When we broke up, I compared it to the amputation of a gangrenous leg. "You don't want to do it," I explained to my friend. "You hope there's a chance you can save it, or at least salvage the good parts. But you know it has to go. You realize it's not what it used to be: it's an infection now, eager to spread and take you over, so you give up. You know you'll be better, safer from harm, free of danger once it's gone. You know you'll miss it, but it's for the best."
Oh, how right I was.
I fought hard to save it, to avoid surgically removing him from my life. I sought ulterior paths, schemed, connived and plotted to prevent our separation. I insisted, to myself and to my friends and family, that maybe we didn't need to break up. That we could work it out. That things would change. That I wasn't hurting nearly as much as I seemed to be. That I loved him and wanted to be with him. But they knew better. And they gently advised me to cut him off. What had once been love had turned into infectious misery, and it had already begun to take me over. "Really, Laurie," my mom said. "It's been over for a while, hasn't it?" And it had. I was just still clutching the decent remains, hoping to bring it back to life.
Until finally, it was over.
They say that amputees experience Phantom Pains, an ache in a missing arm, a muscle spasm in a missing leg, pains felt distinctly in a limb that isn't there. They say that, in new amputees, the sensations are frequent and intense, gradually fading into intermittent aches the longer the limb is gone.
I know what they mean. I have phantom pains of my own.
I can still feel love for someone who is no longer a part of my life. I can still feel disappointed by a boyfriend I don't have. I can pinpoint the longing for my missing other half. I can still feel neglected by a partner who isn't there. I can still taste the sweetness of kisses no longer available to me. I can still feel taken for granted by a man who isn't mine.
The medical journals were right: At first, it was constant. A persistent nagging that reminded me I was without him. Eventually, though, it calmed, flaring up only when triggered.
Like when he knows I'm sick and doesn't call to check on me.
Or when he promises to call and forgets.
These are things that he no longer has to do, things he no longer owes me; But I still hold him responsible, want him to be there.
And I wish I could stop it, keep the phantom pains from crippling me. But how do you get rid of something that's already gone?