British artist, Jake Bugg, laments about coming to terms with a breakup in his melancholy song “Slide.”. It seems to hit him full force in the chest, as most breakups do, even though he suspected it was coming – you never really expect it to come. He expresses his disbelief as such, “Whoa, don’t know how take it in, is love just suffering?” Well, is it?
I’ve been thinking about this for some time. Every day, as it has become habit, I check my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Most of the people I know are around my age. And time and again, I see people lamenting, as Bugg does, but not so eloquently, admittedly, about broken hearts and dreams and is love just suffering? There’s a certain strain of cynicism attached to it as well with people answering in the affirmative, “Yes, love is suffering and I will never suffer through it again.” I guess sign me up as a masochist to love, then.
As I’ve said in prior posts, I’ve only been in one relationship and that relationship lasted a brief five months to the date (think about that). My foray into the suffering of love was expedited and I would no better claim to be an expert on relationships than a dog would claim to be an expert on water purification. Thus, some could lambaste me for not having enough experience in the matter to criticize others for their cynicism on this, but I think there are shared experiences and truths when the dichotomous “loving” and “being broken” occurs, regardless of the time frame therein. Moreover, I would argue at the very least, that while my relationship was so short as to almost be a dream, it was my first, which made it my first love, which meant the impact of “being broken” was most severe; it wasn’t just some high school crush or whimsical affair. Okay, let’s just start from the beginning…
I met a girl. I wasn’t interested, at least, not at first. Her physical appearance didn’t penetrate my senses – and I don’t take that as shallow because the physical is the first impression. She seemed too young. And I worked with her. So, yeah, my thoughts were nowhere near her presence. Then, we started talking. Oddly enough, I was the one to break the proverbial ice with an awkward-as-ever line, “I like the bow in your hair.” And I did. It was cute and added some style to her fashion; a unique look all her own. From there, well, I guess love’s tentacles were already seeping into my skin, unbeknownst to me, of course.
Next thing I knew, I was doing crunches, jabs, stretches and squats in a brightly lit, rave-like environment given the obnoxiously loud music, as some old man made me feel inadequate with his unshakable vigor. I had to step outside with the excuse being thirst, but the reality being I was going to either black out, puke, both or run away with my manhood trailing behind. I was in a kickboxing class with the girl. She still had a boyfriend, but I was playing the part of genial coworker, not-gay-but-gay friend, or homewrecker; I didn’t know, but I was there, at five in the morning, sweating my ass off for…something. After the workouts, after I secretly damned the instructor, we would have conversations in the parking lot, as we meandered between our cars, with the when-do-we-leave awkwardness. As the saying goes, we would talk about everything and nothing; it didn’t really matter, we just enjoyed the other’s company. I would later find out that after such conversations, sometimes while withstanding the pouring rain on sweat-frozen skin, she would go to her boyfriend’s house a few minutes away. And do stuff. Yeah.
Then one day, as I was jogging around the neighborhood trying to show I wasn’t athletically stunted, I was informed of her troubles she had with her boyfriend. Not many days later, I was negating all that jogging (well, okay, it was like a mile of off and on jogging…) by enjoying beers, shots and the like with friends at a restaurant. Amidst the enclosing fog of drunkenness, it seemed that she and her boyfriend were a thing of the past. Home; wrecked.
From there, I found myself making her eggs in my kitchen, pretending to know what I was doing, which I guess, I kinda did. It was weird. For the first time in my life, I had a girl over at my house. She wasn’t my brother’s date, my sister’s friend, a neighbor stopping by, my mom’s friend’s daughter or anything like that. She was my guest and she was into me. As you can tell by now, this whirlwind wasn’t going to end well. Hindsight is a fickle little bastard, but at the time, I was like a pimply sixteen-year-old kid that had Ferrari keys dropped into my lap.
We were doing homework in her bed. No really, we were. I think I was eating some crackers? I don’t know, but she suddenly kissed me on the cheek. My heart, if it could speak, would have said, “Holy shit!” with a megaphone. Not because of the kiss on the cheek. But because of what I knew it was leading to. We had had many discussions about partaking in our “first kiss.” It was here. And again, as would become a theme with our relationship, it came in a flurry of excitement, adrenaline and passion. While before, it was quite amazing to know someone more or less left a shitty boyfriend to be your girlfriend (and just to have a “girlfriend” in general), to see it manifest in such a physical and intense way, a way in which I had never known, was unlike anything I had ever felt. That little four-letter word with universes of feeling in it was rearing its head…
Over the course of the new few weeks, which led into a couple months, we spent practically every available time together. If I wasn’t at school, I was with her and at her house. I’m someone that enjoys my time alone, being able to read, write and just generally “get away.” I do remember being hesitant about sacrificing too much time to building the relationship and had forewarnings of clinginess in my head, but fuck, man, if you haven’t been paying attention; for the first time, a good looking girl wanted my attention and all of it. I wasn’t going to deny that. Not for one second, if I could help it. The best thing, aside from the physical stuff, which was absolutely a thrill ride for me, was just being able to enjoy each other’s company without doing a whole lot. That is, we would just lay with each other – cuddle – and talk about life, each other, the future and it felt magical. At the time, I would use the word “surreal.” (As a meta aside, love is suffering because it makes you want to evoke clichés attached to it like magical. But dammit, clichés exist because we experience them and it was magical.)
Cracks were incoming. After an intense four months and maybe week or two of what seemed to be blissful, beautiful and bountiful time together, I started realizing something was changing. She started talking a lot to an “old friend,” which was really an ex-boyfriend, quite a bit and talking me to less and less. Such came to a head when for a special night out, where I had spent a lot of money relative to my income at the time, dining her, she spent the majority of the evening texting and my overactive mind assumed it was him. And it was. But that developed into a fight in which I expressed my feelings about how fucked up that was. I mean, really, I had a similar experience on prom night when my date at dinner was looking at her phone a distractingly copious amount. It bothered me on that night, then, it bothered me with my girlfriend in this situation, especially since she was talking to an ex and it bothers me now, even still.
Within a week, I confronted her after days of little to no talking. In those days leading up to that moment, I knew, as Bugg says, I was on the “front line.” It’s hard to explain what I was feeling in those days when I realized it was coming to an end – a lot of denial to be sure. Most of my thoughts were, “What’s wrong with me? What have I done wrong?” So, the confrontation went as you would expect. She confirmed it was over. She seemed apologetic. She offered the usual empty, hollow words of consolation. I seized on them as a chance, however slim, amidst my bawling.
I remember when I was younger. I was playing in a cul-de-sac. A friend and I were running around, maybe playing tag or catch? I forget, but I tripped, as I’m wont to do, and slammed my chest into the curb. Almost instantaneously, the air rushed out of my chest, my heart picked up its pace and I kept trying to take in air with my lungs, but it was like nothing was there except this overwhelming pressure on my sternum. The friend ran to get my dad or maybe he saw from the window, but I remember crying to him about it and how painful it was.
That’s what it was like – the breakup. To hear her confirm that she no longer loved me was like slamming into that curb again and again and again and again. I didn’t understand it. There was so much passion, so much intensity, so much longing and need and then it was gone. Vanished like the last tendrils of the moonlight. And I was stuck with this darkness – the self-loathing, the regret, the nothingness. Love was suffering and I didn’t want it. I hated it. My morphine became alcohol, but that just led to more tears. My consolation became those hollow words, but that just beget more regret, as I drunk texted her or sober texted her. She didn’t want me anymore. She didn’t need me anymore. And this time, there was no father’s arms to cry into. I was a man or something like one and I just had to absorb it.
For the longest time, I was those people I see on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, cursing love, wishing I could strangle love and kill it. Yes. Then, the oxygen returned to my lungs and I exhaled. And it was fucking beautiful. I no longer had this weight on my sternum and life seemed okay again. And not long after, the thought was, “Okay, well, let’s try that love thing again.” So, yeah, love is suffering, but isn’t it worth it?
There’s a quote from author Raymond Chandler, which I learned of courtesy of Wisp of Smoke, where he says, “The girl gave him a look which ought to have stuck at least four inches out of his back.” Would you look away, even so?
I wouldn’t. I couldn’t.