On Love and “The Heartbreak Hotel”

*Disclaimer: Red wine makes me curse like a sailor, apparently.  Or it’s the Ludacris I’m listening to while I’m writing.  Either way, I didn’t write this as a bedtime story, if you catch my drift.

In the past year I’ve been collecting broken hearts like playing cards, though to be honest I don’t know where that saying comes from because I don’t know anyone (besides my grandparents) who have ever had an abundance of playing cards.  I think the saying should be “collecting _____ like plastic bags from Kroger” or “collecting _____ like those stupid key ring things that are supposed to hold a keychain but sometimes you get them when your oil is changed or you add a responsibility at work until you have fifteen different key rings each holding an individual key which you should consolidate but you just had your nails done and you sure don’t want to screw up that $20 splurge on a stupid key which you probably will never use anyway because you’ve never actually needed to get into the boiler room at work and you can’t think of a reason that anyone on this green earth would send you of all people into the boiler room and come to think of it, you don’t even know what a boiler room is for!  What are we boiling anyway and why do we need a whole room for it?  Should we be concerned?”, but that’s a little long so I guess “like playing cards” seems to be more energy efficient even if it’s not entirely relatable.

In any case, I have a plethora of broken hearts in my immediate reach.  I could write novels about the peculiar circumstances and unbalanced reasonings surrounding this mass exodus we (as a generation) seem to be experiencing away from monogamy and happy hand-holding, but it seems silly to spend all that energy without a book deal.  Also, statistically, based on the number of weddings I attended this summer, I think my data is skewed and heartbreak sings louder than love, or some shit.  This whole damn mess started small, with my own of course, and then ballooned into a parade of my friends standing awkwardly with their belongings in cardboard boxes outside of their homes and wondering why they didn’t put their names in their books.  It all happened so quickly, in fact, that by the time Fall rolled around, everyone was so overwhelmed with melancholy that we just sort of started piling up on abandoned corners and in bars, some even spilling into the unoccupied bedrooms at my house with their extra copies of “When Harry Met Sally” and the toilet paper and ketchup bottles stolen while moving out, because what better way to say “fuck you” to your ex than not leaving behind any toilet paper or condiments.

From what I can gather, humans reach a certain age where they feel the need to shit or get off the pot.  I could give you a millions reasons and 463 pages on the various excuses I’ve heard for someone leaving someone else, but mostly it can be boiled down to simply feeling the pressure to get off the pot (Maybe we should be boiling down breakup speeches in boiler rooms?  Seems much more useful than whatever we are really doing in there.)  But honestly, at this juncture I’ve spent so much time huddled over untouched pizza trying to decipher conversations that occurred between sobbing and sweater packing that I’m practically an expert on the subject and I’ve come to the conclusion that the thesis statement of all breakups sounds something like, “Blah blah blah…bullshit, bullshit.”  I’m not saying that every ex of every friend is a horrible human or, like, some weird younger version of Alan Rickman in “Love Actually” or anything, but generally speaking, no one has given a monologue worth re-reading or anything.  In general, it just simply seems that we have all simultaneously reached an age where it becomes painfully and uncomfortably acceptable to say “I just…love me more than you” or whatever bull cocky Samantha feeds Smith at the end of the first “Sex and the City” movie.  (My pop-culture references have taken an obvious and beautiful beating from all this heart mending, though honestly, there hasn’t been nearly enough Meg Ryan.  We need to fix that.)

Living with three other fully functioning adults going through similar relationship metamorphoses, I’ve found that 20 and 30 something breakups are relatively cyclical.  I guess because we have all “been there, done that” before, but also generally didn’t think we’d ever have to “go there, do that” again.  In any case, the typical symptoms of heartbreak according to my research and cross-referenced on WebMD are as follows:

Step One: It’s no one’s fault, we’re all adults here and this makes sense though I guess really I’m still completely blindsided and ….

Step Two: WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING AND HOW AM I EVER GOING TO BREATHE/EAT/MOVE FROM THIS BED THAT YOU SO CONVENIENTLY HAVE LAID ME DOWN IN WHILE IM SOBBING INTO MY HOT TODDY?  THANK YOU FOR BEING SUCH A GREAT FRIEND!!!!  IT’S JUST….I AM SUCH A NICE PERSON!  RIGHT?  AM I A NICE PERSON?  I MEAN, I DID EVERYTHING I COULD DO!  WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?  WHHHHHHY?

Step Three: I’m going to be fine, I’m going to be fine, I’m going to be fiiiiiiiiiiiine. (Coupled with aerobics, baking and strange hobbies involving beads, yarn and/or backpacking.)

Step Four: Well THAT was ridiculous…let’s pretend that never happened!

Step Five: Okay, well we clearly are all aware of the hot mess train that just rode through town, so instead of ignoring it, this is how I’m going to make sure I never feel that way ever again…

The hormone changes in this house are palpable and delightful, and generally mean that there is always ice-cream and whiskey at the ready so no one is complaining.  We have a bed in the living room, because with so many people and so many belongings in one space, there isn’t room for all of our coffee mugs, let alone our mattresses.  We cook a lot, and eat very little of it.  We sometimes watch movies that can only be classified as emotional cutting, and other times watch “The Birdcage” on repeat because breakups pretty much feel exactly like Robin Williams telling you you have to pretend to be Uncle Albert instead of “mom” for the weekend and not being properly prepared to calmly butter toast through such a strong identity crisis.

My favorite part of living in The Heartbreak Hotel, aside from the ice-cream and whiskey and being the closest thing to personally experiencing an episode of “Friends”, is that all of a sudden your crazy seems…normal.  It’s magnificent to be able to completely support someone acting like a combination of a twelve year old and a drugged out divorcee, while they in return are gently (and without judgement) reminding you that you haven’t showered in three days and you’re really not being emotionally available to your lovely new boyfriend.  It’s just a carousel of one romantically fucked friend following another, toasting to bitter one-liners from Maggie Smith and eating pizza crusts.  And while this might sound like a bad Drew Barrymore movie, it really is beautiful, you see, because there there is nothing like watching a broken and emotionally exhausted friend come to life like a tiny little Broken-hearted Buddha, while you, the supposedly well-adjusted one, are cocooned in a heated blanket watching football and having coffee for lunch because you’ve decided that today is too hard.  “Don’t forget that losing your wallet temporarily in your coat pocket, while stressful and definitely a hard thing to deal with, is not necessarily a reason to disappear for the weekend,” your Buddha says to you while pulling on real pants for the first time in weeks.  Or the ever helpful, “While, I too want to eliminate everyone who doesn’t properly pronounce the word “picture” from the planet, perhaps screaming at the neighbor’s dog while throwing Coke cans at their empty swimming pool and sobbing is a sign that you’re under more pressure than you realize this week.”  And of course the frequently necessary and ever appreciated, “Have you eaten anything besides cookies and wine today?  No?  Well how about more cookies then.”

In the end, all you really need is someone that understands that every once and awhile everything falls apart, but “the important thing is not to go to pieces when that happens”, and you’re pretty lucky when all those someones are all camped-out together in your living room.

“So what? The important thing to remember is not to go to pieces when that happens. You have to react like a man, calmly. You have to say to yourself, “Albert, you pierced the toast, so what? It’s not the end of your life.” –Armand, “The Birdcage”

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