Residual Heartbreak

Looking at that girl’s Facebook profile was a bad idea. I knew that beforehand. It’s why I had deleted her number and had not talked to her for a year.

I looked anyway.

And I felt it again. That shortness of breath, as if she was choking me with a finger on my chest. No tears graced the living room carpet — the tears were long gone. But I could hear in my head a schoolyard of children “nah nah na boo boo”-ing me:

“You’re not over her!
You’ll never be over her!”

I kept looking. She had gone abroad this summer to meet relatives and old friends. She went to beaches and fields and old cities. She was with babies and sisters and friends who had names with letters I didn’t recognize. She took lots of pictures and looked wonderful in each one.

I knew I had no solid reason to like her. Not now, not ever. But knowing that didn’t change how I felt.

There was ice cream at this Indian-person party. As I served myself a heap of melting chocolate goop, I saw a group of five late middle school-age girls walk up to the table.

Pointing to my bowl of ice cream, I say, “I’m pretending I just had a breakup.”

One of the girls asked, “What’s a breakup?”

I said, “You’ll know someday,” and walked away. I was in no state to really tell them what breakups were. They’ll figure it out soon enough.

That girl had some pretty prom pictures. Her dress was all shiny and sparkly, as if it was made of liquid metal. She had struck some poses in it. She looked beautiful, actually. Like a model. Or a Bond girl.

Her prom date looked pretty good, too.

As I took my ice cream back to my table, I saw a friend of mine who was also at the party. I told him about those middle school girls who hadn’t even heard of breakups, much less felt their pain.

He understood. Their time will come, too.

After a few minutes, he asked about my heartbreak story. I guess I didn’t do a good job pretending that I was talking in generalities. I managed to condense the story of that girl into a fifteen-second blurb.

It was a new record.

I should be over her. It’s been a year. And I didn’t even date her! I just texted her and Facebooked her and agonized over how long she took to respond. She may have never picked up on how much I liked her.

Fuck it, I really mean “how much I loved her.” There, I said it!

But I never had a relationship with that girl. It was just an imaginary romance supported by an imperfect medium of communication. Now she has a real romance. A boy she calls bae. And I’ve moved on, too.

Mostly, anyway.

I pinged a friend on Facebook about my current malaise. I added a “fuck my life” for good measure.

My friend said, “God, if I ever see this girl, I’m going to punch her.”

She then said, “Don’t worry, one day you’re going to look at her and wonder why you ever had feelings for her.”

I already knew I deserved better. But that didn’t disperse the cloud over my head as I watched some middle school Indian boys be little pieces of shit with their ill-fitting clothes and wannabe baller aesthetic.

One of them said something about his “MCing.”

Oh, fuck you.

Heartbreak has a half-life. For me, it was around a month and a half. After two or three months, I could stop crying. After about six months, I could think about dating again. I sewed myself back together.

But the sutures will never come out. I’ll always have a scar with that girl’s signature in the bottom-right corner. Out of sight, out of mind, but ever present. And at any time, I might accidentally touch that scar — I might remember her— and then everything hurts again.

Let’s call it residual heartbreak.

It’s the sort of pain you feel two days after you have a leg cramp. You’re fine, you can walk, and you can almost ignore the pain…but you can still feel a slight throb, reminding you: “That hurt.”

It’s the sort of pain you would take a Tylenol for. Of course, Tylenol doesn’t work for emotions, but there are other treatments.

I texted another friend: