A while ago I was dumped (I'm referring to the first time.) During the long recovery, I learned a thing: The abiding salvation in efforts to survive is the faith a person places in oneself. Simply put: you will keep going for as long as you believe that you can, and eventually, you'll catch a break.
(I always forget about the dying.)
So, when that wonderfully normal creature, with the green eyes and curly hair, ripped the cardiac tissue from my thoracic cavity, what was I to do?
The first thing that came to mind was meatloaf, so I got some. I ate it while lying in the fetal position, listening to the emotionally crippling Half Alive, written and performed by Secondhand Serenade, weeping emphatically between bites.
It became a ritual. I would take two or three bits of meat, cover them in cocktail sauce, then swallow them whole. I would let out two or three deep sobs, crying like the world had died, thinking of my dear true love.
It was all so romantic.
I lay centered on the living room floor of my first apartment. I did so with the lights off for effect or because I had never bothered buying a lamp and there were no light fixtures in the room. The older versions of me would never rent an apartment without lights in the living room. It's just too impractical. The me of today probably wouldn't have eaten the cocktail sauce either. Deep in my soul, I've always been a ketchup man, yet on that day I was simply a confused young person going through a bad breakup.
And that meatloaf? Store bought and red as the Chinese flag. Now, when my world comes crashing down and it's time to eat my feelings, I stick to carbohydrates; mashed potatoes or pumpkin pie, french fries or goddamn American beer. But I was young then, and dumb too. You have to forgive yourself.
My second great dumping came at the hands of a lovely, petite young woman. For that tragedy, I chose a Wendy's ¾ pounder and Adele's Someone like you. I ate and cried in turns. And sure, I drank the bottle of vanilla flavored vodka from the freezer. And sure, I vomited up the hamburger and the vodka onto some sidewalk outside of some bar. It was all so tragic, and romantic too.
As I lie there on cold concrete, turning over to throw up in the grass, no one checked on me. This is my favorite detail from that night; I spent the time it took to empty my stomach ten feet from the front door of the bar and no one stopped. The public had simply decided to let me die in peace.
And if I had?
In those moments, the tragic kind, I wanted my scars to last forever. I would seriously describe myself as the ghost of us, to whoever bothered listening. I considered tattooing the initials of my one true love across some piece of skin, under the header "real love lasts forever." Some older person would talk me out of it, failing to see the romance. Older people never saw the romance.
Could no one understand that the world had cracked and the good in me had died?
My friends were no better than the old. They built their lives on purpose and according to plan while I suffered. I was dying in battle with the gods of love and death while some I knew wasted time on things like Algebra and summer internships. Nothing is less romantic than Algebra; nothing more on purpose than a summer internship.
Now, I measure the effectiveness of music on its usefulness during a breakup. I consider which piece of meat blends nicely with the sad pop songs of the day. I suppose Kate Nash's nicest thing was written to accompany the self destructive act of eating a four by four from in-and-out, served animal style.
And yet I've grown, if not up, then at least upish. I expand my awareness of what a break up ritual ought to be. Lamb sliders to the theme of paint it black by the Rolling Stones, an ostrich burger, slathered in thousand island sauce, consumed to the tunes of Back to Black by Amy Winehouse, or, because why not, a Big Mac eaten in complete darkness while Self Esteem by The Offspring pulls the tears from my skull.
Now that's romance.
That's real love.