Illustration by Emily Birch
Written by Anonymous
Break-ups suck. There’s no way around it. Break-ups suck. You’ve split with your partner and there you are, teary eyed in a smoking area, telling a stranger life is a bit crummy, you know? Maybe if you keep talking they’ll keep giving you fags. But it’s fine, you’ll get through this.
How bad can it get?
You’re doing fine. Repeat it then believe it. You’ve been liberated.
You kiss a man on a night out who looks like a Cuban revolutionary. He offers to photograph you dressed as Saint Sebastian: “You carry an air of exquisite pain” he tells you. Fucking hell, who says that? We’re not having sex, you think. He shows you paintings of the martyr. He’s cross-eyed, his body punctured with arrows. He looks pissed off.
Hold on mate, things aren’t quite that bad.
I’m doing fine.
You’re angsty. You haven’t felt like this since you were fifteen. You have a week where you watch nothing but (500) Days of Summer. You curate a playlist you name after a Smiths song. You cry. You quit smoking. You quit quitting. You have cereal for dinner. You drop the bowl and spill milk over your rug. Fuck it I just quit.
Against your best judgement you look at their Instagram. They look happy. Maybe you’re not doing so fine. One day she’ll speak to you again, expecting you be entombed in grief and you won’t be there. I’m out the tomb, mate, pushed the boulder away, didn’t I? Piece of piss. Should’ve got here earlier.
A few days later your room smells like Camembert. It’s time to clean the milk.
Life trickles on. Two months go by and you haven’t slept with anyone.
You match with a woman on your course. The one with the lego-block fringe and round-rim glasses. She tells you she likes arty boys. You develop strong opinions on Hockney’s digital drawings just in case. You’re good at dating you tell yourself.
You meet, have a pint, ask where she’s from, Preston, good coach station, two pints, a smoke, three pints, walk to the next place, give a homeless person a rollie, austerity makes me angry you tell her, tequila, four pints, tell her about that club you went to when you were 16, Mr Brightside and hormones, five pints, Sambuca, she tells you about the club she went to when she was 16, older men and groping, fuck that sucks, Jägerbomb, kiss in an alley. You can’t believe how well it’s going.
Then you’re home and it dawns on you: you’re with a stranger. Out the corner of your eye you see your ex. You can’t quite remember her features. You look at the person opposite you: lego-block fringe, round-rim glasses. You wish she were lego. Rebuild her. Twist off her black hair. Replace it with a balayage blonde. You can remember her features now. Paler skin. Pale like paper. You could have written a novel on it. Imperceptible blemishes under her eyes, each freckle a piece of punctuation. You felt as though she was there for rewriting.
Do you remember the first time you slept together? The insatiate lust of an early relationship. She pushed against you till you felt like the compressed mass of the sun, two bodies in one, the earth revolved around you blah blah blah your head is boiling over with clichés. She was all things to fragile men: mother, lover, therapist.
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere ——-
So let us melt and make no noise ——-
You’re drunk and recounting poetry to yourself. Perhaps one day you’ll learn to get by without the words of dead men.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.
You look the woman opposite you in the eye and you say this, you’ll never know why:
Well, there’s not really any romance here is there?
Two months and a week go by and you still haven’t slept with anyone.
You broke up with your partner and three months later you’re still grieving. What now?
Things get easier, everyone tells you, in time.
She wanted to give her children gender-neutral names. You wanted to give your children names from your favourite books. So, you’ll compromise. One name each. You always liked the name Seb, but that’s been ruined by the Cuban revolutionary. You’d settle for Curious George.
Occasionally you remember this dreamed future. Something sharp flashes in your heart, a ring on a service bell. Immediately, like an overeager receptionist, your eyes fill with tears. But this is part of the process. In time you’ll forget her.
You google gender-neutral names. Choose a state or choose a mountain range. Everest or Dakota. You agree with the sentiment, but they aren’t very pleasant-sounding, are they? Maybe you weren’t so well matched.
You feel hurt. It’s okay to be vulnerable.
You’ve trapped yourself on an isthmus. Build a raft.
You’re stuck in the second-person. Learn to say I.
I’ll get past this, in time.