Good Morning, Heartache (part 7)

12 04 2012

Good Morning, Heartache (part 7)

Months pass.  Jake tries to get on with life.  His friends tell him it was better to end things with Heath before he became completely absorbed later down in his career and completely neglected Jake.  They tell him that Jake can do better, and that Heath was kind of immature anyway.  After all, as Jake reads, breakups, however painful they may be, happen to millions of people all the time.  What Jake is feeling has been felt before.

He starts by putting the gifts such as the stuffed animal Heath gave him in the back of his closet.  Harder to take down is the poem and a sketch of Jake Heath drew and gave to him back when they were first going out.  Jake had it framed and hung it on the wall of his bedroom.  He sadly takes it down from its place and also stores it on a shelf in his closet.

Now that his room is more or less Heath-less, Jake occupies his time with school and work.  He finds life relatively alright, and aside from thinking about Heath every now and then, he still feels fine. When he does think about Heath, it’s always about how they left things, how unresolved it feels.  He goes back to the things they both said, and all the things he should have done or said.  In his mind, Jake begins making a list of everything he did wrong, all the times he should have apologized but didn’t, and how things lead to the way they did.  What could I have done differently? he wonders over and over again.

When he goes back to school in September, he doesn’t see Heath around campus.  There are times when Jake is so busy with homework and projects that he has to go home right after to work on things, just like Heath used to do.  It’s times like these when Jake is glad he’s not in a relationship because he honestly wouldn’t be able to spend much time with someone.  It makes him wonder how much he time he really does need with someone, and whether or not he really does need to see someone as often as he thought he did.

It’s now December, Jake’s favourite month.  He still thinks about Heath, and wonders how he’s doing, and finds himself missing Heath a lot.

Jake is invited to work at the park with the Christmas lights again, and although he knows the park is where he and Heath first said, “I love you” to each other, he accepts, thinking it will keep him busy.

On his first day of work, he sees Eliza, whom he hasn’t seen since last year working there.  He and Eliza are very friendly and get along well, and she is the type of person in whom he can trust about telling certain things.  After re-introductions and catching up on life, Eliza says, “So, I heard about you and Heath.”

“Oh.  From who?”

“Mozilla.”  Eliza gestures behind her, where Mozilla stands nearby, making hot chocolate from chocolate syrup in a big tin (if people saw how it was made, would they still drink it?).

“Oh.  Okay.”  Jake looks down at the ground.  Any and every thought of Heath makes him sad.  “So I guess you know what happened then?”

Eliza shakes her head.  “No.  Only that things ended.  Mozilla doesn’t even know what happened.”

Jake is taken aback.  Mozilla is supposed to be one of Jake’s closer friends, who is also studying botany at school, and would likely see her somewhat often.  At the same time, how do you explain to your friends that it was your fault for not putting in much time in a relationship?

From her platform, Mozilla adds, “He’s just been saying he ‘doesn’t want to settle down yet.'”

“Oh.”  Jake doesn’t know what to say.  Settle down.  Like move to the suburbs, own a house, and drive kids to soccer practice?  That wasn’t what Jake wanted at all, and he didn’t think he made that impression on Heath.  What he wanted was just to be a loving boyfriend and to see where life would take them.  That wasn’t settling down by any means.

So Jake fills Mozilla and Eliza in on what happened.  After everything, Eliza is pensive.

“My ex-boyfriend and I would see each other on the weekends only, but it was an arrangement, and we were both okay with it.  Yeah, we have full-time jobs and lives outside of work, but we always made sure that we knew when we could see each other.”

And in those words, a spark ignites in Jake’s mind.  All this time, Jake had been upset that Heath wasn’t able to see him as much as Jake wanted.  In fact, Jake had been imposing his own schedule onto Heath, and since Heath was busy all the time, of course Jake was upset.  They never sat down together and worked out how much exactly they wanted to see each other.   They never agreed on how much time they could both dedicate.

It was all Jake’s fault he was ever upset.

The revelation surprises Jake.  You see, Jake wasn’t simply dwelling on the past– that would be unproductive.  He inadvertently was analyzing everything to figure out a solution to their problem, despite it being months after their breakup.  It’s taken half a year, but he finally thinks he’s found the solution to Heath and Jake’s relationship problem.  No wonder it never felt finished.  He was looking for the answer all along.

After work, Jake texts Heath and asks how he’s doing.  It’s been months since they’ve talked.

“I’m fine.  Exams are done.  What’s up?”

“I just wanted to talk to you about some stuff.”

“Okay.  About what?”

Jake hesitates.  If he says it’s about relationship stuff, then Heath might think he’s still dwelling on things (which he clearly is), which might look bad.  He figures it’s better to be honest than to ambush Heath later, so he replies, “Well, it’s about a lot of things.  If you had to categorize it, I guess it would be relationship stuff, but it’s not really.”

He waits nervously for Heath’s answer.  When he gets it, he’s relieved.  “Okay.  Want to meet tomorrow at noon?”

Tomorrow it is.  Tomorrow things will work out.

***

“I don’t know where to start.”

It’s the next day.  The noise of the traffic whizzing by makes things harder to hear, and Jake finds himself having to say things a bit louder, which is awkward when he’s about to tell Heath what’s on his mind. The two are walking on sidewalk on the edge of downtown.  Heath seems fine, as usual, and Jake is nervous, as usual.

“It’s okay.  Just start wherever you want.”

It’s been so long since they’ve talked that Jake has almost forgotten how good a listener Heath is.

“Well… my co-worker Eliza told me that she and her ex-boyfriend made plans specifically on the weekends to see each other, and that worked for them just fine.  I realized that I never did that with you– made up a schedule of when we could see each other, and instead, I imposed my schedule onto you, and that’s not fair.  I now see that a relationship is based on two people, not just one, and it wasn’t right of me to expect you to see me as much as I wanted to see you. And I’m sorry.”

Jake pauses, to see if Heath wants to say anything, but he doesn’t.  Jake goes on.

“Just for the record, I’m not asking you back.  If anyone should be asking anyone back, it’s you, and I’m still leaving it up to you.  I just wanted to tell you what I’ve figured out.”

“Okay.”

They turn down the street, now walking into downtown territory.

“I also wanted to tell you that you said you didn’t want to hurt me anymore by not seeing me as much as I wanted to.  But that wasn’t what hurt the most.  What hurt the most was that you knew, from the very beginning of our relationship, what happened with me and my ex.  I told you I didn’t want that to happen with you because I care about you so much, but you still let it happen.  That’s what hurt the most.”

Heath is silent for a few seconds.  “That makes sense.  I wish… I wish I could have done things differently.”

Is this an admission of guilt?  “What kind of things?”

Heath is again silent.  Jake wonders if Heath really meant what he said.  “I don’t know,” he musters.

Jake doesn’t what to feel.  Is there any truth to what Heath just said?  Who knows.  Heath, in all likelihood, hasn’t been thinking about the way things were nearly as much as Jake, so it would make sense that he wouldn’t know.

“Let’s walk up this way.”  Jake leads them down the city’s gay street, a street where the two of them walked many times together before.

“I also never asked you an important question that I failed to realize until it was too late with my ex.  What is it you want, Heath?”

Jake, not looking at Heath at all, hears Heath sigh beside him.  “I don’t know.  I don’t know what I wanted when I was with you, and I don’t know what I want now.”

Jake pauses, to collect his thoughts before asking the next question.  “So, since you don’t know what you want, I guess that means you’re not seeing anyone?”

Heath looks over and gives Jake a strange look.  “Just because I don’t know what I want, why should that mean I’m not seeing anybody?”

Now, he feels something.  It’s as if there’s a tsunami, building power and speed from the ocean, rushing towards the shore.  Jake feels something like that, something loaded in his question.  He can feel the tsunami closing in on him, and yet he needs to know.

“Okay, so are you seeing someone?”

There is a brief silence before Heath says it.  Jake will remember these seconds, the calm before the storm.

“Kind of.”

How does one describe heartache?  How does one describe devastation?  We’ve all seen it in the movies: crying, sobbing.  But is that really enough?  Words are so feeble in showing just how painful it can be, but I will do my best.

After hearing those two simple words, Jake feels something in his chest burst, like a damn bursting.  Physiologically, it feels like a sudden explosion of hormones or blood or something else right in his heart.  Mentally, it’s as if a nuclear bomb just dropped.  Metaphorically, his heart just broke.

The tsunami hits the shore, flooding the village, sparing nothing in its path.  It drags people and debris back into the sea where they drown.

Jake stares on ahead, unable to look at Heath.  His breathing intensifies, and a wave of nausea hits him.  Still walking, Jake’s legs suddenly get weak, and he is afraid he’ll keel over and vomit.

“I need to sit down,” he chokes out coarsely.

They walk over to a nearby bench, and Jake slumps down in it.  He whole body shakes, and he keeps gasping short puffs of air.  Thinking it’s because he can’t breathe properly, Jake takes off his scarf, and though that helps a little, he still can’t breathe properly.  He buries his face in his hands, then runs his hands through his hair, desperately trying to do something with his hands.  This goes on for several minutes, Jake gasping and gasping for air, as his heart pounds in his chest.

It’s not until Jake becomes aware that he’s breathing erratically that he calms himself down.  He starts taking normal breaths of air slowly, and his heart rate returns to normal.

All this time, Heath sits silently next to him, presumably staring at the ground.

Once he feels more or less normal again, Jake asks, against the better part of himself, “How long have you been together?”

Heath thinks.  When he’s taking a longer than usual time to answer, he says, “Hold on.  My timeline is a little off at the moment.”

Okay, well, it’s obviously been a while, thinks Jake.

“Since the end of August?”

Jake furrows his brow.  “So, a month and a half after we broke up.”

“Yeah.”

It takes everything for Jake not to start gasping for air again.  “But he’s not here.  He’s gone for 10 months,” Heath quickly adds, as if trying to console him.

“I don’t understand, Heath.  If you don’t know what you want, why are you with someone?”

“Sometimes, to figure things out, you just have to try things,” is Heath’s reason.  “Please don’t be sad.  You can choose to be happy.  I know you’re dwelling on things, but… I’m no good for you.  You’ll find someone; you’re only, what, 22?  Think of all the years ahead of you, all the people you’re going to meet.  People never end up with the first person they get into a relationship with.  You gotta go through two, three, four, five or more until you find the right person.  Just… try to be more optimistic.  I know it’s hard for you to do, and it might seem like it’s easy for me to say all these because I’m with someone, but I really mean it.”

It’s not Jake’s turn to stare at the ground.  Although he is hearing everything Heath says, he wants to leave the situation.  Nothing ever seems to work out for Jake.  This whole idea was stupid in the first place.

“I actually thought that you weren’t the kind of person who would ask me back, and now I see that I was right.”  Jake stares sadly at the dirty ground.  “I feel like such a fool.  I was a fool to ever believe you’d get back together with me, and I was an utter fool to spend the last six months after we broke up trying to figure out a way for us to get back together.  I’m such a damn fool, a dumbass.”

“You’re not,” says Heath, but even that sounds forced and untrue.

The two sit in silence for a little while.  “There was also something else I wanted to tell you today.  Do you know when I realized I loved you?”

Heath looks at him and shakes his head.

“Well, I’ll tell you, whether you want to hear it or not.  Do you remember when I asked you when we were together, how and when you realized you loved me?  You said you didn’t know, that there was no one incident that made you realize it.  I wanted you to ask me the same question, but you never did, and I never told you.  Well, here it is.  I was watching Glee — yes, I realized it by watching Glee — and there’s this one character, Rachel, who has a major crush on the high school quarterback, but he doesn’t even know she exists.  Classic love story.  Then, after they get in glee club together, he notices her, and then, after many, many obstacles, they end up together.  At the end of one of the episodes, she sings a cover of Paramore’s song “The Only Exception” to him in front of the class.  Have you heard that song?”

Heath shakes his head.

“I hadn’t heard it before I heard it that night on Glee.  Basically the song is about how the narrator never wanted love, that she distanced herself from people, and would “never sing of love if it does not exist”, but the chorus goes “you are the only exception.”  And in that moment, after hearing those words, “you are the only exception”, a link in my brain, unconsciously, connected it to you.  Immediately, I thought of you, that you were the only exception for me.  And that’s when I knew I loved you.”

Jake waits for a response, but doesn’t expect any.

“Oh.”

That’s as good as a response as he’ll get from Heath it seems.

“Things like Glee and movies like Twilight just perpetuate this idea of romance and love.  Reality is not like that.”

Jake looks over at Heath.  “No.  I suppose you’re right.  Winning people back is for the movies.”

Jake puts his scarf back on.  “I need to go to head home and get ready for work.”

“Are you going to be okay?”

What difference does it make? Jake wonders.  “Yeah.  Can I… have a hug?”

Heath offers a small smile.  “Of course.”

Jake hugs Heath tightly, not wanting to ever let go.  After they part, Jake stands up.

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

Jake paces down the sidewalk quickly, speed-walking.  All this time, the most insecure part of his mind kept telling him Heath was with someone new.

“I was right…” Jake mumbles to himself, not caring that people are looking his way.  The tears he was holding back now pour down his face.

“I was right… I was right…”


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