Fiction: Heartbreak for Dummies


Heartbreak for Dummies

What to Expect When You’re Rejected

By Ashley Little

The first month will be the most difficult and it will go something like this:

Day 1(Shock): Spend most of the day crying harder and longer than you thought possible. Cry so hard you throw up. Your body will convulse with sobs and you’ll be mostly incapacitated. Every part of you will ache intensely. You’ll be unable to eat. Call in sick for work and go to your friends’ house in the evening and take so many bong hits you can no longer see. Go to Nanaimo with your friends because their band is playing at The Cambie. Drink cheap beer until you can sort of smile. Your friends will play a cover of a cover of I Will Survive and you think that maybe you will be okay after all (and you will be, but not yet).

Day 2 (Welcome to Dumpsville, Population: YOU): Spend all day and all night crying/wailing/moaning/sobbing/retching/howling/bawling/weeping.

Discover different modes of crying and notice that if you get going hard enough it sounds just like laughter. Paint your fingernails black.

Day 3 (Denial): Dance around your apartment to the Jackson Five tune, I Want You Back. Decide that you will win him back. Call him, crying, during his potluck and tell him you think he’s made a terrible mistake and that you just want your baby back and you’ll wait for him to come to his senses and realize that you should be together. To which he will reply something like; I’m sorry but no. I have some tofu I must attend to now. See ya.

Feel like a humongous LOSER (read: lew-hoo-zaa-herr).

Idiot. Moron. Imbecile. Retard. Reject. Fool. Then bash your forehead into the edge of the cupboard door in the precise place the big ‘L’ would be, cry even harder because you must have sounded so stupid and pathetic and needy and whiny and desperate.

Day 4 (Depression): Rate of Time elapse is excruciating. Wear only black and drink peppermint tea to soothe your nerves. Feel like a failure. Ugly, gross, disgusting, hideous, rotten, worthless, dejected, destroyed. Sit on the toilet while your insides pour out of you. Realize that the body and mind are more connected than most people will admit and it is not just an emotional/mental thing, it is also very physical.

Day 5 (the KKK took my baby away): Start to eat again but only chocolate and ice cream. Take every picture of him, and you and him together, off your walls and hide all the stuff that reminds you of him. Call your parents, bawling, and ask them to Fed-Ex your dog to you so you will have a warm body to cuddle at night.

Day 6 (Rage): Take out your big, sharp Cutco knife and drag it across your wrist. Consider: stabbing his cat, egging his house, kneeing him HARD in the balls, slashing his tires, dumping sugar in his gas tank. Then remember that suicide is for quitters and you don’t believe in revenge.

Day 7(should’ve known it was too good to last): Have a break down at school and lock yourself in the handicap washroom because you are disabled. Stay in there and cry until you can’t stand the stench anymore. Hate every man you see for looking at you. Take detours to avoid his friends.

Week 1(I used to be crazy about you, but now I’m just crazy): Drown yourself in depressing melancholic music: The Cure, P:ano, glenna, Indigo Girls, Cat Power. Really understand the lyrics for the first Time.

Watch 3-4 movies a day, smoke a 1/4 ounce of cannabis, eat salami and throw your teabags in the garbage instead of the compost in defiance.


where’s that twinkle in your eye?:

Any day now he will drop by without warning because he “misses you”. You have agreed to be friends but you’re not sure you can handle it. Go to The Centre Of The Universe together like you always wanted to, and get a tour of the colossal telescope. Once it was the biggest telescope on Earth. It is cold inside the telescope dome but he doesn’t put his arm around you or offer his sweater.

Learn that galaxies often collide and sometimes they fit together and puff up like a roasted marshmallow, but sometimes the larger galaxy consumes the smaller one entirely.

Keep your little opinions to yourself for awhile and look at the big picture: our Milky Way is absorbing the galaxy of Sagittarius.

In the planetarium you are guided on a constellation journey. It is beautiful and magical and it takes all your will power not to slip your hand inside of his.

After the stars, you’ll convince him to take you to Wal-Mart so you can spend your gift certificate before it expires. Purchase a Tri-colour Dragon Palm that he says you will kill. Also buy make-up. Eyeliner: black hole. Eye shadow: gunmetal grey. You have not bought make-up in 5 years.

Remember: Every broken heart has a silver lining.

He drives back to your place and you’ll invite him in for hot chocolate. Sit on the couch and stare at each other until you start kissing. Don’t stop. Wind up having empty, meaningless sex and feel physically attractive for the first time in 8 days.

Day 8 (it’s harder to be friends than lovers): Call up all your old boyfriends to apologize if you ever hurt them or made them feel bad.

Use the word “EX” for the first time and it feels sharp and yucky inside your mouth.

Day 9 (melancholy & the infinite sadness): Watch the movie Secretary, about sadomasochism, and learn that if you embrace pain you are living a fuller life.

Pain is good; it lets you know you’re still feeling.

Day 10 (I can see clearly now): See the Icelandic film Lovers and Leavers. Learn that no one is great. Everyone is just ordinary. But when you’re in love, you make each other better than you actually are and that’s why you feel so good and that’s why you think they’re so special. But it’s all an illusion. Therefore, people in love are delusional.

Write the French expression BON DEBARRAS! in permanent black marker on the wall above your phone. Cover the message indicator on your answering machine with duct tape because you are tired of seeing ‘0’.

Realize a big part of the depression is actually withdrawal from not having regular physical contact.

Think about how it’s just like in grade 3 when your friend isn’t doing what you want and you say “Okay. Fine. I’m not your best friend anymore.” Except, in this case, you’re not best friends again 2 minutes later.

Day 11(amores son perros): Buy some new clothes that make you look damn fine. Shave your legs for the first time in recent memory. Crave a major appearance change. Consider: Becoming Goth
Shaving head
Piercing septum
Getting sleeve tattoo

Day 12 (don’t leave me high. don’t leave me dry.): He will come over just as you are about to leave for class and you’ll fall into bed together in record time. Point out that this is not helping you get over him. Agree that it should not happen again because it only cheapens everything you had before. He’ll leave immediately afterwards (even though you beg him to stay) and kiss you goodbye on the hand.

Day 13 (Anger): Your boss says, “He was a schmuck anyways.”

Schmuck becomes your new favourite word.

Day 14 (Bargaining): You almost forgot all the things that you’re not; the list is so very long. Be momentarily self-deprecating. Lament: Maybe if I had watched fewer films or baked him cookies or made fancier meals or meditated more or learned guitar or toked less or been less demanding or slept less or…

Then realize this is ridiculous and demeaning and you will never never never never


Week 2 (cross your heart & hope to die, life’s a bitch & so am I): The music flooding your life becomes less sentimental, more bitter, angry and cynical: The Violent Femmes, Hole – Live Through This, Liz Phair – Exile In Guyville, Metallica – So Fucking What?

Watch 2-3 movies a day and smoke an eighth of weed. Vow to never again talk about marriage or kids or building a house together with someone because it’s too much of a let down when they say, “Yeah, maybe not.”

Repeat: It’s his loss. He’s stupid. You’re smart.

Be really nice and gentle with yourself, take lots of bubble baths, eat loads of chocolate and buy an African violet. Sleep as much as you want because there is nothing so fatiguing as real emotion.

Day 15 (all these accidents that happen follow the dots): Seriously injure (read: FUCK UP) your back smashing bathroom scales with a sledgehammer for an Eating Disorders Awareness Week event.

To quote Hunter S. Thompson from Fear and Loathing, “Possibility of mental and physical collapse is now very real.”

It kicks in 7 hours after the event, when you bend down at work and can’t straighten up again. You’ll see black and green spots and need to lie down in the storage room for 20 minutes until you can gather enough strength to stumble the 5 blocks home. Crawl into bed and believe/hope it will be gone in the morning. Consider dialling

9-1-1 because you are truly paralysed and no one is around to help you. But decide against it because you can’t get up to open the door or put on clothes. Also, you can’t afford the ambulance fee.

Day 16 (rate this 11 out of 10 on a Pain Scale): Wake up to the horrible reality that it has become exponentially worse overnight and you can’t even turn over in bed. Call a good friend to come help you get to the bathroom. He’ll do all he can and carry you out to the cab and take you to the chiropractor. He’ll buy you DEEP COLD cream and muscle relaxants and take you back home and tuck you into bed.

After he leaves, trip out on your ceiling and think about how people are wrong when they say they’d rather have physical pain than emotional pain, because when you can’t move, nothing else matters. All that shit with your EX seems irrelevant and you don’t give a flying fuck about him or money or school or looking stupid or being embarrassed or being dumped, you just want to be able to move again. Cry for a little while because it hurts so much, but it hurts even more when you cry so you have to stop.

Day 17 (whose reality is it anyway?): Bedridden, with nothing to do but drugs. Seriously re-evaluate your life. Believe you have fallen into this career trap: work hard every day so you can get a good job and work hard for the next 40 years – but you don’t really want to work anyway! What you really want to do is live in a shack on the beach, surf all day and have bonfire parties every night.

Think about how he wasn’t a good selection in the Darwinian sense because he has terrible vision, 30% hearing loss, bad knees, and an alcoholic father.

Writhe in agony for a few hours; think the reason people get married is so they’ll have someone to take care of them when shit like this happens.

Day 18 (you always want to think you’re the one who’s different, but then, you’re just the one who’s next): Find out that he is seeing someone else (already!) and you don’t EVEN care. You knew she wanted him the entire time you were together (little weasel), always made you feel uncomfortable and even cut and dyed her hair like yours. At least now you know you weren’t being paranoid. Tell him you hope he doesn’t fuck her up like he fucked you up. Spend the day in bed planning what to do/say when you see her and listening to Alanis Morrissette’s You Oughta Know on repeat.

1. Hitting her HARD in the stomach, then in each breast
2. Telling her she is FAT, because you know she has an eating disorder
3. Telling her he has herpes
4. Spitting in her face
5. All of the above

But then think about how she’s just going after what she wants and you can’t blame anybody for that because that’s what you do too. Also, hate takes up a lot of energy and you don’t have any extra to spare.

Tonight, dream of throwing meat at the two of them: slabs of steak, handfuls of bloody ground beef, slimy headless fish.

Day 19 (dark is not the opposite of light, it’s the absence of light): Realize that everything is temporary and it had to end some time, better sooner than later. Nothing is important except your mobility being restored. This is the darkest place you’ve been. Think about how much easier and less painful it would be to just die. Imagine them shovelling black soil on top of your body.

Understand why some people turn to God.

Day 20 (wannabe cool, tall, bondable and luscious): Promise yourself you will make your body super strong after this so it can never fail you again. 6 pack, biceps, thighs, the full meal deal.

And he will never be allowed to touch you again. Schmuck.

Day 21(insignificance): Find out an acquaintance of yours was beaten to death by a baseball bat in his own home. Feel like a dumbass because you’ve been lying here, upset because somebody hurt your feelings and you have a sore back. Who cares? This guy doesn’t EXIST anymore. You’ll never see him again. Remember the last conversation you had, about American vs. Canadian cigarette brands. Think about what you would do if you knew you were going to die next week. Plan to live for the moment from now on. Cry.

Week 3 (broken hearts are for assholes): You’ve smoked your entire roach collection and been watching only foreign films. You’ve experienced the worst emotional and physical pain of your life, consecutively. You are overjoyed that he’s with someone else (already!) because now you don’t have to wonder if he’ll change his mind or if you can get him back. The best part is – you no longer want him back! This brought your opinion of him way downtown. Think he’s a sucker because he doesn’t get to experience the wonderful world of singledom and you do! Think she’s a sucker because she doesn’t EVEN know what she’s getting into! Poor, poor bastards. He’s her problem now, so she can enjoy your sloppy seconds. Laugh about it and be glad you’re alive.

Day 22 (return of the living dead): Go back to school with glee and notice the world contains so many colours and is full of scent and noise and people with lives just as complicated as yours. When asked how you are, reply, “I feel like I’m immortal because I died but I’m still alive.” Then smile, because you didn’t forget how, after all.

Day 23 (no one here gets out alive): In your documentary class see a short entitled New Shoes, an interview with a woman from Vancouver who broke up with her fiance. 2 months later, he came after her with a rifle, shot her in the back, then blew his head off in front of her. Now feel that your break up was a piece of cheesecake.

Days 24-30 (Sloth. Wrath. Gluttony. Greed. Envy. Lust. Pride):

The remainder of the week will be all hype and hysteria leading up to the big red cinnamon-heart-Hallmark-Hershey-flowershop-restaurant cash crop day. On the V-Day youï’ll take a jaunt to your local liquor store and run into (wouldn’tcha know?) him and her holding hands while they select red wine. Red wine! You’ll think. HA! (because that’s what you had on your first date) HA! Sucker.

Wish them Happy Valentine’s Day and don’t feel particularly violent or mean. Walk with them part of the distance to their soiree and tell them how you’re going to Groovefest and you’re in a bondage skit and you get to wear a black mesh body suit and have a big leather whip and it’s gonna be wicked. It is most excellent because you truly do NOT want to be his valentine and you’re not jealous either. Feel happy because everyone is getting what s/he wants.

Day 30 (some of them want to use you. some of them want to be used by you):

It’s been a month today and you’re ready to climb out of this trench you’ve been stuck in for far, far too long. It is St. Valentine’s Day and you will party like it’s 1999 and look so fucking fucking fucking HOT in your short red dress and combat boots. Be awed and amused by fire dancers, cross dressers and radical cheerleaders. Make-out with 3 of your friends and take 1 of them home and fuck him (this does and does not make you feel better, but he can consider it a thank-you for taking you to the chiropractor).

Week 4 (we all die sometimes): Many congratulations on surviving the first month. There have been others before you in this game who did not suffer as well.

Pat yourself on the back. Hold your own hand. Stand up tall. Stretch your spine to the sky. You have a new lease on life and want to live each day to its maximum potential. Take a break from marijuana. Watch sexy suspense thrillers and comedies. Know that other people find you attractive and interesting, you�re a damngood kisser and you’re fun and creative in bed. Understand that he couldn’t have been “the one” anyway, because he’s from Mars and you’re from Venus, he’s water and you’re fire, he’s a lark and you’re an owl, he’s science and you’re arts and his taste in movies sucks!

Day 31(if you love somebody, better set them on fire): Burn the collage he made for you last V-Day on your patio. When it doesn’t catch immediately, dump nail-polish remover all over it. Greatly enjoy the green, blue, white, indigo and orange flames. Scoop the ashes into the mint plant he gave you. Put it all in the dumpster with a loud BANG and feel a big release.

Day 32 (time out of mind): Notice that the watch you carry in your bag has stopped. Think: how appropriate.

Do not get a new battery.

Day 33 (pick up the pieces he left on the floor & go out for more) Sing along to Liz Phair: “Man, if you meet a one-in-a-million girl, don’t let her get away, cause the next one-in-a-million girl, is a million girls awaaay.” Remember that you’re a pretty swell chick and anyone would be glad to adore you and keep your feet warm at night and play guitar for you in bed. Maybe they will even ride a motorcycle and speak French and be down with the beach shack plan and let you bite them.

Day 34 (Acceptance): Hear this somewhere and write it down: There are good things and bad things in life. The trick is not necessarily to feel good all the time, but to feel good about how you’re feeling.

Day 35 (like a virgin): Decide that men have only ever disappointed you and it’s Time you gave women a chance. Take home a beautiful punk rock girl after 80’s night and make lovely lady love together. Feel clumsy and awkward but don’t worry about it: it’s her first time too.

Day 36 (new found glory): Lie in bed with her till 2:30 pm, then walk to her house where she’ll make you brunch: eggs with garlic, cheese and mushrooms, hashbrowns, veggie sausages, toast and coffee. You cannot stop grinning.

Don’t hold on. Get up. Change the channel. Turn the page.

Day 37 (you think it’s like this, but really it’s like this): Create some sort of art loosely based on your recent experience/adventure. They will say it’s self-indulgent, but self-indulgence is the opposite of Denial, so you can see how far you’ve come. Also, WHO THE FUCK CARES what other people think about you anyway? It’s your life and you’ll do what you want.

It’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to deal with and it nearly killed you. So you should have something to show for it besides raccoon eyes, a mostly black wardrobe and 15% less body mass.

Acceptance welcomes you with open arms. You will love again because you love yourself. Smile, because in the end, it was all worth it.

-Lyrics reprinted without permission-
All Rights Reserved * All Wrongs Reversed

Ashley Little is a graduate of the University of Victoria’s Creative Writing Program. Her work has appeared in The Martlet, This Side of West, Island Writer Magazine, Synchronicity Magazine and Transition. She was the winner of the 2008 Okanagan Short Story Contest and was interviewed on CBC Radio One, Kelowna. Ashley currently writes, teaches yoga, and surfs on Vancouver Island. She remembers that every broken heart has a silver lining.


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