Eric promised to come to practice with me today. I know it can’t be very exciting, I’m just the assistant coach, but it’s important to me. I’m actually helping out my boss and I get to introduce my very hot boyfriend to my co-workers. Win.
When I pick him from his apartment, he seems very quiet. Unusual for him, but I remember that one of his patients today was a child. Thinking of the last time things went badly when a little kid was on the table, I stay quiet. I don’t even mention anything when he doesn’t want to hold my hand. It’s hot out, and I wouldn’t want to touch someone’s sweaty palm either.
He sits high up in the bleachers, and we can’t talk in between plays, but this way he’s able to see the entire field. I smile as I wave to him from the first base line, he gives me a half-hearted wave back, and I feel a little guilty because I’m sure he’s tired after a long day in the OR. I should have let him stay home to rest.
After practice is over, we ride back to his apartment, the radio breaking the silence between us. I’m starting to wonder what happened in the OR today – usually he talks to me about whatever’s bothering him. It must’ve been a really tough surgery.
He doesn’t say anything as I grab my suit from the back seat, just gives me a blank stare, and my heart sinks to my gut as we walk inside. He only gets this way when a patient didn’t make it. I decide I’m going to make his favorite comfort food for dinner as we go inside and I hang the suit I plan to wear to work tomorrow in the closet.
We sit down to watch TV as the cube steaks for my famous chicken fried steak thaw in the sink. It’s not until Family Guy comes on and he doesn’t change the channel, even though we never watch that show because he hates it that I realize he hasn’t said a word in more than 3 hours.
I scoot closer to him and take his hand in mine, “Are you okay, baby? Do you want to talk about it?”
He pulls his hand from mine and moves away from me with a sigh, “We… we need to talk.”
We need to talk. The worst four words in the English language. Nothing good ever follows.
“What’s up?” I try to be cheerful, but my hands are suddenly shaking and it’s difficult to breathe.
“Liza, I love you. You know I do. But… I can’t do this anymore.”
The bile that has risen in my throat is nearly impossible to swallow, and for a minute I’m afraid I’m
going to vomit on the couch we picked out together last month, “Wh… what do you mean?”
“Us. I can’t be with you anymore.”
His voice breaks, and it gives me hope that he might change his mind if I remind him of how much we love each other. But the words won’t come. They’re blocked by the tears that are choking me. I sit there for nearly half an hour, crying quietly and trying to come up with something, anything, that will make him change his mind.
“Why?” I manage to choke out. It sounds like a frog has taken up residence in my throat.
He won’t meet my eyes, “I just can’t do this anymore. I’m not ready for the level that we’re at. We’ve only been together a year.”
“But… you were the one who pushed for this relationship!”
I’m desperate for him to remember the way he begged me to say I was his girlfriend. How he beamed when he introduced me to his mother. How he looked me in the eyes and told me he loved me while we lay in his bed together on his birthday. How he used to talk about us sitting in rocking chairs on the porch of our house 50 years from now. These memories have to count for something… Don’t they?
“I know,” he says sadly, “and I can’t tell you how sorry I am that I led you on. I do love you, but I’m just not ready.”
I’m a blubbering mess by now and I swipe at the tears that won’t stop, “Don’t I get a say in this?”
He shakes his head, still refusing to meet my eyes, “That’s not how a breakup works.”
The sudden pain in my chest nearly cripples me, and I reach up to make sure my heart hasn’t actually launched itself from my body. Breakup. He said it. He really means it. Oh god, oh god, oh god.
“Please,” I whisper. It’s pathetic, but I’m begging.
He finally looks over at me, and the misery in his chocolate eyes is the final nail in our coffin. He’s serious. It’s over.
I stand on legs made of jello and make my way out the door. It’s not until I get to my own apartment that I realize I’ve left my suit at Eric’s, but by then I can’t see through the haze of tears and won’t allow myself to return to the apartment I spent the majority of the last 12 months in. When my roommate gets in, I hear her make a joke about the fact that I’m actually home for once, but she stops short when she sees me lying on the bed. My face is tear-stained, but I’m staring at the wall, unmoving.
“Liza, what happened? Are you ok?” Lynn immediately crawls on the bed next to me. When I don’t respond, she puts her hand on my arm and shakes me, “Liza, talk to me, honey. You’re scaring me.”
I can’t speak. I can barely breathe.
“Liza!” she shouts in my ear, but I don’t react. I can’t.
She reaches for her cellphone, “I’m calling Eric. He’ll know-”
At the mention of his name, I let out a wail. The blood drains from Lynn’s face, “Is Eric ok? What happened, Liza?”
I can’t reply because I’m crying too hard, and the bile that I fought off at Eric’s refuses to be pushed back any further. Somehow I just barely make it to the toilet before I’m emptying the contents of my stomach. I feel Lynn pull my hair away from my face and begin to rub my back. She’s talking, trying to comfort me, but I can’t hear what she’s saying – my head is throbbing and all I can hear is my heart beating in my ears.
“Liza, you have to tell me what happened,” she’s pleading with me as she presses a cool washcloth to the back of my neck, “I’m really worried about you, and now I’m worried about Eric.”
I whimper. I want to beg her never to say his name again, but speech is impossible at this moment.
“Something happened to Eric?”
I manage to shake my head.
“Did something happen at work?”
I shake my head again.
“Liza, you have to tell me what’s wrong! I can’t help you if I don’t know what’s wrong!”
Just say it. Like a Band Aid. Rip the fucker off and maybe it won’t hurt so much.
“He broke up with me,” I whisper, and dissolve into hysterical sobbing again.
I was wrong. Band Aids still hurt even when you rip them off.
She pulls me into her arms, and I know she’s resisting the urge to curse him seven ways from Sunday. She was never his biggest fan, and she’s fiercely protective of her friends. The part of me that’s still in love with him wants to tell her not to blame him, but the part of me that’s dying inside wants her to go over there and tear into him.
Somehow, she manages to pick me up off the floor. She forces me to brush my teeth and drags me to the living room, where she sets me up on the couch and drapes her favorite Mickey Mouse blanket over me. She goes to the kitchen and grabs the emergency bag of Cheetos before cuddling up next to me, and turning on the TV. As she queues up an episode of Charmed, our favorite show, I curl up into a ball and lay my head on her lap as I lose myself in the oblivion of familiarity.