This is How My Heart Shatters
I am seated in a lone table at the farthest end of Big Square. The waitress, short, petite, bubbly, red matte lipstick, silky black hair tied in a neat bun, black doll shoes, a black pair of jeans, paired with a white shirt, with a yellow and red badge at the left breast pocket, a name tag on the right breast pocket; Sally, walks to me and smiles.
You know what I want to say. You need to place your order. You cannot stare at the menu, and outside, and at other customers, for thirty minutes. No, you cannot cry here. You only EAT here.
She does not say these words, but I can lift them off her wide smile as she holds a notebook in her left hand, the pen in her right hand ready to scribble whatever will say. She does not say these words, and maybe it is my mind being too conscious of my misgivings. Of my losing this straight face game. So I clear my throat, gently, feign a cough, and smile back.
But my voice is still stuck in my throat. I feel the dizziness begin to spread from the tips of my fingers, into my palms, up my arms, onto my neck, and finally, into my head.
How do I say, without crying, that I am unable to order because this is how my heart shatters? That I came here because I was running towards familiarity? That the strangeness that is breeding cold in my heart was threatening to kill me, so I came here for a dose of something that my heart was used to?
How do I say, without crying, that this same familiarity is making my heart race with hurt, disgust, wishful thinking, and almost climaxing to anger? How do I say, without crying, that everything in this restaurant – the seats, waitresses, food, people, music, the smell – reminds me of what my life used to be. Of what my life could have been. Of what my life will never, ever be.
How do I say, without crying…but I do not get to the end if this wondering, because the dizziness in my head merges with the wishful thinking in my heart, birthing a fit of rage that sends me bursting into tears.
Sally stands there, the smile still intact on her face, her eyes still on mine. As if they were trained for all this; this maintaining a smile even when the world is falling apart right in front of you. This maintaining eye contact even when people’s hearts are shattering in front of you. This living as if another person’s life is not fleeting by. This waiting, and waiting, patiently so, for people to realise that not even their tears will make you draw your eyes from the prize; their order.
But maybe this is how we are supposed to live our lives. Maybe this is how the world reminds us that this life will not be here forever; someday, something, even the world itself, will try and take it, the life, away from us. And in taking life away from us, the world does not necessarily have to take our breaths away. Sometimes, the world takes our lives away my taking that which we cannot breathe without: familiarity, saneness, stability, adventure, love, laughter, serenity, calmness, values. And then, when it is done taking, it sits in a corner and watches as we struggle to get to our feet. As we struggle to find these things again, or build them afresh. As we hit our heads against walls when we are lost in this maze of finding, on the verge of despair.
The world, as if our being lost is taking a toll on it, will, someday, offer us droplets of these things our hearts ache for. Droplets of calm in the form of hearts that no longer race. Droplets of happiness in the form of darkness not driving us insane anymore. Droplets of love in the form of our reflections in the mirror beginning to be something worth smiling about. Droplets of stability in the form of music speaking to our souls again. Droplets of familiarity in the form of finding sleep in solitude, alone.
Then, slowly by slowly, these droplets turn into morning showers that create little puddles on the ground, birthing little streams that begin to flow gently, and just as these streams threaten to birth rivers, the world quickly jumps in, and dries up all these things.
So that we are walking this earth with dead hearts, crushed spirits, and dissolved wills. So that we are looking for pieces of our shattered hearts in the last places we called home, even when those homes have long been carried away by floods. It is in this way that we find ourselves bursting into uncontrollable tears in a restaurant, wishing that the world took our breathes away, forever.
Sally watches as I push back my chair, grab my keys from the table, and make my way out of the restaurant. I feel her eyes on my back as I exit the mall, and sit on the edge of the little steps at the exit, in full glare of all parked vehicles, and shoppers exiting the mall.
I bring my knees to my chest, bury my face in them, wrap my arms around them, and try to still my shaking body, remembering how all these started seven months ago. This losing grip of my life. This looking as everything I had built for years crumbled. This standing with my hands in my pocket, a blank stare in my face, as Jay held me together, right in this same spot. This telling Jay that I felt that the ground had been pulled off my feet, and I was living as if in space, wanting, so bad, to find somewhere my feet could be still.
This telling myself that I am not sure whether I will learn how to start all over, again, and maybe, just maybe, this was the world’s way of telling me that everything, and everyone reaches the end of the line, and this was my time.
I lose track of the minutes, or even hours that I spend crying on those steps, until a hand softly rubs my back. I raise my head to see Sally, a cup of tea in her hands, the smile still in place.
My phone beeps with a new message. Ben has sent me a picture of me in a magazine, and he wonders why people do not believe him when he says we have never dated. He says he misses me.
A smile forms on my lips. I get to my feet, mumble my ‘thanks’ to Sally, and begin to head home.
This is how my heart shatters, only that today, these pieces have found courage to stick together one more time.