I'm getting better at this end-of-relationships thing.
The first time I went through it, I was in Chicago, years ago. I broke up with him, but then he began dating my friend. I saw them everywhere, together, everywhere. It was winter; at the time I lived north of downtown, and took the El (subway/train) to work every day. I would wake up, run across the cold apartment, and get into the shower and cry. Every morning, for weeks, this happened. Then I would take the train to work, where I would sit and read a book. I lived towards the beginning of the route, I boarded the train when it was empty enough to find a seat. I was lucky. It helped me pull myself together for the rest of the day. And then one day, I didn't cry in the shower. Things got better.
The second time wasn't as drawn out. I was in Los Angeles; again, I broke up with him, and I had already moved out of his house and was on my own for a month or two when he started dating someone else. And he stopped returning my calls. I sat on my couch, in the dark, staring at a wall while listening to the pounding in my chest. I would be out of breath from trying to keep up with my pulse, even though I was just sitting still. Night after night, I sat in the dark, no TV or music, obsessing about how he had moved on—which was ironic, as I was the one who ended it, yet I was literally sitting still and not doing anything to fix things for myself. That phase only lasted for a few weeks, however. I started walking my friends' dogs, so I had an excuse to hang out at the dog park in Laurel Canyon. It was just a reason to go out in the world, see people.
There were other relationships, but they were pleasant ends for the most part. A few times, I was happy things came to a close. Other times, I didn't even notice anything was over. Life goes on.
Now this, the third time: I have clothes overflowing everywhere in my tiny apartment, but I can't hang them in his now-empty closet. I see the food he bought in the refrigerator and I lose my appetite, not because the food is going bad but I won't throw it away. The shower is beginning to become a sad place once again, although there aren't any tears yet. My eyes just sting, perhaps just out of habit from years ago. When the stinging in my eyes hits, I lather exfoliator on my face. The stinging on my cheeks distracts me from the feeling in my eyes. I've never had smoother skin.
I walk slower. I look down at the ground when I talk; I'm still saying the things I would normally say, but the way I say them is different.
And I stay out of my apartment until late at night, when I go home only to go to bed. When I come in I don't like to turn on the light; if I look around, I'll see how nothing was moved since I left earlier in the day. No one touches anything, nothing is moved, the bed isn't made because I don't make it. That was always the greatest part of coming home: the bed was made, every day, because he cared. He liked it that way. It was nice.
It's not just that I want someone to fill the space; friends come over, friends keep me occupied. But it's not the same.
Things will get better once again. I've had practice.