The Art of Shattering
The funny thing about heartbreak is it never goes away. Nothing is ever left the same. With each subsequent heartbreak, you lose more pieces of yourself that you won’t ever get back. Your body will adapt to work with less of your heart, but the dull ache of feeling less-than-whole will always be there.
I tried to give my heart away to a boy that did not want to keep it. He didn’t even want to hold it. All he wanted was for me to hold it out to him so he could glance at it, briefly, whenever his ego needed it. The really sad thing about this is that I stood there, arms trembling with the weight of my full and hopeful heart, for four years until I grew so weary that all I could do was watch my heart fall and shatter at his feet.
This boy didn’t even blink when my knees gave out and I sat amidst the wreckage. How could he have known? He wasn’t even looking my way. I don’t think anything has ever made me cry more than that moment. I found out, rather harshly, that everything I thought love could be was my imagination.
This boy was inconsistent. We’d go a long time without talking and I was always the one to break the silence. He was lazy with initiative, so I would put myself out there first. But, good God, was I swooning those handfuls of times he asked me to hang out. When those texts came through, each one was a tiny shackle I didn’t realize was keeping me close to him. I was never a priority and yet I thought about him more than I thought about being kind to myself. I was losing myself completely in trying to get this boy to see that we were meant for each other. This boy knew how to reel me back as soon as I started noticing the tiny shackles keeping me trapped. Every time I would muster up the courage to find the key or grab the Jaws of Life to pry myself free, he would hold me. It was as simple as that. You see, when I was in this boy’s arms, I knew that he saw me. In that moment, I meant something real to him. There was static between us that kept me clinging to him. I convinced myself that this time would be it. Every soft caress erased the times I cried about feeling inadequate. When he interlaced his fingers with mine, I forgot about the nagging feeling that told me I was leading myself into heartbreak. When he pulled me close, I couldn’t remember why I thought I would shatter. These interactions were bandages over cracks in my heart that were forming. I still cannot believe I convinced myself that was enough. He’s coming around. Just you wait. He held my hand in front of his friends! That has to mean something. Except it didn’t. It did not have to mean a fucking thing.
It took several years and a few girlfriends that he chose over me to wretch my gaze away from him and notice that I had turned into vapor. I lost myself. I lost sight of who I was. I stopped loving myself when I was too wrapped up in finding my flaws that were reasons why he could never look at me with more than amusement. When I finally accepted that he didn’t love me either, I withered away. It’s like leaning all of your weight against a wall that you notice was never actually there to begin with. I realized my mistake as I was falling. I didn’t even have the strength to reach my arms out to break the fall.
There I was. A mess of my former self. I was so delusional that I held on to my fading innocence. He would never act this way on purpose. No, it must have been something I did. Something I wasn’t. It took me months—years—to pick myself up from the floor. Had I stayed any longer, I would have drowned in my own insecurities. The girl that fell was spirited, full of joy, incredibly optimistic, and willing to give her heart away. The girl that rose was no longer those things. I would never have learned to trust my legs to walk if I did not have the strength of my friends to lean on. I think they are the reason I was able to force myself to walk away. While I may have stopped loving myself they never stopped loving me. And their love, not his, is what sustained me.
With knees wobbling, heart racing, and wizened eyes I was able to stand on my own. I had learned a lesson that would change me forever. It was much easier to breathe behind a fortress than to live outside of one. I gave my heart away and what I got in return was its shattered remains. I will probably search all my life for the piece that he pocketed just to feel whole again even though I know I won’t ever be the same.
People noticed a change in me. Maybe I didn’t laugh as freely as before. Perhaps it was my aversion to anything love-related. It may have been the cynical side that became one of my new faces. I shielded myself, always paranoid for the next boy that would try to lure me out of my armor.
He came sooner than I was ready for. Things were different with him. I didn’t have to guess his motives. He wanted me. And he would wait until I was ready to offer a warm sanctuary in his hands for my bruised heart.
Even though he was transparent in his feelings, I was paranoid. I would dance very close to the idea of dating him, but would spin away at the last moment. He spent a lot of time reaching out to catch me when I trusted him enough to leap. Instead, I stumbled. He was solid. He was strong. He was real. I ached to be held by him because his arms, unlike the other’s, weren’t an illusion. When he held me close, it was because he wanted me to feel whole around him. He didn’t understand that I would never be able to give all of myself to him because I didn’t have all of the pieces anymore. Right when his hand closed around mine, I yanked it back so forcefully he fell.
Why was I doing this? He was not the other boy. How often did I have to reassure my heart? I can tell myself over and over that I was smarter than that. Smarter than to think that I could rest my weary heart against his and it would begin to beat again in a beautiful rhythm. A rhythm his heart would teach mine. A glorious melody.
He reached his heart out to me no matter how often I changed my mind and it fell between us. I would try to catch it in a blanket of “I still care about you so much and I am sorry I cannot be what you need. What you deserve.” The blanket was woven in strands of “forgive me for my faults.” Time passed between us and this boy changed his tune. Instead of sprinkling me with compliments about my body, my soul, and most importantly my mind, he doused me in shame. He told me I was callous and that I taught him a valuable lesson about not giving his heart away to someone less whole. I blamed that missing piece of my heart.
All of a sudden, my mantra changed from feeling inferior and never good enough. Now, my mind whispered I was a betrayer. I was not to be trusted. His heart was on my chest, but I ripped it off before it had the chance to seep into mine. I thought being with him would make me feel complete. Instead, it reminded me that I won’t ever be the same person as I was when I believed love gave everything life.
I cannot blame him for pushing me away. How could I fault him for expressing his feelings about what I had done? I was his best friend. Yet, I treated him like a stranger I bumped into, said a hurried “sorry” to, and never looked back. What kind of monster turns around and treats someone the same way that destroyed them? When I realized that I had done exactly what the other boy had done to me, my legs gave out. My eyes remembered what it was to cry. And all I could do to keep from falling was to sit in the shower and let the water dilute the tears pouring from the dark spot in my heart. I made myself believe I deserved this pain. It was only 25% of the pain he felt because of my fickleness.
We were drawn together years later. He crushed my lips with passion. His eyes shone desire. His body thirsted for me. He didn’t know he was kissing a mannequin. He hadn’t realized he was holding onto a picture of me. I could not return the energy he filled me with. I tried so hard. I kissed him back harder. I pressed my body closer in the hope that we would become magnets. A connection so strong, only a great effort would be able to yank us apart. There would be no effort needed. His hands would fit perfectly in mine. Our bodies would form one, beautiful mold, our hearts would hold each other close. But I couldn’t. Kissing him was like having two lives. Physically, we were dancing and he was enjoying every spin, turn, box step, shuffle, and dip. Emotionally, he was a TV and I couldn’t decide what channel I wanted to watch.
My mind yelled at my heart to stop grieving its loss. My heart echoed back to stop pretending like everything is okay. My insecurities snaked up from the dark spot, unnoticed. They filled my bones with whispers. Remember him? He likes you so much he is willing to fall again. He knows you. He can fix you. He is everything you need and want. We want him. We need someone to hold us. Don’t ever let us go.
I decided that I would be all in. I owed it to him, to me, to us to take the step out of my fortress and invite him in. My hands were shaking as I undid the first lock. My heart was absolutely marathon racing as I unlatched the next lock. I was feeling faint when I looked through the peephole and saw him there. Standing with his hands in his pockets. Taking deep breaths. And bracing himself for the hurt. I told him I was ready to give my heart to him. He stepped in the doorway and waited there. I turned around, thinking he would follow. I realized he wasn’t behind me. I walked back to my door and he was standing there. Gazing outside. Finally, he slowly looked at me and said this is probably something we shouldn’t muck around with. I watched him go with my mouth gaping and my eyes blinking rapidly. What did he say? He’ll be back, I thought. I closed the door, but didn’t fasten the bolts.
I was right. He came back. This time, he set foot in the door and closed it behind him. He pushed me against the wall with his body and drove in the heavy feeling of safety and an adrenaline rush. The force of his feelings sent tingles down my skin. But they never reached my tissue. My bones ached for something more. He tasted like uncertainty and danger. I pulled back. I was not going to give myself up for a boy unwilling to promise he will keep me together.
We met once more after that. He held me from behind and interlaced his fingers with mine. Each connection feeling like a promise. And then he was gone and I was left with the scent of him and the feeling of his body holding mine. I looked around for him for months. Each month feeling more frantic than the last. I had forgotten how to breathe and I needed him to show me how.
He reappeared eventually and he was dating someone. A handful of months after his soul whispered to mine to let him in. Now I knew I wasn’t good enough. The darkness from my heart wrapped around me so tightly, I suffocated. Gasping for air, I didn’t notice the scars on my heart breaking back open. I didn’t realize it until, once again, I shattered.
Was it a lie? Was everything he said to me just to tease me? I deserved it. Toxic thoughts seeped in and pretended they would help glue my heart together again. This pain was my karma. I broke him, so he broke me. I honestly thought my heart would never break this hard again. The pieces were scattered everywhere. The wind picked up and I watched as they blew far away from my outstretched hands.
He contacted me months after. He had found some of the pieces and brought them back to me in a Ziploc bag labeled “I’m sorry.” I made him place the bag on the ground and step back. I knew his touch would either break me again or make me forget. As I bent down to retrieve my long-lost bits of me, he kicked me down with accusations that it was my fault. When I was sprawled on the floor, he tried to convince me I tripped. His apology was poisoned by darkness that blinded me and made me start to believe it was all my fault. I made him distrustful and he wasn’t comfortable giving us a go when he was still so sore from falling over and over. He turned and walked away as I was unleashing my own fury. Damn it, I had to make him hear me. He broke me. I was tricked into showing vulnerability and he laughed in its face. I stumbled to my feet, shaking with rage and made sure I was the one to leave the room first.
This boy snuck away more pieces of my heart when I wasn’t looking. In fact, he mutilated it so badly I almost didn’t recognize it. I thought maybe trying to be friends would be a good cover for me to search for the pieces. That worked for a while. There was always tension. He went off to a different country, so at least I had the anonymity of the Internet to be a barrier.
That boy lurked. Peaked into my life every so often with a “like” or comment. His poison in my veins is what continues to keep me from becoming intimate with anyone. I see him in every boy I meet. They can whisper sweet nothings in my ear, and all I hear are his lies. A look of genuine adoration reminds me of the mask he wore when he was breaking my heart. How can I trust any guy with my heart when I was made such a fool before?
These boys don’t even know how tattered they left me. I felt completely spoilt, tainted, broken. I have been working hard to put on a happy face and convince everyone I am okay. I am not. I am upset. I am enraged. I cannot believe I am allowing these boys to haunt me years later. I cannot believe I approach any new romances through a veil of heartache. I want to be the girl that is spirited, full of joy, incredibly optimistic, and more willing to let others see her heart.
While these boys broke me, I am not still shattered. These boys reduced me to a birthday candle. I need to remind myself I am a fucking forest fire. I hope, one day, they tremble in the wake of my power.