You know, they're not kidding with those five stages of grief.
And the grieving doesn't have to be over the loss of life – but really the loss of any loved one, lost for any reason.
The same principles that apply to death apply to a breakup, or a disappearance.
In October, I was in complete denial. I thought he'd come back. I was convinced that once he got drunk again, he'd come crawling back. I was convinced that I just needed to give him time.
In December, I was angry. I lashed out at him via text message, though he never responded. I tried to date others to get back at him, as though he'd be jealous. I looked for him in the neighborhood just so I could slap him across the face.
In January, I kept thinking that if he could just get sober, if he could just see me again, he would come to his senses and come back to me. I would've bargained anything. I would've given up myself. I would've retracted the ultimatum I'd given him in September.
In February and March, I withdrew. I gave up. I yearned for him, but I had a sneaking suspicion that maybe he was doing me a favor, and I was dodging a bullet. I gave up all hope on love. If I couldn't be with him, I didn't want to be with anybody. I was so depressed, I ate myself into oblivion, gaining 10 pounds since January and 30 pounds since August.
In April, I finally saw him again. I first saw him walking down the street, certainly on his way to his favorite bar. I had somewhere to be, or I would've certainly pulled over. But instead, I just watched him, first through my driver's side window, then through the rear-view mirror, until he was out of sight. At least I knew he was alive. At least I could see that he wasn't stumbling, or bleeding, or limping, or – God forbid – with another girl.
Later in April, I saw him again, at the place where we met, the place where we'd spent so much time together. I was brave enough to say hi, but the vapid chitchat was so excruciating, I declared, "I'm going to get something to eat," and I sat perched across the bar from him, watching as he flirted with other women, sipping his Budweiser, avoiding eye contact with me. After a couple of glasses of wine and a bathroom break, I approached him again, and asked, "Do you have anything to say to me?" After all, he never actually broke up with me. One day it was "I love you" and the next day – the next six months – it was nothing: no explanation, no excuses, no declarations, no closure. He just disappeared.
"No," he said.
"You don't have anything to say to me?" I asked, shocked.
"No," he repeated, and then started muttering about focusing on his family and giving excuses that wouldn't have made any sense to me even if I were sober.
"I'm just trying to figure out why you hate me," I said. It was a hauntingly familiar line. I used to ask my mother the same thing.
"I don't hate you...." he trailed off. But if he didn't hate me, how could he deliberately cause me so much pain? How could he put me through all those stages of grief?
I ran away again instead of arguing the point, because I knew that this is what he does. I'd seen text messages on his phone from prior girlfriends who'd been disappeared on in similar ways, girls who felt that they were owed an explanation or at least some kind of response. I always thought I would be the exception to that. But I wasn't. Now I was just another desperate text message in his phone, another girl he didn't have the guts to face.
Still, I went back to my spot across the bar, and cried my eyes out. It was a deliberate attempt to get his attention. He always melted when I cried before, and begged for forgiveness. I thought it would work again.
But this time, it didn't. He wouldn't even look at me. He couldn't even see that I was crying.
And although I was upset, I was also relieved. This was the confrontation I'd been both looking forward to and dreading for six months. This was the worst case scenario: complete rejection, without explanation. I'd fantasized about him having some kind of alcohol- or medication-induced amnesia (he'd always had a terrible memory, and lots of blackouts), forgetting me and everything that had happened last summer, giving us the chance to start over again, and begin our romance anew. But the fact that he remembered, and didn't want to come back, didn't ask for forgiveness, and didn't think he had anything to apologize for, was the complete worst that could happen.
Good for him for having no regrets.
I think he should regret something.
I wish I'd never met him. I wish I'd never let myself fall. I wish I didn't remember. I wish I didn't feel sorry.
But it's done now. I can finally accept. I don't know if that means I can move on, per se, but at least I'm not hanging onto the past. I'm not hoping anymore. What's done is done.
I wish it were different, but it's not.
And I don't have to wonder anymore.
I told him he would break me, and he did.
And now I'm broken, if I wasn't already before.
And I don't have to worry about it happening. The worst has already happened.
To Say "I Love You"
The Things I Used to Love
The Worst That Could Happen
Damaged Goods, Or, The Female James Bond