(After reading “How to Tell a Mother Her Child Is Dead” by Naomi Rosenberg, I was inspired to write my own piece about the process and moment of telling someone life-shattering news.)
First, you wake up at a ridiculously early hour, grab your keys and go for a drive. You drive until you find that you are truly lost in unfamiliar and unpredictable roads. You look in the rearview mirror, trying to decipher if the past road is worth returning to. You look in front of you and wonder what this new street will hold.
After driving around in nonlinear circles, you realize you should eat before seeing him. Food will ground you; food will make you stronger. But you aren’t hungry. In fact, the very idea of eating nauseates you. So you decide to go to the one place that guarantees the ultimate comfort food: a local Mexican restaurant.
You enter 3 Amigos and ask for a table for one. The servers stare at you and your lonesomeness. Tears are now beginning to seep through your eyeballs as you order your favorite quesadilla. You fight the tears with countless tortilla chips and a heaping bowl of white sauce. Your waiter keeps coming over. “You doing okay?”
All you can do is nod and attempt to smile. You force yourself to eat even though each bite tastes like cold, sharp pebbles. When you finish, you promptly pay the bill with the best tip your just-above-minimum-wage paycheck will allow; then you leave to go meet him.
You arrive a half hour early and park in a shady spot. You might rehearse what you want to say to him. You practice the blunt approach, “I think we should break up.” You try the overly sweet tactic, “It’s not me. It’s you. You’re wonderful.” You say all of these things to yourself, yet you never try to say the complete truth; you just want the pain to be as minimum as possible. You tell yourself that goal of breaking up is to come out as the good person, not the honest one.
He arrives just on time, but you are still not ready. He hops in your car as he done so many times before. He looks nervous, maybe a little sad. You don’t think you can look him in the eye, but you must—you owe him that. He is your boyfriend. After a brief exchange of meaningless small talk, you ask him, “Do you want the long explanation first or the punchline?”
“…Uh, the punchline,” he quietly replies.
Now, you must knock his heart off the shelf; you have to. He is your boyfriend. “I…think…it would be best…if you and I…went our separate ways….”
A moment of devastating silence passes until he timidly asks, “Can we still be friends?”
You tell him yes as your guilt continues to grow. You just changed his world with a single sentence, and he still wants to be your friend; you ripped open his heart and took out all the joy, and he still wants to be your friend. You two talk for a few more minutes. You explain the specific reasons why or at least, the reasons you are willing to tell him. You think your reasons don’t matter because his heart is ruined no matter what but know that your explanation means something because when you leave him, he will be left alone with whatever reasons you gave him.
He continues to probe you in his soft, gentle way. “Are you sure there’s nothing else? Did I do something wrong?”
You fervently answer no, and you pray to God that you are telling the truth even though you know that you are probably leaving things out, for both of your sakes.
“How do we go back to being just friends?” he finally asks after you run out of reasons and apologies.
You pretend to know the answer even though you’re actually clueless. You say to him that giving each other space is the first step. You tell him, the one guy who you always trust and talk to, that you two need a “communication break,” as you so heartlessly call it. You say you still want a friendship, but you secretly know it will never be the same. You two are doomed to be friends who know each other’s past secrets and know nothing about each other’s present. You two are doomed to bear this moment and all its consequences until both of your hearts give out.
You, breaker of hearts, feel indescribably terrible and guilty, yet you stand your ground. You made your choice, and you must keep it, for his sake. You want to hug him, but you just sit there with clasped hands. He looks at you once last time with confused, sad eyes and gets out of your car—one last time. Through your rearview mirror, you watch him slowly walk away from your sight. You clutch your steering wheel as the tears finally start to pour down your face. Normally, you aren’t one to cry, but today, you do. And it is okay. He was your boyfriend.