The Art of Silencing a Broken Heart

They were right: practice does make perfect. Years of training and hard work had sure paid off. Sam could finally master the ancient art of silencing a broken heart. If only they knew how she struggled to subdue hers. And this was no easy task, just ask anyone whose heart had ever been broken.

Broken hearts are extrovert in nature. They thrive on attention and compassion, willing to tell anybody who is foolish enough to listen just how miserable, lonely, sad, devastated and broken they are. But Sam never did have the patience to give in to their whims. There are so many broken hearts out there, lurking in the most unpredictable places, manipulating the inexperienced to have pity on them, following those oblivious potential victims of theirs, and forcing them to be the audience of this overdramatic “one-heart-show”. And when they are lucky enough to secure the presence of those listening ears and understanding eyes, looking at them with nothing but good intentions and a genuine will to assist, they usually go to great lengths in describing every small detail of their misery: Who broke them? When? Where? What happened before it? What happened after that? What happened to the perpetrator? What are their theories as to why that person had broken them so? And these over rationalizations, over analyzes, and self-pity extravaganzas would slowly suck the energy out of those victimized passersby until consuming them entirely. At this point, the greedy broken hearts would move on in their search of fresh prey to take pity on them.

Sam, who was well aware of their nature, took all necessary measures to protect herself from them, not daring to form eye contact with those sobbing broken hearts surrounding her, be it in the subway on her way to work; be it on the streets of the big city; be it when she was out with friends, noticing them casually approach her with some lame excuse. Yes, some may say that she was heartless and cold, refusing to show some compassion. Sam never bothered defending herself against such accusations. Hell, maybe they were not so far off: maybe she was heartless and cold. But what they didn’t know, was that she made no exceptions. She treated her broken heart the same way she would a stranger’s — ignoring it.

During the day, it wasn’t such a difficult task. There was so much to do throughout the day, so many tiny insignificant details to process and consider; so much unnecessary information she had been compelled to absorb, she somehow managed to blur out those silent sobs echoing in the background of her consciousness and focus on all those to-dos awaiting her. But when she was alone with her thoughts, her heart would slowly awaken from its slumber, pinching her like a spoiled child aching for attention. And she would be tempted to glance at it, even though she knew she shouldn’t, the moans of her broken heart mixing with the chatter of the outer world and forming a sad and impossible melody of self-indulgence. So she would hold her breath and divert herself with silly, superficial thoughts; preoccupy herself by worrying about things she didn’t really care about.

And when she would finally be back home and open the front door, she would release the air that had been caged in her lungs all day long, take off her shoes, toss her bag onto the floor, and sprawl on the sofa. But it wasn’t long before her spoiled broken heart would start to nag. When she would turn on the TV or call a friend to make plans for later on that evening, it would start screaming at her, making it impossible to concentrate on anything. She would quickly change her clothes and go for her daily jog, but her stubborn broken heart would cling to her, screaming in her ears during those thirty minutes. And when she would get back from this tormenting jog, it would watch her take off her clothes and get in the shower, enjoying the comforting hot water massage her tense muscles. It would wait precisely until she was all relaxed again and proceed with its unbearable attention-craving sobs. Although she had zero patience or tolerance for it, Sam would usually indulge her broken heart only for a few blessed moments, in which it received her undivided attention and empathy.

She would start by cleaning the steam-covered mirror with her hand, nodding compassionately at the tormented face staring back at her, a face she would otherwise hide from the rest of the world. At this point, the tears would come out of her eyes and she would cry along with her nemesis, her fragile broken heart, who would be savoring what it thought to be her finally giving in to it. But she was smarter than it had thought, oh yes she was. This was anything but defeat. On the contrary. It was her letting her broken heart feed on her, just a bit, so it could go back to sleep on a full stomach while she devises a new scheme for keeping it at bay. Once feeding time was over and after another long crying session, her broken heart would wear itself down and grow silent, lacking the energy or the will to try and win her over again.

Unlike Sam, most people did not possess this special ability, but maybe she had given herself far too much credit; maybe, regardless of her efforts and expertise, she had her mother to thank for that. Now Sam wasn’t the type of person to think too highly of herself nor too low, but rather just the right healthy amount, or so she had thought. But the prospect of her mother taking all the credit for her hard work, just like she had taken other things from her, could really make her lose her temper. She could just as easily claim that she had taught herself everything she knows, while her mother was too busy falling apart, again, for the one millionth time.

Sam didn’t like thinking about the past. She saw no point in doing so. But her mother? She couldn’t get enough of it. As hard as she tried, Sam couldn’t forget those evenings in which her mother came back home after work. The minute she set foot inside their small two-room apartment, a gloomy tension started suffocating the air. Sam was usually too afraid to come out of her room and greet her mother. She never knew in what mood she’ll be finding her. And so it was easier sitting in her room, doing her homework, or reading a book and waiting. Not that she could concentrate on anything as long as she heard her mother out there, opening the cabinets and walking back and forth between her room and the kitchen, her nervous steps an exact indication of her mother’s current state of mind.

Sam would hear that sound of fluids being poured into a glass. She could tell straight away whether it was wine, whiskey, gin, or any type of alcohol at hand’s reach. And when her least favorite sound in this world came to her ears, she would tiptoe and close the door of her room as quietly as she could. But it wasn’t long before her mother would knock on her door, pushing it open before Sam had the chance of granting her with permission. Her mother would sit down next to her on the bed, holding her bottle with a trembling hand. Sam would not be able to look at her nor bear her alcohol-stained breath. Her mother would start crying, stroking Sam’s long black locks and look for some empathy in the nine-year old’s brown eyes. Sam would usually tell her that she was still not finished with her homework — another excuse, of course — and if her mother doesn’t mind letting her get back to it. It was crucial being delicate with her mother when she was drinking. Alcohol made her more sensitive and the tiniest remark could result in a loud outburst which may never end.

“How could he do this to us, Samantha?” her mother would ask, ignoring Sam’s vain attempts of being left alone.

Sam would not dare to answer her question, staring sadly at the ceiling; at all those glow-in-the-dark star stickers covering it. Her father had helped her put them up there only a few months before he left her; before he left them. “So you can always see the universe before you fall asleep,” he told her and kissed her on the cheek. “I know how much you love the stars.”

“I mean, look at you! You are so young! How could he do this to you?! The selfish low-life, fucking bastard!” her mother would continue with her sobbing. “Oops! I used the F-word next you,” she would giggle childishly. “And now I have to take care of you all by myself!”

During all those long moments comprising Sam’s empty childhood, having to witness her mother slowly wither away in her sorrow, permitting her broken heart to take over, she had made up her mind: Never again! She will never be like her mother; she refuses to be! Because her mother’s broken heart had taken her away from Sam, leaving her with a frightened and ill alcohol-monster instead of the loving, wonderful mommy she used to have. But that mommy was long gone the minute the alcohol would flow through her veins and so Sam refused to ever call her by that name again. She was simply a plain, generic ‘mother’; definitely not the mommy who would tell her bedtime stories, sing her sweet songs in her soft voice or tell her that she could be anything she wants to be; that her love for her is beyond endless.

With no responsible adult to be found, Sam had to raise herself up on her own. Once she was old enough, she took off and never bothered coming back. The past was to remain in the past. The past was dead. But the memory of her mother’s broken heart would still haunt her from time to time, trying to manipulate her to believe that her own heart was broken as well. Of course, these efforts were in vain — by then Sam had already mastered the ancient art of silencing the broken heart. This was her mission; this was who she really was, but nobody knew about the battle she was constantly fighting. Because there is no reasoning with broken hearts. Because she is the only one to understand that.

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