The night the world collapsed she closed the door behind her, entered her flat and didn’t know what to do with herself. There was work to get on with, groceries to buy, people on the streets to face. There were family, friends and enemies to whom she would have had to expose the shame of her defeat. She would have to get up every day, do all the usual things, stand in front of her students, teach them not to fear all the while her entire self was drowning in pain. She had just come back from a frustrating trip home, during which her gut kept telling her something was awfully wrong. She had been fighting her suspicion for days but eventually, it had become pointless. She had to give up and admit that she knew what was on. The signs were all there: the distance, the pity, the guilt. That evening he presented her with a rather unoriginal script: it was too fast, it was scary, there were other “priorities”, other things to take care of right now. The words were raining down empty from far far away. The same mouth that used to articulate the most reassuring words was now uttering these unfamiliar sounds, which bounced back the moment they hit the walls of her grounded certainty. The mouth was now saying it was impossible for it to fall madly in love with someone because it was emotionally crippled. Surely the mouth had gone insane, there couldn’t have been any other explanation.
There can’t be anyone in this world who hasn’t been slapped like this, at least once. It is, after all, the most ordinary of tragedies. And yet, when it happens, we are viscerally shaken by the absolute uniqueness of our misfortune. Anger, sadness and disbelief are the generals leading a merciless army of desperate emotions, orchestrating a ground invasion of unseen dimensions. Their black boots trample on our confidence, their tear gas intoxicates our self-esteem.
The following days were made of tearful mornings, crushed hopes and hurtful words echoing in her head. She felt pathetic beyond reason: She was the burden he no longer had to carry and she pictured his sense of relief, she could almost see him muttering it to himself “finally over”. What was more, she was a smart, beautiful woman in her early thirties, someone who had embraced change, overcome real grief, lived her own way. And despite all of herself, once on the highway of togetherness, she implacably took the wrong turn. Lately, she had started doubting who he actually was. Not necessarily because of what he had said; there was something rooted deeper in his personality that was troubling her. His sudden mood swings, for instance. One day he was himself as she knew him: caring, listening, attentive; the next one he couldn’t bear her presence. Indifference would appear unexpectedly where there had just been importance, coldness would swiftly replace intimacy. There were abrupt, illogical decisions, talks of looming catastrophes followed by the plainest normality, outbursts of darkness in the clearest of skies. Still, she had been determined not to see all this, she had firmly hung on to the memory of a loving, lucid person who could have not possibly have turned into this stranger. There had been trust, attachment, the sharing of private space, days and nights of step happiness. And now she was expected to forget it all and “move on”?
While the city was celebrating his biggest feast days, she went to hide in isolated mountains. She walked through yellow, silent fields under a burning Middle-Eastern sun, she climbed rocky paths and bathed in cool springs. She made lists of all the things she had lost: she would no longer share the events of her day with him; they would not drive those roads again together; he would not console her in his arms when all her hopes had fallen; his voice would no longer be filled with anticipation; there would be no laughter, no embrace, no conversations, no knocking at her door, no phone ringing. Eventually, she would change her number, later maybe she would move and so would he and some day, they would not even know where the other was or how to reach them. It was an unbearable thought. It made her want to run and stop all of this but then she would remember her friend’s words: “Above all, don’t go looking for something you cannot have.”
She looked around: everything seemed to have betrayed her. Street corners, certain hours of the day, names and sounds all held a memory tag, a reminder of what would never be. Before she would have moved to a new city, she would have started a new job but now…? For the first time in many years, she was exactly where she had wanted to be. The journey had started two years back and it had been such a race; there had been countless rejections, setbacks, disapproving looks and questionable decisions. The chance had come when she had almost given up, overwhelmed by the impossibility of what she had been pursuing. A year later here she was, still surprised by what she had been able to achieve. Who would have thought that the girl from some anonymous 800-soul village would have made it so far? She would pick up from where she had left: she would call the friends she had neglected, listen to the songs her father used to listen to, read new books and learn the damn hard sounds of that new alphabet. Every day she would remind herself of who she was, answer the questions and find out what her fears were made of. If there was one thing he had taught her, it was what happens when you run away from yourself for too long and she didn’t want to know the insecurity that makes you tremble with rage in the face of your own confusion.
Beginnings are harder but endings more so: why do we invade people’s lives and leave them in shards? What is the value of words, if they are only said to be taken back? What makes us promise what we cannot keep? While some of us can do and undo in the same breath, some others reflect and analyze, romanticized and even dramatize. We fall harder, dream faster, feel deeper and our imagination cannot tolerate compromises. We are not meant for lasting relationships because eventually, the flood of our emotions will scare away even the ones who love us. We will forever be sitting in the hall of departures and arrivals, our only companion being the strength of our expression.