It’s funny what your brain chooses to remember. Typically, the details you actively hoped to banish to the depths of your mind forever are permanently engraved in your memory. Like the embarrassing, illegible drunk texts you sent on Saturday night (#oops), or the awful fashion accessory you tried to make happen (RIP my love of denim handbags), and the moment you learned you’d been cheated on (twice).
His name was Ludwik. We had dated for a year in high school and he was my best friend, an artist who drew cartoons of me as Super woman, who held my hand in the hallways and introduced me to techno music; we claimed each other in our MSN screen-names and our weirdness paralleled. “Kocham Cię, Wiewiorka,” he would tell me in Polish. I love you, squirrel (a lovely nickname I attained from his grandmother, in reference to my chubby cheeks).
Her name was Anne. She had pale skin and rosy cheeks with long brown hair. It was a snowy Friday in the spring and I knew it was coming. I had a crush on someone else, another friend, who I still hang out with from time to time. He would eventually take me to the prom and we would make-out afterwards at a hookah bar. But, still, it stung. Luddy cried when I cried and we silently acknowledged how our relationship was over. I have a letter from him resting in my wallet because even today it makes laugh and cry and nostalgic for that kind of friendship. A guy who would always be there for me even after I “find some super cute stud muffin…from planet blah.”
More recently, when my ex cheated on me, I wasn’t prepared. Our relationship was more serious than a high-school sweetheart, there was no one else, and the details are equally as prominent, yet much more painful. Anyone who has been cheated on before by someone they are madly in love with can attest that there are five stages of recovery that repeat viciously, like the buzz of a hangover headache.
First, there’s an overwhelming, unexpected sense of total relief. RIP crazy paranoia, it’s finally freaking over. Maybe I wanted to break up, too. Wow. I feel great. Suppressed denial, perhaps? I’m going to be over you in like thirty seconds. Also, I was totally right. I knew you were into her. This calm is so refreshing and strange. You are no longer my problem, whoo-hoo.
Reality check. The realness of the situation sets in. Maybe it hits you when you change your Facebook status, or when you see his sweatshirt in your closet that you can no longer wear, plus there’s that framed picture of the two of you, happily in love, that’s now complete bullshit. Cue best girlfriends, sugar, sweatpants and booze, depression has officially launched. These tear ducts are made for crying!
Ahh, I’m one of the single ladies, inspired to take on the world. And go out to a club. And dance with hot strangers. Pathetic and sad? Not this chica! I am free to do whatever [whomever] I please.
WTF. Feelings of intense rage surface. What an asshole. Seriously. I can’t believe he did this to me, to us. Ew. She’s not even that cute. Why didn’t I bitch him out? I hate him.
5. Depression, round two, with a hint of nostalgia.
Wahh. I miss [insert jerk's name here] and reference said kid in every conversation. I can’t sleep alone. We used to watch this show together. This is his favorite fruit. Once, we kissed at this very spot. That’s his uncle’s cousins name! Tomorrow would’ve been our 21-month anniversary.
And the cycle repeats, often, multiple times. The silver lining is that two of the five stages involve ice cream, girlfriends and alcohol. Until finally, this stage: acceptance and remission, which feels incredibly liberating, you survived!