Break-Up Therapy

For 72 hours, it was our “get away” vehicle. We clamored into the small, silver four-door just as the neon green glow on the dash read out 12:37, laughter filling the air along with the simultaneous clicks of four seat belts. The engine roared, the radio was immediately halted from playing it’s late-night, DJ mixes, and a CD was popped into place. And with that first 90’s boy band track, we were shouting, laughing, singing, “This is my favorite song!”

We raced out of the residential lot, down the dark rural backroads, weaving seamlessly along the curves of the blacktop through the stretches of woods and tucked away houses. Traffic cones in neat rows and spotlighted signs of road construction popped up, but we barely slowed, the only ones on the road, the stereo reaching a deafening decibel. The melodies sang of lost loves and scandals, of broken hearts and trying to pick up the pieces, of moving on and, of course, revenge.

Pulling up to the convenience store, we squinted in the bright lights of the gas station pumps and entrance doors. We walked like ducklings in a row over the linoleum flooring, past the freezers full of soda, down the aisle packed with bags of chips, along the counter of the deli station. We anguished over whether to order sandwiches or macaroni and cheese, which flavor of Ben & Jerry’s would make the final cut, whether it was too late to drink an English toffee cappuccino. The cashier rolled his eyes at the annoyance of our late night stop, while we handed him crumbled up ten-dollar bills and dug in our sweatshirt pockets for spare change.

Back in the car with the radio low, after the sounds of cellophane ripping and first bites being taken had settled, we looked at our chauffeur, the one who had called the emergency get-together a mere night before, the “hang out” invitation that would turn into an entire weekend. She shuffled her feet and turned sideways before saying, “I threw every thing that reminded me of him out of my car window on Route 202.”

And even though we laughed together at this act of 17-year-old impulse, I knew then that this was a sign of great heartbreak, wanting to rid yourself of all the possessions that reminded you of someone who had previously captured your entire being, who had made you lean in to their kiss, who had swindled you into swearing up and down that you loved them. It struck me as incredible that one conversation could overturn the world, that a statement passed over those previously sweet, sweet lips could result in throwing handwritten notes, movie ticket stubs, mix CDs, and dried flowers out into a stretch of the shoulder of a major highway.

“It sounds so stupid, but I just want to forget it all.” Just eat endless spoonfuls of ice cream in my car with my three best friends, drive with no destination in mind, act like we have nothing important coming up on Monday, all in order to forget about him.

ben and jerry's ice cream

The clean breaks are easier. You wallow for a few days, have emergency therapy with your girlfriends, and are back in line the next week, moving on with your head held as high as possible because that chapter of love is closed. But then love grows more complicated; you create more complex emotions, there somehow becomes something more than just “I love you,” you move to different places, you involve families, you entangle bank accounts, you spend countless days building a life that revolves around you two. And all of these things muddle the possibility of the break ever being clean.

Which is when I miss 17-year-old love, and spontaneous midnight trips to the convenience store.

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