A split second shot through my grief in which I realized I was shifting my bagel back and forth millimeters at a time on its paper bag for no other reason than to awkwardly compensate for the sheer discomfort I felt in my body and in my heart. This was my subsequent reaction to the exact moment I knew it was over. In this moment, he had remorsefully dropped a truth bomb neither of us wanted to hear. Nothing he said or did was unforgivable. He was mature and honest enough to agree on the disconnect I voiced (I avoid moving into specifics to respect the unspoken confidentiality of our conversation). I could feel heartbreak's cold frost quickly moving through my arteries. My body started to freeze in place. I had to make a move. So with shaking hands, I gathered my belongings and we parted ways. *Sigh*.
Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical slogan from Slaughterhouse 5 repeated itself over and over again on the newly scratched record spinning through my mind’s turntable: “So it goes. So it goes. So it goes.” as if my heartbreak was comparable to World War II. I cried through a summery Millennium Park, dodging baby strollers, brothers, mothers, and lovers hand-in-hand. I found an empty bench in an empty clearing and called my mother. My brilliant mother, instead of coddling me, will lay out magic pills of wisdom giving me the option to choose whether or not to swallow them. One I’ve tried several times that used to hurt so bad sliding down my throat was “Patience. Let time do her magic.” or “You could have it so much worse.” This time it was “At least he was honest enough to tell you that. It’s hard to be in love at 20.” to which I tried to counter argue with “But what if I never find someone as special?” and “Yeah, but what’s the point of not loving someone deeply?” Her response? “You’ll be so much better at being in love at age 50 than you are now. Trust me. And I know how important relationships are to you but work on your one with music right now because what if you couldn’t play music?”
What the heck, mom. What the heck.
But seeing as my mother is 300-some miles away, I am so grateful to be granted the nearness of my roommate Signe (“like ‘Sidney’ with a G” she cheerfully tells everyone she meets); an intelligent, empathetic, charismatic, 6 foot, platinum blond, Austrian-blooded goddess who I met during college orientation two years ago. She is certainly a force to be reckoned with. Her emotional energy is fiercely external and unyielding which can occasionally be like entering a cave with a fire-breathing dragon. But it’s hard to ignore how her piercing, gradient-green dragon eyes x-ray longingly into your soul as she not only feels responsible for her own emotions, she feels an intense duty to save everyone’s from danger. Talk about empathy. She’s graced with an ever-present ray of sunlight that outlines her aura in an infectious glow and remains as a hushed simmer even after her dragon-fire has been put out by her own grief. And all of this has been revealed to me via the great “magic of time” my mother has told me about. The more time I spend getting to know Signe, the more I am drawn to her. The more she consistently reveals that she will always be warmly and empathetically there for me during times of trial, the more I can confirm the importance of the roles we play in each others lives. Because as great as crying on the bathroom floor by oneself is, having a friend to hold makes the experience much more hopeful.
And then there’s Sam, Signe’s sweet as can be boyfriend. Tall, white, brown-haired Sam Johnson. His ordinary name and all-American looks don’t do his uniquely graceful character justice. While Signe likes to think out loud, Sam will quietly steady his thoughts before sharing. And despite his masculine internalization, he has a surprising social intuition and a large emotional capacity. Sam holds true to a humble duty to do right by people by being there for them despite convenience. I recently won an open mic competition and while I had a solid support crew for the final round, anxiety alone was my dingy date during round one. Signe had to work that evening, so I had asked Sam instead if he could hang out with me that night and watch me play. I remember his friendly-toned, classic-Sam response; “of course” and low-and-behold he showed up, stayed with me through the night, and walked me home while he let me talk the whole thirty minute way back about my anxieties regarding how it feels to be disconnected from someone I desperately wanted to know. He didn’t interrupt. He didn’t tell me what I “should” do. He only asked me questions for the sake of helping me, for the sake of being there for me, after the gears turned in his thoughtful head… What a guy.
I’ve started to call Signe and Sam “Mom” and “Dad” because not only do they listen to my aches and pains, console me, and offer intelligent insight, they also feed me pancakes and egg skillets in the morning. I say “What can I do to help you guys?” They say “You can set the table Leah.” And then I do the dishes after.
And although it’s hard to shake the memories of loving intimacy with a someone you know in the heart of your heart will continue to be more than just a “someone”, it is truly remarkable to confidently say I have the arms of my loving friends to fall into when I am feeling less than a “someone” myself.
So “ba ba Barbara Ann”, thank you Signe and Sam for taking my hand.
P.S. Thank you to my incredible mother as well. I could write a novel honoring you.