They call it heartbreak. But it’s not that simple. I guess everyone feels it differently…some simply push it away and ignore it. Others cry it out until it’s done. But the first big heartbreak is different. For me, it’s not simply a ‘broken heart’, and I’m not always wallowing in my bed when I feel it. It can hit anytime – the all-consuming feeling. It starts with the clenching of my heart, and then the heat begins to set in. Like a fire, I can feel it flushing through my veins like an erupting volcano. The heat courses through my entire body, lighting up with every breath I take. And when it reaches my throat, it burns away the air and suffocates me. I try to tug the air in through my lips, and the air that does come through is burned into smoke. Finally, the heat will begin to disperse. But that’s not the end of the pain. My entire heart feels like it’s being ripped apart and shards of it are left to flow through my blood, leaving this constant ache beneath my skin. I want to cry, but I don’t. I can’t cry. The numbness sets in and all I can feel is this constant clenching of my chest as if someone’s holding it in the palm of their hand and squeezing it as hard as they can. So no, it’s not as simple as ‘he tore my heart out and threw it on the floor’, or, ‘he broke my heart in two’. It’s much more than that. When the numbness finally leaves, that’s when I understand the true meaning of a broken heart. It’s not that someone tore mine out – the pain is that my heart is still there. My heart is still inside my body, ripped to pieces, waiting to be strewn back together.
But a heart doesn’t necessarily need to be blown up like that for it to be broken. And I suppose my heart was broken a long time ago, not by a boy – by a man. My father. The stereotypical ‘daddy issues’ label can be added to the growing list I have below my name. I never saw my parents in love, and even now I don’t truly believe I’ve ever seen that look of ‘true love’ from their eyes as they look at their partners. Perhaps that’s why I thought I could avoid the pain. Maybe they used to look at each other that way, but I was too young to even notice. They were separated before I could even string a sentence together, and in a way that was for the best. Everyone has their side to the story, and I know I’ll never hear the true story of their divorce. I just like to classify it as they ‘fell out of love’ – though I now realise that it’s not possible. Not if I still feel like this after months of agony and tears. When my father put the first crack in my heart, he did it very subtly. Their divorce tore our family into two, and after years of the ‘one-week with mum and one week with dad’, the week with dad began to dwindle. Sure, my two older brothers and sister carted between the two homes quite easily, but being the youngest girl in a family of four, I suppose I was the hard yard. It went from one week with mum, one week with dad, to two weeks with mum and one week with dad. The time lessened, until eventually it was one weekend a month with dad. At such a young age, I took it in my stride. It wasn’t that my father didn’t want to see me: it was that he was busy. Besides, I liked it just having mum and my step-dad. He was nice enough, and mum loved showering me with attention. The boys lived with dad, and I lived with my mum and older sister.
“That’s how it’s supposed to be”, was what mum would say. That was what I would tell myself. But it wasn’t true. And it wasn’t until I was older that I realised my lack of childhood spent with my father did indeed place a crack in my heart that would eventually heal, but always contain a scar as a reminder. The second person to tear at my heart with a pickaxe was my eldest brother – even though he did it unintentionally. I was young, and a girl. I suppose he just saw me as some experiment. At 13, how was he supposed to understand the implications of some ‘harmless’ kissing and touching with his younger sister? It didn’t bother me at the time, and how could it have? I didn’t understand what I was doing, what we were doing. I didn’t understand it was wrong. Young minds think like that – they’re so pure and loving that the full seriousness of a situation doesn’t hit until years later. By then, it’s become enough of a problem to add ‘untrusting’ and ‘commitment issues’ to the list of problems below my name. Because if I couldn’t trust two of the males in my childhood that I should have been able to trust with my life, how was I supposed to trust any other male? It wasn’t until I was older that I realised what had been taken away from me. My purity, what felt like my right to wear the colour white. I wasn’t an angel, and if I was, then I had to wear grey. There was nothing special about me because I had been used and I felt dirty – and not in the fun sexual way. I did still hold my proper ‘virtue’, but that was all I felt like I had left. I had no one to give my first kiss to - no boyfriend would have the pleasure of being the only boy to have seen me naked before. So I made lists of other special things that my true love would take: my first firework kiss, my first kiss in the rain, my first actual time. Those made me feel better, because I still felt like I had something to offer someone. I still had a list of special things to give to my knight once he showed up in his armour on his trusty steed to ride off with me in the sunset. He would pull me away from my past and apply some magical scar cream that would rid me of the cracks in my heart. That’s what a little girl like me believed. I was a princess, and in my opinion, my ‘bad things’ had already happened.
“You only get one big bad thing to happen to you in your life, mine has already happened, and it could have been worse” I would tell myself when the tears would threaten at my blue eyes. And the thing is, the knight may very well show up – much like it did in my case. He plucked me from the dirt-ridden floor of the forest, delicately brushed away the tears in my eyes and rode off with me into the sunset. But when the sun rose, he dropped me right back off where I had been – if not further away.