The Poet's Guide To Hearbreak

How much can a single person alter our reality? When we lose ourselves, how do we find our way back? For brokenhearted poet Avery, these seem to be the questions that have been consuming her for the greater part of a year. From first love to first loss and all the moments in between, Avery just can't help but feel that he will remain a part of her, and that the way back just isn't as simple as one would think it may be.

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2. S I M I L E

S I M I L E 

It’s common knowledge that when you’re lost a map can help you find your way back, but that wasn’t always the case. He told me once that the art of cartography was one that evolved from speculation to precise mathematical equations, to the maps we use today. There is a map from the time we spent together that I tend to come back to whenever I’m feeling particularly lost. Its roads like veins are outlined in red, his handwriting in the margins like names of cities I’ve never seen. I have the inclination to believe that the first correct maps of the world had to have looked this way. That Gerardus Mercator had to have sketched and scribbled and made so many marks upon his first sheet of paper, that the map was not a map, only an unintelligible blob upon parchment. That was our map, like a tangled web, like a broken heart. There were marks of where we should have gone and thumbtacks and x’s that we had never gotten to. The one place we had gone to, ironically, was the only place that wasn’t marked. We had gone there once, lived there a few years, forgot that there was a map in the first place. But much like Mercator he was on a quest to have the world look perfect. He already had an atlas, so many maps that he had collected, but only one led him back where he belonged.

If I were to remember anything from my time with him it would be how he told me that I was like the sea when we stood before the sunset. How my heartbeat played a song I had never heard before when I thought I had heard them all. He was a poet, a master of words. He had me mesmerized with his verses and couplets. The scenery before us was plain compared to the one he painted of me. He should have been a cartographer instead, with all the worlds he had seen and imagined. Worlds full of similes and metaphors and happily ever afters. We had one of those, once upon a time. Whenever I look at that map, I remember that world existed, it was real. That upon that beach we had discovered the waves had crashed and the birds had soared above our heads. And upon that beach as the sun set and the moon appeared he told me I was like a star and that I shone brighter than anyone he had ever met. He told me I was like his world, his whole fucking world all rolled into one person. For years my name was attached to similes that sounded like heaven in his devilish voice. I was like the sea, like the stars, like the world. On that day, and on many others, I was like his everything. I was, in his beautiful words, something I never thought I could be, I was loved.

The problem with being a simile though is you don't become the actual thing, you become like it, the lesser of it. The problem with only being a map within an atlas means that you are only one page of a collection.

You see, a girl broke his heart once and now he can't help but compare everyone to her. He wasn’t a bad person, but that girl broke his heart and he spent every single day attempting to replace the void she had left in his life. He spent every single day trying to map out his way back to her, and when he couldn’t, he settled for an alternate destination. Everyone after her became a simile, something like her but never enough for him, the replacement which never compared to the original. If I was the sea, she was the ocean. If I was a star, she was the fucking galaxy. We were two completely different worlds she and I.  I was never enough for him and he never let me forget it.

It wasn’t his fault or mine, your first love is irreplaceable. He could never find something that could replace her, only someone like her. So today I stand alone, attempting to rebuild my world. Trying so fucking hard to see the sea and the stars and this world for the beauty they hold, but I end up comparing them to their more beautiful counterparts. He took every part of me, but to him I was only a faulty replacement. Simply the like, never the is. Yet he was, he is. Perhaps what hurts most is he remains in my life, still ever present, still the greater. There is no one to compare him to. There is no one now who could fill the void he has left within me.

Yet, I think that I should have seen it coming. But you never do, that’s the thing. You see, there was a glimmer of sadness in his eyes when he spoke, something I never wanted to acknowledge. Even on that day he looked at me with such a melancholic longing that I mistook it for something else. Those eyes were the only glimmer of truth I would ever see in him, the only part of him that couldn't deceive me. As hard as he may have tried, there was something missing within him, and it wasn’t until the end that he realized that nothing could fill it but her. So he left. He took his atlas and his words and his poetry and he left me here with a map of a world that no longer exists.

This map is no longer a map, it is like a work of art, it holds some meaning, some symbolism, but it doesn’t actually lead me anywhere. I’ve lost myself in the midst of similes and metaphors and pretty words. I've lost myself in poems and stories, in all the things that once sustained me. I'm not sure who I am anymore. My heart is like a broken compass, pointing in a direction which no longer exists. I am not a cartographer, I am not an explorer. I only knew of one world, and now it is gone. The only thing that remains is this map, this thing that can’t even lead me back home because it doesn’t exist anymore.

I was like the sea, like the stars, like the world, but who am I? Who is Avery now? Who am I when there is no one to compare to? Who am I when I was only a simile, when I was only the lesser?

I stare at that map when I think of him, and all I want to know is if I could ever find my way. If I could ever find the precise equation to map out a world that has no remnants of him whatsoever. But I’m not a cartographer, I am a poet, and heartbreak has no guide, no easy fix.

All I have is this map of a world that no longer exists and the memories of a boy who took it all with him.

I was not that kind of girl. I did not hinge the entirety of my existence on a boy or on his opinion of me. I prided myself on the fact. I did not intend on having love define my life, I did not intend on a boy to make my life have meaning. I don't think any of us ever do, we want to be independent and strong, without the help or reassurance of anyone else. I mean I was alone, yes, but I was content. I was okay. At least I was before him.

Before him I was a college student, second year, attempting to figure out meter and rhyme and verse. I was taking fifteen credit hours because even though I worked thirty hour weeks, I needed school to keep me sane and needed to write in order to breathe. My world was not comprised by the words of a single boy then, it was composed of literature and writing. I had an outlet for my passion, for my emotions, for all of the feelings that were swirled deep within me. Although, just because it was a healthy outlet, it did not mean that it was meant to be a stable career. Just like that boy, my love of literature was chosen on a capricious whim. I was someone who stubbornly chose a field based upon passion, not contemplating the logistics or the long term implications. I chose my English major because I loved it, because I was infatuated with it. It’s also how I ended up with him, I chose him because I loved him, no logic or thinking of the long term. It was on a capricious whim that I ended up falling in love with him, funny how those always tend to screw us over.

The year I met him, was not a spectacular one. There was nothing that neither happened out of the ordinary nor that screamed “Everything will change!” All he happened to be was the boy who sat behind me in my Shakespeare lecture. He had a tendency to not show up and instead would bother me for the notes. I thought nothing of him other than he would fail the course if he continued to skip class and that maybe his blonde hair was a little too long. That’s the thing though, you don't realize the role someone will play in your life right in the moment. He was not "Boy who broke my heart" when I met him. I did not approach him with caution, I didn't think I needed to. He didn't interest me, in fact it was quite the opposite, this boy became the bane of my existence. He was a nuisance, plain and simple. He was perpetually late, constantly talking, and had no respect for my personal space. He had a habit of sitting so closely to me that his elbow would hit mine, and the days that he wouldn't show to class I was glad to have an entire table to myself. When he asked something of me I simply heeded to his requests so he would not bother me later on when I was attempting to eat my lunch in the cafeteria.  I had a system, and it had worked just fine. That is, for a while.

Even if you don't know the role someone will play in your life, you will always remember the day you realized something shifted. You may have had these feelings of contempt for said person, feelings that you never thought could change, but in an instant it all changes.

"Hey." He said, towering over me. I looked up from my scribbled sheet of paper, and he gave me a smirk "Did you get those notes from Tuesday?"

I shook my head, tired of him always skipping lecture to laze around the warmth of the sun. It felt as if he had absorbed so much of it that he now radiated it. His skin had already tanned like the color of caramel, and it made his hazel eyes pop even more. Not that I was staring, of course not. I simply glanced at him and went back to my work.

"Come on Aves, I'll buy you that coffee thing you like."

He started pleading, he always pleaded. He usually bartered though, with coffee or sweets. Somehow he knew exactly what I liked. I would usually be concerned with the amount of attention to detail he had but for some reason I just wasn’t. I was intrigued—a tad annoyed—but intrigued.

"I told you I didn't get the notes." I said, ignoring the chatter within my own head.

"Like you would skip lecture?" He sat down next to me, overly long blonde hair in wisps around his chiseled face. His frame was muscular, and it seemed he was all muscle, no depth. But the depth came later, that I learned the hard way. The deeper the ocean, the easier we drown.

"I had to work on this stupid poem." I huffed as he leaned over to read the piece of paper I was furiously scribbling upon. He smelled like cinnamon, like some kind of sweet gum.

"This isn't bad. You need two more lines."

His eyes glided upon my crumpled page again and again, attempting to count out the meter.

"I know."

"Can't figure them out?"

I shook my head again.

"Haven't you ever been in love?"

His eyes hadn’t met mine yet. He was still looking upon the page, as if it were his sole purpose in life.

"What?"

"That’s what feeds the poet's soul, Aves."

He looked up, and there was something in his expression that was unreadable. His look unnerved me, but still I uttered, "What are you, a philosopher?"

"I dabble in it. I also like maps, but that doesn’t make me a cartographer.”

I sighed, disregarding him, "Did you finish your poem?"

"Yeah."

"What? Really?"

"Just because I don't go to lecture doesn't mean I'm not passing the class."

"What did you write about?"

"The ocean, the galaxy, the universe."

"Sounds deep."

"Just enough."

"So I take it you've been in love."

He smiled, "You learn fast."

"What's so great about a love poem?" I asked, "What if I want to write about something else."

"Everything connects to love, Aves. You can't hide from it." He said it with such conviction then that I believed he had been haunted by something. I simply noted it in passing, just as I noted how his expression changed and how his eyes glimmered with such heartbreaking melancholy. I wonder now if my own heartbreak shows like his now, in passing, in glances, in ways I act. It suited him so well.

"I never said hide from it. I just want to write a poem that isn't about the color of someone's eyes, or the way someone's hand fits around mine."

"Then what do you want to write about?"

"The ocean, the galaxy, the universe." I said with a smile.

He shook his, "You're better off sticking to the sea, the stars, and the world, Aves."

"Why?"

"You start out small. Then you move on. But… just one thing."

"What's that?"

"Those all still connect to love."

I laughed, thinking he was joking and he laughed along. But as the laughter subsided and his eyes landed on mine once more, I couldn't help but think why he was so infatuated with love. It wasn’t the first time he brought it up, nor would it have been the last. He had written about the fucking universe, he was a philosophy minor. I didn't understand how he couldn't see the fault with such a passionate and destructive emotion.

"So, notes?"

"God damn it, I don't have them. Go ask someone else. Oh, and pass them my way when you're done."

I had gone back to working on my poem, disregarding the fact that he was still there. Yet even as I tried that tactic, he still didn't seem to understand. He never did, really. The more I attempted to ignore him, the more he surprised me.

"I don't talk to anyone else." He pouted.

"Why don't you try?"

"Because I like you."

There was a grave seriousness in his voice that called me to attention. He hadn't said it in jest, it was a declarative statement if I had ever heard one.

That was the first time he had made my heart race, the moment it all changed. It's the smallest things that become like a catalyst, a look, a touch, how he says something, anything. His had been that declarative statement with eyes which glimmered like a new promise in the sunlight.

"Aves?" He looked at me, and I knew it was because it looked as if I had left. There was a vacant look in my eyes as I processed why my heart had been thumping so inhumanly fast and why there was blood rushing in my ears.

Falling for someone is like falling off a waterfall, once you jump off there's no way back up. And I had jumped into the darkest of waters, the deepest of oceans, I either had to learn learn how to swim, or fucking drown. 

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