This Is How I Survived a Heartquake

By Sahar Kebriaei

For so long, I was escaping the sadness and the pain I was put through. I would hide behind my books and study pointlessly for hours concerning the exams that were too easy for a bookworm like me.

I would go on long rides with no destination and fake a smile with every happy song I could barely relate to. Low on caffeine and high on emotions, every frappe I would get tasted as bitter as the black coffee he used to order, even with extra caramel.

Sunsets hit differently. They no longer resembled love and a dessert after a warm kiss. For me, they became only some stunning, tragic ending.

City lights and downtown nights were another punch in the heart besides the music playing on the sidewalk. Call me crazy, but even the freeways made me think of his gentle hands, drawing hearts on my thighs.

He was gone; not only from my life but from the city, the country, and was also about to take off from my heart.

Yet, I could smell him everywhere. It is crazy how your heart can ache from a familiar scent, a sudden memory passing by, a piece of clothing, and a dusty picture you forgot you had in your purse.

You see, I knew the ending from the beginning. They always warned me about it. My mom, still hurting from a past lover, told me once that a troubled love is a tumor, even if no one treats it as one, and it grows until it eventually shatters your heart.

Still, I did sign up for it.

How can one refuse a ride with eyes made of poetry? How can one not want to be wild after being tame for so long?

I was no fool, even though I may have acted like one. I could surely smell the trouble from the beginning. You know, I have always been afraid of heights. I knew flying that high for me was absolutely a bad idea. The fall was promised and I chose to ignore it, and sadly, as we all know — the higher you fly, the harder you fall.

I truly want to call it a break-up, yet it was not one. It was a heartquake. It was not a typical ending to another relationship. While for him, I might have been another girl, another love, and another taste — for me, he was my only guy, my first love, and my first taste.

This is how they all start, right? They knock and you happen to be home, a guest you never invited. You let them in and they make themselves at home. You clean up and open up space for a stranger you think you would like to know more about. You serve them affection, even the love you saved for yourself, and they ask for more. You give them time and they waste it. Yet, somehow you still do not want to let go.

Why? Save your breath and stop asking because no one knows. It is no one’s fault either.

Sometimes, some people feel like home.

For a while, I could not watch a romantic scene and not cry. I would break a little when seeing a happy couple passing by. I missed the happiness others had, and I envied people in love. I would dream about the way he left and kissed me goodbye. The airport, the departure gate, those escalators, and him going up waving goodbye were the last memories left for me to hold on to.

Driving back, I was so lost in my thoughts that LAX traffic seemed like a breeze. I knew he would be back soon, but I also knew nothing would be the same either.

The person taking off on that plane was nothing like the one who landed after a month. When he got back, the same person who sworn to be in love with my eyes stared right into them and said they were not enough. For months after my heartquake, I could not help asking myself if it was all a dream and I was going mad; if it was all just a lie he perfectly made me believe, and if it was just me the whole time — no us, no love, just lies.

Despite this, it all had to end at some point. I could not beat myself up for a troubled love, and an unfortunate ending that was not my fault. His leaving had freed up space, left me with more love, and more time to spend on the person who actually mattered and was worthy of love, me.

They say the time you enjoy is not wasted, and I agree. My story was no fairy tale, no magical romance, but it still had its beautiful moments and I still value every second of it.

As cliché as it may sound, it was a lesson that I would never learn if I had not opened the book some may be afraid to read.

You know, I did not want it to end. I fought for it, but you cannot make them stay if all they think about is leaving. I guess, heartquakes happen to everyone at some point. Sometimes it is destiny, it may be family, the wrong timing, or the empty pockets that leaves you both with so much damage to deal with — but together, you can make things happen and not let your love fly away.

That was not the case for me.

After all, I do still believe in love. I absolutely love love, but for it to last it takes two not one.

When one lets go of an end of the rope, the other one falls, no matter how hard they had held on.

Looking back, I now see that I simply held on for so long only because I believed I was fighting the gods and destiny, yet now I know that the battle was with him, and there was no point in fighting or even in holding on.

I began learning to let go. I went on long hikes that made me feel accomplished, independent, and strong. I watched sunsets on my own, got lost in my thoughts, and learned to be alone without feeling lonely. I started to paint my living thoughts on lifeless objects to give them meaning and create art, colored with love.

I no longer read to pass time or ace exams. I craved knowledge and was eager to learn more and become a better version of myself. I devoted time to what actually mattered.

I stopped wasting gas on rides with no destination and started going on adventures to discover new places, meet new people, make new memories, and find a new purpose.

Most importantly, I began writing again, and by that I mean I started to feel again. I am proud of my new self. To get over one, I did not try going under another one, as I was advised. I refused distraction and strays claiming to be in love.

Yes, I am a survivor of a cruel hearthquake. Yes, there was some damage, but among those ruins I found myself, and sooner or later, you will too.

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