It only hurts when I'm breathing.
My heart only breaks when it's beating.
My dreams only die when I'm dreaming
So I'll hold my breath to forget
If I concentrated on the burning in my lungs then there was no room in my mind for anything else. I would take a breath in, and hold it. I would close my eyes and hold my breath. The pain of fighting natural instincts overpowered even the numbness I felt at my loss.
Because that's what it was. Numbness. I wasn't unhappy. I wasn't really anything. I existed, but no one could accuse me of living. I ate. I drank. I went to school. I went to work. I even slept a couple of hours each night.
My breaths became measured, steady. I held every breath for at least a minute. I took notes in class, but towards the end of my breath the handwriting would become blurred and illegible. Even those at the beginning of each breath rarely had anything to do with the lecture. I would take a dim note of what class I was in, and write down anything I could think of that was related to that class.
In English, my paper was covered with quotes from Frankenstein. I couldn't bear to think of Romeo and Juliet, or any of my favourites. Austen was out, and even looking at the cover of Wuthering Heights made me shake uncontrollably. I burnt my copies.
When I was young, I had thought about being in love, and then being heartbroken. I had imagined copious amounts of tears, burning cinema stubs, and having girlfriends over to eat ice cream and watch romantic comedies. I envisaged seeing the boy at school, and being surrounded by a gaggle of overprotective girls, all glaring at him for daring to hurt one of their own.
I never imagined this. I didn't have any girlfriends, not really. Angela was as supportive as she could possibly be; she invited me to sleep over at her house, tried to get me to talk about it.
I had always imagined heartbreak to hurt. I thought that when the day came that a boy broke my heart, I would cry. I had the idea that I would cry for weeks.
But the tears wouldn't come. Past that initial storm of weeping in the forest, when Sam found me that night, I couldn't cry. Because I didn't feel anything. When he left, it was as though he had taken my emotions with him.
I destroyed everything that reminded me of him. But not in an angry, vindictive way. Or even in some sort of misguided cleansing ritual. These would have been normal teenage angst reacting to pain. To me, it was just something to be done. One misty Saturday, when Charlie was fishing, I lit a fire in the yard. Only a small one. I explained to a curious neighbour that it was a ritual, to burn the notes of a subject no longer being studied. I had just not had the time to do it over the holidays I told her, in what I uninterestedly registered as an emotionless, detached voice. I sat cross-legged next to my fire, and burned my Austen books. My copy of Wuthering Heights. My precious copy of Romeo and Juliet.
My CDs were next. I methodically took the cases apart, I thought that the acrid smoke of burning plastic would arouse suspicion even given my apparently plausible excuse. So I had previously snapped the cases, taking the CDs themselves and the inserts outside, and snapping the plastic cases into as small pieces as I could. Of course, I cut myself on the sharp plastic a few times. Mostly just light scratches, but one cut deep enough to draw blood. I looked at my finger dispassionately. Even my blood seemed sluggish, dripping slowly onto the bed cover. A small part of my brain screamed at me that I should be feeling queasy, that even the smell of other people's blood made me faint. I didn't though. I could have been looking at water, for all the reaction I felt. I brought my hand to my mouth, and tasted the blood. It tasted like blood always smelt; like rust and salt. All this trouble, all this pain-that-wasn't-pain, over such a small thing. My blood. That had been the problem from the beginning. I wondered what would happen if I let it continue to drip. Would he come back when my blood had stopped rushing through my veins? Would Forks become his home again once the threat of me had vanished forever? Once my heart had stopped pumping my oh-so-delicious blood around my body?
I looked at my still-oozing finger with what felt like the first emotion I had felt for months. With disgust. Not because blood disgusted me, but because my blood disgusted me. My blood had driven away the love of my life, and he had taken away my humanity.
The irony struck me. He had been afraid of making me a monster by stopping my blood from flowing. But by leaving my heart beating, by leaving me alone like this, he had left me inhuman.