There are things in our lives that are easy and then there are things that are not. Moving on after a breakup definitely falls under the latter. The people we love/once loved, can never truly be excised out of our lives. For better or worse, we are doomed to carry memories of them for as long as we are alive. They become a part of the fabric of our being.
You were doing so well. Healing and recovering, getting on with your life till she was but a distant hazy dream. Something that you chose to relive again in your head on dark dreary days when everything seemed to be going wrong and the world appeared devoid of any color. It reminded you that beauty still existed and life had not always been so bleak. On most days, however, you barely thought about her. All that progress was suddenly dashed to pieces, because of a chance encounter.
It was sometime around midnight. You were standing at the bar with your drink in hand, awkwardly trying to stick to your spot as the sea of people around you push you about, like waves lapping up against a lone sailboat in the middle of a stormy sea. You were actively trying to get drunk in the hopes of somehow enjoying that shit. It wasn’t working. The people around you seemed to be genuinely having fun. Dancing and singing along, they made it seem deceptively graceful and natural. When you tried to dance, you looked like a lanky mannequin puppeteered by an inebriated puppet master.
Just when you were about to call it a night and head home, she walked in. Under the bar lights, wearing that white dress you so vividly remember, she looked like an angel descended from heaven to torment you. The band was playing a melancholy tune, the soundtrack to your life. You could feel your heart jump up, quickly followed by a gut-wrenching pang of anguish. Those two things happen so quickly that you’re almost confused for a second. Ecstatic joy and overwhelming sorrow fought a bloody, yet mercifully brief, battle. Eventually, sorrow won over and you could feel sadness engulfing you.
There’s a change in your emotions as all of the memories come rushing in, like feral waves to your mind. Glimpses of the moments that you shared with her quickly play in your head like a montage of your life with her. The first day you met, how electric it was, how easily you got along. The playful ribbing and the amazingly quirky sense of humor that you both shared. The first date where a drunk guy tried to hit on her and the way she so skilfully turned him down, crushing his very soul in the process. The staycation at a city hotel that you took because you both needed a break from your lives. All the sex you had in the most unconventional of places. Somehow it all seemed even more precious now, than when you had experienced it in the first place. Nostalgia had quite the way of coloring things.
That moment you see your ex is such a powerful moment. All the months that you tried to get over her, all the long nights that you tried to forget about her, all the progress that you had made. From her being on your mind literally every second of every day to her being on your mind only every 6 hours or so. From keeping her Social Media profiles open on multiple tabs and incessantly refreshing them through the day, in the hopes of somehow feeling connected to her life, to only briefly glancing at them every other day or so. It all comes crashing down like a house of cards. The clock’s been reset and you have to start with the moving-on process all over again, right from scratch.
You keep your head down to hide from her view and busy yourself by staring at the bottle in front of you. You carefully look up to see if she’s seen you. You find her looking straight at you. Fuck! Her face was wearing an awkward, somewhat confused look. You wonder if it’s hitting her as hard as it had hit you. Probably not. Going by the way things ended, you were confident that she’d moved on a long time back. The hardest realization that one has to face in life is accepting the fact that your ex has moved on while you still haven’t. It drills into your very core, ripping every shred of self-esteem that you had tried so hard to salvage from the broken mess you had become.
She starts walking over to you. Fuck! You start panicking. You can feel your heart racing at a million miles per hour. Your chest becomes heavy and you struggle to think of something to say.
“You bitch,” you blurt out.
“Excuse me?” she said, taken aback.
She was so close. You could smell her perfume. You can see her lying naked in your arms, the curl of your bodies like two perfect circles entwined. You feel hopeless and homeless, and lost in the haze of the wine. You struggle to put on a mask of civility and form polite words.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mean that. I don’t know why I said that. I’ve never ever called you that. I’ve never even thought about calling you that. I’m so sorry!”
“Yeah ok, I guess,” she said with a confused look.
“So how’ve you been? You look good,” you replied in an attempt to steer the conversation into a semblance of normalcy.
“I’ve been good. I finally took those French classes that I always wanted to!”
“Oh really? That sounds nice! Are you planning to go to France anytime soon?”
“I don’t know. Hopefully.”
“That’s nice to hear. I myself have been pretty great. Finally making some real progress on the book,” you lie through your teeth. In the game of breakups, one-upping your ex is the primary objective. You have got to somehow show her that your life is sailing as smoothy as a cruise ship in the Bahamas. No storm in sight.
“Oh, that’s great! I always knew you could do it!”
An awkward silence forms. You struggle to think of something to say. Even when you were together, she was always the one who kept the conversation going. You just listened. You suddenly realize that you missed coming home every night, and listening to her talk about her day. There was something immensely comforting about being involved in another person’s life. It kept the perpetually hovering cloud of loneliness at bay.
“I’m sorry, but I’ve got to go,” she said, breaking the awkward lull in the conversation. “We just came to grab a drink. My friend will be waiting.”
“Yeah sure. It was nice meeting you!”
“Yeah, you too. Are you sure you’re doing ok?” she asked with a hint of concern.
“The look in your eyes has somehow changed. You always had that bright inquisitive spark in your eyes, but now they look like you’ve resigned yourself to the vagaries of fate.”
You are confused. You never thought that your eyes might change how they look. But you don’t argue. She must be right. Women have a way of sensing these things.
“No, I’m great! I’m at the top of my game!” you lie again. It was just not worth it.
“Ok then! I’m here if you need to talk, ok?” she said, still not totally convinced.
And that was when you lost it. That “I’m here if you need me” shit. There is something profoundly wrong in the way women believe that they can still remain chummy buddies with their exes. It’s just not done. Either you’re with them, or not. There is no in between. Whoever says otherwise is just kidding themselves.
You refrain from letting that little internal outburst show on your face and politely nod and say yes. Burning bridges is such an unnecessary thing to do. It comes with its own myriad set of problems. Just accepting defeat is sometimes all it takes.
You watch as she leaves with someone you don’t know. Her trailing figure slowly got lost in the crowd. You wonder if she’s happier now with the new guy. You realize that you don’t really know what’s going on in her life anymore. From being the best of friends, you were reduced to a somebody-I-used-to-know.
That’s the saddest thing about breakups. You lose the closest person you ever had. You turn into two strangers in a bar, wondering about what could’ve been.
“What is it?” Your friends ask, interrupting you from the storm raging in your head. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
In response, you gripped your glass harder and downed the rest of the whiskey in one gulp. You could feel it burning its way through to your stomach. The world around you spins and you lose yourself for a minute or two. All you wanted to do was be with her again, even though you knew she would break you in two.