A conversation of heartbreak: moving on and getting over

By Gina Lopez

(Courtesy of the New York Times “Modern Love” facebook page)

What it feels like now. What it feels like now in comparison to how it felt then. Scenes replay like the surface of a broken record spinning sluggishly, permanently traced along the inside of my mind with the absence of clarity. I can’t hear the music that once played; now there’s only a static.

Memories feel like the weighted words of someone I thought I once knew, but discovered, in the most sardonic way, that I, in fact, do not.

Because what point is there to love if you don’t rely on each other, and in turn affect each other, in some way. What’s the point? What’s the purpose of any interpersonal relationship without the connection to time and place – together? Pretending that all memories exist without the tether to the people who experienced them alongside you is a recipe for disaster, I’ve learned.

Eight years later, I stare at the spot where your clothes used to be. Trying to imagine the fabric of someone else. Someone else’s blue and green flannels, mismatched socks and wrinkled t-shirts. Eight years later I wonder if you still take your coffee with extra cream and extra extra sugar. I remember teasing you for this, and testing your taste buds by adding one less sugar than you suggested. You always noticed.

We don’t speak anymore. I find this both shocking and inexplicably comforting. I’ve run out of words to say to you, and you to me. There’s no conversation we haven’t turned over like the smooth side of a stone by the river near our old apartment. There’s no exchange untouched by previous experiences. A lot can happen in eight years, and so it did.

I remember all too well the way it felt to share a locker with you in high school, balancing your tri-colored notebooks alongside mine. Shuffling to class after spending too long, leaned up against the same cold, hard locker looking at you. Those memories now feel like the weathered edges of a polaroid. I remember being there, I remember your presence and your smile but I don’t remember what it felt like to be in that moment. It feels like I’ve looked at a photograph long and hard enough to see myself in the scene, but some of the pieces are missing. Through time and pain the memory has dissipated.

I still grapple with the feelings of absence. The absence of your consistent presence on long weekends and uncomfortable family dinners. The glances we’d exchange, knowing intuitively what the other was thinking. But I realize now, that the absence of that is okay. Because missing something is realizing the beauty of what there once was, the brevity of the experience, while also realizing it can’t be recreated again.

Old routines die hard. What lives on is the familiarity and sensation of knowing, once, that something felt permanent. And appreciating that.

I remember the cold wind whipping the loose ends of my shirt while I leaned against the surface of your deep blue car with the taped-on side mirror I’d wrestled with so many times. I hated that car. And even more so, I hated the way you drove it. Haphazardly taking turns, and refusing to let me park when it was my turn to navigate. Perhaps, this should have been telling of what was to come.

What was I doing? Some months later, I’m still not sure. Where anger and resentment and disappointment once lived in my heart there now blooms a careful nostalgia. Careful in the sense that I know if I live in this feeling for too long, look too long at the old pictures, the measured amount of emotion that keeps me from falling under again will be lost. It’s a balance after all. Making progress – enough progress to make up for the few backward slips that feel unavoidable.

The feeling of heartbreak is a vehicle for eventual personal freedom and understanding. Through the experience of losing you, I’ve been able to appreciate the simplicity of putting my own happiness first without the constraints of trying to juggle yours. Without the unrest that came from tediously investigating your every measured move to arrive at a conclusion entirely separate from how you intended. That’s gone now. As are the old hello’s and drawn out goodbye’s.

I imagine walking past you some day and waving with the uninhibited feeling of amity. And you, with smiling eyes and slow steps, doing the same.

Until then, I’ll see you in my memories.

Gina Lopez can be reached at [email protected]