I dug through my bag to find my house keys as I walked from my car to the front door. I couldn't wait for the day that 'push to start' keys expanded from cars to homes. As I looked up, my stomach suddenly dropped. My ex-boyfriend was sitting on my stoop.
“What’re you doing here?” I asked. I was angry with him, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited to see him.
“I wanted to see you,” he said as he scooted over on the stoop and patted the spot next to him.
"Um, okay," I responded in an annoyed tone.
“Caroline, come on,” he said as he threw his hands up and rolled his eyes at me.
I sat down slowly. What was he doing here? Why would he just show up after we hadn’t spoken in weeks? He had this obnoxious, almost condescending grin on his face. It felt like he was silently bragging about how happy he was without me. In all the time I knew him, I never felt such a strong urge to hit him.
“What’s with the smile?” I finally asked.
“I don’t know," he replied. "I’m happy to see you.”
I laughed. "Okay," I said with sarcasm. “Still fucking Samantha?” I asked before I could even think about why I was asking.
“Let’s not talk about that,” he said with a laugh. Wow, he was a bastard.
Suddenly, he wasn’t smiling. He actually looked upset. “Caroline… Samantha and I are kind of, well, kind of dating now.”
I gasped and woke up. “Fuck,” I actually said out loud, realizing it was only a dream. It was only a dream, right? It took me a few seconds to reassure myself. I went back under the covers and wished that I would just disappear inside them for a while. Ever since I stopped talking to Mike, my ex-boyfriend, my first real love, the guy who I was supposed to marry, I frequently had these types of dreams. I did not want to get out of bed, but a few minutes later, the alarm on my phone went off. I hit the snooze and stared at my ceiling.
I looked back at my phone. December 27th. Ugh. I hate the 27th of each month. We started dating on September 27th of 2011, so the 27th of every month used to be our day. We weren't totally lame. We didn’t write each other long Facebook posts (okay, one time). It would just be a day where we felt appreciative of how special our relationship was. That was when we were still in love. Well, when he was still in love with me.
On August 27th of this year, we went to a nearby café for an early dinner and I was ecstatic to begin thinking about how we could celebrate our two-year anniversary.
“So…” I started as I linked my arm around his, “One month.”
“Huh?” he asked looking away from the sandwich menu he had been squinting at.
“It’s the 27th!” I said with a smile. “Our two year anniversary is in a month.”
“Oh, yeah,” he said with a weak smile before looking back at the menu. “You know what you want yet?”
“For dinner or for our anniversary?”
He laughed. “For dinner, Caroline.”
“Oh,” I said as my face turned red. I looked up at the menu and squinted myself. “Um, the BLT, I guess.”
He nodded and ordered for the both of us at the register. We walked to an open booth and as soon as we sat down, Mike looked down at his phone. It made me extremely uncomfortable. I hated those couples that spent the whole meal on their phones. We were not one of those couples.
“Yeah,” he said without even looking up.
“What’s going on?” I asked while reaching over the table and pushing away his phone so he would look up at me.
He looked at me and then down at the table. He didn't say anything right away. He put his phone in his pocket and sighed. “I don't know," he started. "I didn’t really want to do this today, but maybe we should talk.”
The next five minutes are still a blur to me. Was this really happening? Was he breaking up with me? I never thought this would happen. I never thought he would be the one to break up with me. Wasn't he happy? Hadn't we both been happy these last few months? Sure, we had our problems, but I thought we had finally worked through them.
My alarm went off again and I hit snooze one more time.
Mike and I broke up four months ago to the day. Four months. It still hurt. I wondered if it would ever stop hurting. We tried to stay friends, but it wasn’t as easy as we thought. It’s hard to move on when your boyfriend was also your best friend. I wish I still had my best friend. I have this image of us going back to that same cafe months from now, maybe years, and laughing about when we used to date. I have to admit, it's getting easier. It's not easy, but easier.
So what have I learned? One thing. I learned that break-ups are not how they look in the movies. They are not how they look on TV. I'm not Zooey Deschanel. I couldn't just go out the weekend after getting my heart broken and fall, in some clumsy but conveniently adorable way, on top of a cute waiter at the Cheesecake Factory who would become my next boyfriend.
Nope, break ups are miserable, but every day was a little better than the day before. And that gave me hope. I have to take it one day at a time and that's what I have done. It’s been four months and I’m finally starting to remember something. Being single can actually be fun.