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Tonic For The Pains Of The Past

July 12, 2012

Chelsea is a mess. She should be sitting on top of the world. She finished college. She has two degrees. She has parents that love her and have supported her financially for twenty-four years; she has friends that love her and have stood by her steadfastly even when she went through her Republican period. She’s young; she’s prepared; she stands on the precipice of any life she chooses.
Three weeks ago, her boyfriend Jeff, decided to break up with her, for good this time. They’ve had a tumultuous relationship from the start. It was a constant argument punctuated by periods of cloying affection. I would like to say that Jeff was the problem and that my friend was blameless, but it’s not true. They were two incompatible people that, somewhere along the way, decided they should be together. The friction between them intensified their feelings, making more where there should be less. After several weeklong ordeals and half-hearted break-ups, they had the mother of all arguments over Christmas and Chelsea sent a Playstation 3 controller through a screen door. After a brief period of silence, they came together again.
It was different this time. Chelsea could sense it, or so she says now. She said she didn’t want to say anything before out of a superstitious fear that it might make it true. There were no arguments. There were no temporary break-ups. There was only a heavy domestic peace. Jeff did whatever Chelsea wanted. He didn’t argue. The drowsy hum of peace lulled them into complacency.
Three weeks ago, after they both graduated, Jeff took a trip back home to stay with his parents and presumably hang out with friends he hadn’t seen for a while. When he came back, there was a distance in his eyes, as if his body was being controlled from far away and the signal was taking a long time to bounce back and forth.
One morning he called Chelsea. Their conversation was short. He wanted to end it for good. While on one hand he felt like this decision might be a huge mistake, on the other hand if he didn’t he might regret it for all time. He hoped they could still be friends. He felt like that’s what they had become, after two years together they had become close friends and to pretend it could be more might be toxic. Chelsea is self-conscious above all else. Rather than break down in tears and plead for him to stay, she agreed. She apologized to him and said if she had really been acting in his best interests she wouldn’t have made him break it off but would have done it herself. He said he was glad she wasn’t upset. They said goodbye and hung up.
She was fine for a few days, or she pretended to be. She made jokes about it. She didn’t mention it unless someone else did. She acted as though nothing had happened. After a few drinks one night, she broke down and confessed that she was not okay. She said the world was hollow and nothing would ever be the same without Jeff. She felt alone and abandoned.
What can you say? What words can be uttered that don’t sound like a horrible cliché? “Time heals all wounds.” “You still have your friends.” “At least you still have your health.” “You’re young. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.” In the throes of separation, the throat that utters these words is in danger of being ripped out.
Films, books and TV shows would have me believe that as the friend in this situation, I should then proceed to get drunk alongside Chelsea and we would throw ourselves to the waiting wolves, the sexual predators that stalk the bars and clubs of a college town waiting to pounce on the vulnerable young. The thinking is that by realizing that someone still fancies her, someone other than Jeff, Chelsea will realize that there are other fish in the sea and she needn’t uselessly focus on what she can no longer have. Of course the risks involved in such a strategy don’t even warrant mentioning, because such an irresponsible plan could only be hatched by the addled mind of a writer. I did not try it.
I have decided that, although it is the most painful of options, Chelsea has no other choice but to mourn. There are no words, or half-baked plans that can take away what she is feeling and nor should anybody want to. It is a difficult transition to make in life, but we all have to do it many times before we die. It is moving from missing someone to cherishing someone. The initial shock of separation leaves a person wondering how they will cope with this newly reformed landscape. Once the sting has dissipated and one has learned that they can adapt and move on and grow and love, it is much easier to cherish the past. Of course all this falls under the “horrible cliché” heading. But much of life is a horrible cliché.
I have made her a blueberry pie that we ate after eating vegan barbeque with Matt (and Chloe). We went to a show and saw some bands play. We drank coffee at a diner and talked about college and laughed about the ridiculous things that had happened since we met. We cherished the past and anticipated the future. We discovered that living is the best tonic to the assuage pains of the past.

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