The Next Step

I remember filling out a stress survey in high school. It was on a white piece of paper with blue writing, simply entitled Stress Survey. I was not the only one who had to fill it out mind you, everyone in our class did. It was one of those things that had twenty scenarios of events that could happen in your life, with the death of a spouse or immediate family member as the number one cause of stress and emotional disturbance. The idea was to check off all the boxes that applied, and in the end calculate the total points earned. I think I started checking off the boxes around number four, which was the loss of a pet. It was an actual loss, however. Hammie the hamster escaped from his cage never to return. So my number one scenario probably did not even count. Our teacher then took each stress level indicator listed on the survey and turned it into a class. We discussed death of family and friends, suicide, alcoholism and failing grades, all pertaining to the stress survey.

But never was there a class set aside for break-ups. There was never a class about a partner intentionally leaving you. There was never any instruction on how to recover from someone punching their hand right through your chest and pulling your heart out, following a quick run through a meat processor and then a soak in acid:

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I sat across the restaurant table from him, listening to his pitiful explanations and apologies. He began to explain that the night it happened it wasn’t really planned. And that quite honestly, if it helped – she really wasn’t that good.

Feeling completely comforted by this fact, I tried to figure out the next step. But the step was nowhere to be found. I couldn’t even find the staircase. I knew how to deal with the turmoil of poor grades and how to say no to drugs. Hell, I even knew the damn jingle: “Drugs, drugs, drugs! Which are good? Which are bad?”

And cheques. I knew how to sign them like a pro. That was covered in two classes, which is beyond me – I mean who even uses them anymore? But this, now this was definitely not covered. I would have remembered this cause of stress. I looked around the restaurant and noticed a sign about their Christmas party. Bellinis for only $2.99? I bet they were the peach bellinis with the little pink umbrellas too.

I looked across the table at his mouth. Was he still talking?

I kept telling myself that nothing is worse than the death of a family member! It was number one, I remember it was number one. And this is not a death, it’s just a break-up. Although the more I thought about it, I realized that both are incredibly final. Both death and a break-up are a physical removal. And, while I might not get any days off work or condolence cards, there would be ice cream. Girlfriends would bring ice cream. I saw that in a movie once.

But hang on a second here! In death the loved one does not want to leave. They do not stop loving you. They certainly do not reject you, and they’re definitely not intentionally abandoning you. And once that loved one is buried, you can pretty much bet that you will not be running into them holding hands with someone else any time soon.

Ok, maybe this was worse then I thought. Maybe, just maybe, that class that taught you all about life and its grievances was wrong. Or maybe he wasn’t serious.

“One thing lead to another and before we knew it we slept together:”

He’s serious. The stages! Weren’t there five stages that someone goes through when something traumatic happens? Actually, that is for death too. But what were they? Denial, anger, bargaining? Or was anger first? No, it had to be denial. Must be denial because I just had that I swear. Almost there:

“That night when you were sick and I went out:”

The waitress wants to refill my root beer. It’s only then when I look down at my glass that I see and remember the star cluster of diamonds sitting on a band of white gold decorating my ring finger. I thought diamonds were forever? Now that I learned in chemistry class. Or did I learn it from James Bond? He loves James Bond and I do not want any more root beer.

I should go, but I can’t move. Where do I find that step? Where was the staircase? At this point I would take a conveyor belt.

“Our five years together have been wonderful:”

Moisture is dripping down the outside of my root beer glass and it’s beginning to look like the glass is crying. Oh no, please no tears. No tears, because the five years have been wonderful, and in all honestly she really wasn’t that good.

Look at the drops of water. Look at the drops. Look at the drops. Christmas party, bellinis for only $2.99. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. Just stand up and go. But I haven’t ordered anything and the waitress might get mad. I should leave a tip.

Why am I still here? I know why. Because the second I walk out that door there is no more us. This is the last time we will be sitting together. The last time I hear his voice. The last time we will breathe the same air. The last time I will look into his eyes. This is a death. This is a final goodbye.

Somewhere along the way someone forgot to include this in our class. Someone forgot to include this in the Stress Survey in the space between “Your name here” and “The number one cause of stress and emotional disturbance is…” Just a mere oversight. It happens. This is just one of those things that they don’t teach in high school. One of those “life moments” that Dr. Phil keeps referring too. One of those situations that you can only survive is by singing Gloria Gaynor in your head.

I think I found my feet. Still no staircase but there is a front door. And where there is a door there is a getaway vehicle on the other side. So I grab my keys. I look at him and stand up. I can do this. At first I’ll spend so many nights wondering how you did me wrong. But I will survive. I have no other choice.

I take one more breath of our air and one more look at our stare. Turning for the door I walk over a pool of hydrochloric acid that contains my heart on the floor. Acid or not, that heart is still mine. It will take some time and some bandages but it will be ok. Acids, now I know for a fact that was covered in chemistry.

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