It hurt very softly. It was not an all-encompassing hurt, never a constant one. This was more of an achy, dull pain that would almost go away and then come back worse than before. It was the type of hurt that I would almost forget about if I was in the right place or with the right people or took just the right sip of the right drink. If the weather was just the way I liked it, and I didn’t get any parking tickets that day, and I got to do something I loved – like read a book on the beach or discover a new coffee shop or take my dog to the park – I would almost completely forget that the hurt was ever even there at all.
But then – quietly, softly, without warning, the hurt would come back. Just walking home from work some nights, I would pass a certain crack in the sidewalk or a certain song would come on Pandora blaring through only one side of my old headphones or maybe I would think of the way he would look at me or the way he would call me a ‘sexy, sexy minx’ or the way his skin felt brushing up against mine or his obnoxious laugh – randomly, for no apparent reason – and then, there it was again, that damned familiar hurt. Deep hurt. The type of hurt I couldn’t quite explain and didn’t even try. Not even to my closest friends. I needed a shoulder to cry on sometimes, a phone number that would text me back at any strange hour, or a human chest to breath onto in the sticky heat or the frigid cold. The people who really mattered would always give me that. I didn’t want to talk though. I didn’t need to talk. Talking never helped. Talking about the hurt brought thick gunk up through my throat and made me feel as if I would vomit if I had to say his name one more time or speak out loud about the past, or often even the loveliest possible rendition of the future.
I never felt it in my brain or my veins and it wasn’t really in my chest either. It didn’t feel even remotely close to the way I’d heard heartbreak described. I’d read all of the poems from the beat era and I’d listened to the ear-piercing “emo” music from the early 2000s before and I had talked many friends down from the ledge after being dumped by the people they’d truly thought were the loves of their lives. It still caught me by surprise. I didn’t really have a stomach ache. If I focused, I could certainly breathe. It was a hurt felt more in my bones. In every part of me, to the point where there was no way I could escape from it. It was a part of me. Sleep was only a temporary fix – for when I woke, BAM – there it was again. But not always. Only some days. There was no way for me to predict when it would come. Sometimes, I didn’t even realize it was happening until I was in tears outside of my apartment, wailing so hard and loud that my neighbors would come out and express their concerns because they’d thought my dog must have just died. Something did die, though. Not my dog. Not even a person. But death hurts the living no matter what it is that has died. That’s the thing – I was living. I must have been, to be feeling so much, so intensely. Even death can’t hurt the dead. Nothing can.
I know you’re hurting. I know it. It’s awful. There’s nothing anyone can say or do to console you right now. I get it. It hurts bad. It hurts because it mattered to you more than anything else, and I’m glad that it did. Maybe it still does. I hope so. Something mattered to you so much that it had the ability to tear you apart this badly. You think this is ugly? Who told you that? It’s not ugly at all. It’s fucking beautiful. Some people never get to hurt this badly ever in their lives. I feel sorry for them, and you should too. To feel this much is human. Hurting this terribly is only an indicator of how much we were capable of loving – and guess what? That only means we are capable of loving that much again someday. I don’t want you to hurt. I know how it feels and I don’t want anybody to feel that way. But I want you to know that hurting is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s something to be proud of. You have a big heart just like I do. And that’s not wrong or embarrassing or shameful at all. Not one bit.
So don’t forget about him, or her, or it – that thing, that person, that place – whatever it was that has caused you to hurt this way or to cry this much. Whether your tears are on the outside streaming down your face where everybody can see them or deep in your bones. Maybe you can’t eat or sleep and you can’t even be yourself anymore. Remember this. Remember exactly the way it feels. Don’t ever forget it. Thank it. Cry when you have to. Laugh when you’re able to. You are not special because you’ve had your heart broken, and neither am I. But we are not big babies for crying often. We are not immature or crazy or unstable for yelling and expressing our every emotion so loudly it might wake somebody up. They can sleep tomorrow. You are hurting right now. Right this very moment. And that’s OK.