(from the archives / 2016)
We broke up on June 27. Kissed each other goodbye outside in the sunshine on the wide stone steps, and everything felt okay. In that moment, numb, existing slowly and muted together under dark water the way we had been, we could never have predicted the years of heavy, rampant heartbreak that would follow.
But looking back, I think we should have known. Because we didn’t break up that day, really. The truth is we broke up two months earlier, in my bed, at 3:00 am.
You weren’t holding me. I can’t remember when you stopped holding me as we slept, but I know that on that night you weren’t. You weren’t even close to me, and I was nauseatingly aware of it. I couldn’t breathe under the sheets so I laid on top. Curled up, sick to my stomach, I didn’t want to even touch you. I was shivering, rocking. Months of frustrated, gradual heartbreak accumulating in my heart, all of it, coming at me right then. Little pieces of gradual heartbreak kicking and screaming at the walls of my chest and it hurt and it felt so heavy I couldn’t think about anything other than your warm body turned away from me right there in my bed and I screamed. Out loud at 3:00 am, something inside of me broke, and you woke up.
“Babe, what’s going on.” We were both sitting then, the sheets bunched up between us, and one sliver of moonlight sneaking through the window and falling, square and blue, on the floor just short of the bed where we sat in black before-dawn darkness.
“Look at me and tell me when you stopped loving me.” I was sobbing. Convulsing, entirely. All those pieces of gradual heartbreak spilling out of me in some kind of nauseous, shivering catharsis.
“Christ’s sake, why are we doing this right now. What are you talking about.”
“What happened to us? You are not the man who loved me harder than anyone had ever loved me. You are not the man I loved until my heart was on fire. You are not him anymore, where did he go?”
“He is gone.”
You stared me in the eyes and you told me he was gone.
My entire being
My heart shook. My body became useless and foreign and cold.
I had drowned in something. I wasn’t breathing.
Seven hours later, and then the sliver of moonlight had turned into a flood of yellow-white April morning heat and I was wrapped up in you. Your face buried in my hair, still, from when you had been whispering, telling me it would be ok, back in the hours before it was light. Your arms around the small of my back and my shoulders, holding me to your chest.
My entire being
My heart shook.
My body was useless and foreign and cold.
I had drowned.
But somehow in my deep-ocean, full-bodied death, I had found a space to breathe. I was breathing in this yellow-white sunlight moment. You were holding me.
We got up and faced the day like the team we once were and wanted to pretend to be, still. All the poison and blue cold of the previous night left behind in the before-dawn nightmare place.
And that was it.
From that day forward we stayed numb, existing slowly and muted together under dark water, used to it. We found color and light in parts of our lives separate from one another, so opposite of how we spent our first years together, but we grew used to it.
Until June 27. Living in the space by your side, drowned but breathing, until June 27. Until we kissed each other goodbye outside on the wide stone steps, and everything felt okay. I was no longer trapped under the dark weight of the whole ocean, and I felt ok.
But that was only the beginning, and we should have known that.