Our theme for February is actually a challenge: write a piece without using first person pronouns (I, me, we, etc.)

So, you just broke up.

So seriously sorry. You might be experiencing for the first time the strange, raw, somehow vomit-y feeling in your upper left chest cavity that led someone, once, to associate love with humankind’s primary blood-pumping organ.

It feels weird, doesn’t it… your heart? It actually feels like someone pulled it out of your chest, which you probably thought was just a cliche invented by young adult authors or Sappho of Lesbos.

Your mother, or some other wise person wearing high-waisted jeans, might tell you that this horrible, soul-destroying feeling is a good sign. It’s a good sign because it means that, while it lasted, your relationship was one of the better sort. You were invested. You cared. And whether you’re the end-er or the end-ee, you deserve some raw cookie dough for caring, because caring doesn’t happen unless you make yourself vulnerable, and a lot of people are very, very bad at that. Kudos.

If you aren’t feeling leaky and waif-like deep within your soul, don’t panic!

It’s possible you’re quite confident in your abilities to repair the relationship, and your pragmatic brain will not allow you to see past the joy of your current momentary freedom; go flirt with your barista! Then wallow in shame! Then throw crap all around your living room! Refuse to share your water bottle! When you’ve got all that out of your system, go have a clandestine rendezvous in the JC Penney parking lot that’s rife with sexual tension!!

It’s possible you process things quite slowly, and a few months from now, it will hit you. It will hit you while you’re sitting in your university sweatpants, finishing the most recent Game of Thrones novel (Winds of Winter, God willing…). You’ll cry so much you won’t even be able to read your favorite character’s death scene and you’ll wake up the next morning with snot sticking your face to the pages. You’ll have a lot of explaining to do to your librarian, but it will be worth it, because you really needed that.

It’s possible you didn’t really love them, in which case, WOOHOO FOR YOU!!! No sarcasm intended!! This is seriously awesome. You just found yourself blinking in the sunlight outside the medieval dungeon of a dead-end relationship. Go check out Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! and high-five a homeless guy. Consider making out with somebody. (Maybe not the homeless guy… but he’s a person too, and you should tell him that.)

You’ll have to deal with the people, of course. OH, THE PEOPLE!!!! This is one of the worst parts of a break-up. Some of them will say, “I never liked you guys together anyway.” Your head will explode. Unfortunately, you will not have the courage to scream “WHY WOULD YOU SAY THAT TO ME NOW?!?! WE JUST ENDED THINGS THIS MORNING, WHICH MEANS THAT YESTERDAY I THOUGHT WE WERE GREAT TOGETHER, WHICH MEANS YOU THINK I WAS ACTUALLY AN IDIOT ACTUALLY JUST YESTERDAY BUT YOU WEREN’T CONCERNED ENOUGH TO TELL ME.” Some will even go far enough to call your former S.O. a “jerk” or one of many gendered derogatory terms that aren’t even worth mentioning. The only course of action, in this case, is to throw darts at that person’s picture. Go dig up a dart board. My fiance’s got one in his garage. You can have it.

Others will say, “Awww, I really liked you guys together.” And then you might panic, afraid that everything once beautiful has been destroyed. You guys were Frodo (not Sam – you leave him out of this), and you were supposed to put the ring into Mount Doom, but somehow, you botched it, and nothing will ever be good again. Frickin’ eagles. Where were they when you needed them??!?

This line of thought can also be dangerous, because it can lead you to the odd, de-anchored sensation that comes along with the disappearance of “us.”

“Us” doesn’t die easy. It’s not the sort of thing that closes like a door or turns off like a faucet. At first, it’s really more like a very bad second-grade play. All the tiny actors stand in little lines at the microphone, reading off cue cards and trying to pretend that “us” doesn’t exist, that it never existed. Parents take poor-quality photographs in the aisles with their iPhones, ignoring the fact that “us” is still sort of a thing and everybody knows better. “Us” will cling to you for some time, like your childhood habit of sucking your thumb, though it’s important to remember that half of the “us” might let go sooner, or at least might be better at pretending.

Eventually, “us” will break up into tiny pieces that float into top shelves and letter boxes, old instagram posts, rarely-used phrases, and jokes that no one understands.

But that’s a long time from now, and you can think about it if you want… but you don’t have to yet. You still have to get through the stupid paradox of mourning the loss of your best friend with no best friend to comfort you, the ritual burning of the bobby pins and rubber bands that once sealed a midnight oath, the inevitable black holes of space where people will try to avoid saying The Name, the text message that definitely shouldn’t have been sent, the javelin through the heart when a relationship status updates once, the slow bleeding out when a relationship status updates twice…

It will be okay, maybe. It will be okay, probably. It often is. Letting go is a good skill to learn.

You’re different because of this. “Us” cannot come and go without leaving fingerprints. But maybe that’s sort of lovely, and important. And difficult. It can feel sort of guilty, realizing that someone else notices the smudgy indents left behind. It can feel quite helpless, lying on the too-small, boxy couch at 4 am, knowing that you’ve lost the right to ask “How are you?” It can feel too big for anyone to bear. But lots of people have done it. And you can too.

Be brave. Be smart. Make mistakes, but the smallish kind if you can help it. Call someone with high-waisted pants and have them buy you a milkshake.

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