I opened the door to their apartment patio and immediately Al Green asked me, “How do you mend a broken heart?” Good question Al, I thought to myself. I honestly didn’t know.
He sat in his usual chair. He had a usual drink, and he sucked on a usual cigarette that burned in his right hand. But when he turned his eyes to look at me, he wasn’t so usual. This was to be expected. But I guess you never quite know how to expect it. In his eyes, I could see a harshness that didn’t allude to danger. Instead, the harshness resembled that of a dog that had been kicked by its master, but it knew that its loyalty ran deep enough to not seek revenge. It was just pained to know that his master could ever think about kicking it, pained to know that his master could kick him. Those were his eyes. His eyes were no longer blue, but instead, they were far away, if that makes sense. He then shifted his gaze to the ground, and I officially knew that I had walked into a land where the mind replays the last moment before the break. It’s the land of the never-ending questioning of your morality, your humanity, and your sanity as a whole. It was the land of suffocating on a new emptiness felt inside. You wait to catch your next breath, but the air never comes. There’s just a heavy smog on your soul. I had just walked into a broken heart.
“Try and cheer him up,” his brother had said.
It would be foolish to think that I could ever take away his ache. I was not the thing that he yearned for, and if I had learned anything from my previous mistakes, I knew to never be caught in the Heartbreak Quake. I could not save him, and I couldn’t serve as a physical distraction. All I could do was listen. So I did. He explained what happened, how their differences were never going to be resolved. He admitted to pulling the trigger and putting the dog out of its misery. Now he was in mourning. I sat in silence through most of it, paying my respects, wishing that there was something I could say. Maybe if I focused the conversation on the monotonous aspects of my life then it would serve as some sort diversion, a sort of cheap staycation. We would be gone but we never left. Or I could always refer to my own heartbreaks, and make his grief akin to mine. But that wouldn’t work either. We were connected and kindred spirits, yes but my pain could never be his pain. His pain could never truly be mine. Watching him drink, watching him smoke, watching his chest continue to breathe when I knew he had no air, was like watching a man carry all of the things he could possibly own on his bare back. No one could help. Those were just the rules of the game. So my job, or at least what I had applied for, was to walk alongside him, and at least keep his mind at ease while the agony reared its ugly head, and threatened to break him.
And then came the storm. As we watched little droplets fall on birds wings, we mentioned the weather, and how it had been raining for the past week. I joked that it was a reflection of him. He smiled a bit. He had felt the same way. We mentioned the lessons we had learned from our past encounters with the wondrous torments of love. We learned to plan for the worst, and to hope for the best. We learned that we could never be the in the pool of everlasting love, or at least, we could never have the things that we were maybe a product of. We mourned over that, too.
“You had asked me once if I loved being in love,” he said quietly. He gave a sly grin, and brought his glass to his lips.
“Yea, I think I remember asking you that,” I confirmed.
His laughter sounded hollow. “I think you might be right,” and with this, he gulped.
An idea came to me that I thought to be somewhat helpful, or at least, sometimes it helped me. I told him that he should try the morbid humor routine of grief, to make jokes on behalf of his fragmented heart.
“Ha, remember that time I was in love with that one girl and then we broke up?” I coached him.
He seemed skeptical at first, but he knew the joke came from a safe place. He encouraged it.
“Remember that time I almost married her?” he chimed in.
“Remember that time I drank myself into a stupor over her?” I laughed. “You should try these out on your parents!”
“They’d look at me like I had lost my ever-loving mind.” He beamed. “ Someone get him a doctor!” He heinously cackled like a mad man.
“Then you can go through all of your pictures,” I continued, “and you can look at them and go ‘Remember that time she was supposed to move here? Oh, look, this us at Christmas. Little did he know that they would break up forever.’”
We laughed hard. There was something in our laughter that let us know that we were going to be ok. We were going to survive the blows that life handed to us, as long as we had each other. Strange to think that a little over a month ago we weren’t even on speaking terms. We were distant and we were strangers. Our bond was temporarily severed, as most friendships often go through. But now, at this moment, in this brief breath of time, we resumed our friendship in a way that was different than the last. Somehow this was better. Somehow we were stronger. Our pride came back home.
The rain started to come down heavier than before. It was a steady shower that didn’t seem to ease anytime soon. I looked at the water falling. They were God’s tears from the sky. Though we had just laughed ourselves a pound lighter, I could sense the ache creep back under his skin. There was no other way to mask it. If he was going to cry, I thought, then at least let him be free while hiding it.
“Let’s go stand in the rain,” I said. “I’ve never done it before. I’ve always wanted to.”
Like little children, we gingerly bounced on the balls of our feet as we cascaded down the apartment steps. When we made it to the last landing, I was the first to leap out. He then followed. At first, the water didn’t bother me. It was barely there. But the longer I stood, the more I could feel the droplets become heavier and clearer. I stood under a shower head that I could not control. Eventually, I could feel my clothes stick to my skin. My hair, my bangs, flopped on my head. But over time, it became something that I could bear. I, myself, was free. There were no rules. There was no such thing as right or wrong. A lot like limbo, I remained stuck in time under the rain. I turned to look at him. The water slid down his bare chest, each drop racing the other. His face, now wet, masked any tears that planned to fall too. He could hide in the rain, and be free at the same time. This was a good plan. We didn’t care about who saw us, these grown children playing under the sky of rumbling thunder. Let lightning strike us down! And if it did, we would at least die happy. We sang, we danced, we prayed without speaking. We cleansed ourselves separately, and then we cleansed ourselves together. The moments I looked at him, the moments he looked at me, I knew that we had just made history. We would remember this forever. Just like our eclipse.