for a long time, I thought the only heartbreak that would come with my twentieth birthday was the fact that the rest of my friends would sooner be twenty-one. but as my nineteenth year came to a close my eyes were burned reading your words and I could not fathom ever picking up the pieces that became my heart. I didn’t know how to keep this heart beating when it was no longer intertwined with yours. the pieces couldn’t remember how to stay together when my heart was not in your hands. I spent hours trying to remove you from every aspect of my life, but it was impossible to ever fully be rid of you because our lease was not up yet. the memories of you danced around my head in all of the worst ways. this is not how it was supposed to end. I spent weeks falling apart with each moment that brought me further from you, as I was not used to the silence that came with this new definition of distance. I kissed lips that were not yours and cried because of their unfamiliarity. I told anyone who would listen about the heartbreak that I had endured in the first months of my twentieth year and hoped to every god regardless of my beliefs that someone would tell me it was a cruel joke. that we were together and happy, and that distance no longer meant silence, because this is not how it was supposed to end. but that never happened and even though the pain was overwhelming and moving on from you was unfathomable, I had to. I had to learn what it meant to make my heart beat separate from your hands and I had to figure out how to end a lease early because my brain could no longer sacrifice the space you remained in. I so badly wanted to be able to remember us without regret for all that I gave you, but I could not do that until I learned how to grieve the love that we had. the denial had run its trail and I knew that we were over and all I could feel was anger, anger for what you did and how you did it. I grew to hate the person I once loved with every ounce of me, and that hatred fueled me. my nineteenth year was already tainted with memories of you, I would not let you haunt my twentieth year. I was going to learn who I was without you. I would learn to retell my summers at home until they no longer reminded me of you, and I would soon remember my sophomore year forgetting about the nights I spent falling asleep on the phone to the sound of your voice. I cut my hair shorter than you had ever seen it for you did not deserve to know this new version of me that I was determined to become. I went home for the first time and began to find solitude in the fact that I was a stranger to the girl I once was. my best friend drove me past the house I had grown to love so dearly while I drowned myself in tears and sad music. I begged my parents to let me call you, to let me tell you what you did to me. I wanted to fall apart in front of you and tell you all the ways you messed up, but I didn’t, and I left feeling free. as if facing the place we were us was the first step. it allowed me to say goodbye, to realize that I could be there without you and see that I would be okay. I placed my flower in our coffin and laid us to rest, for I knew I could not be with someone who would walk away as easily as you did. I had finally realized that I never needed you to put me back together, for you were never strong enough to do that anyway, and where there were once pictures of you, there are now pictures of the people who picked up my barely beating heart and pieced it back together. for with each phone call from hundreds of miles away and each laugh that they brought my soul, a piece of me came back. my mom continued to remind me of my strength and I had to learn the trials and tribulations that came with heartbreak the hard way, but somewhere along the way I realized I had to lose myself a little bit before I could figure out who I was. so no, this is not the way we were supposed to end, but it was, and it’s time for us to write our own stories. for I survived a loss I didn’t expect and you have to live with losing the best thing that ever happened to you, just as you told me I was. I hope you find someone else and you can’t help but compare them to me. I hope you win state as a coach the way you never did in high school and wish you could tell me about it. I hope you think of the names we talked about for our kids as you sign the birth certificate for your own. I hope the memory of me dances around your childhood home and I hope your mom and dad never fail to remind you of all the ways in which you hurt me. I hope you listen to “Stand By Me” with the new love of your life and remember the evening of your birthday that we danced in your basement. my gosh, I hope you get everything you’ve ever wanted, and I hope I never hear a thing about it, for falling in love with you was the easiest thing I have ever done, but now it is time I fall in love with myself.
~stand by myself
Emma Brown is a junior at Marquette University, majoring in Nursing. Her creative writing class at Marquette has given her a multitude of opportunities to work on her poetry writing, ultimately leading to her submission to the Marquette Literary Review. Writing has become a therapeutic method for Emma, which seems to shine through in a lot of her pieces.
Kiley Brockway is a student in the Marquette History and Digital Media departments. More of her work can be found @kileypluscamera on Instagram. She can be contacted at Kiley.email@example.com.