All I wanted to hear was a knock at the door and the silence was deafening. The empty inbox, the text that never came, the phone that didn’t ring, no footsteps outside my door, no likes, no comments, no shards of anything anywhere except the sound of being unwanted. The heartache felt like nausea and I wanted to survive on it. My ears ached for any vibration that might sound like love-come-to-the-rescue and I knew I needed to get out of the house. I needed to eat.
At the grocery, I idled through the aisles. I ran my fingertips over labels and took care to scuff my shoes on the floor, trying to prove my amble to myself, to make the minutes feel like hours that never ended, like this moment was all there ever was, where no one knew me and no one knew this was my face when I was sad. No one would think it was unusual my hair was up or that my face was scrubbed clean. I could be as unnoticeable as I felt. I idled on in my self-pity.
The bread aisle was daunting. There were too many kinds of bread. There were too many labels with too many punch-lines for something as simple as bread. Why was it this complicated? A man, a guy, stood in front of the loaves like he was in the feminine hygiene aisle – how was he supposed to pick? Whole grain? Wheat? Seven grain? Seven whole grains of wheat?
“Bread, man. Who knew?” He seemed startled that I spoke to him, but laughed and made a noise that sounded like an agreement. I squeezed a loaf of Sara Lee wheat, put it in my basket, and nodded at him before walking away. I turned into the next aisle and tears welled in my eyes. I didn’t want to go unnoticed. I wanted to be noticed so much it made a scene. I wanted to be noticed so badly I was willing to disregard years of social anxiety to talk about bread with a stranger. I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be loved, I wanted to be fought for, and instead I was buying peanut butter and jelly on a Friday night to put in a kitchen I hadn’t used in weeks.
And what it would be to be fought for, to see and to feel that you mean and you deserve as much as they say that you do. But the army never arrives for your heart the way they tell you it will. There is no note in the mailbox, no flowers at your desk. There is no Hail Mary, there is no grand gesture, there is no one at your door. So you bow your head and you do work. You swallow the hollow and move yourself on with long runs and caffeine, with hearty meals and hugs. You let the ship sink so you can swim to the shore.
Relationships are vessels for love, and they weather in storms and in waves and in day-to-day when their sailors are weary and looking at the horizon more than they look at the deck. Sometimes, all there is left to do is let the ship sink, let the debris decay, and then let it become something beautiful, something of lore. Let it become something you gaze at with reverie as the coral paints it with more majesty than it deserves. It only carried your heart before and now it carries a world of technicolor life. Let the ship sink, let the water engulf the memories, and let it settle into the depths. Let it become something you remember or something you forget, something you look for again or something you respect, a place where lessons lie and treasures can be found when time forgets the storm. It sailed once and it settled into the sea, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t something of glory and that doesn’t mean it can’t be something of beauty. No one will love you by begging them to. No one will dive into the sea for you by wishing them to. Let the ship sink so you can face the next battle, so you can swim to shore, so you can find your way home.
In the caverns of my darkest nights when the heartache holds me hostage, I will choose to let the ship sink. I cannot recover it on my own. I cannot wait for a lifeboat. I cannot hope there is someone to fight for me. So I will choose to take one last breath to dive down and survey what we became. And then I will look a little more carefully with a little more love at my surroundings, to listen to what can be heard in the depths of the wreckage. The footsteps of friends on the deck. The calls on my phone from family. The texts of kindness. The emails of opportunity. The likes and the comments and the hearts and the replies from every other broken heart. When the army doesn’t come for you, when no one chooses to fight for you, when no one dives in after you with fairy tales and promises, you write a different story. You write a tale of adventure and chaos, of survival and fortitude, and instead of wishing to be saved, you save yourself.