“I do, actually, think that I am over you. I’m just still reeling at how much I once missed you. How much you, so small and damaged yourself, always feeling so powerless, could have broken me so badly.”
– Bry Leberthon
Fiction. Based on a True Heartbreak That May Have Saved Me.
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character, or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
Trigger Warning: our program often motivates people to discuss their trauma. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, please, take a step back to address emotional flashbacks and trauma before continuing to push yourself. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Hotline at (1-800) 273-8255.
I don’t want to go, but my best friend, Nat, is forcing me to. I haven’t talked to Amy in months, but she’s getting engaged, and she wants us to be there. Her high school “best friends.”
The last time I talked to Amy she was talking shit about another ‘friend’. I wonder what she says behind my back. Anyhow, Nat said we should go. We were once best friends, and even though we’ve lost touch, we still shared clothes and secrets once.
Amy is not a bad person, she’s just a little too much for me to handle now. I’ve outgrown high school, like most of us do. But there are certain people that thrive in high school. That was Amy . . . well, I guess she’s still thriving. She’s the first one of my friends to get engaged. She somehow always gets what she wants, and that used to make me admire her. Now, I find it annoying.
But here I am, on the way to her engagement party, because of course, she’s got a gorgeous man, who loves her, and who cherishes the floor she walks on. And I’m going dateless . . . not only dateless, but I haven’t been out on a date in over a year.
The venue is packed, and I get anxious. I don’t socialize as much as I should, and if there are more people from high school, I’m going to make a fool of myself. Or I’ll go home feeling like a complete failure. Because I bet everyone is going to say all their accomplishments, but I don’t have much to say in that arena.
It’s weird how twenty-four-year-olds can all have different lives. There’s me—still studying, still without a job, and still living with my parents—, there’s my best friend—just moved out of her parents’ house and has an amazing job in the field she studied for—, and then there’s Amy—engaged, living with her fiance. All the same age, but with very different lives.
We spot Amy in a sea of people. She’s hard to miss. She’s tall and beautiful, demanding all the attention. She spots us and smiles. We make our way toward her; she makes her way toward us.
“Congrats,” Nat says to her. Amy hugs us both, one arm for Nat, one arm for me, and squeals.
“I’ve missed you so much,” she says. She lets us go and flashes her ring. It’s huge, of course, and has diamonds around the big diamond.
Amy gives us the details. But I don’t pay attention. Because coming this way is my ex, the one I thought was the love of my life. The one I thought would host this type of party with me.
“What is he doing here?” I ask Amy.
“Silly, he was one of my best friends in high school, too,” Amy says nonchalantly. “I didn’t think it would be a problem.”
Of course she didn’t. Because they were friends. Sometimes I swear Amy wanted more than that, but that just makes me realize that she truly doesn’t care for my feelings and focuses on hers. Because if he’s here, she doesn’t care that I cried a river, maybe an ocean, for the man that is smiling at me right now.
I want to slap him. But really, I don’t, and that’s scarier. I thought that when I saw him again, I would feel everything all at once, but right now, I feel underwhelmed . . . and I was not prepared for this.
“Hey, you,” he says to me. He greets Amy by kissing her cheek and she goes ahead and shows him the ring, too.
I turn to Nat. “I can’t believe he’s here. I didn’t think he and Amy were that close.”
“Do you want to leave?” Nat asks me.
“Not really. It’s weird. I thought seeing him again would spark feelings and break me down, but I feel okay?”
“Is that a question? Or a statement?”
I shrug. Jonathan refers his attention back to me. “So, what’s up with you? Should we get a drink?”
“I don’t think we should.”
“Oh, come on. We can still talk,” he grins. That grin used to melt me inside, and now I feel . . . pity? I don’t know what I feel.
It’s incredible how our minds could think one thing one day, and the next have a completely different thought. I once thought he was the love of my life. I didn’t just think it; I knew it, every cell in my body knew it, and it broke me when he broke it off.
I spent months trying to mend my broken heart, and I sincerely thought I wouldn’t be able to. There were so many failed attempts at one point I stopped trying to put band-aids on it and accepted that the wound would always gush blood.
But the thing about wounds, it’s that they eventually heal or they kill you. And I didn’t give it the power to kill me. I let it be. I let myself feel broken. But the other thing about wounds, it’s that they don’t heal overnight. Sometimes you don’t even realize they’ve healed until you look at it. And somewhere along the way, my wound started healing. I don’t know how or when exactly, but it did.
Now I can look at him and know that we were both broken, and at least my brokenness didn’t change me. But his changed him, and I hope he can find a way to heal. Because the man I’m seeing here still looks a little broken, just like I must seem a little, too. And that’s okay. Because maybe I am. But I’ve accepted it. And I’m taking the little steps to heal.
“Fine. Let’s talk,” I say, and leave Amy and Nat.
We walk to the bar, and he orders his whisky while I sit on the bar stool. I used to take sips of whisky when we broke up, because it reminded me of his lips.
“So how you been?” he asks me.
I take a sip of the dirty martini he ordered for me. I used to drink this sometimes, but not that much anymore. But I’ll drink it, anyway.
“Same old, same old,” I say. “You?”
“Doing good. Just finished law school and got promoted from intern to full-time,” he says. His whole body is facing me, and it reminds me of a time where I would sink into him and let him hold me.
“That’s nice. What about your mom?”
His whole face changes. I know his mom is part of the shattered spirit that lives inside of him. Which is why I mention it. He’s trying to brag and seem great, but I know him better than anyone here. But as soon as I mention his mother, I feel remorse. Because I’m stooping down to his level of immaturity. I’m trying to do exactly what he would do to me. Gaslighting.
“She’s hanging in there,” he says, and takes a sip of his whisky. I look at his lips. I think that’s the thing I miss the most. His lips were so soft, and even though we had our problems, he used those sweet lips to sweet talk me into forgiving him every single time. And maybe I miss being sweet-talked. Not necessarily by him, though.
“Can you believe Amy is getting married?” he scoffs. “Who would have thought.”
“I didn’t think you guys were that close that she would invite you to something like this,” I confess.
He shrugs. “When you and I broke up Nat didn’t want to talk to me because I kept trying to get intel on you, so I talked to Amy and she helped me move on.”
Yeah, right. What he did was tell her things he knew would come back to me. Like the fact that he slept with a girl one month after our break-up. Or that he has had a girlfriend already.
“I thought you and I would have been the first ones to get engaged,” he says. Now I really want to slap him.
“I don’t think you would’ve proposed.”
“I would’ve,” he said.
I scoff. “Yeah, right. The time I mentioned moving in together you ghosted me for a day in fear.”
“I wasn’t ready for any of that stuff.”
“Well, thank God you weren’t. Our time apart showed me just how toxic we were for each other,” I say and sip the rest of my martini. I’m going to need alcohol to pass this conversation.
“What do you mean? We were great together,” he says. I look through the room to find Nat, but I don’t find her.
“Yeah yeah, Jonathan. Sure,” I say and stand up.
“Really? Tell me why we were ‘toxic’?” he air quotes the word toxic. “That word is used for everything nowadays. Any little thing is ‘toxic’,” he air quotes the word again.
I start walking, but he grabs me by the wrist and stops me. I pull it back, but he doesn’t budge.
I turn to him. “You’re hurting me,” I say, which is a lie, but I know it will work.
He lets me go. “Tell me, really.”
“Jonathan,” I sigh. I’ve waited so long to say this to his face, but I’d never thought I’d actually say it.. “We were both a drug for each other. And we were in the high of what we thought was love and thinking it was all perfect, but once the separation hit me I realized I was so consumed by what I thought I had, I hadn’t realized all that I had lost. And I lost so much by being your girlfriend.”
“What do you mean?”
“I lost my will to be me. I had to put on this act for you. I had to straighten my hair, fake a smile, and satisfy your every need, and honestly I thought I loved doing it. I wanted to be everything for you, but you prioritized a lot of stuff over me. And I let you.”
“I don’t know what the fuck you’re saying, Veronica. We were great together. We survived some hard shit.”
“No,” I say louder. I don’t want to scream, but I feel like screaming at the top of my lungs. “You survived some dark shit. I was there for you through it all, but when I needed you, you decided we were better apart because you were ‘not feeling like yourself.’ And now, even though I’m still finding my way, I know I got someone. Me. I’m finding my own way instead of following yours.”
“I didn’t know you had your own shit. You were always the strong one.”
“Yeah. The thing about being strong is exactly that, everyone assumes I’m okay and then they never ask. But it’s my fault, too. Because I never spoke up. So I’m speaking up now. I’m sorry for everything you went through, and I’m sorry that I held onto you for my own safety. I dreaded being alone and miserable, but being with someone and miserable wasn’t any better. So I hope you have a nice life,” I say, finally.
I take his shock and make a run for it. I search for Nat and find her with some people.
“Hey. I think I’m going to leave. But you can stay,” I say.
“Did that asshole do something?”
I shake my head. “I finally told him some things I’ve held onto. But I want to leave anyway.”
She nods. “Let me find Amy and tell her goodbye. She’ll get pissed if we don’t.”
We find Amy and say our goodbyes. She begs us to stay. Trying to convince us with expensive food that I’ve never had, and probably will never have.
I leave Jonathan behind.
And it’s the best decision I could’ve made. For both of us.
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