I broke up with my girlfriend Lina a month ago.
I wrote a letter and handed it to her. We were in a hotel room in Stockholm. I was so afraid of doing it, my hands shook, my body shook. I couldn’t say the words. So I wrote them down, as honestly as I knew how. I was hoping to leave the letter on the bed, go for a walk, and come back after she had read it.
“No, no, no, no, no!” Lina screamed as I walked toward her with it. “No.”
I sat there while she read it. It was so hard for me. I was so afraid of her feelings. I felt her pain so deeply it was unbearable. Unbearable in the sense of: I dissociated. I imagined far off places. Trees with thick trunks. Loud gushing rivers.
I had a flight out the next day. Lina asked me to stay a few more days. It was too violent, this breakup. Too fast. She needed time to process. I was so afraid of absorbing more of her pain. And my own, too.
That night, Lina woke up crying. Deep, agonizing wails. I panicked. I begged her to call her father, her sister, her best friend, someone who could carry this with her. I couldn’t do it. A few hours later, I woke up with hair all over my pillow. I was shedding from stress.
I went into the bathroom to meditate. Lina wailed again from the other room. Can I tell you: never in my life, in my whole life, have I experienced the pain of another as intensely as I did in that bathroom.
Deep, throbbing pain in my chest. My head lilted to the left. I started to go black. I was shutting down, reverting to some pre-verbal, deeply traumatized state. I woke up with the bell of the alarm, telling me I had finished my meditation.
I went back to Lina. We hugged and held each other. We stayed together in that hotel room for three days. We walked some, too. Had a meal or two. But mostly, we stayed in that room.
We went through the ways we had hurt each other. We apologized to each other. I had never appreciated her femininity, really appreciated it. I had misled her about my ability to commit. She had disappeared when I needed her one afternoon during a fight. Sometimes she yelled at me instead of listening to my concerns about the relationship. We apologized and we cried and cried.
We expressed gratitude. It turned out that what we most appreciated about each other, we had never mentioned. Not once, in the six years since we met, had she told me she loved how committed I was to growth. She never told me she loved my courage. And never, in the six years since we met, did I tell Lina that my favorite thing about her was her heart. Her heart, her pure heart, kept pulling me back, year after year. So it turned out that what we we most loved about the other were exactly those qualities we most loved about ourselves. We just didn’t know it.
I left Lina on the platform at the train station. I cried on the train and cried on the plane. I don’t want to stop talking, but she does. I am afraid of that disconnection, even though I initiated it. So we’re not going to talk.
Love you, Lina.