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Dead Hearts

Everyone deserves to have their heart broken.

Not a slow leak; not a a clean break. I’m talking about taking a mallet to a blood-engorged vessel.  An invisible but all-encompassing chest bruise. I’m talking about a cremation of sorts — where no matter what you do, it’s impossible to restore your soul to it’s previous pristine state.

From time to time, my mind drifts back to the times that my heart has been broken. A nostalgic person by nature, my mind will occasionally shift to these unpleasant memories without cause or explanation — like when you wake up with a song in your head and have no idea where it came from.

In the sixth grade, I had a boyfriend for three days. Though we’d never so much as said hello to each other before, he tapped me on the shoulder after school and choked out, “Will you go out with me?” He had a little boy haircut (the way when it’s parted to the side and hairsprayed by a mother who’s nice enough to shield his eyes with her other hand) and really pointy elbows. I’d have been a fool to not say yes. Thirty-six or so hours later, a friend of his friend told my friend that he didn’t want to go out with me anymore.

That wasn’t real heartbreak.

When I was 14, I moved far away and attempted a long-distance relationship via instant messenger and phone cards with a kid who loved the Bloodhound Gang and was a 95% vegetarian (he made an exception for chicken nuggets). I felt the hopelessness of our estranged affair and felt obligated to end it. A week later, he was with one of my friends. I cried the tears of a geeky girl who is still unused to life without braces and keeps porcelain dolls in her bedroom.

And it was oh, so distressing — but it wasn’t the real deal.

In the ninth grade, I dated an eighteen year-old with rosacea and light blue eyes. It was officially ‘dating’ because he had a car and would drive me around (all the while blasting Linkin Park). I wore a gold dress to his winter formal, borrowed his brother’s snowboard, and felt the acidity of my youth when he ditched me for a girl with her own license. At the time, seeing him afterwards hurt really bad — worse than anything I’d felt before.

But that didn’t really count.

Neither, really, did the prep-school dropout I hung around sophomore year, who smoked pot out of hollow Coke cans. He broke up with me during a fuzzy phone call while I was vacationing in the Caribbean with my family. My sister and I got drunk off of banana liqueur that night, and after experiencing the spins for the first time at fifteen and waking up in a hammock, I felt loads better.

Turns out that was a false alarm as well.

No, no. Real heartbreak, for the first time, is sitting in the dark, clutching a pillow, and gasping for air that won’t come. It’s tears that are so hot that they melt your face. It’s the pattern on your floral bedspread swirling together. It’s waking up and still feeling asleep. It’s a death, a casualty. You feel lost for months afterward. When people talk to you, it sounds like they’re speaking from another room.

It’s true, what they say — about the first break being the worst. The reason the hurt is so unfathomable and the effect so enduring the first go-round is that it is such a blow to your ego, such a tornado to your foundation, that your essence is forced to change. And it never really heals. How could you possibly go back? Of course life goes on; you go on. You grow up and you get your heart broken (truly broken, none of that baby stuff) again and again. And each time is awful — but the intrinsic tragedy is that it’s familiar.

Years later, you can still close your eyes and feel that first heartbreak. When you take a full breath, there’s a part of your chest that doesn’t completely expand. It’s a hardened, dead bone within you, no longer able to perform. The rest of you may have flourished, as we are bound to do over the years. The rest of you might have grown even larger and stronger than ever. But you are forever burdened to carry that small, dead part of yourself wherever life takes you.

Everyone should have to carry their own piece of dead heart. Without it, we are not human. Without it, we cannot be truly compassionate. Without it, we cannot be truly happy.

Did you touch them?
Did you hold them?
Did they follow you to town?
They make me feel I’m falling down

Was there one you saw too clearly?
Did they seem too real to you?

They were kids that I once knew
Now they’re all dead hearts to you. 

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