“Ah—!” I wake up, gasping for breath.
My chest is on fire and everything feels hot. My head is pounding like someone’s been stabbing at my temples all night. Doing my best to stop my thoughts, I struggle to calm down. Breathing silently, yet heavily, I check my eyes.
No tears this time.
I must be getting better, I find myself thinking.
After sitting up in bed, I habitually pick up my phone and push the home button. The usual lock screen is there—the background is a picture of a river, and the time is clearly visible. 5:30a.m.
No texts. No missed calls. It’s been almost a month now.
‘Bout what I expected, I think while standing up and tossing my phone over my shoulder, onto the bed.
Another day, huh?
Let me explain something about “heartbreak”. There are some obvious things, and some not so obvious things. So let’s start with the obvious:
Holy crap, it sucks. And not only does it suck, but it sucks for a long-ass time. It’s not like stubbing your toe—a sharp, awful sting that goes away after a few breaths. No, heartbreak feels more like drowning. It’s horrible, draining, and desperate—but then sometimes you manage to catch a breath and it stops hurting for a moment—and then you’re plunged into the deep by another wave, struggling and teetering between wanting to fight for life and wanting to give up and die to end the pain.
You go crazy. You get desperate. And much like an actual drowning victim, you tend to drag down anyone who reaches out to help you.
Now, the not so obvious thing:
You don’t just wake up one day and get over it. Sure, that sounds obvious, but what isn’t so obvious is what you are looking for. One day, you’ll wake up from a dream about that person, or a sudden memory, or perhaps a song on the radio you two used to hear together—and your world will crumble. Your heart will hurt, your chest will burn, your throat will tighten, and your eyes will water. For a moment, you’ll feel like you’re dying—or perhaps wish you were.
But after a few moments of accepting that you’re hurting, you’ll get up, get ready for your day, and step out of the house. Of course, the pain will still be there, but you’ll manage to smile, talk, and laugh like it’s not. You’ll experience the pain for fractions of your day instead of the entire day.
Look for that.
“It’s been weeks, what the hell? Are we just strangers now?” Muttering to myself after my long shower, I stare at my toothbrush before brushing my teeth.
After everything we went through together, what, are you just done with me now?
Violently as I can, I spit the toothpaste into the sink and turn the water on full blast.
“Like I give a damn. I had a life before you. I can live after you, too!”
Also, look for the anger. When you can move past the crippling sadness into that empowering angry stage of heartbreak, you’ve truly begun to heal.
“I hope she gives you herpes!” I shout nonsense before rinsing my mouth out, as if it will burn away the foul words still wanting to escape my mouth.
—Well, you’re either at the beginning stages of healing or becoming a murderer. Either way, that’s some kind of progress. Better than being stuck in place, right?
I spit again. “Idiot.”
It’s been raining for three days straight now—
Having finally gotten dressed by 6:00a.m., I make my way to the front door and open it. Before actually stepping out, I look back at the hallway, with the kitchen barely a silhouette in the distance. Dad hasn’t gotten up yet. Since he doesn’t work until around noon, I usually leave the house before he wakes up and am usually in bed before he gets home. As a result, despite living in the same house, we hardly see each other.
“Have a good day,” I whisper to no one in particular before stepping out and closing the door behind me. “Later”.
The sky is veiled in a thick, rolling sheet of grey. With the sun risen high enough to claim its territory, the pitch black world is now various shades of grey and blue. The street, sidewalk, and houses are all tinted blue by the dim sunlight, and the grass is almost a deep purple. It’s like the entire law of color in this world has been rewritten by a five-year old.
“Know what? I’m sick of this ‘early morning to the bus stop’ crap,” I grumble, staring out into the rain from the safety of the awning. “If I don’t get a car by next year, I’m dropping out and leaching off Dad from the comfort of my room.”
It’s not like my empty threats will solve anything, but they do help me feel better for the moment. And as if to answer me, a bright flash blinds me for an instant and the sky roars with a fury that shakes the earth.
“Oh, shut up, you don’t even know him,” I argue back, looking to the sky. “He’ll be thanking me when he’s too old to take care of himself and my broke ass is still living here to take care of him. Hmph!”
Feeling somewhat proud of myself for challenging the Almighty God, I pull my hood up over my head and step off of the porch. And maybe I’m crazy or just imagining things but… did the rain just get heavier?
“…Okay, okay, I get it already… I should watch what I say,” I mutter, now completely soaked in the 10 minutes I’ve been walking down the sidewalk. “Can you let up just a little?”
The thunder roars again—a little more silent, a little more distant.
Is it possible to have a midlife crisis at 15?
The same sun and moon every day and night. A boring world. At first, this rain was a break in the monotony of endless sunny days, but even it’s become a cut and paste production now.
It’s a little embarrassing to admit, but…
Puddles in the same place. The same cars speeding by on their way to work, splashing water onto the sidewalks. The same people sitting on their front porches, performing whatever morning routines crazy people even do on rainy mornings. Seeing the same thing every day has gifted me the ability to acknowledge and avoid things without even looking, as if I can see into the future. Like finding cheat codes to the world through observation.
“Hm?” But when I look ahead from the wet pavement, I see something of an anomaly.
A U-Haul truck backed into a driveway, in a neighborhood that hasn’t had anyone new move in for years now. The house is beautiful—white and blue—with a large front yard and a backyard that’s possibly equally beautiful. Two floors and a large window that takes up the entire length of the living room wall and half its height from the ceiling down.
The woman who initially lived in that house was said to have a fetish for sunshine and had half the wall broken down to install an insanely large window. So when she started suddenly drawing her curtains and boarding up her windows, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to find out she suffered depression and decided to kill herself.
…Well, “surprise” isn’t the right word for it.
The entire neighborhood, full of gossip, knew something was wrong before the hammer dropped. Still, it’s a beautiful house. Probably cheap now, too. These people probably don’t even know the woman’s folks came to claim the last of her stuff just last week.
—6:30a.m. My usual time of arrival.
Finally, after 20 more minutes of walking, the bus stop is in view. The bus stop is normally vacant when I get here, but there’s another anomaly. Before arriving, barely visible in the mist and rain, I see two people sitting on a bench beneath its glass shelter. And upon arriving at the bench, I see that they’re two girls—one with jet black hair, and the other with abnormally, deep red hair. The raven-haired girl is almost eerily pale while the other is the opposite, having golden brown skin. Perhaps Mexican or some Middle Eastern descent?
Keeping to myself, I take a seat at the edge of the bench, next to them.
“We’re high schoolers now,” the pale girl exclaims. “What does she mean ‘curfew’? Who does she think she’s talking to? Does she know who I am?”
“Depends on who you are,” the red-head answers, her attention buried in a book she’s reading.
“The girl who skipped 8th grade to get into high school year early! I didn’t bust hump the last two years to get slapped with a curfew like a chump!” She protests. “I should call them,” she continues, already sounding exhausted.
“Maybe she’s worried you’ll go out and… I don’t know, get pregnant or something?”
“Hah! Like 9th grade boys even know how to get a girl pregnant!”
I think that would be the problem exactly, actually…
“Remember Megan last year? She got pregnant in 8th grade,” the redhead says, finally putting her book down to give the girl her full attention.
“Her boyfriend was a 10th grader…” Her voice is low and bitter.
“No, she got pregnant during the previous summer break, so her boyfriend was technically still a 9th grader,” the redhead clarifies.
“Making the transition to 10th grade though!”
“So what? Boys just wake up one day over summer break and know what ovaries do?” She challenges.
What kind of conversation is this?
“Kumari, look, you’ve only had one boyfriend your whole life,” the black-haired girl says, suddenly trying to sound more mature, compassionate—sarcastically sympathetic. “And I doubt you two even hugged.”
“What’s—” And the redhead, Kumari, gasps. Flustered and taken aback. “That has nothing to do with—!”
“So how would you know what 9th grade boys know about sex?”
“I—! Shut up!”
“Unless I’m wrong and you know more than you let on,” the girl teases, leaning uncomfortable close to the redhead. “Is that why you’re so embarrassed?”
“Amber, I’ll hit you! I’m still your big sister, even if we are in the same grade now!”
The black-haired girl, Amber, giggles and sits back.
“Anyway, I know how pregnancy works, even if they don’t. I’m not worried, so why should Mom and Dad?”
“I’m sure they’d worry even more if they knew about you coming into my room, freaking out because you thought talking to a boy on the phone made your period late,” Kumari says beneath her breath with a chuckle.
I can’t help but turn my head and stifle a laugh myself.
“I was ten,” Amber growls.
“Really? That was last summer. You grew three years in one?”
“You know what?” Amber finally retaliates after a few moments silence. “I don’t have time for you right now. The bus is here and my new adult life is on it.”
Saying so with full confidence, the girl hops up onto her feet and lifts her backpack from the bench. I hear the city bus closing in from the distance before squeaking to a stop in front of us. Following behind the redhead, whose sister has already gotten onto the bus and paid, I’m anxious to get out of the rain.
Gotta say, this is definitely one of the most interesting mornings I’ve had…
“Good morning, Chloe,” the bus driver says with a smile.
“What’s so good about it,” I sigh while paying my fare. “Did you know it started raining harder the moment I stepped off the porch this morning? Like, what the heck?”
“Did you deserve it?” He questions with a grin.
“Probably, but what happened to the whole ‘turn the other cheek’ thing?”
“I guess that works if you follow Christianity, but I believe in the Hindu concept of Karma, Ms. Sanders.”
I groan, turning to take my usual seat at the back of the bus.
“Then maybe this is what I get for complaining about having too much sunlight in Seattle,” I remark. I hear him chuckling behind me as the bus shifts into gear.
I find myself taking a seat right behind the two girls from the bench. They must go to the same school as me. Putting my earbuds in for the trip, and striving to enjoy at least the next 30 minutes of solitude, I close my eyes and lean my head against the window as the bus begins to roll.
First day of sophomore year… If Karma really does exist, then this year should be more interesting than last year.