Heart Shaped Box

“Heart shaped box, she eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak.”- Nirvana

As I emerged from the metro this evening, I made sure that I had my earphones in. I turned up Edith Piaf’s “Milord” to a deafening level to drown out the flurry of Virginia voting enthusiasts that attack you as you emerge from underground. As I squirmed through the crowd finally getting to the crosswalk, I thought to myself, Oh, God. They won’t be there tomorrow. I don’t even know why I was sad… but I was. The Virginia voting hawks waiting outside the Clarendon metro screaming at me were going to disappear into dust, or maybe just back home with their abandoned families. Either way, we were about to break up, and in the worst break up way possible. I never gave them the time of day until it was too late, and now, these people that have become something normal, something comfortable, in my life are going to be gone. I’m breaking up with the Virginia voting hawks, and I’m not taking it well because as stupid and silly as it sounds, when you’re in a new place with new people and nothing seems normal anymore, then yes… the Virginia voting hawks are important.
But it’s not the worst break up I’ve ever been through by any means. In the grand scheme of things, I’ll look back on my time with the Virginia voting hawks, and I’ll smile. But in the moment, a break up can be one of the most devastating thing the human heart can go through, and yes, I’m talking about the literal human heart. Okay, actually, maybe I’m talking about the human body in general, but there is a pain that comes with heartbreak. And that’s why it was so hard to deal with the two hardest heartbreaks I’ve had in life back to back. Like the voters, they both ended slowly–one with a letter, the second with nothing at all.
Even when things are complicated and messy, it’s nice to know that there’s someone around that is living in it with you, even if that person is partially responsible for it being that way. As humans, we love the conflict because it’s a reminder that we’re breathing and alive and capable of feeling. So after several tiresome months of an on-again, off-again relationship, everything that had gone wrong was outlined in a letter. She explained to me everything that had gone wrong, everything she didn’t like about me anymore, and how in the process of getting to where we were, I had somehow become a different person. And with no consideration for everything that letter meant, I immediately threw it away. Just like that, all the good and bad and complicated and amazing that came with that relationship was gone. The only thing not listed in that letter was that I was clearly in love with someone else for the last half of our relationship. She never spoke to me about it, and under any other person’s standards, I didn’t cheat. But soon after the break up and the letter, I found myself grasping for the hand that I loved more than her. And as time went on, that hand got further and further away until it wasn’t even visible anymore. Everything about my life had been turned upside down, and that’s when the numbing pain really started. And that leads me to “the heart shaped box.”
At the time, no matter how shallow or simple it may seem, my life consisted of those two people. I relied on their consistency: one to be around to always love me, and one to be around for me to always love. And in what seemed like an instant, it was all over. It doesn’t particularly have to be romantically charged, though it oftentimes is, but it’s at that point–the point when you have seemed to fall into absolute no man’s land, so lost you can’t stand it–that the heart shaped box is emptied of all its contents. What’s even worse is that you have no idea where all the things inside it went. You’re just left sitting there with this box and for a while, it seems so appealing because with nothing inside the box, you have nothing to lose. There’s so much room to fill within it, but the issue is… filling the heart shaped box is kind of like the opposite of packing. There’s a sense of urgency that comes with filling it, but ultimately, there’s nothing to put inside.
To tone down the metaphor for a second, let’s backtrack. After I lost those two incredibly important people, I realized that I never really made enough time (or room) for anyone else. My life had become a dedication to the relationships I had with them, which is where the problem set in. There was no one around to help me understand what had happened or how to put it back together, and in essence, there was nothing inside of me to help me remember the person I was. In all that free time I had with myself, there were a lot of tears. No one ever saw them because most of them were in private, which isn’t so hard when you realize that most of your life is being led in private. I had to reteach myself what it was like to sit with my own thoughts. It took awhile, but to even begin to refill that box with anything of importance or meaning, I had to understand the person in charge of collecting those items.
For people like me, even when you kind of begin to grasp what’s going on inside of your head and start to reestablish the person you are, you kind of get over the self-reflection. Unfortunately, you usually still have a chunk of time left over, and it’s bittersweet and frustrating because with that extra time, you get to evaluate that box: how much room you have, how exactly you can make everything fit, but most importantly, what and whom goes into it. I don’t think that the emptying of your box happens an absurdly high number amount of times in your life, but it definitely happens more than anyone would ever hope it could. Each time still sucks because… well… you got your shit thrown out and you weren’t really planning on it. But in time, you teach yourself how to adjust because you know that’s what you have to do. You memorize what was once inside like a Memory game, and the most important things and people will find their place within your heart shaped box again. It may sound cold, but the older you get, I think you learn more so what shouldn’t be in that box… your life becomes exclusive and important, not because you’re above those around you but because you finally realized that your life is too special to just share everything with everyone.
I’m three months into living in DC, and sometimes I’ll still get impatient. I guess I thought that everything would be sorted out by now, and I have to begrudgingly remind myself that filling the box takes time. Something I’ve noticed is that I’ve become more particular about what and whom becomes apart of my life, and in a way, I worry about the people that I choose because I hold on to them more steadfastly than I ever have in my life. It’s a steady balance that you have to hold because you don’t want to scare the shit out of anybody… no one likes a “Stage 5 Clinger,”but I do think it’s equally important to realize how quickly life moves and morphs. We never know when we are going to be pulled away from one another and the circumstance under which it might happen. And sadly, I’m pretty confident that the Virginia voter hawks will not make it into the heart shaped box; at this point, I think we’re going to cut our losses. However, I would like to believe that the very few that I have met in this new city who have a place in there not only understand that their place is eternal, but also how very much it means.


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