the courtyard, his guitar slung over his shoulder. I try desperately to catch his eye. I need him to see me, to tell me that she doesn't mean anything, to tell me that her dreams don't make music. He never looks my way. I can't breathe.

My hand moves over the passenger seat in my car. I remember him there. I hear him profess his love. I see the ring. I see a yellow light. He loved me once. But no more. I can't see past the ache. The loss etches its reminders in my flesh, wrapping me in a foreign desperation.

I drive. My foot pushes on the accelerator. I see flashes of him in my mind--his face, the cemetery, his guitar, yellow lights, my hand in his. They are cold reminders of what I no longer have. I try to piece together what I did. What I didn't do. I can't make sense of it. How does someone just stop loving you?

I drift left of center.

* * *

"I need to see you." His voice is familiar, the desperation is not. It's been three years since I last saw him. After letting me go and pulling me back in, one cool summer evening I finally said goodbye. Suddenly, my goodbye seems transparent and weak.

I agree to talk. We meet for dinner which turns out to be a setting for two at his apartment. Nervous, empty conversation over spoonfuls of spaghetti. This is what we've become.

And I feel nothing. No hurt. No pain. Nothing.

He tells me about his job, school, his goals. I nod. I'm impressed and proud. Nothing else lingers. I don't want to be with him. I watch his lips move, but I can't listen. I'm preoccupied with trying to understand why I ever thought the loss of him meant the loss of me.

I have no answer.

"I want you back." Wow. The four words every dumped girl dreams of hearing. He holds my hand, rubbing the soft square of my palm. "I need you." His hand reaches to my face, tracing the outline of my lips and bravely descending down my neck. This is all so familiar. Too familiar.

I sit forward in my seat and gently take his hands in mine.

"But I don't want you. I don't need you. Not anymore."

And suddenly, just like that, I can breathe.


Karen said...

Amazing, as always.

And I have to wonder, what would your life have been like with him? Compared to what you have?

Kori said...

I get tired of always saying the same thing when I read some of these posts, so today? I won't. You know.

Kat said...

Haha! Survival! I love it.
I know this story so well. They always come back right when you get over them. ;)
Beautiful, and heartbreaking, and wonderful. :)

Sage Ravenwood said...

I'm dumbstruck, buried between the lines and I'm the narrator all at once. Beautifully written dear friend. I missed the first few and went back to make sure I read it all. You're writing my heartbreaking reality. How often is truth stranger than fiction. (Hugs)Indigo

Kamis Khlopchyk said...

Wow. Just wow. That's all I've got.

flutter said...

You are amazing, girl.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Breathing is vital.

maggie, dammit said...

Oh, L, this is SO good.

painted maypole said...

this should be required reading for everyone suffering from teenage heart break.

the healing you never thing will happen... just does.

Unknown said...

Well done. Brings me back to my youth, my childhood, of my loves and my own losses from that time. Writing is cathartic, and heals on a level so few understand.

I have been enjoying reading your work for a while, and look forward to every installation. Keep writing.

Wineplz said...


I agree with Kat, they always seem to want you when you finally get past them.

OHmommy said...

Incredible writing. I almost want to forward it to my teenage cousin dealing with a "heavy" heart. Thinking I might. Nice job. said...

Oh, sweetie... Don't ever doubt your writing ability again, ok? Just because it may take us moms a little longer to pluck out the words, when you DO get them down? They're perfect.

I remember that feeling. I KNOW that feeling. Who doesn't?

Blues said...

This story sounds so familiar. Well, except I never got to say that last part. Dreamed of it plenty though.

Anonymous said...

you are so lovely. You make me ache. Honey, you have a memoir inside of you. And, I am not just saying that because you are one of my very best friends in the whole world.

Love you!

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings said...

Sounds like you are just fine without him. Glad you realized it before too much drama. :-) You're a great writer. I know, I know....your head is big enough. I'll stop. :-)

Jeanette said...

It's amazing to read a story, and to know both sides of it - to feel it with that kind of complete understanding. wow - incredible piece of writing.

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