That feeling you get when a song you weren’t expecting to hear wherever you are comes on? It’s unmistakable, and it hurts like hell. It pangs and pings and it hits your little heartstrings right where they were slit and have been trying to heal. It steals your breath like a grave-robber, it pummels you in the small of the back where your muscles are already sore all the time, it makes your eyes go pink around the edges for a minute. It knocks your knees from behind, it pulls your head back by your in-need-of-a-trim hair, it smacks you like the disciplinary hand of a parent warning the exploratory hand of a child too close to a flame. It’s a swarm of hornets attacking the same spot all at once, it’s a whole salt jar on an gaping wound. You love the song – the way the chorus swells, the gentle twang of an acoustic guitar, her mumble of a wail, the quiet questions asked and unanswered. But it’s all too much, when so much of it reminds you of him. Everyone has love songs, and everyone has end-of-love songs.
“Fifty states, fifty lines, fifty cryin’ all the times, fifty boys, fifty lies, fifty ‘I’m gonna change my mind’s.”
I could have/should have/would have gone to all fifty states and crossed fifty different country lines and found fifty boys to try to take my mind off him (boy, did I try), and it wouldn’t have worked – I would change my mind in the end. I always do, doesn’t matter what the decision or situation.
“I changed my mind, I changed my mind, now I’m feeling different.”
Once he told me he wanted to give us a real, legitimate go, I told a lot of people. I almost couldn’t help myself – ecstatic, elated. It was all happening! What I didn’t tell a lot of people was how the more I thought about it and with every day that passed, the more scared and nervous I got, and how I was convinced saying yes to his proposal of starting this for real was a terrible idea. Something could go wrong. Everything would go wrong. It wouldn’t work. Or it couldn’t work. Or he wasn’t right for me, or I wasn’t right for him, or it was too little too late, or we didn’t have enough in common, or we were never meant to be. Funny thing was, it was all true – I should have listened to my heart and my gut, and improbably, my cold cold feet. I probably didn’t tell many people about my freezing feet because that would make it more real, and I didn’t want to believe it was all true. I wanted to make it work and would have done anything to make it work. I thought. Until I got those heart-chilblains. Then I started to doubt. Everything. I’d spent so long wanting what I was now being promised, that when I got it, I had no idea what the hell to do with it. And that scared me, and it scared me off. I keep wondering if he got his cold feet at the same time as me, for the same reasons I did.
“All that time, wasted.”
Eight years we knew of each other, on and off, just on the outskirts of one another, our lives abutting but never truly intersecting beyond the coffee shop. Three years we danced around the prospect of “us,” whatever that meant. Months of talking, months of not talking. The time I swore would be the last – and it was, for six months – and that was the longest to date. Then he re-entered my life, or I his, who’s keeping track? Five months of talking, more buildup. Months of savoring every tiny little positive, every figurative bone he threw me – a <3 here or there, a random sweet text when I wasn't expecting, the appropriate words and reaction when my Opa died. Months of thinking this was the real deal, that those eight years prior served as a fairytale backdrop to the love story of a lifetime.
“I wish I was a little more delicate.”
I’ve never been delicate about my feelings, and am probably secretly part Italian for the way my temper flares and I vocalize it. I wear my heart, liver, lungs, kidneys, and spleen on my sleeve, when they should be a little more under wraps, a little more coy. It’s undecided as to whether this is a fault or a virtue of mine, though it must have been a glaring fault to him. I’ve never been shy about pointing out inequalities, hypocrisies, minor wrongs, but only when I consider them my business, which is all the time. I should be a little more shy. Not one to keep my questions or concerns under wraps, I asked him a week or two after it had all dissolved whether or not he’d ever loved me or felt feelings of love for me. The answer came more quickly than expected, and was not at all expected. I didn’t handle that delicately either, nor did I handle delicately what I was told by a friend following that exchange. I wish I was a little more delicate.
“We were young, we were young, we didn’t care.”
We weren’t young, not at the end. Not after eight years, or three years, or the five months it took for the end to begin. He was older than me to begin with and he should have known better – but so should I have. We should have cared. Roller coasters never stop being roller coasters until they’re dismantled due to disrepair and abandoned in some junkyard in South Jersey. I’d ridden this particular one often enough to know that the wood was already splintering, the brakes were failing, the ascent was turbulent at best, and that I couldn’t keep my damn mouth shut on the way down, but even when I first bailed, at 1 am on a Saturday morning in a voicemail to his inbox, I doubted (I said I always change my mind). The ground is a long way down when you’re at the very apogee – the people look like ants and the ants are invisible. So I bailed on bailing, clung on desperately as it and I self-destructively barreled on, tried to scramble back aboard. At this point, I can only imagine that my desire to stay on in this mess of a “relationship” was because I was fucking scared of losing everything – those eight years, those three years, those five months, the many times my heart swelled when his bossa nova text tone lit up my phone. I didn’t want to spend another eight years trying to get a good read on someone the way I had with him. Have I mentioned I absolutely hate roller coasters? I won’t ride one, ever again.
“Is it gone, is it gone, is it floating in the air?”
It is gone.
I can’t say I didn’t learn anything from the experience.