Showtime

More than a year later. Some Tuesday.

As I brushed my teeth I began composing this in my head and then became mindful of what I was doing and hated myself.

Because there’s a formula for this now:

  1. Bump into your former boyfriend
  2. Feel that pit in your stomach and call your mom
  3. Stay up way too late that night and write some heartachey piece about how you miss him
  4. Stomach pit relieved
  5. Go about your life

But hey: heartbreak is a great tool for emotional expression, kids! How to be creatively inspired you ask? As often as you can, bump into your former favorite person and and take all the agony of seeing him, fingers linked with another girl’s, all the turmoil of seeing his stupid gorgeous face, and sift through the jolts that have just now coursed through your chest and pin them all down, wriggling, writhing in torturous pain onto ink and paper into legible human characters we call words that real people with real eyes will be able to comprehend.

My brain is laughing at me: Words aren’t going to save you now, kid! Good luck going to sleep tonight!

I’m a fake, using the pain like a root in my heart and transferring it into my fingers on a keypad and onto a document. But what else can I do. It wasn’t like I planned this.

I didn’t even want to go for a run but I have this friend who sort of talks me into doing shit and I usually just end up doing it anyway. Like today he wanted to run seventeen miles so I was like yeah that sounds good even though it didn’t sound good and it was hot as hell today and I was 70% sure I would slow him down or pass out on the way or both. That’s the reason all this happened and the reason I’m on my computer at this stupid late time.

I was waiting by the corner oh god I can’t believe this happened and out of the corner of my eye I could see a pair walking together. Just a regular girl walking with this absolutely stunning man and my body or mind or both sensed him straightaway. Even at the edges of my vision, I could tell he was incredibly handsome – gorgeous, even – and I knew I’d have to be sneaky if I wanted a quick look at him – I’m curious by nature.

But the world turns in rocky ways and instead of a warning it turned on me and when our eyes met across the sidewalk these jolts shot from nowhere straight into my chest. One after another in quick succession and I felt like I must’ve been noticeably hyperventilating but I was the first to speak at him, “Hiiiiiii! in a fakey niceness that sounded unlike any sound I’ve ever uttered.

They never broke their stride.

“Great day for a run, eh?” He was always the classier one.

“You KNOW it!!” I called back like a desperate cheerleader on the losing team. I gestured to my running shirt as I spoke. Why did I do that that made no sense.

And then they left around the corner, leaving me with chest jolts and the air thickened like syrup and got a little harder to inhale.

I remember all I saw of her was a brown braid, green sneakers. She was white. I don’t know why my brain recorded her ethnicity. I’m just glad I didn’t see her face. It can still be blurry in my minds’ eye and maybe doesn’t have to exist.

I replayed his smile at me and the polite, casual tone of voice and the straight look into my eyes. There was a time that looking into his eyes wasn’t foreign and in fact, accompanied me to sleep on lots of nights or was often the first thing I saw in the morning or deliciously right above me in the midst of heavy breathing attached to a body that rocked mine. But we don’t know each other anymore and his eyes were guarded like steel and at the same time open and impossibly blank.

This vision was still behind my eyelids as my running partner approached. I didn’t even see him until he spoke: “I said, ‘you look sick.’ Are you okay?”

I tried to smile but the tears betrayed me and flowed anyway and I fucking hate crying and trying to smile at someone and pretend things are cool when obviously they’re not. I hated my running partner for being here, witnessing this, seeing me like this, crumpling up the corner of my shirt with with my right hand and pressing on my chest with the other trying to stop the jolts and feeling powerless against the tears that were coming from nowhere just fucking flowing down my face and breathing like I’d just run seventeen miles as opposed to about to start running them.

My running partner studied my face gravely and without saying anything, closed the space between us. His face got kind of close to mine and for a wild second I thought we would kiss but instead he gave me a hard, athletic hug. When he released me, I felt his strong hand on the small of my back, pushing me along, silently urging me that the act of running and movement would be good after something like this.

You kind of just obey, you don’t really think about stuff when your head is numb, so mechanically I began moving my legs to keep up with him. I know I looked crazed running with wet streams on my face. Here’s another tip from the pros, kids: wipe off all your makeup before you run! 

The wind hitting my face felt nice and my legs felt like they were at least doing something anything but the jolts in my chest still had my breathing in its vice grip and oxygen was still hard to come by.

My running partner talked the whole way, reminding me that broke up with him, that he was doing exactly what he was supposed to be doing and that it was good that he had another girlfriend and by the way hasn’t it been more than a year since this whole thing ended anyway and you guys were bound to run into each other at some point this is a small enough city and oh I almost forgot are you still able to host to my fundraiser on Thursday because I need critical mass and it would be so perfect if you could…

His voice mingled with the wind roaring in my ears and the vice grip loosened some but this time it dropped from my throat to my chest and while we ran I felt myself plucking at my running shirt, pulling it away from my body as if it were my skin and I needed to get into my heart to rewind it or something.

And that’s entirely it: it’s been more than a year.

So if it’s been more than a year then why does it feel like my heart’s being rewired?

When I run I always take out a problem or a negative thought or a bad experience or an offensive statement someone made to me or the shootings that are peppering our country like Chicken Pox and I take those horrible things out of my body or my head or my heart and I put them in front of me on the road ahead and I just run the fucking shit over them and I pound them with my Sauconys into the cracks of the pavement and the dirt where they stay and rot and die.

But his polite smile was still stuck behind my eyelids and the conversation he must’ve had with his girlfriend after they left me on the corner, oh just an ex-girlfriend, love, replayed over in my ears and my brain offered up the helpful idea that maybe they’d kissed or had sex after I’d seen them and I found myself unable to take thoughts of him out of my body and fling him on the road ahead so I could run him over with my Sauconys. But maybe I didn’t want to.

I wish he’d hugged me. Unlaced his fingers from hers and stepped a little closer, maybe looked into my eyes so I could see his better, fall into those beautiful gorgeous perfect dark almost black eyes with that beautiful freckle or birthmark just below his left eye even just for two milliseconds Ohhhhh my god that stupidly perfect freckle I used to touch with my finger or kiss gently after he moved above me.

And I hate what I’m doing here. I hate what I’m doing at 11:51pm with an early-ass run tomorrow, tying up my feelings in words that don’t make sense and are out of order and eyes that feel like they’re glowing in the dark with tears.

It’s been more than a year. My heart shouldn’t be hardwired to miss him anymore. Since his doesn’t anyway. That unbroken stride. Those laced fingers.

These words on the page are starting to wobble on me, starting to tremble. My fingers plucking at the keys are failing me now and I don’t have any more words and the vice grip is tightening up my throat, gearing up for a hard night of shallow breathing, a troubled heart and possibly a mindshow (mindfuck) of all I’ve seen today. I know how this goes: when I close my eyes tonight and let the dark engulf me, instead of a calm, black canvas behind my eyelids, I’ll see a parade of images, real and imagined, replaying the interaction with him and generating horrific images of them together in bed, in a space previously occupied by me (and, I thought, only me).

I inhale deeply through my nose and try to clear the tightness in my throat. No dice. I cautiously close my eyes and right on cue, here the images come, the mindfuck has arrived.

So I’m not going to fight this shit anymore. It’s won and I’m defeated. My mind’s been taken over and these tears have arrived and more on on their way. Let the show begin.

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