I woke on the edge of a dream a couple hours ago with tears pooling on my pillow. The sting of sadness and heartbreak lingers, images of the night-scenes flash at me with stunning regularity. I am small and turned inward to protect a heart that feels vulnerable and raw…

It was an important event, a show of grand proportions that had just arrived in our city to bring its message of love and life. A few hundred of us had been asked to witness the final dress rehearsal and give feedback. I was excited to be counted amongst that number and arrived alone, having no idea who else would be there.

I had been asked to make a presentation during intermission. Prior to the show, my presentation had failed to finalize, my computer crashed and I had to start from scratch. In the process, I forgot to get ready until the very last moment. I arrived at the auditorium fully unprepared on every level, scared and sad. My soaking wet hair was in a towel turban and I paid no heed to the people, dressed at least in Sunday best, if not full formal, who looked at me as though I had no right to be there dressed in my casual clothes, no make-up and wet hair.

I found an empty seat on the right side of the auditorium and opened up my laptop upon the cushion. Crouching down on the floor, I furiously went to work to complete the work that, apparently, was not meant to be finished. The more frantically I worked, the more behind I got and the more frazzled I felt. The presentation wasn’t working, there was no way the slideshow would be ready. I had to throw in the white flag. Surrender.

Feeling dejected, I closed up my computer and rose from the floor. I was near the front of the auditorium and they flashed the house lights so I quickly passed between the orchestra pit and the first row of patrons and ran up the left aisle to find my designated seat. It was on the end of a row of empty seats. As I approached it, feeling sad that there was no one I knew there, I spied my once-best friend a couple rows in front of me. She stared straight ahead, not acknowledging my existence.

I felt the tears burn, but bravely swallowed them. I didn’t want to let them see me cry. I didn’t want to let anyone see me cry. I slid slowly into my seat, towel-turban skeewompas on my head. I slouched down far so the view of the people behind me would not be interrupted by my headgear. I realized that I had left my cord over somewhere and had to find it. Retracing my steps, I retrieved it and then returned to my seat only to discover it was now occupied, as well as the seat next to it.

In my seat was the boy I met at 10, fell in love with in high school and loved for at least two more decades – far longer than he loved me.

In the seat next to him was my once-best friend. While she hadn’t been a part of my life for anywhere near the length of time he had, she had been present for some of the biggest, most important shifts in my life.

The commonality: I had loved them both and trusted myself enough in their presence to open fully to them, show them my good, bad, ugly and beautiful. Both of them had been to the very center of my heart where I am most tender, most vulnerable, most innocent. Both of them chose out of relationship with me because they wanted to move on. Both of them left with stating how they felt and what they wanted and what their experience of our relationship had been without giving me the chance to use my voice. Both of them left me with my heart wide open and bleeding love.

Suddenly all the chairs in that section were full except the one opposite of her. I carefully edged my way through the row and slid into my seat. Both of them sat stone cold, no awareness of who I was or even that there was a person in front of them. They were aware of one another and made it apparent that they were happy to see one another, but neither of them acknowledged me. Feeling so out of place, I slouched further in my chair. She glanced at me out of the corner of her eye, sliding her eyes up to my towel and made a noise of disgust as she leaned away from me, closer to him.

Slowly, I unwound the towel, my dripping hair snarled and standing haphazardly about my head. No amount of smoothing with my hand would tame the mop and I had no brush handy. I felt inadequate and inappropriate.

Soon the two of them were leaning toward each other talking intimately. I tried to lean in to talk with them, but the more I did, the more intense became their projection of “stay out of this.” The more I tried to connect, the more they pulled away with disgust. The more I tried to show my love, the more they turned their back to me.

His wedding ring glimmered in the dimming lights as he moved his hand to her knee to comfort her in her growing discomfort of my presence. Then he squeezed her knee and pulled away his hand, placing it on his own knee. His ring sparked again until he fiddled with it and then slowly pulled it off, setting it on the arm of his chair. Out of the corner of the light, I could see the circle of gold sparkling there and I wondered at his action.

The show began, the music filling the air and the lights from the stage filling the house. The costumes were blindingly bright and covered in sequins and crystals. Had I been in a more comfortable space, I imagine I would have enjoyed the show. He leaned toward her, looking pointedly at me and said to her, “Let’s get out of here. Do you want to?”

She glanced at me and back at him, nodding empatically. He reached for her hand, their fingers entwined, they rose from their chairs and they left the auditorium. When they opened the door, the lights from the lobby were painfully bright and when they exited, the door slammed resoundly behind them.

They left behind his ring that winked at me mockingly and a broken heart… my heart that slowly thudded in my chest, aching and crying…

Waking on the edge of that dream has left me haunted with the residue of unresolved heartache. I felt the pangs of having loved so deeply that I believed that person would never hurt me, only to discover it was that person who could inflict the deepest wounds. It took me years to release the memory of that boy and she was witness to a lot of the process. Now I sit here wondering… what next? When it comes to love, for me, there is no simple way of letting it go. I feel it down to the very core of who I am when I allow someone in. I don’t do that often, but when I do, it’s a lifelong connection.

Today I go forward into my life knowing I have loved and have loved big; I’ve fallen and have fallen hard; I have lived and have lived wide open. And, in that process, I’ve hurt big, grown big and become big. In this wound there is my strength and for that, I’m grateful.

Now I just wish that pain would dissolve…


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