Thursday, August 22, 2013
Summer of 2006
I knew what he was going to say before he said it.
The panicky feeling of dread enveloped me, squeezing tighter and tighter. I nearly collapsed under its clutch. It had started six days before. He took longer to answer his cell. He wouldn't talk more than a minute. He didn't want to make plans. That warmth in his voice, reserved especially for me, was gone. He stopped saying "I love you."
It was so out of the blue.
There had been no fight. No obstacle had presented itself.
But there he was, standing on my parents' doorstep that sweltering summer day, looking sheepish and grim at the same time. He shuffled on the welcome mat. He didn't even want to come inside.
I grabbed his arm, desperately. Too desperately.
"I bought your favorite bagel," I cried out. "And that jalapeno cream cheese you love so much! Come eat lunch. Please."
He reluctantly stepped inside.
"I can't stay," he said, awkwardly. "I need to do something. I wanted to do it in person. Please don't make this any harder than it is."
I stood there in shock. A large mass blocked my throat from uttering any sound. Tears welled in my eyes.
"It's over, Jen," he said.
There were other words. I think there was even a fucking speech. I'm not sure. All I remember is crumbling on the floor in my white sundress like a giant tissue.
I was so pretty back then. Ninety-nine pounds. Twenty-two years old. Long brown hair.
"You can have any guy you want," he comforted me.
"But I want YOU!" I wailed back.
A panic attack arose in me. I begged him to reconsider. I told him he just needed time to think. He didn't even have a reason, other than he didn't think we were right for each other.
"I just do."
Pride didn't exist that day. I threw myself at his feet. He didn't care.
When he left, I ran into the kitchen and threw the bagels against the wall. I picked up the carton of jalapeno cream cheese and smashed it on the floor, glaring at the white and green clumps against the beige tile.
Your first broken heart is the worst one. I heard that somewhere recently. It made me half-smile, because it's true. You honestly think the world has come to an end. It's a shock. It's grief. It's your soul trying to readjust to life without him.
I didn't eat for eight days. I forced down juice. I dropped down to ninety pounds. I was putting on a bikini in my bedroom when my mom came inside. "How can you be so sad when you look so amazing?" she marveled, staring at my body. I looked in the mirror. I had never been so thin. It didn't matter though. Nothing did.
Eventually I ate because my hunger returned against my will. But I was like a prisoner, trapped inside my aching mind. My head physically hurt to think about him.
Later that summer, I got my first real job at the newspaper. It distracted me a little bit. I went on a bunch of first dates and then hit ignore on my cell when the guys called back.
That fall, a guy I knew from an American Literature class in college randomly Facebook messaged me and we became pen pals, sharing our lives and deepest secrets. We fell in love through black and white and have been together ever since.
I'm with the person I'm meant to be with now. It's a comforting feeling amidst all the other troubles occurring in my life.
But that doesn't erase the past.
Today, my dad bought me lunch and the minute I took the first bite, an overwhelming sense of sadness smacked me in the heart. A distinct feeling I hadn't felt for seven years. I looked down.
It was that damn jalapeno cream cheese.