When I went to the Crossroad’s Writers Conference, I was encouraged in one of the panels to make my writing more personal. In an effort to really open up my heart and “bleed” I am going to write about the dangerous lesson I learned when I found out money could make me feel better. It coincides with the first time I ever had a broken heart, you know the kind, the heartaches that leave you with a bunch of open wounds that never really heal.
As I sift through the raw emotions of a fresh break-up, it is important for me to look back, reflect, and not make the same mistakes I made when I was nineteen.
I was a hot mess for a week participating in every horrible female break-up cliche that exists: eating junk food late at night, crying to whomever would listen, drunk nights that ended in poor choices or even worse, embarassing drunk phone calls to my ex. My best friends, Dirty D and Tacky Jackie tactfully told me how embarassing I’d become, and helped me pull myself back together.
To the outside world I looked fine, but secretly I was still addicted and jonesing for a fix to end the agony.
An Open Window
It started out innocently; I’d take the long way to class just so I could pass his house and see if his second story window was open or closed with the shade drawn. We had dated for six months, an eternity at that age, and long enough for me to know he exclusively closed the shade for lovemaking. It was his way of drawing you in, and making you feel like the world only contained the two of you.
I walked by day after day, afraid of being caught, but also luxuriating in the comfort I felt when the window was left open. Somewhere deep down I felt that if the window was open, it meant he was still open to loving me, to getting back together and putting things back to the way they were. As long as the window was open, I could believe.
We had broken up in February, and sometime in April it started to circulate he was dating someone new. I walked by his house with increased frequency, except now the window was closed more often than not. I looked at his new girlfriend with equal parts disdain and envy, wondering how they could get it on as often as the shade was closed. The pain was unbearable, but I still kept walking by, because in the strangest, sickest way the pain was the only thing that made sense.
One day, I decided to walk by the house on my way to our sorority’s intramural softball game. It was completely in the opposite direction of the field, but I couldn’t resist the impulse. I bumped into my best friend, Tacky Jackie, also on her way to the softball game.
“What are you doing here?” She asked, her hair was always piled high on her head in a trademark bun. It seemed to be staring at me that day, accusing me, and for the first time I was overwhelmed with shame.
“I….was going to the music building.” I’m a terrible liar.
“….But the game starts in five minutes.”
“Yeah, I just forgot my….” I started, and then my mind went blank as I struggled to name a mundane object I’d forgotten in the Music Building. I couldn’t come up with anything, and pressed my mouth closed.
Tacky Jackie frowned and looked up at his window, dark, and now closed again with the shade drawn. Her eyes sighed with knowing.
“You can’t keep doing this, L Bee.” She said softly, “It’s bad for you, and it’s over. Besides, you look like a crazy-ass bitch.”
Tears welled up in my eyes, and I dabbed them away, managing to laugh for the first time in weeks. She put her arm around me and we walked to the softball field together in silence.
Do as I say, Not as I Do (err…Did)
I’d like to say that was the end of my story, but it’s not. My best friend had shamed me into giving up my
quasi-stalker behavior, but I still felt the need to console myself with material items, rather than enveloping myself in the love of my friends. I felt pathetic enough, and didn’t want them to grow tired of me when I still hadn’t healed months later. I took solace in my retail job at the mall, and my new project was making sure I had the most beautiful outfit on every time I knew I was going to see him (which, if you remember this post, you will recall it was Tuesdays and Thursdays each semester my Freshman year). New girlfriend or not, I took pleasure in going to such great lengths to disguise my feelings.
I began racking up my monstrous debt around that time, but damn, did it feel good. Eventually I did heal, and I think it had more to do with time and being home for the summer, rather than my shopping addiction. It took me five years to pay off the retail therapy I used to get through my first devastating break-up, and it made me remember him far longer than I ever wanted to.
I want to share this painfully embarrassing and personal story because I hope others out there can either comiserate or learn. There isn’t any excuse for my behavior, and make-no-mistake that none of it was considered sexy or cute by anyone, at anytime in my life. I can list a number of excuses for my actions, but it all boils down to immaturity: not being able to handle such an intense, sexual relationship at such a young age, and also not being able to responsibly handle credit. Maybe it’s lame that I’m roping relationships, sex, and credit card usage into one post, but it happens more often than you can imagine.
But wait! There’s More, stay tuned for Part 2, coming next Wednesday….