(PS: I’m totally not heartbroken right now! These are just some theories I’ve been working over. Don’t freak out!)
I’ve been doing some thinking on the nature of heartache, about how there’s something so completely, uniquely horrible about it. I mean, there’s bleak, 4:30-in-the-morning career anxiety. There’s the unreal feeling of visiting someone you love in the hospital. There’s the unhinging blow of finding your cat dead in the road. And they’re all terrible, frightening, dumb. And I’m not even considering the endless shattering things that I have yet to experience. (Oh boy!)
But there’s just something about that echo-y, dull ache that radiates out from your heart like a stupid, throbbing chest cancer. Maybe it’s just because it’s so familiar — all those times it happened before, hurray! — that it’s more of a cumulative feeling. Like this time reminds you of last time, which reminds you of the time before. So instead of just one, distinct note of sadness, you get this terrible CHORD that resonates all the way back to the first time you really got your heart smashed, back when you thought you were going to die for sure.
But it also reminds you of the second time, when even though you felt absolutely derailed, you knew, from bleak experience, that you were going to be OK eventually. And that completely unromantic realization — that inevitable, pending fine-ness — came with its own sadness, like you were almost nostalgic for the dying sensation of the first time around because now that you knew there actually was going to be a tomorrow, you couldn’t just stop everything and moan in bed, you had to keep doing laundry and returning library books and eating sandwiches and all that mechanical, forward-motion stuff.
Then the third and the fifth and eleventh times, you experienced the many different varieties of heartache. You got cheated on, you cheated. You got dumped, you dumped. You were the friend dating the ex of a friend, your friend dated your ex. And once you took a turn playing all the roles, empathy destroyed your ability to be righteously hurt anymore. And that grim understanding came with its own complicated grossness!
So now when heartache strikes, all of those different failures are lined up behind it like a dejected chorus line. And it almost doesn’t matter if it’s the huge failure of a big, fat, long relationship gone bad, or the twinge that comes from a few good dates that somehow can’t manage matriculate, or the momentary regret of a phone number not asked for. They all feel equally bad because each on taps in to a life-time continuum of blueness. The only difference, I guess, is the duration of the suffering.
What’s the formula? The old saw? Divide the total length of the time you spent together by two, and that’s how long it takes to get over it? Fucking math.