There I was, standing in the Guess dressing room, staring at the little green icon, hoping that it would magically light up and hold within it a message that would relieve the pressure on my chest and the gnawing pain in my gut that incidentally seemed to work against hunger better than any diet pill on the market. It had been more than 30 days since the big fight, but less than 60, a number I arbitrarily decided would be the real indication that this was not a break, but an honest-to-goodness-cry-me-a-river-I’ve-gotta-get-through-this breakup.
To say this was an unexpected finale would be an understatement. It felt as though my happiest dream had changed without warning in one of those terrible slow-motion instances where you scream noooo in slow motion and close your eyes hoping that somehow if you don’t see the end, it never happened. To add a little extra salt into the wound, a couple of friendships I had come to count on were showing themselves to be made of fabric far less durable than I had initially believed when I bought into the bond. To say this was not the best day of my life would have been a fair assessment.
Thus I decided to go shopping.
I don’t necessarily love shopping.
With my hair off-limits, my wardrobe was set to take on the big I’ll be better off without you transformation. Yes, I wanted new Single Ladies-style heels, but I also browsed the racks and shoe displays, in part, as a way to keep myself occupied and in the presence of strangers to have a fighting chance against the wave of emotion that seemed to bring about a flood every two hours or so. I grabbed everything that caught my eye, told the sales lady to pick out anything else she thought the new me would like and walked into my small changing station.
Standing alone behind a black lacquered door, I felt a hot flash move across my chest and up to my forehead when I looked down and saw the gold and black painted pants sparkling on the seat of the dressing room. I looked over and picked up the sequined black miniskirt.
As far as I knew, I wasn’t heading to Cipriani’s or a European disco any time soon.
What in the hell was I doing?
I stopped and stared at the distracting, destructive, stupid, awful little WhatsApp icon on my phone. How could a .99 cent app hold so much damn power? It was annoying. This situation was annoying. I had become annoying, mainly to myself.
“C’mon, already!” I yelled in a whisper. One little send button stood between us. I just needed it to suck in its pride enough so that mine could jump at the chance to make things right.
Four texts came in at a rapid pace, but that little icon stayed silent and still. I was afraid it might forever, as is always the fear when one skips to the end of a story without getting to enjoy it unfold the way one had hoped. I had to pick my head up and put the phone down. On some level, I knew this breakdown would morph into breakthrough, but that was a cold comfort standing under the bright lights of reality and in Marciano’s flagship store.
A man I dated briefly once told me that he got through breakups unscathed by reminding himself that “all relationships end until your last one.” I thought about the endings I had experienced, the novella-style crying and wine-soaked nights. But this one was different. This one really felt like it was a mistake, and in the wake of my heartbreak, I suddenly felt as though the life I had built and loved was not the one I should be living at all. This was not a good feeling. In fact, it was pretty damn lonely. It was also inaccurate in a throw-the-salt-out-with-the-margarita kind of way. I actually had a great life, if one that required a little spring cleaning at that particular moment.
I stood there waiting. For texts, for answers, for one of those a-ha moments I enjoyed when I would put two and two together and feel the mental ‘POP’ that always seemed to align my spirit and have me walking a little taller and more comfortably in my skin.
I couldn’t seem to get that release, regardless of how much I understood or showed understanding. The whole situation felt so wrong, yet I knew I was right on track. I felt as though I was being taught one of the most important lessons of my life. Try as I might, I just couldn’t find comfort in that, either.
I decided that the only thing I could think to do was to borrow from Pacino and focus “six inches in front of my face” as my friend’s husband once instructed me to the last time I had a painful breakup. That meant ignoring my iPhone and planning on what to wear when my “Best Thing I Never Had” moment appeared.
Just as I was trying on the hot pink Barbie dress, U2’s “Stuck in a Moment” came on.
“Are you kidding me?” I asked the universe, slowly joining in the chorus.
The words were both irritating and comforting at the same time. They helped me realize that I didn’t need this situation as it was at all, and yet, I stared at that phone like it was about to give me the final number in a series that would win me Powerball.
I realized the guy had a point. And it makes sense that he would — he was Bono after all.
There was a little bit of welling up (damn it) as I put on my own non-metallic clothes back on and deleted my text history. It was clear the universe was wiping the slate clean not to take anything away from me, but to allow me a fresh start, perhaps even with those who were sending messages by blowing up and ignoring my phone. I was nothing if not a glass half full kind of girl.
I held my breath and waited for the pop. No such luck.
“You have to do your part,” said the voice in my head that I was fully aware was not anyone else.
There, surrounded by sequins and lighting that made me want to run to the gym, I committed to doing my best to accept where I was in life, accept that I could not change anyone else, and also accept that, perhaps, the people I was focusing all of my energy were not interested in staying in my life for the long haul. If I didn’t accept that, I was not respecting their right to leave a situation behind or my right not to be placed in the line of fire. If there is one thing I have learned in my (garbled) years of life, it is that when one does not care about something, one is less likely to give it the attention, respect and care it not only deserves, but requires to stay alive. And let’s be candid. It never feels good to get the hint that you are forcing yourself into a relationship, a friendship or a life with someone who keeps telling you to stick a fork in it.
While I ached for that icon to light up and my friends to come around, I had to let go (of the questions, the worries, the arguments) and let (myself) live.
And it wouldn’t be in sparkling gold pants (as fabulous as they were).
I wiped my face, opened the door and shook my head at the knowing sales lady. I then walked down the stairs and looked at the photographer taking photos for a new campaign. The so-attractive-and-charming- he-must-be-gay model turned to me and smiled.
“You look like the girl who lives the life in our pictures.”
“Maybe I am,” I replied.
Hell, maybe I am.