Like all true writers, I am no stranger to heartache. It’s cliché, I know, but I’ve had my heart broken twice in my life. Once when I was 16 and once when I was 18. Those ages may surprise my nearest and dearest. I’m sure they were expecting to see a slightly higher number. The break up of a marriage should cause heartbreak, right? I hesitate to classify the end of that relationship as heartbreak though, I think of it more as being heartsick. I know they sound alike, but I make a distinction between the two. Having your heart broken is deliberate, not necessarily motivated by cruelty, but an intentional action that severs the relationship for one reason or another. Being heartsick, however, has more to do with the hurt and emptiness that come from realizing a relationship isn’t working, no matter how much you’d like it to.
I was heartsick when I realized C and I were done. Not just because I still loved him, but because it meant an end to my world as I knew it. I’d been with him or married to him for my entire adult life at that point, and I wasn’t really sure what not being married to him meant. I spent my time weeping for everything that had not turned out the way I’d planned it and for the fact that suddenly I had to define myself and figure out who I was. Not that C in anyway stifled me as a person, it was just that we’d been together so long, I’d forgotten what it was like to be on my own. I was also heartsick because I was losing the people who’d been my family for the past eight years. Considering what amazing people they are, this was a real blow to me.
But I was not heartbroken over C. He did nothing devastating to me to end our marriage. We just both grew up and realized we’d grown into different people who no longer wanted the same things. There was no malice, just a sad realization. The heartbreak in my life, oddly enough, has been caused by two guy with very different personalities, but the same name.
The Todds…of all the people not related to me in my life, they have caused me the most intentional pain. Again, I don’t mean they were cruel on purpose, but they knew they were going to hurt me, and did it anyway. Todd #1* was one of my best friends. I spent every waking moment I could with him. I was his own personal Dear Abby, giving him advice on school, his parents and all the other girls, who were not me, that he actually liked. Although it pained me every time I heard him mention another girl’s name with that look of desire in his eyes, I never tried to sabotage any of them. It was enough for me to be close to him, to be trusted by him. He revealed more of himself to me than he ever did to any of them. I just kept hoping that one day he’d open his eyes and see me for who I should have been in his life: his girlfriend. I wrote him a letter, finally telling him everything I felt for him, although he already knew most of it. I asked him not to show it to anyone or tell anyone about it. I thought I could trust him, but he told his two of his friends, one who happened to be one of my biggest tormentors. I had images of them all sitting around getting a good laugh at my expense, because shortly thereafter, our friendship took a dramatic change. He became mean, and very deliberate in his meanness. He peppered his harsh words with bursts of friendship and compassion, like when we went to prom together, but there was always this underlying jagged layer waiting to stab me. Looking back on it, it reminds me a bit of Seth Green and Lauren Ambrose in Can’t Hardly Wait, only Todd never went wanna be gangsta and is considerably taller. We ended our friendship for good when I went off to college.
Todd #2, or Navy Todd as I called him to help distinguish him for friends, was just the opposite. He was sweeter to me than anyone else had ever been in my entire life. He told me right up front he was shipping out at the end of the year and that he couldn’t have a relationship with me, but started one anyway and while he discouraged me with words, his actions made me fall in love with him. He kept me on a string, one minute saying we couldn’t be together and the next minute pushing the hair out of my eyes and telling me I was beautiful. We went on like this for over two years, even after he went off to the big boat. During a late night phone call from nuke school in Florida, he finally said the words I’d been dying to hear. He told me he loved me. I cannot even begin to describe my elation. I thought we’d finally turned a corner and that he was the one. Two weeks later I got a dear john letter of sorts about how we were too far apart and it could never work. He knew that letter would destroy me. It was especially bitter a few years later, after I’d married C, when he decided to confess that he did love me, and was sure that I was the one for him. This is what heartbreak is all about.
Why do I bring all this up now? I’m happily married, have an adorable son and am generally feeling pretty darn good about my life. Due to the revolution that is technology (specifically myspace), both Todds have found me again. Both older, both wiser, and both a bit apologetic for wrongs in the past. Both wanting to start our friendships over. And while I know that neither of them can break my heart again, even if their handful of emails stop tomorrow, it still sent a wave of memories rushing back over me. It’s amazing how a sting from over a decade ago can still make me wince.
*He is my love story gone wrong of yesterday for those serial readers of this blog.