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WHEN LOVE IS GONE

 

By Myne Whitman

Friday, May 21, 2010.

My ex was my first real boyfriend. I met him when I was twenty-one and in my third level in university. I was doing my internship with a bottling company and he was an Engineer who had just joined them after his national service. We bonded quickly and became firm friends. I went back to school after my mandated two months and we tried to keep in touch through emails, text messages and phone calls. Along the line, these channels dried up to a trickle from both sides. One day, he called to tell me he had just bought a car and would like to visit me in school. I was then in final year. I agreed and we fixed a date.

He asked me out officially that day and said he would want us to think of marriage. I was surprised but happy. I liked him and felt he would make a good husband. We courted throughout my service year and I was lucky to get a job in the same city as he was. By then we had been together for almost three years and I had known him for almost a couple more. He spoke to my parents and they were happy for me. We did the first step of the marriage process and moved in together to save on costs in the city. Everything was going on well and I was dreaming of a wedding within the year.

My ex came back from work one evening and said he was tired of the relationship. He didn’t see himself with me in the long term any more. I asked if he was cheating, if there was another woman but he denied it. Strangely, I believed him. He said he had remapped his life and wanted to travel abroad to study. I said I would come with him, I would wait for him but he refused. This was the end he said. He would be moving out in a week and I could do as I wanted with the rented flat. No question could get any better answer from him. I was angry. I ranted and railed at him. After that, I cried and wailed. These were still angry tears. I couldn't believe it. When I felt like hitting him, I knew I had to leave the house. I stormed out.

I needed to let it out but who could I talk to? Not my parents certainly. My thoughts were so jumbled. After going round in circles, I called my closest friend and confided in her. She was in shock.  I was also still in shock.  I felt numb.  We talked for a while but could not figure it out. I went back home to find the beans I had been cooking for dinner burning. My ex had also left the flat. We had almost set the house on fire but that was not my major problem. I was consumed by thoughts of our relationship. I relived the years, the months, the days. I agonized over every minute, every word, and every action. It had not really hit me, not yet.  I was overwhelmed but looking back, I had not even begun to truly feel what a breakup meant. 

I was hoping we would get back together. I kept thinking and saying "I don't know what I'm going to do.  What am I going to do? Where am I going to start? This cannot be the end."  My friend had encouraged me not to think about that, to just get through the next few days. But it wasn’t that easy. I was almost as good as married. I had known my ex for over five years. That was more than half of my adult life. I felt anchorless and lost.  My whole life seemed to have been jarred off-course and I was floating with no clue in which direction to head or where to land. I waited for him but my ex didn’t come back. I thought I wouldn’t but I must have fallen asleep at a point. I woke up to a lonely bed with a tear-soaked pillow.

I got to work dazed the next day and spent most of the day chatting on yahoo messenger with my closest friend. She didn’t try to cheer me up because I told her not to bother. I went unto facebook and changed my status. What I did was remove the option of relationship status completely from my page. Don’t get it wrong, it wasn’t that I wanted everyone to know, not at all. I wanted to use that to see if it would bring my ex back to his senses. I told myself this was just a quarrel, a tiff, an ill wind that would soon blow over. It wasn’t possible that my ex was willing to throw so many years down the drain. I kept shaking my head throughout that day that I almost developed a crick in the neck. After work, I dallied in the office delaying the time to go home and also thinking of what to say to him, strategizing.

Finally I walked out and got on the bus. I remember sitting down and beginning to shed tears almost immediately. I couldn't stop the tears.  I pulled out my sunglasses and put them on. The tears  just trickled out steadily and I tried to stem the flow with a tissue jammed below the glasses. It was almost dark so I did not get much attention from the other passengers. If I did, I didn’t notice. I was lost in my own world of pain. That ride was a blur.  When I got home, I tried to eat but had no appetite.  I don't remember eating much that first week.  I do remember looking at the clock or my watch several times and at different points in time. It would calculate the hours and days and minutes and sometimes even seconds. I knew it wouldn’t change anything but still, I couldn’t help doing it.

Four days later my ex moved out. That was three days earlier than he said he would. That day I had come back from work to see that he had started moving out his things from the flat. I was confused and fear began to really sink it’s clutches in me. Next to the fact that he hadn’t eaten any of the food I made sure was ready for him, this was the biggest nail in the coffin of my hope. I just couldn’t let him go just like that. I made sure I stayed awake till he returned at almost midnight. It was the first night we were speaking since the breakup. I asked him to reconsider. I cried, I held him, I seduced him. Yes I admit it, I forced myself on him and we made love. It was after that that he moved out.

He admitted that though he was still attracted to me, it didn’t change anything. When he walked out the front door, I literally felt my heart break. That night, I emailed a handful of close friends to tell them the news.  I called my mother and broke down to her. She tried her best but there really was no consoling me that night. I remember wondering if I should go to work the next day.  What reason would I use to call in?  I get paid sick days but don't like to lie.  I was heartsick.  True, I was physically sick to some extent - I felt like vomiting and I did. I heaved out everything in me and at the end I was empty and completely exhausted. 

I did become sick and ended up not going to work for the next remaining days of the week. I didn’t even step out of the house for those two days and the following weekend. My friend who I had first told came to stay with me. I kept bursting into tears at every turn. It wasn’t pretty and I’m still very grateful to her. Looking back, I don’t know what I would have done if she had not been there. I couldn't believe what was happening to me.  I was falling apart right before my eyes. I kept telling myself to snap out of it. This was my first relationship and I told myself that I was not special.  People suffer breakups all the time and get over it like swatting away a fly.  By that Sunday, I decided to go to work the next day. Life must go on.

I dressed well that day.  I had recently had a makeover with the help of my friends. It was possible that I had noticed my ex withdrawing and that was why I had my friends help me in shopping for new stuff a couple of months before then. But that was all in the past and had not helped any.  I refused to think about him as I primped while getting ready for work.  When I was a child, my mother always said that dressing up when you’re feeling sick or moody made you feel better.  With this in mind, I put on a yellow skirt and a red blouse. I put on some nice jewelry, topped it with my best wig and headed off to work.

It was while I was at work that I decided that I would move out from the flat I had shared with my ex. Our rent was due by the end of the month and I was not going to renew. We paid in six monthly installments and not only could I not afford it, I could deal without the memories of our time there together. I talked to myself sternly after that. I decided that if my ex was remapping his life, maybe I needed to do the same. I drew up an excel sheet on my computer and fashioned a short-term goal and something to do with myself as if I was writing a business proposal.  It was almost the end of June and I was convinced that I could get my life together before the end of the year.

I will survive, I kept telling myself. I hummed the song by Gloria Gaynor and downloaded it from Limewire into my mp3 player. I listened to it so much the funny part of me that remained worried that it would fade away. I took the humor as a sign that I was on the right track. I called my friend some days later to tell her of my decision. She stayed with some relatives and we began to plan of moving in together in a smaller place. The following week, I contacted some estate agents and gave them details of what we wanted. I ended up with a few places to go and visit that week.  In addition, I had plans to have dinner with friends.  The plan had originally been for "both of us" to go out with the newly married couple. I almost chickened out but in the end, I went ahead since they were my friends and already knew.

I worked at a place where I had access to the internet. I could also browse on my phone when the network was good. I had the highest bill ever that first couple of months after the breakup. I was also reprimanded at work by my immediate superior. We were on good terms or it would have been something more serious. I was always online scouring the web for information on breakups and of course, came across those "Get your ex back" links.  I was weak and I gave in.  I also regularly went snooping to his Facebook page and tried to decode what was happening in his life. I felt I would shatter if I found out he was dating again. I loved to read and shopped for books regularly but the few times I found myself at a bookstore, it was usually in the self-help section.

I picked up books on relationships and dealing with breakups and browsed through them keenly. I tried to remember everything I read so I wouldn’t have to buy the book and bring it back to our new flat. I didn’t want anything to spoil the façade I was showing to my friend and new roommate. I finally bought a book from a roving vendor which I would leave in my office. It was titled “Making up after a quarrel with your partner”. I devoured the book looking for answers and tips on what to do.  I knew I was deceiving myself.  I wasn’t even sure if I wanted my ex back.  We had spoken only a couple of times on the phone since then. Yes I called him. I’m not proud of it but I pored over the book and saw that it said I should give my ex space for a while and work on myself.  Then he would somehow miraculously want to get back with me. I sincerely prayed so.

I had friends who texted, emailed, and called me all the time. My mother and my sisters also visited and stayed with me at different points in those first six months. They were my support network and were there for me whenever I felt myself sliding into depression. They helped me stay grounded and in control. At the times I felt like running mad or cursing my ex out, they appealed to my higher senses and got me to calm down. I will admit that I did not stick to all the stages I laid out in my short term plan for getting over it. I gave myself a month but it took close to three to get over the disbelief and shock. I was still angry and hurt sometimes. One day I say my ex online – we had remained friends on Facebook – and began a chat with him. I wanted to ask him again for us to get back together. Luckily, I didn’t get to make such a fool of myself. He logged off after a couple of minutes begging work.

I told myself that I had to refuse to let myself sink into depression and wreck my life.  This was repeated to me by family and friends. There were days I did not want to get out of bed.  There were many of such days. I made a pact with my closest sister to call her at any time when I wanted or felt like it. Looking back, I think knowing there was someone I was accountable to helped a great deal. I'm not saying I never had down days or days where I never wanted to talk to another person but always in the back of my mind was the commitment I had made to the ones that cared about me that I was going to get through this and come out a better woman. By October I was going out more, hanging out with my girlfriends at weddings and birthdays and thinking of dating again. Some people told me it was too soon to think about another relationship but I had a couple of solid guys who were interested in me.

My roommate encouraged me to give them a chance. I went out with them then mostly because I liked the distraction.   By November, it was more than that, at least for one of the guys who had stuck around. I knew I was ready to open up my feelings if not my heart. I knew I was ready to date. My ex had been my first real boyfriend and I was in the dating pool again. I did not know the etiquette or how to handle different guys at the same time. I had to think about how I would behave in certain situations and how I would react to certain things. I ran through mock scenarios in my head and had long heart to hearts with my roommate.  She dated off-and-on but was single most of the time. She became my dating coach and agent. I also had to rethink what I wanted in a man I would spend the long term with. I had not dated extensively so I think about the qualities I wanted in a man.  I thought of all the good in my ex and then I thought of the bad. At a point I had to make myself realize it was futile to dwell on the past. Everyone agreed that I should just focus on the there and then and I did.

It was a bit difficult though getting through my ex’s birthday at the end of December. I had usually made a big deal of his birthdays and since this was his big three zero, I had even begun to make plans in my head for it just before out breakup. It threw me that it was such a big deal for me. I was moody for most of the day, sneaking to his page to see who had left him messages and angling for information from mutual friends. That was another thing that made things hard. The friends. Some of his friends cut me off and even some that had been my friend before they became “our” friend also avoided me after the breakup, especially the couples. My roommate advised me to cut all of them off and even my ex but I couldn’t. I had been friends with him before we began to date and recently, we could pass a few minutes on chat without me getting emotional. He was now in America and maybe that helped too. Finally, I sent him a message on Facebook with a card containing some well wishes.

In two months, it will be a year since we broke up. I have since realized that moving on is a continuous exercise just like the tense.  It's a lot of on-going hard work.  "Moved on" is the goal towards which I am working.  Each day I am preparing and inching closer to it when I affirm myself and do things that move me towards the goal.  Saying I've moved on does not necessarily make it so.  In addition, there is no need for me to flog myself when I feel down because as long as I keep working on it, I will get there. I believe that I'll be ready for what is next when I've completely moved on.  In a week, it will be the anniversary of the day my ex had first asked me out to begin a serious relationship. By this time last year, I had been dreaming that we could make it a double anniversary but it hadn’t turned out that way. I have made peace with it. There are no bells and whistles and no fireworks. I’m just glad that I’m at the stage where I know myself better and know that I have got over my ex even if not fully.

It is enough to know that he does not take up most of my life like he did when we were together and even more when we first split. I have begun to look outwards and forwards. When I make decisions, I think about the type of person I am and who I want to be. I ask myself what type of person I need to be in order to ensure that I am ready for the next stage of my life, possibly with another man. Yes I can think that now. I do invest more in myself and I take care of myself a lot more too nowadays. I had learnt to do it for me but now I also think of how it will help my chances of meeting a good partner. Yes I am working on myself for the benefit of myself; yet, I am not blind to the benefits to others and how it enriches my relations with those around me. I know that no amount of denial, bargaining, anger or depression is going to recover my broken relationship. I have accepted that heartbreak as a part of life.  It's not good or bad...it is just how it is.  So I have decided to keep moving on, to find joy in my live and to bring joy to others. I am dating another guy. It cannot say how long it will last but I really like him and I know he likes me too. I’m taking it a day at a time. The most important thing is; I have survived. I am fine.

______________________________________

Myne Whitman grew up in Enugu, Nigeria, and describes herself as friendly, caring and fun-loving. Though quiet and laid-back, she likes a good debate once in a while. She produced a web-series titled The Cupid’s Risk and manages the Nigerian online story sharing site www.naijastories.com. Her first novel, A Heart to Mend, was recently published and is available on Amazon and in bookstores in the UK, US and Nigeria. More information is on her website, www.mynewhitman.com or her blog, www.mynewhitmanwrites.com

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